Monday, November 20, 2023

Rewards of Applying

Dear fellow writer,

Are you considering applying for something, but it seems like there's no way you'd be the one chosen? Maybe you want to apply for a workshop or a residency, a grant or a job, or maybe you’re just worrying about submitting a piece you’ve written.

Going through an application process can change your life, and not just if you get chosen.

When I wrote the first iteration of this message, my tiny publishing company, Thinking Ink Press, was a finalist for the Innovative Voices program of the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Turns out we did get into the program (yay!), but even if we hadn’t, the application process changed my relationship to the work we do.

Before, I didn't really know what we did, besides publish books.

Now, because we were forced to articulate our mission and values for the application, I feel confident in what we stand for and excited to find new projects that fit our vision.

For the application, we had to look at our past work and explain why it supports diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Seeing our published books in that light made me realize that we aren’t just a group of people who care about those things and also run a publishing company. Instead, our company as an entity values those things and bases its actions upon them. The application process made me prouder of the work we've done so far, and it helped me see all our books in the bigger context of what we care about as a press.

Another part of the application was stating our mission. I think we’d all been trying to define our mission for years. We started our press as a group of friends who love books, and we chose what to publish based on opportunities that presented themselves, with the thought that in the future we would see a pattern. Applying for Innovative Voices was just what we needed to see that pattern. The application process helped us reflect on our past work and create a focused mission statement that we believe in. 

A final part of the application was to talk about future projects. While we were discussing this, we got the idea for a science fiction anthology about neurodivergent humans interacting with aliens. We are very excited about this project, but I don’t think we would have committed to it, or possibly even thought of it, if we hadn’t applied for Innovative Voices.

It’s been great to meet the other publishers in the program, and to receive the help offered through it. But I feel we gained something even more important by going through the application process. We know who we are now and what matters to us in our work. 

I think back on other things I’ve applied for, and I see the same pattern: applying for a job causes me to consider what I care about in order to write a résumé. Submitting a story forces me to finish the story and commit to its details, as well as to choose a venue I’d be proud to appear in, and also to become willing to be known as the author of that particular story. Asking someone if they want to write together creates a deeper commitment to my own writing and helps me understand how I want to show up as a writer. Even when these things result in rejection, which they often do, I still gain from the process because I better understand myself and what I want to focus on in my life.

So if you're on the fence about applying for something, I say go for it.

Not just because you might get chosen (because, hey, you might), but because the process of applying can help you choose yourself.


Keiko O’Leary

Co-founder, Thinking Ink Press

P.S. Thinking Ink Press is a traditional publisher. We welcome you to submit your work. 

                            Thinking Ink Press all four of us - Keiko, Anthony, Liza, Betsy

Keiko O'Leary is a co‑founder of Thinking Ink Press, where she edits manuscripts and publishes books. She also works on innovative formats such as flash fiction postcards and mini books folded from a single sheet of paper. She is the author of Your Writing Matters: 34 Quick Essays to Get Unstuck and Stay Inspired. Connect with Keiko at

Monday, November 13, 2023

The Basic Layout of an eBook

The exact layout of an eBook is not set in stone. But if you’ve never prepared one for formatting, there is a basic layout pattern you’ll want to stick to for a professional appearance.

First, let’s cover the standard pages:

Title page – this should contain the title, the author’s name, and the publishing house. You can also include the logo and html web address.

Copyright page
– this should contain the copyright year and author’s name, ISBN, publisher’s name & address, “all rights reserved,” and disclaimer (“work of fiction, etc.). You can also credit people such as the cover artists. If you are registering it for a Library of Congress Control Number or a PNC (pre-assigned control number), that information will also go on this page. (Note that a LCCN or PNC are not assigned to eBooks only but can be included when you register a print book.) If you are getting a LCCN (for publishers with books in multiple libraries) then you will also get a Catalogue in Publication block, also called a CIP block.

Dedication – keep it short and simple.

Table of contents – either chapter titles or numbers. There will be no page numbers, but each chapter title will need to be hyperlinked to its corresponding chapter.

Manuscript – this is the body of your text. Note no headers or page numbers required. You can add graphics for chapter titles/number.

About the author
– a paragraph about yourself. Include links to your website and social sites (but not to retail sites – Barnes & Noble frowns upon eBooks linked to Amazon!) You can also include an author photo.

In between dedication and table of contents, one can also have a list of other books or acknowledgements.

An important item to include is the book’s reviews/blurbs. When readers are skimming the first few pages, reading the free sample, glowing reviews will help them make the decision to buy the book. Reviews for the book can come after the title page or after the dedication.

Other items you might want to include:
Bonus material

Those items will appear after the manuscript ends but before the author page.

And there you have it! The basic layout of an eBook. Now you are ready to get started.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Getting to Published by Gabi Coatsworth

The more I learned about how to get published, the more I realized I would need more than one plan for getting there. I’d started researching how other people got their books out in the world years before I was close to having a manuscript I felt able to submit. I discovered I needed a document professionally edited and formatted in a certain way. Plus an elevator pitch, synopsis, and query letter, all of them perfect. 

This would guarantee I’d find an agent who would take my novel and sell it to one of the Big Five publishers. They would, of course, fight over my book, pay me a huge advance, buy the movie rights, and sign me up for a two-book contract. Experts agreed this was the only way to do it. 

And then the real publishing world, which seemed to be changing from day to day, intervened.

At that point, I only had one plan—the one above, which I subsequently called Plan A. I queried lots of agents and finally found one with the help of a friend, which is often the way. She did her damnedest to sell the book. I got a revise-and-resubmit, but by the time the new manuscript was ready, the editor who’d asked for it had moved to another publisher and only wanted cozy mysteries. My agent wondered if I could rewrite it as a mystery. I thought not.

I needed a Plan B. I would submit it myself to small independent traditional publishers. I’d researched and tried some of them before, with my memoir, only to be rejected or ignored. I thought my novel might do better. 

Using my handy elevator pitch, synopsis, and query letter, I submitted. This time it was easier because most small publishers prefer you to do so via Submittable. Six months later, I was ready to admit that this wasn’t going to work either. The only publisher who came back to me loved the novel, but wouldn’t be able to schedule publication until three years hence, and since I’m approaching the shady side of seventy, I didn’t want to wait. 

Plans C and D were all that remained. Plan D was to self-publish—the least expensive way to go. But that would mean a huge learning curve and a great deal of subcontracting. Cover design, formatting, ISBN numbers, proofreading, distribution…the list went on and on.

So, I turned to my Plan C, hybrid publishing, and here’s why. A good hybrid publisher offers all of the things I mentioned above: design, editing, proofing, and even marketing. They require more research than traditional indie publishers, because the quality of their work, and their prices, vary enormously. 

As part of my due diligence, I bought a book from each of the presses I was considering, to check the quality. Some had awful covers, bad cover copy, or typos, and I discarded them immediately. Some kept the rights to your work for several years, and I heard some horror stories about trying to get them back. They were out too. 

I was left with a short list, and contacted some of the authors they’d published, to ask them about their experience. Only two candidates remained, and they both wanted my novel. I decided to go with the one that allowed me to approve every step of the production process, could publish within nine months, and let me keep most of the royalties. 

It had taken me three years to figure it all out. Here’s hoping this article will help you get there quicker.

Visit Gabi Coatsworth


Wednesday, November 1, 2023

#IWSG Day and It's National Novel Writing Month!

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the November 1 posting of the IWSG are PJ Colando, Jean Davis, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diedre Knight!

Today’s question: November is National Novel Writing Month. Have you ever participated? If not, why not?

We need hosts for December, January, and February!!! These are tough months so if you can help, we will be most grateful. If you have never co-hosted, please volunteer. It’s a lot more fun on the co-host side. Really! You get a ton more visitors, meet a lot of new people, and get to showcase yourself as a writer/author.

We also had some great articles here last month:

Top Book Giveaway Platforms and Tips to Leverage Them for Book Promotion Success

Six Ways an Author Can Turn Away Fans Online

Podcasting for Authors - Hosting and Guesting!

Have you ever participated in NaNo?