Is Self-Publishing Becoming Elitist? Seven DIY Steps for Self-Editing

Elitist-Eagle-Demotivator - Goggle image

On a blustery Sunday afternoon, a question on a discussion forum has caught my attention. How does a writer on a tight budget manage to self-publish with current advice demanding expensive editing services?

Do you notice how I purposefully say current advice? In the four years I’ve been at this game, I’ve seen the list of the things self-published authors must spend their money on alter many times. Trying to keep up with those dictates will have a would-be author whipping to and fro like an airport sock in the crosswinds of the landing strip.

As I read through the comment stream related to the above question, I was surprised by the number who rejected the idea that a tight budget or even no budget at all was worth consideration. The question was often answered with slavish adherence to the notion that there is no other option but to pay for editing services. No one says how. Perhaps robbing a bank is not out of the realm of possibility.

Let’s break this down. Editing services exist on a spectrum. Content editing will help the writer identify plot holes, structural issues, problems with continuity and believability. Line-by-line copy editing will examine the work for proper sentence structure, grammatical usage and consistent spellings across the manuscript. Proof-reading will catch typos, missing words and misplaced or missing punctuation.

CND money - google image

That is an expensive pack of editing services!

Roasted at the stake - google image

Okay … before I am roasted at the stake for going against accepted wisdom, I admit to as much frustration as the next reader when I download a self-published book and the work is not up to scruff. But here’s the rub – poor editing doesn’t make me stop reading. If the story is good, I will stick with it to the end. I may rail and fume that it could have been so much better but I won’t stop reading.

I don’t want to see budding authors discouraged by the fact that the latest wisdom demands editing services which cost hundreds of dollars.

I’m going to make a few suggestions related to self-editing but first, a caveat. You must believe you have a good story in you to write. That is an absolute prerequisite. Time and hard work will tell if your belief is real. Without the willingness to work hard to write that story, no amount of money spent on an editor can help you!

If you are working on a shoe string and committed to producing the best book you can – don’t despair. Here is what I do.

1. I write, rewrite and rewrite until I feel sure I can’t make my work any better. Of course, I’ll be wrong but self-editing is an iterative process – always bending back and over itself. I will do a minimum of twelve drafts of a novel before that work ever reaches the stage of line-by-line editing. That represents a number of hours dedicated to rewriting and rereading. Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story by K.M. Weiland has been helpful to me as I do rewrites.

Structuring Your Novel Cover

2. I put what I’ve written under a microscope by asking questions of my story. Does it make sense? Are point-of-view shifts carried out with clarity? Is the story plausible? Do the characters act true to the way I created them? Does each three dimensional character have a defined story arc? Have I rooted out the repetition and the parts that do not move the story forward? Are the technical details correct? Are the loose ends tied up? A book that I find invaluable at this stage is, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. My copy of Browne and King is heavily underlined, highlighted and filled with post-it-notes.

Self-Editing Cover

3. I create a hardcopy and I read my work out loud – the whole book, every time. I don’t have an audience but I read aloud all the same. This process allows me to catch a number of issues. Redundancies become obvious in a stunning and disconcerting way.

4. I am fortunate to have a trusted other to read my work. (I must emphasize with the italics and my bracketed comment that this person must be someone who is in your corner but not afraid to be truthful.) We get so close to our work that it does take another pair of eyes to point out where things simply don’t make sense.

5. Early in my writing career, I purchased copies of a few basic grammar books. Strunk & White’s, The Elements of Style is worth its small weight in gold. I work at applying the basics line by line.

Elements of Style cover

6. I email my word document to my Kindle and I read it there. I catch more typos than I’d like to admit.

7. Finally, I urge you to get innovative – check out your local high school or community college. There may be a teacher or an upper level student with ability in editing who is willing to help on the cheap.

Though it is true that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, if you have started with the silk of a good story, I believe you can make a decent purse without spending a fortune. The key is hard, hard work. If you have a story worth telling, you will not be afraid to invest sweat equity in the endeavour.

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Tuesday Book Blog – Stone Eater

cover of Stone Eater

Title: Stone Eater by D.F. Bailey (2nd book in the Will Finch Mystery Thriller series)

Genre: mystery, thriller, suspense, financial crime

Amazon Reviews: 7 reviews on with an average of 4.7

My Four Star Review

D.F. Bailey has hit his stride with this second Will Finch Thriller!

I read the first book in this series – Bone Maker – and the ending stirred my curiosity. Moving into the second Will Finch novel, the author answered many of the questions I had leftover from the first book while spinning a fine stand-alone story. Will Finch, main character and intrepid journalist, is a more fleshed out character in this second offering. The author ties the action of the series opener (Bone Maker) to the second book with seamless brush strokes that never weigh the reader down. No mean feat!

I enjoyed seeing the world through Will’s somewhat cynical perspective. His work cubicle is a “… doleful mix of neglect and oppression.” His exercise regime consists of making it up and down the three flights of stairs to his office. His huffing and puffing upon arrival is a condition many of us can identify with. There is also phrases that delight – sailboats slip back and forth playing the invisible breeze and a man’s life is described as running along a track that is narrow, flat and gray. These few words stand in for so much that need never be said. A gruesome scene is described thus – the girl collapsed on the lawn like a sack of snakes. This metaphor brings the horror of the character’s situation to graphic life.

Bring on book three! I’m ready to read Lonesome Hunter and to see what Will Finch will do next.

cover of Bonemaker                       cover of lone hunter

Before I leave you to trot off to the Amazon site of your choice and check out D.F. Bailey’s books, I want to add a note about the titles and the covers. Superb. The two word titles all link the series wonderfully and each of them packs a punch. The covers are visually attractive, consistent and guaranteed to catch the eye. Well done D.F. Bailey.

Pre-Spring Garden

The amen of nature is always a flower. (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.)

Open crocus - Guenette photo

Today’s sunshine opened this lovely crocus for my admiration and camera.

Her body calculated to a millimeter to suggest a bud, yet guaranteed a flower. (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Closed crocus - guenette photo

Surrounded by the wild, these few beauties await the full sun.

“A friend cannot be owned
That is plain to see
Friendships must be shared,
Just like our friend, Ruby”
(Stephen Cosgrove from Rhubarb)

Rhubarb - Guenette photoThe first sighting of rhubarb is always greeted with glee.


Christmas Rose - Guenette photo

The Christmas rose (Hellebore) continues to show off it’s delicate roses and cream coloured glory.

Don’t judge each day by the harvest that you reap but by the seeds that you plant. (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Seedlings - Guenette photoSeedlings on the go under the grow light.

Gardens are not made by singing, “Oh, how beautiful,” and sitting in the shade. (Rudyard Kipling)

Cold frame - Guenette photoKale seedlings and overwintering celery snug in the cold frame.

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust. (Gertrude Jekyll)

Overlook in the sun - Guenette photo

A chair in the afternoon sun from which to enjoy it all.

Building Castles in the Sand

Bruce & Emma in the sand - Guenette photo

“Writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” (author – Shannon Hale)

Never has this quote meant more to me than in these days when I start out on the hesitant and often lurching journey that will one day culminate in the fourth Crater Lake novel.

My sand consists of character sketches and grids, location descriptions, lists of major and minor climaxes, scene ideas, title options, timelines, research notes and random snippets of dialogue – all in no particular order. As the file on my desktop for this novel grows – the box into which I shovel this sand – I know I am making progress.

It is hard to trust this process as I shovel a few more loads of sand onto my story board. Definitely a messy business but this board is something I cling to. It exists in real time and space in a way that all my digital notes cannot rival. It is wonderfully solid though constantly evolving.

My mind rushes ahead, backtracks and gets stuck with regularity. I repeat myself, lose sight of important insights between one document and next and cart around a book that burgeons with quick handwritten notes. It occurs to me that there must be a neater, more linear way to proceed.

No doubt, but that way wouldn’t be my sand or my sandbox. I wouldn’t be working to build my own castle. Finding one’s way into the telling of a story is as utterly unique as there are writing practitioners. There are no blueprints for creativity. Just a messy sandbox waiting for a world to be wrought from

Sedona - Bruce Witzel photo

Marketing 2016–The Tangled Web & the Dog Poop

Tangled web - Guenette photo

2016 is well on its way and I am overdue for an updated, book marketing plan! I am resolved to not step into the same piles of dog poop marketing that I’ve trod on in the past. I have been slow to learn but I hope the proverbial penny has dropped.

So, here goes:

  1. I’ve decided, for the upcoming year at least, to limit sales of my ebooks to Amazon in order to enter the Kindle Select program and be eligible for Kindle Unlimited readers. Amazon is the marketing giant and to hold out against the promotional opportunities they can provide is like being a fairly useless bell clanging in the wilderness.
  2. I’ve made up my mind to keep on applying for a BookBub promotion slot until I am successful – no matter how long it takes. In the past, I couldn’t wrap my head around paying a hefty fee to give my book away but I’ve since added up all the dollars I’ve spent on marketing ideas (that were a total waste of money) and realized I could have afforded a promotion on this highly-rated-to-succeed site.
  3. In 2016, I’m going to take the dictum about the need to build an email list much more seriously. If you sign up as an email follower to my blog, you should receive an email message offering you a free ebook copy of my book of short stories. I’m still trying to work out the kinks on this but do give it a try. The sign-up button is on the right-hand bar of the page. You should be directed to email me and request either a mobi or epub file. This email sign-up means you get email notice when a new post appears on my blog. It also means that you are giving me the nod to occasionally email you and let you know that I have a new release or alert you to a sale on one of my books or the book of another author I admire.

Since beginning my marketing journey in the spring of 2012, I have been bombarded by all the newest strategies that promise to skyrocket my book through to the top of a seething mass of self-published works.

Here is what I have learned:

  1. Book contests advertised on the net that charge fees are a waste of money. My take on this could be coloured by the fact that I never win but even so, I stand by my opinion.
  2. Book review sites that charge a fee to move one up the list while claiming that one is not in fact paying for a review are a waste of money. These type of reviews can not be posted as an Amazon review because of the fee paid. The review I received was heartfelt and obviously by a genuine reader – kudos for that. On the down side, I’m assuming English was not the first language of the reviewer and the quality of the written review reflected that. It is clearly a darkly shaded nuance that this type of service is not, in fact, paying for a review. In retrospect, I would rather have not kidded myself, paid more (say to Kirkus) and got my money’s worth. Lesson learned. 
  3. Paying for a book blog tour is a waste of money. Okay, let me speak only to my own experience and preamble my comments by saying that the two tours I paid for were both under $50.00 US. I don’t know what might have happened if I’d paid the big bucks. I will say this, a fellow author shared that a recent tour cost upwards of $350.00 and resulted in minimal to zero sales.
  4. Twitter is fun but don’t expect that time spent creating book selling tweets will amount to much. I’ve said this before and I’m happy to say it again – I love Twitter. Occasionally, I tweet about one of my books but this is more for the challenge of seeing what I can say about my own work in 140 characters or less. Maybe the whole dynamic of selling books on Twitter changes when one has tens of thousands of followers. I very much doubt it but I don’t have that personal experience to call upon.
  5. A Facebook author page is a great thing to have. I love mine and I enjoy posting things that I think will be interesting to fellow writers and readers alike. Most schemes aimed at increasing one’s following on an author Facebook page seem to me to be a woeful waste of time and if they cost anything, a waste there, too. I’ve tried targeted update boosts, again at the low range of financial investment ($10.00 to $20.00). These boosts never amounted to much of anything.

So there you have it – my proactive strategies to move forward and reactions to my past efforts. My most important insight is this:

I have to keep my personal benchmarks of success in focus.

Too often, the dizzying claims by fellow authors of thousands of sales make me lose sight of the positive feedback I receive about my own books. I had a phone call yesterday from a woman who wanted to purchase yet another entire set of The Crater Lake Series. She has a friend she will gift them to. I think this is her third such gift.

I set out to write because my objective was to tell a story through the voices and experiences of a group of characters that once read, could not help but change the reader in some essential and yet possibly indefinable way. That desire may result in a body of work that never breaks through to huge sales. So be it. 

Let’s start a dialogue here. What do you think of my current strategies? What about my take on the past marketing poop? How does one balance personal benchmarks of success with the reality of selling books? Talk to me, people. Let’s pool our collective knowledge. I promise a thoughtful response.

Sunset over the lake - Guenette photo

Hard Survival in an Unforgiving Landscape

Pencil sketch - Casa Destino - June Guenette (2)

It’s a pleasure to have a book reviewed by a respected fellow author. A couple of weeks ago, I received just such a treat for my newest release – Maelstrom.

5.0 out of 5 stars The damage we humans can do …, 24 Jan. 2016 – By Mari Howard

Maelstrom (Kindle Edition)

As a fan of Francis Guenette’s Crater Lake series, I was interested to read this new book, a collaboration and edition of her late mother’s manuscript, Maelstrom. Before purchase, I already knew from the author that it would be a very different novel, and of course wondered in what areas.

The story, which has been outlined by other reviewers, takes place not on the Canadian West Coast but in some arid, desert-like part of the USA. I was never sure where, but thought maybe New Mexico? And like Crater Lake books, in a small town setting, but a very different one. The town is dominated by its ruthless, amoral sheriff, though as the plot progresses we learn of the network of complicated relationships and special interests which has intensified his rule.

Like the Crater Lake books, all turns on the damaged personalities involved, and how they interact: but in this setting, the damage is lethal, and the results are far more violent. It is indeed a book which surveys how tragically violent and destructive human beings can behave towards one another. The view of human is by no means the “Rousseau” one that we are all basically good: most of these characters could be said to be basically bad, weak, or both, and the author doesn’t hold back what we as a species are capable of, especially in male attitudes and actions towards women.

However, it is also a Francis Guenette book despite the differences. We can still discern her psychological training, experience, and knowledge, her concern for the fate of the mixed-race and Native Americans, her feminism (to give a name to something more subtle than that), and her ability to weave the consequences of damaged personalities for good or for destruction. This, as the story progresses, becomes increasingly obvious, and makes the book a page-turner. Her love and respect for wild and domestic animals is there. She also weaves into the story a theme found in the Crater Lake books – a boy who has what can be called ‘second sight’ – though it may have other names.

Recommended, unless you are a reader who prefers a rip-roaring good crime/adventure story to a study of how it is to be human in an isolated township and an arid setting. This is hard lives, hard survival, in an ‘unforgiving’ landscape. But it ends with some hope.

Arizona - Bruce Witzel photo

Mari Howard is a UK based writer and author of Baby, Baby (The Mullin’s Family Saga – Book One) and The Labyrinth Year (The Mullin’s Family Saga – Book Two). Check out my review of Mari’s book, The Labyrinth Year.

Baby, Baby Cover                                Labyrinth Year Cover

The Process of Preparing to Write

4th Crater Lake Book - Storyboard - Guenette photo

You might well ask – what does that headline mean – the process of preparing? This phase must have as many variations as there are writers practicing their craft. For me, it looks something like this: I work on a storyboard, I do research, take notes and draft up scene post-it-notes to stick on bits of paper. I do interviews with each of the characters who will be coming back along with detailed character sketches for all the new characters.

Scene post-it-notes - Guenette photoOne day I will tip over from all this preparation to actually writing the book. This is the fifth time I embark on this adventure and I have no reason to expect anything different.

I thought it might be fun to share Justin’s interview. He’s been a pivotal character in all the Crater Lake books and no one will be surprised to see him return in the fourth novel.

Where Are You Now, Justin Roberts?

What have you been doing over the last two years?

It’s mostly been school and coming back to Crater Lake in the breaks. I’ve just finished my undergrad degree at UBC and I’m working at the sawmill again. Reg is like some kind of a whirlwind this year. He’s on and on about production and racking in the money before he retires. Mike brushes it all off because he’s so happy about him and Wynter, he probably wouldn’t notice if a tsunami slammed its way right up from Brookes Peninsula and swamped the sawmill. I don’t find the job as great as it used to be but that could be because I’ve got my sights on full-time work somewhere else. I want to stay in the North Island and use what I learned at university. I’ve got applications out to a few of the independent logging operations.

What has been your biggest achievement?

Finishing my degree was a huge accomplishment.

Your biggest disappointment?

My relationship with Lauren – it continues to be up and down, on and off and now we’re in a constant state of sniping at each over me wanting to work up here. She insists I would do better in the city and refuses to even consider joining me in the middle of nowhere.

What issues from the past still haunt you?

I’ve never really been able to get Lisa-Marie out of my head though I’ve hardly seen her in the last two years. I’m pretty sure she’s avoiding me and I can’t say I blame her.

Out of the blue, my mom is back in my life and writing to me. The first letter totally freaked me out. Her psychiatrist wrote as well. She said not to rush to my mom’s side. She seemed to know that would be my first reaction. She said that my mother has made some radical progress in the last year – coming out of an almost catatonic depression. They’ve stabilized her on a new medication. She may move to a group home in a few months. She can only handle writing for now. I’m working to accept this without getting my hopes up for some kind of miracle reunion in the future.

How do you rate your various relationships?

The people at Crater Lake are family and I cling to that. I want to love Lauren but sometimes I wonder if I really do. There are so many things about my life that I can’t bring myself to share. I could never see myself telling her about my mom. We’ve been in this relationship for three years and I want to make it work but in my heart I’m not sure we have what it takes. She says I am too hooked into every one at Crater Lake. She thinks my commitments here are a way of distancing myself from her. But where would I be without Izzy and Liam and Robbie and Sophie?

Mike Sampson is a solid friend. I stay in touch with Dylan and Jesse. These guys know more about me than Lauren ever will.

I was going to say they know more about me than anyone but that wouldn’t be true. Lisa-Marie is the person who knows the most about me and I doubt there will ever be anyone else in my life that I could be so open with. I miss her. I ruined our friendship and that haunts me. It’s like I told her that first summer when she was sixteen – you can’t have sex without repercussions. After the cougar thing and all of that – I could have easily changed my mind about choosing Lauren. I wanted to. Liam urged me to tell Lauren I was in love with someone else. But LM wouldn’t let me. She wanted me to let her go. I had hurt her way too much to go and do a 180 degree turn.

What are your current goals?

I want a good job in the forest industry – maybe an engineer working on road development or something like that. Eventually, I want to be a forester. I want to make some money, have a nice place of my own and a truck that runs well – it doesn’t have to be fancy. I want to kick back now and then. Maybe take up a hobby like hiking or kayaking. Now that I’m back at Crater Lake and connecting with the Dearborn community, I’m thinking of studying to be a part-time paramedic. I’ve always been good in a crisis. I’ve also got some plans to renovate Liam’s old cabin. At one time, I would have thought every one of these goals was pie-in-the-sky crazy. But I’ve already come so far in the last five years. Why shouldn’t I just keep going? Go big or go home – right?

3-D Box Set - Crater Lake Series

Here I go on the next trilogy Smile Hope this little glimpse into where Justin’s at now whets your appetite to carry on with the series.


Thrilled to re-blog, P.C. Zick’s parallel reading choice – linking my latest release with the writing of Lisa See. Enjoy P.C.’s review of both our work in this post.


During January, I read two novels by two authors whose work I admire. One is a bestselling traditionally published author, and the other is an Indie Author who I’ve followed since the publication of her first novel.

Both have written novels set in the west – one in San Francisco and one in an anonymous location either in western Canada or western United States. And both populated their new releases with characters overflowing in narcissism. Not only are the antagonists under the illusion that the world revolves around them, but the protagonists also suffer from this affliction. And most importantly, both novels are captivating reads filled with tension created by a certain depravity within the human condition.

ChinaDollsChina Dolls by Lisa See – I was first introduced to Lisa See in 2009 when my sister-in-law lent me a copy of Peony in LoveSince reading that haunting love story…

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Tuesday Book Blog–Hard Prejudice

Hard Prejudice cover

Title: Hard Prejudice (Dan Reno Series – Book 5) by Dave Stanton

Genre: hard-boiled crime, mystery, thriller, suspense

Amazon Reviews: 13 reviews on with a 4.3 average

My Four-Star Review:

Private investigator Dan Reno – that’s Reno as in no problemo – quite the promo line for a no holds barred, take no prisoners type of PI. In Dan Reno, author Dave Stanton has created a complex character who thinks nothing of hanging the bad guys out over a cliff to get some answers but at the same time experiences uncomfortable inner thoughts and haunting dreams.

This is my first Dan Reno novel and I had no trouble catching up on the investigator’s life and past exploits. Starting in on this series is doable from any point. This author caught my interest with an early metaphor – eyes brittle as puddles of ice. Just words – right? But oh the way they are arranged. Well done.

Even if you aren’t in this novel for the jam-packed action, car chases, smack-downs with the various bad guys, steamy descriptions of attractive ladies and the quick as lightening repartee between Reno and his counterpart PI, Cody – the landscape depictions are breathtaking. I love the area around Lake Tahoe travelling through to San Jose. Dan Reno is on a case that requires more than a couple of trips back and forth. Pines rise like black ghosts, the sun sets like a jagged chunk of white-hot steel and clouds turn silver and blood red as they break up like sheets of glass shattering in slow motion.

All and all, an action-packed thriller that delivers the goods.

Check out Hard Prejudice (or any book from this series) and get acquainted with no problemo Dan Reno.