How to Plot and Pants at the Same Time

pantser, n. — A writer who “flies by the seat of their pants” when drafting a book, rarely plotting more than the basics and never going so far as to outlinegiphy2

When I first started seriously writing I was a die-hard pantser. Any advance plotting more in-depth than the basics–world, protagonist, antagonist, and conflict–seemed restrictive at best, and pure tyranny at worst. My reasoning went that I couldn’t possibly be truly original, spontaneous, and creative with my writing if I had every last detail trussed up into a series of predetermined scenes. I had to let my imagination run wild! Find the flow! Go where my characters needed me to go!

Well. That all worked okay for a little while. But when I started drafting my second full-length novel, I ran into a curious problem. About a quarter of the way through–somewhere around the 20-25K word mark–I got stuck. I didn’t know exactly why, but the story had gone off track and I couldn’t figure out how to get it back ON track because I didn’t know where it was going. So, in pure pantser style, I started over. I began the story a little later into the action, changed up a few characters, and introduced the villain earlier. Things were going smoothly, until BAM. Yep, you guessed it. I was stuck again.

giphyHmm. Maybe pantsing wasn’t the most efficient method after all. Since I wasn’t particularly keen on writing another twenty thousand words I wasn’t going to use,  I started reading instead. I started with Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, then moved on to Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. Neither had all the answers, but I was beginning to see that maybe stories needed structure and planning after all. By the time I read Brook’s Story Engineering, I was ready to listen to what he had to say.

I like to call it Story Architecture. Stories, like buildings, have shapes, comprised of certain elements that are nearly constant across the board. Whether it’s a shack in the woods or a Frank Lloyd Wright art-home, a house has walls, a roof, at least one door, and nearly always windows. Similarly, a story must comprise certain elements that make it, well, a story. Beats. Pinch-points. Emotional arcs. And once you start identifying these building blocks, you start seeing them everywhere. The book you just picked up at the library. The latest summer blockbuster. The cartoon your niece is watching. And most importantly, you start seeing them in your own work. And you start seeing why your by-the-seat-of-your-pants-story has run into the ground.

giphy3And so I started outlining. I cobbled together a worksheet/beat-sheet that includes elements from Story Engineering, Save the Cat!, and even The Hero’s Journey, and I’ve used it to outline every manuscript I’ve written since. This beat-sheet helps me map out every plot point, every emotional arc, every shift in tension or sympathy. It helps me build the scaffolding upon which a readable story can be built.

But. (Y’all knew there was gonna be a but.) You may be able to take the girl out of the pants, but you can’t take the pants out of the girl (that sounded way less weird in my head). So I still try to find ways to incorporate the spontaneity and extemporaneousness of pantsing while also rigorously plotting.

First, I never outline too deeply–working through an outline beat by beat is bad enough, so I find scene by scene outlining to be way too stifling for me. Second, I never outline the climax and denouement of the story, instead letting the culmination and conclusion arise organically from the plot and characters as they stand. And finally, I never refer to back to my outline once I’ve completed it! Usually, after spending so much time with the plot, beats, pinch-points and emotional arcs, the shape of the story has already been built enough in my head that I can safely play it out on paper. And even if I decide along the way that I want to change the paint color or add an annex or even knock down a wall, I’m secure enough in the overall structure of the story that this won’t derail the entire plot.

giphy1My method probably isn’t for everyone! But whether you’re mostly a plotter or a mostly pantser, it goes to show that a little bit of flexibility in either direction can go a long way.

Resources:

Kurt Vonnegut, and the Shapes of Stories

Jami Gold | Worksheets for Writers

Pixar’s 22 Rules for Storytelling

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How to be Creative in the Chaos that is Now

First, let me say that I am proud of Liv and Lyra sharing their posts the last two weeks. As authors and public figures it’s difficult to know whether or not to speak up about politics, always afraid of hurting our livelihoods for offending people. But I think we all know that things are just different now and we need to speak up and not fear reprisal. If you didn’t get a chance to check them out last month, please go have a quick read.

I do want to get back to talking about writerly things, but we cannot ignore the fact that the current climate has really had a hard, hard impact on writers. The constant chaotic news loop we’re stuck in takes so much out of us. Every day, sometimes multiple times a day, there is some new horror or frustration or just plain bullshit that has us throwing up our hands, randomly cursing, or slumping over with a deep sigh.

So how, how do you push through all that crap and be creative? How do you check out if even for a little while so you can get your words for the day? You don’t want to look away because that is a privilege and the guilt is overwhelming. But you lose your goddamn mind if you don’t take a break once in a while, right? Another chaotic loop.

Well, first of all, the best thing you can do is look the monster in the face. Take five minutes in the morning to call your three reps (both senators and your MOC) and tell the staffer or leave a short VM with your name and zip code and tell them why you’re calling, what you’re supporting or protesting. They’ll take a note, thank you, and be done with the call. Boom. One important contribution done. And yes, you should do this multiple times a week. If you have phone anxiety call after hours and leave a VM, those still count.

Secondly, participate, if you can, in protests. I can’t tell you how much faith and hope and resolve the Women’s March gave me last year. Even in my small city, the turn out was amazing. This past weekend my husband and I joined in on the Families Belong Together March. In the past my husband has had to work when the protests were scheduled in our area, but not this one, so he was able to go. He really didn’t think it would be much of a turn out, he wasn’t as excited as I was. At least, not until we got there. When the crowd filled in his whole demeanor changed. He joined in on the chants, he raised his fist, he took a spare flag from another protester to hold up (this was a very big deal because my hubs is a Marine Vet and in Nov 2016 he packed away all his USMC and veteran apparel and refused to wear any of it or talk about being in the service because he was so angry and disillusioned).  Seeing so many people turn out in our small piece of America, seeing all the other veterans proudly wearing their hats and shirts, really changed something in him. If you need that, go to a march.

And finally, do what I’ve done. Give yourself a break. Not forever, not indefinitely, but take the time you need. We all need to recharge. When you’re ready, get back to work, but take as much time as you need to finish a project. You all know I’ve been talking about a new book, but I haven’t written one word yet. I did finally manage to flesh out the two main characters and that feels like something. In doing so I was able to think about the magic systems and a seedy, black market system that will work as a wonderful red herring to the mystery I’m still figuring out.

Another thing I did to help me this year was become a student again. Not back to uni or to a workshop,  but I did look up Brandon Sanderson. Plenty of people know who I’m talking about, but if you don’t, he’s a best selling Epic Fantasy writer, who also happens to teach. And what’s even more amazing, his lectures are on YouTube. I watched an 8 series lecture and took copious notes. I started watching because I wanted to learn what he had to say on magic systems, but then realized it was a whole class and decided to start from the beginning.

Now, I’ve written quite a number of books, so I like to think I know what I’m doing, but it was still nice to take this as a refresher course. It gave me some food for thought about a lot of things and it felt good to be a student again. There are a lot of his lectures to be found, but I started with his BYU 318R Writing Class. Seriously, check it out. And if you’re a newbie writer and struggling with your first book and can’t afford/don’t have time for school, take advantage of this. It was an amazing course, probably better than a lot of the classes I took in uni because so many of those were focused on reading.

Hopefully something here helps you figure out a balance to being informed without being overwhelmed and getting back to work. We need a middle ground; don’t let them steal your fire.

My Writing Process

This was about a year and a half ago at the Chanticleer Author’s Conference.

When I put out a call on Facebook for topics for this post, my fellow Spellbound Scribe, Shauna, suggested I write about my writing process. Honestly, I don’t know that I have one, but I’ll give it a go.

Step 1: Research
Because I primarily write historical fiction and non-fiction, the very first thing I do is research. Even with romance/women’s fiction, there will be research involved because I’ll need to know about a character’s job or a location or something. I find that research often gives me the “bones” of a plot that I can build upon. I won’t bore you with the details here, but I do teach a class on it at Professional Author Academy (the class is actually on writing historical fiction, but it is mostly on research). And here’s a post I wrote a while ago on using Amazon as a research tool.

Step 2: Plotting
Plotting is an interesting step. Some of it I do as an author, and some of it I do alongside my characters. They talk to me and tell me what they want to happen. (One of my friends said she thinks I actually have the gift/powers of a medium and I’m starting to think she is right. Only instead of talking to the dead, I use my gifts for my writing. Maybe all authors are mediums?) My characters even name themselves. For example, in Been Searching for You, I wanted to call Annabeth’s best friend and co-worker Malik. Nope. He told me his name was Miles, which is a name I never really liked. But he was insistent and it stuck.

As far as the author part of me plotting, the first thing I do is look at the genre expectations of what I am writing and fill in what I know. Then I go to Michael Hague and Larry Brooks’ story structure templates and think about how I am going to shape my story. Then I look at Michael Hague’s character arc advice and think about each of my main character’s wounds, essence and identity. This often takes me a while to puzzle through, but it is worth it because it helps me see how these characters will change over the course of the story.

And I also meditate. I think that may tie in the whole medium idea, as it stills my mind and puts me into a receptive state to be able to see the scenes in my head.

Step 3: Writing
I can write pretty much anywhere, but most of it happens on my couch or backyard patio. For some reason that is where I’m most comfortable. I’m also extremely productive in airports and during flights; I think it is because I am a captive audience.

I have tried all kinds of things to get into writing mode, such as wearing certain clothes, drinking certain teas, etc. But what seems to work for me is lighting incense (I prefer campfire because it reminds me of the cabin I stayed in at Hedgebrook when I took a master class from Deborah Harkness, or peat because a lot of my books take place in Great Britain) and listening to film/TV scores (which already have the emotional highs and lows and tension of storytelling built in).

One thing I have learned is that I can’t drink alcohol when I write because it kills my creativity. But I can when I edit. Go figure.

I have a whole process for editing as well, but I don’t know interesting that would be to people. If you are interested, I teach a class on that as well.

By now, as my sixth book is in the editing phase, all of this has become to automatic, I don’t really think about it anymore. I guess that is why I didn’t think I had a process, when I really do.

Any questions about my process? Anything you want me to elaborate on? Let me know.

Research for Writers

Cat Reading gif

One of the first things on my to-do list today – well, after opening up WordPress so I could start this post – was to check my account on the Seattle Public Library website. A couple weeks ago I checked out a stack of ponderously thick books that have to do with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War.

New project, y’all!

Actually, I described this project – Havanain last month’s Spellbound Scribes post so you may already know a little bit about it. I’m finally ready to dig in, and since I’m all about the research, I figured today would be a good opportunity to revisit another post I wrote about a year ago. (Check out Pen to Pen: Liv Rancourt on researching historical romances if you’re curious.)

CarinaPitchforHavana
My twitter pitch for Havana…

In the Pen to Pen post, I outlined a template for my research process. Here’s the Cliff Notes version:

Step one: Locate the story on the calendar. Pick specific dates, and then study up to get a feel for what was happening at that time.  The key to this is specificity. Whether your story is set in 1955 or 1455, there was more to life than the events on the page. Use what’s already there to add depth.

Step two: In broad strokes, find out what life was like during the time period. This is the bulk of the work, tbh. I look at fashion and attitudes and food and technology and population statistics and whatever I can find to ground the story in reality.

(For some excellent ideas about how to do that, check out my friend Jules Dixon’s post over on the Rainbow Romance Writers blog.)

Step three: Fill in the fine details with first-person accounts. This one gets trickier, the further back in time you go, especially if you’re writing about marginalized groups – like women, or queer people, or pretty much anyone who’s not a white male.  Finding first-person accounts is hard, but not impossible, and absolutely essential to bring your story to life.

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Go HERE to read about M. de St. George. Go HERE to  become a Patreon supporter of the MedievalPOC org, a group that focuses on POC in art history.

 

Since I wrote Aqua Follies (1950s m/m rom), I’ve come across a couple more resources for first-person accounts of LGBT experience in the 20th Century. The University of Washington had a collection of oral histories, biographies and video excerpts from interviews with members of Seattle’s LGBT community – HERE – that I’m really excited to dig into.

I’ve also started reading Between the Acts: Lives of Homosexual Men 1885 – 1967. This is an important book for me, because I don’t want to sugar-coat anyone’s experience, nor do I want to overlook the ways ordinary men and women found to cope with lifestyles that fell outside the majority.

So…yeah. If you need me, I’ll be holed up somewhere with a book in my hands. I just sent L’Ami Mysterieux off to beta readers (m/m rom set in 1920 Paris) and have about a month to do research for Havana.

Color me excited!!

LAmiMysterieuxBetaCover
I made myself a faux-cover for inspiration!

 

 

When is Enough Enough?

As many of you no doubt have observed, we writers suffer from occasional bouts of impostor syndrome and feelings of inadequacy. Some of that is our artistic souls being sensitive; some of it is demands from the industry and ourselves; and some of it is competitiveness. We don’t need help from a major industry player to feel like we aren’t doing enough.

Yet, here comes BookBub a few weeks ago with what has to be their most asinine post yet. (Which is unusual for them; I’d say 95% of their blogs are great.)

How to Write 12 Books in 6 Months to Grow Sales & Populate a Backlist

Yes, you read that right: BookBub is pushing a post that advocates for writing 12 books in six months. That’s a book every two weeks, my dears. My reaction?

HOW THE HELL CAN ANYONE BE EXPECTED TO DO THIS? And maybe more importantly, WHY?

Ahem.

Let me count the way that this is a bad idea:

  1. Let’s put quality first to get it out of the way. Any book written at that speed will likely be crap. It takes even the speediest of writers several weeks to write and edit their books. THE INDIE BOOK MARKET DOES NOT NEED ANY MORE CRAP BOOKS. We have a hard enough time convincing people *cough* St. Louis County Library*cough* that our books are legitimate without people pumping out books like this.
  2. Related to above: that schedule gives you like zero time for editing. I have to break this one down into sub-points. A) One of the keys to good editing is being able to take time (even a day or two) away from your MS so you can approach it with fresh eyes. This schedule doesn’t allow that. B) I don’t even see how her beta readers (which she claims to have) have time to read the books. I give my betas at least two weeks to read my books, but that is the sum total of her ENTIRE production time for each book. C) Most writers do at least some editing themselves before their editor sees it, but again, where is there time for that? D) The author mentions in the comments that she has an editor, but I can’t imagine the pace the editor must have to work at to keep up this schedule, especially if he/she has other clients. It doesn’t strike me as very productive for either of them.
  3. Even my writer friends who are full-time authors think this is a ridiculous pace to set. (They told me so on FB.) So if they think this is untenable, how are people like me who have a full-time job expected to do this? Seems to me you are setting yourself up to fail.
  4. If this is what we’re pushing indies to, we are pushing burnout, pure and simple. I’ve gotten close a few times at my own pace; I can’t imagine how quickly I would implode if I tried to make this happen.  I am actually shocked that the article doesn’t have more negative comments on it asking “what the hell are you smoking and can I have some of your Limitless pills?” And I’m worried by the number of “OMG, this is so helpful” comments. These people will figure out pretty quickly that this new idol of theirs doesn’t have a sustainable or replicable model. I just hope they don’t make themselves sick or kill their confidence in the process.

I looked up the author and she has written over 70 books in multiple genres. Even Nora Roberts, with as fast as she writes, isn’t that prolific. It’s taken her 40 years to get to her 225 books. This woman, on the other hand, appears to be in her 40s. She must have been using this method for her whole career to hit a number like that. Granted, her books are about 125-250 pages long, which is probably about 50,000-70,000 words. That is on the short side – especially compared to what I write – but still respectable, especially in the romance genre.

Implications Beyond This Article
I think one of the reasons this hit me so hard is because I’m always trying to find ways to do more. I’m coming at this as someone who is already burning the candle at both ends. I mistakenly thought once I got through my year of publishing four books in seven months (they were already written while I was on submission with traditional publishers, so don’t get too excited) that I’d be able to settle down to 1-2 books a year, which is all I can manage with a full-time day job.

I’ve come to find through experience that pace isn’t enough if you want to keep your sales up, which is likely how this BookBub article came to be in the first place. So even though I plan to keep self-publishing, I decided to focus on books that I think I can get traditionally published, which hopefully will help boost sales of all my books. In order to do that, I’m currently working on three books: the last one in my indie Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, a biography, and a non-fiction book on feminism.  And I’m really pushing myself on the feminism book because it will tie into an upcoming event that’s likely to have LOTS of media publicity so I really want to get it done on time. I know what I have taken on and how insane it is, but I want to try it and am praying I don’t burn out before it gets done.

With all that weighing on me, this is about the last bit of advice I needed to see. It makes me feel like a failure, like I’m doing something wrong, like I’m not cut out for this author business. Luckily, I’ve been around long enough to know that isn’t true and that I should just ignore this and move on and keep doing things in the way that works for me.

But not everyone is at that point. They will see a New York Times bestselling author with a RITA award and three additional nominations under her belt and think this is the path to success. And they will try to emulate her and many will fail. Some will quit writing either because they couldn’t make this kind of method work, others because they never want to write again since they turned themselves off the whole thing by trying to do too much, too fast. And that is the last thing the writing world needs. I’m all for sharing your methods and giving advice, but within reason. And reason is the main thing lacking here.

What do you think about this method? If you think it is possible to do, please explain to me how. I genuinely want to know how to make this work. If could make it work and still produce quality books, I could rip through all 50 ideas (yep, I keep a list) I have in my head in only a few years.

Critique Partners in Crime

If you’ve been in the publishing industry for any length of time, you’ll probably recognize the phrase critique partner. For those of you who haven’t, a critique partner (commonly abbreviate to CP) is an invaluable asset to any writer at any and every stage in their career. Usually another author or publishing professional, a CP offers up their time and expertise to critique your manuscript/story/poem/etc in exchange for your time and expertise in doing the same for them. While a CP can sometimes play the role of beta reader (an avid reader who reads your MS and tells you whether it is any good), ideally the relationship is deeper and broader.

giphy1I feel like I’m not explaining this well. Okay, how’s this? A CP is like an unholy (or maybe holy) alliance between a friend, a colleague, a work wife/husband, a therapist, a critic, and a cheerleader. Having and being a CP is messy. It’s complicated. And it is wildly, wildly important to a writer’s growth and success in this often isolating business of being an author.

This week, I experienced both ends of the CP relationship with two different CPs. First, I had the great pleasure of reading our very own Shauna’s forthcoming novel Blackbird (which will incidentally knock y’all’s socks off) and offering feedback. And second, I shared my very recently finished and terribly rough first draft of my Swan Lake retelling with a different CP. They were two very different experiences, but they both reminded me of just how important it is to not only have CPs, but to actually share work with them.

Not all CPs are created equal, but here are a few things I’d look out for when finding someone to share work with!

  1. Someone who isn’t afraid to be honest. It’s literally right there in the name: critique partner. Not white-lie-to-guard-your-ego partner. Not even pull-their-punches partner. You know that one friend who you always take shopping because she’ll actually tell you if those pants make your butt look big? Yeah, that’s what you need from a CP. Because if they can’t be honest in their criticism, it’s not going to push you to be better, or work harder, or be honest with yourself.

    One caveat: do draw the line at nasty. There’s no call to be unnecessarily harsh, that’s not useful to anyone either.

  2. giphy2Someone who will be your cheerleader. Does this seem counter-intuitive? It’s really not. Your CPs also need to love your work kind of unconditionally, regardless off whether it’s a flaming trash pile of a first draft or a polished to near-perfect-sheen soon-to-be published work of art. The ultimate goal of a CP relationship is making each other better–if someone hates your work, what’s the point?
  3. Someone who understands (if not shares) your genre, voice, aesthetic, etc. Similar to the above, it’s a waste of their time and yours if they don’t get what you’re trying to accomplish. Maybe you write fast-paced action thrillers and they write steamy romance. That can totally work (and might honestly give you a different perspective from a CP who writes in your genre) but if their only criticism is that there aren’t enough love scenes, you might want to reconsider.
  4. giphy3Someone who can brainstorm with you. Now, this is a big ask, and you might not find this in every CP you build a relationship with–and that’s okay! But a great CP isn’t just an editor, or even a beta reader, although it’s certainly useful if they have a decent grasp of grammar, sentence structure, and plot. Ideally, they’re also someone who you can bounce your hair-brained ideas off of, who won’t say “but,” but maybe “ooh, and–!” Someone who spitballs scenarios about your sequel not because they feel like they know better than you but because they’re just so invested in your characters. Someone who sees through the disordered jumble of your nonsense first drafts to the story you didn’t know you were trying to tell.

Now, if you’re read to find your OTCP (One (or several!) True Critique Partner), here are a few resources to set you on your way! (If you’re really at a loss, Twitter is a great place to start, as are writer blogs and genre-specific interest groups! You can never go wrong with NaNoWriMo either!)

Absolute Write

Critique Circle 

Critique.org

Scribophile

 

Behind the Scenes of Self Publishing–Paperback Edition

As you know, if you’ve been following along with my posts, I have a new release coming out on June 1st–less than a month away, EEEEEP!

Being self-published that means a few different things than it does for a traditionally published writer–including being able to try out a Friday release instead of the traditional Tuesday. And, as we’re all writers here, offering insight into the whole writing process, I thought I’d share a little bit of that with you guys.

The beginning is exactly the same. We all start with a spark of inspiration, then develop that into a story, then kill ourselves over the next 4 to 156 weeks trying to write the damn thing.

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Then we put the book away (or at least, we should). For me, I’ll set a book aside for between 1 to 6 weeks depending on how difficult the book was to write. Then I print it out and go over it for revisions/edits/plot holes/etc. Then I put those changes into the computer. It’s at this point I awkwardly ask betas/critique partners to read it for me.

And then you wait.

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Once I get it back from them I compare notes. Then it’s revision time again.

Then, on to the editor!

Some self-published writers will try to avoid this step because it is the most expensive step, but there’s a reason for that: editing is the most important thing you can do after you’ve written the book. You need an editor to rip that thing apart and fix it. I don’t care how awesome you are. I have a New York Times best selling author I used to love, but I could tell when she finally made it to the point where she could include a no-edit clause in her contracts. I don’t read her books anymore.

At this point, when the book is with my editor, I’ll start on the cover. Now, depending on the book, either I will do it myself, or I’ll hire a digital artist. I cannot stress this enough, if you are not savvy with digital art, don’t do this yourself. I will only do simple covers. If my cover is for something more magical or detailed, I hire someone experienced. And when I do it myself, I don’t just pick a stock photo and stick my title on it in a white bar in simple font. I edit and digitally paint/alter the photo to fit the mood of the book.

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An example of something I feel comfortable enough doing myself.
Water before and after
And something I would have commissioned because holy crap, how do you even?

I pour over my title in fonts until I find the right one–just picking out the fonts can take me a few days–even if I’m having the cover commissioned, I like to pick out the fonts unless my artist has a better one in mind, which she often does. I go through photo sites for the cover for days until I find the one(s). I spend at least a week in my art program putting the cover together, usually mocking up three to choose from before I’m sure I’ve made something that fits the book and sells it. This takes a lot of time even without all the tricks my preferred cover artist does. Your cover is important. Even if you’re not going to do hard or paperbacks, the cover is still important. When someone is scrolling through the Zon or B&N or Kobo or wherever, the cover might make them stop and look at your book.

(If you’re on a tight budget, the two things I would recommend you spend your money on are an editor and a cover artist. And if you’d like to use mine, you can find my editor here and my cover artist here.)

Usually this is when I’ll set up pre-orders. Now that all the online retailers have finally allowed Self-Pubbers to set up pre-orders, we can finally get in on that action. Once I have the cover ready, I’ll write my book blurb and set it up the pre-order pages with temporary files for the manuscript (once you have the final draft, you come back and upload the final file before the publication date).

Now, once the book is edited and the ebooks are all taken care of, I’ll start on the paperback.

No, self-published writers don’t sell nearly as many physical books as traditionally published authors do. But I like to have the option. I just do paperback, mostly because I have so many titles, setting them up with hardback would be cost prohibitive for me. With Createspace I can get my paperback onto all the online retailers including libraries and BookBub.

And they have a guided, step-by-step process to help you get your book ready for publication.

You pick your book trim size and they give you a Word template to format the interior of your book. At this point, you want to make sure your line spacing, font size, page numbers, and chapter headings look good. Don’t forget your title page, your copyright page, your table of contents, dedication if you want, all before the first chapter page.

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Then, once you have that sorted, you can tell the site your dimensions (book size, paper color, page length) to get a cover template. This is the file you would send to your cover artist to ask them to expand your cover to a paperback cover. Or you use it yourself to make yours.

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Then, once CS approves it (or emails you and tells you you screwed up, fix it please and you do it all over again and again until you get it right), this is what it looks like.

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Another cover I did myself — I even took the photo on the back cover!

And you can see what the inside looks like too!

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You can either approve the digital proof or, and I highly recommend this, you order a proof copy to be printed and mailed to you so you can see if the printing is perfect or screwed up.

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See how the spine wrapped around to the front cover on the top one, but not on the bottom one.

But, once it’s all done, and all perfect, then you can step back and admire your beautiful books on a bookshelf.

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This isn’t for the impatient. I promise you. Yes, there are people who you can pay to go through all of this for you. You tell them what you want your book to look like and they’ll do all the formatting for you and just email you the files you need to upload to CS and be done with it. And if you have the budget for it, go for it. But if you don’t, with a little patience and practice, you can do this yourself, I promise.