Founder and Chief Alchemist
Part skills lesson, part confession, part peptalk: this is my brand new radio interview on Your Book is Your Hook radio program, hosted by Jennifer Wilkov.  You'll recognize her as an expert-in-resident here at Pitch U!
University Publications - Free

The Monthly Pitch  BONUS! Receive "10 Reasons You Suck at Pitching Your Book" for signing up. It will make you feel a whole lot better.

The Pitch U Daily - Don't miss a single post.  Have them sent direct to your inbox, in time for mid-morning coffee.

Search Box
Pitch U Recommends...

Things we love!  (And no, these aren't ads.)









« Day Five: Creating a Business Plan for Indie Writing | Main | Day Three: Creating a Business Plan for Indie Writing »

Day Four: Creating a Business Plan for Indie Writing

From Tara, the Despicable Muse of Indie U

So, we’re back with Suzan Harden, who I’ve decided is a business plan marathoner. By the end of the week, we might just be calling her an indie writing guru. Oh, what the hay. Let’s just give her that title anyway.

Quick Recap:

Day 1: Why Go Indie?

Day 2: Writing as a Business

Day 3: Having Product

And now, on to today! Tally-ho!

Editing and Formatting Your Product

By Suzan Harden

Printing PressYesterday, we talked about things that take you away from your writing. For the next three days, we’ll be discussing aspects the indie writer can farm out or do herself, depending on her time and money constraints. (And you’ll be adding these to your writing business plan.)

BUT THERE’S ONE THING YOU MUST NEVER ALLOW SOMEONE ELSE TO DO FOR YOU: Never, EVER, have someone else control your money!

Your financials are the one job you should always do yourself. There’s a reason Oprah Winfrey signs EVERY FREAKIN’ CHECK cut by her company, Harpo Productions, Inc.

Think money problems won’t happen to you? Go ask Danielle Steele about the $400,000 her assistant embezzled.

Please realize I don’t mean that you shouldn’t seek out appropriate advice from your tax accountant or financial planner. But that doesn’t mean turn over your credit cards and bank account numbers to them.

Now, let’s move on to what you’re going to need to do to produce a book.

Time to get out your proto-business plan and pen!

Remember that list of expenses we started? Let’s add to it.

Resources and Equipment

Most writers have some resources and equipment on hand. If you don’t, you may need to add to the amount of cash you’ll need to start indie publishing. Here are some common things you’ll need:

A. Yourself

As we covered extensively yesterday, you are the most valuable asset of your new publishing company. It would take a whole ‘nother post series on protecting this asset, so I’ll leave it at exercise, eat your veggies and get a good night’s sleep.

B. Computer

An absolute necessity in the new world order. Of course, if you’re reading this, then you’ve probably got access to one. (If you’ve bought a new one this year, talk to your tax preparer about possible depreciation.)

C. Internet Access and E-mail Address

Again, an absolute necessity. Whatever you do, create a professional appearance! For the love of Murphy, don’t use fuzzepu$$ Remember that your access fees are tax deductible if used for business. 

D. Software

I strongly recommend buying a legitimate copy of Microsoft Word to use as your word processor. It’s not that I’m a huge Bill Gates fan, but Word has become the de facto manuscript file standard for most of the publishing industry. 


Producing a book takes more than words on a page. Remember the list you made yesterday (the one where you probably put your own name in each slot)? Well, it’s time to look at some of those roles.

A. Copyediting, Line Editing and/or Proofreading

Most writers don’t realize that there’s a big difference between these three, even though many of the duties overlap.

  • A copyeditor looks at the big picture, such as the overall structure of your story. Do you have a beginning, middle and end? Does your heroine go through a radical personality shift midway through the book? Do you have a gaping plot hole that’s not explained or resolved?

  • A line editor looks at the word flow and continuity. Is the grammar correct? Are you using words correctly? Did your heroine’s eyes change color three times in the course of the story?

  • The proofreader looks at the spelling and punctuation. She makes sure you haven’t left out words, accidentally used the same word twice or used a question mark instead of a period.

Should you hire someone for these jobs? That depends. A quality freelance copyeditor will run you about $2,000 for a standard 80-90K novel. A proofreader will start around $500.

ALWAYS get recommendations and check references! There are some fabulous editors worth the big bucks. And there are a few stinkers looking to take you for a ride.

Or, you can do the J.A. Konrath method of trading edits with other writers. In Joe’s case, he and his buddies have over a century of experience between them.

I understand this isn’t an easy decision when you don’t have bundles of Ben Franklins lying around the house. If you can’t afford a professional editor, I definitely recommend having critique partners and a couple of beta readers look at your book before you proceed.

B. Formatting for E-Publishing

There’s lots of other things you should and shouldn’t do to have a clean master copy. Here are some basic formatting tips for the word-processing stage: 

1) Set up a Word template for an e-publishing file. Go into “Format” and then select “Paragraph.” Set the “Indentation” to “First line” at “0.3.”

2) DO NOT use the TAB key!

3) Make sure you don’t have stray spaces at the beginning or end of paragraphs.

4) Have only one space between sentences.

5) Insert page breaks for new chapters instead of excessive paragraph returns.

6) Make sure you TURN OFF the smart tags. Go to “Format,” select “Auto format" and then click on “Smart tags.” Make sure you uncheck the box next to this option or switch it to “Off.”

7) DO NOT put page numbers in your document at this point!

Now, you’re ready to have the file formatted into an e-book file. If you feel comfortable with computers, this is something you can easily do yourself to save a bit of dough. Otherwise, you can hire someone to convert the file for you. Conversions start at $100 and quickly move up.

WARNING! There are a lot of companies jumping on the e-book conversion bandwagon. Some of them have NO FREAKIN’ CLUE for what they are doing.

Want to do it yourself? Save your manuscript into an HTML file. Download CALIBRE, which is a freeware program that can convert your HTML into almost any e-reader format. (Even though Calibre’s free, please, PLEASE, donate a few dollars to the guys who write it!) Load your HTML file into Calibre and then convert to MOBI (i.e. the format Amazon uses for the Kindle) or EPUB (the format Barnes & Noble use for the NOOK). If you don’t have either device, you can download free apps for the PC. Check your file (seriously, you NEED to look at the WHOLE thing) and make sure it looks fabulous!

If your new e-reader file looks funky on the device or in the app, there’s probably a problem with the master file. You’ll need to fix it and start the process over again.

The first couple of times you convert your DOC file into an e-reader file will be time consuming. It’s a learning experience, but one well worth it if money is tight.

C. Formatting for Print

Formatting for print is a whole ‘nother animal that I really don’t have space to cover in-depth since it’s a little (okay, a lot) more complex than digital. For more information, I strongly recommend Karen McQuestion’s blog.

Well, that’s enough for today. If you have questions, I’ll be happy to answer them. If you’re too shy to leave your question in the comments, feel free to e-mail me at

From Tara, the Despicable Muse of Indie U

Is your head swimming yet? Making a business plan can be a challenging task, but I guarantee you’ll be farther ahead on the path to success as an indie writer if you consider all the wonderful things Suzan is throwing at you. We’ll be back tomorrow, so bring your business plan for writing and your catcher’s mitt.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    The level of demonstrable skill there is fantastic. A considerable lot of the more dynamic individuals have books you can discover at the neighborhood Barnes and Noble. Notwithstanding, there's no elitism or highbrow character between the distributed, the wanna-be, and the ones whose objective is to pay to be distributed or ...

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>