58 Gems of Writing Advice and Inspiration from Self-Published e-Book Authors

Enter the 2018 Self-Published Ebook Awards today! Deadline Sept. 24, 2018.


Writer’s Digest would like to congratulate the winners of the 5th Annual Self-Published e-Book Awards. For complete coverage of the awards, see the May/June 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest. For an extended interview with grand-prize winner Emily James, click here. For a list of all winners, click here. To read the opening chapter of A Sticky Inheritance, click here.

What is your favorite line or short passage from your book?

“But Grandpa, what I really, really want to see is more good friends like you and me.” —William P. Bahlke, Grandpa! Grandpa! What Will I See?

“There’s no balance of good and evil in this world.”—Joseph Mujwit, A Special Breed of Warrior

“To create generational food memories, serve a harvest for the soul.” —A.K. Williams, How to Say Cheese

“I had always assumed that Patricia considered our children to be an afterthought: something that comes to mind on nights when you can’t seem to sleep, or when you’ve had a little too much to drink. I suppose no matter how hard we try to forget, there are some things that will haunt us forever. —M. Stringfield, The Forgotten

“A star-filled canvas pulsated with myriad hues. Proximity lights from the Ciri-4 and Ciri-5 space stations were visible to the starboard. The radiant crescent of the impending sunrise awakened the landscape causing wave crests of the South Pacific to flicker like enkindled embers.” —Timothy Bryant Spear, String

“Please tell me where you are so I know where to meet you.” —Nahla Summers, 44 Rays of Sunshine

“[M]y social life consisted of my fish and my cat. The fish were good listeners, but didn’t have much to add to a conversation. The cat was the opposite. A horrible listener with a lot to say, namely, ‘Hurry up and put food in my bowl.’” —Ronan Takagi, Fifty Fares

“I wake the next day. Waking is the hardest thing after a wretched night filled with wretched happenings. Waking confirms it happened. It wasn’t a dream. The wretchedness is real.” —Samantha Wren Anderson, Salsa with the Pope

“I wanted to share these messages with others so that they would know that darkness, in whatever form it comes, can’t hold us hostage, can’t stop us from being happy, or from finding love again. We have the strength to find our inner light and to cast the darkness away.” —Susan Redmond, Finding the Light Inside You

“How much dust can a body make? Little specks of death. Measuring life in millimeters.” —Ryan Galloway, Biome

“I was alone.” His voice was a whisper. “We all are.”

The wind kicked up as the words left his mouth. A gust caused Lady to shift her feet as the chill air ruffled her fur. The moonlight fell in slanted beams. —Ann Swann, Stevie-girl and the Phantom Pilot

Why did you decide to self-publish and to create an e-book?

The process is inexpensive, quick, and relatively easy to navigate. I wanted the book ready to give as a gift to my granddaughter on her third birthday. I published it as an e-book to have a less expensive option for my buyers. —William P. Bahlke, Grandpa! Grandpa! What Will I See?

I heard the horror stories about authors spending a lot of time submitting queries to publishers and getting rejected over and over. Since this collection of articles is a service to my column readers, I decided that the self-publishing route would be economical and fast. —Lisa Turner, House Keys: Tips and Tricks from a Female Home Inspector

Personally, I truly love e-books. They’re quick and easy, and I don’t have to wait for a book that excites me to get shipped to my house. It’s a good format for impatient people like me! —M. Stringfield, The Forgotten

What are the biggest misconceptions about self-publishing?

After conferring with other self-published authors, a prominent misconception exists that after your book lists on the Internet, it will sell on its own yielding great monitory returns. An author must continue to invest in the finished product within their financial and employment constraints. —Timothy Bryant Spear, String

One of the biggest misconceptions about self-publishing is that the self-published authors have lower standards than traditionally published authors. —Ann Swann, Stevie-girl and the Phantom Pilot

A big misconception is that self-published writers are not as good as traditionally published ones. Publishing is a business, and agents pick up what they think they can sell. This isn’t necessarily a commentary on the quality of the work so much as what is needed at that particular moment in time. In a circumstance where a story or genre is a tough sell by an agent, e-books and self-publishing in general allow a good channel for people to experience a story they might not have been able to otherwise. —M. Stringfield, The Forgotten

What advice would you give others considering self-publishing?

If you’ve dreamed of being a writer … go for it! If I can do it, anyone can. —William P. Bahlke, Grandpa! Grandpa! What Will I See?

Be patient and realistic with your expectations regarding your work. An author must accept positive and negative criticism and continue to refine their individual story. —Timothy Bryant Spear, String

A word to anyone, young or old, who is thinking about writing, or is just starting to write: as soon as you can, get over the worry about ‘being a writer’. If a thought pops into your head, ‘Am I a writer’, or ‘Can I write?’ or, ‘Do I have what it takes to be a writer?’, do your best to ignore it and just write. The untold number of articles I see that agonize over this basic question break my heart, because I suffered the same self-doubt. Don’t waste a single minute questioning yourself in this way. If you sit down and write, you are a writer, period. Nothing else defines a writer – not fame or fortune, not publication or acclaim. If you write, you are a writer. Q.E.D. —Craig Allen Heath, The End of an Ordinary Life

The thing to worry about is not the process of producing the e-book, or the print book, it’s the process of making sure that every single detail in the book is top notch and exactly what you want before submitting it. Anyone can do the formatting, but the time you put in to editing and presentation (the cover) is critical. Take the time and spend the money required to make the book as good as it possibly can be! —Lisa Turner, House Keys: Tips and Tricks from a Female Home Inspector

Every single day is precious. We must live and write in the moment, appreciating every second we have to make a difference in the lives of our readers. —Lisa Turner, House Keys: Tips and Tricks from a Female Home Inspector

Don’t give up. Becoming a writer is a loooooong process full of ups and downs. Try not to get too high or too low. Take it day by day. —Ronan Takagi, Fifty Fares

Writing is a wonderful motivator, not only for your own life, but for others. Do it because you love it and share it with the world! —Samantha Wren Anderson, Salsa with the Pope

My advice is to make certain you give the work a breathing space. After you think you are finished, put it aside for a few weeks and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Mistakes will leap off the page. —Ann Swann, Stevie-girl and the Phantom Pilot

My advice would be to always hire an editor before you publish. Those ‘little darlings’ have to go, no matter how hard they cling to the paper! —Susan Redmond, Finding the Light Inside You

Don’t compare yourself to someone else. Stay focused on who you are and the message you want to deliver as a writer. —Nahla Summers, 44 Rays of Sunshine

It’s not a race. I wish someone would’ve told me that sooner. There are actually a lot of people saying the opposite—that to make a livable income, authors should be cranking out four to five books per year. This just isn’t true. Hammering out books leads to saturation in the market overall, and more importantly, it leads to poor storytelling. If you want to write something you’re proud of, or even just “hit it big,” slow down. Have your book beta read. Find a critique partner or two, and hire an editor after that. Doing things fast usually means doing them sloppy. —Ryan Galloway, Biome

Be unapologetically yourself in everything that you do. Don’t worry about where anyone else might be in their lives, or in their writing. The only person you need to compete with is yourself. —M. Stringfield, The Forgotten

Edit, edit, edit. Find yourself a good editor who can act as a partner in the process. One that understands nuance and can make solid plot enhancing suggestions. —Joseph Mujwit, A Special Breed of Warrior

Make sure you have a multi talented publisher and designer. Organization is key, and having a production timeline. —A.K. Williams, How to Say Cheese

If you put yourself into your books honestly, some people will love you for it—and also, some will hate you. An artist can’t create work with edges and expect no one to get jabbed. So, don’t write just for the audience. And don’t write just for yourself. Write because words have power, and when you speak the truth, that power can change the world. —Ryan Galloway, Biome

Take your time and make sure the book—your baby—is perfect before putting it out there for sale. Don’t think the book will sell its self. You have to do your own promoting. Know your limitations. Hire professional help if you need it. —William P. Bahlke, Grandpa! Grandpa! What Will I See?

Get inspired reading other authors’ bios. It’s always good to know success isn’t someone sprinkling magic fairy dust on you but the product of a lot of hard work and perseverance in the face of setbacks. Knowing what other authors went through helps keep everything in perspective. —Ronan Takagi, Fifty Fares

What is the worst mistake a self-publishing author can make?

The worst mistake for any author who self-publishes is to put out a book that is not polished. —William P. Bahlke, Grandpa! Grandpa! What Will I See?

Self-publishing makes it easy to get a story on the Internet, but if the author ignores a serious approach regarding the writing process, the story will lack quality and professionalism. Readers will quickly identify such deficiencies and the story will join a long list of junk that’s out there polluting the waters of hard-working writers. —Timothy Bryant Spear, String

The worst mistake in self-publishing, eBooks included, is trying to do everything. There may be a few people who can write well, edit well, proofread well, design beautiful pages, create brilliant cover designs and develop crisp, compelling marketing material, but I don’t know any. Do what you’re good at but hire the rest out. It can be costly, but you want your self-published work to stand with what is traditionally published, books with an entire staff devoted to success. Don’t try to do it all. —Craig Allen Heath, The End of an Ordinary Life

Not paying a professional copy editor to review content and not paying a professional graphic designer to do the cover. —Lisa Turner, House Keys: Tips and Tricks from a Female Home Inspector

Publishing the book then not doing anything to promote it. Being on your own is a double-edged sword. You have freedom to publish the book how you want it to be, but you’re also not getting the support of a large entity to market and promote the book. It took a lot of time to figure out a marketing strategy and how to launch my book. —Ronan Takagi, Fifty Fares

One of the worst mistakes is to race through and have your eye on just getting it finished instead of on the quality of your work. You want your book to be able to stand-up against any commercially published book. So be sure to rewrite and get it edited, get a decent cover and price it competitively. —Samantha Wren Anderson, Salsa with the Pope

The worst mistake would be rushing to publication and not double checking your editor. —Ann Swann, Stevie-girl and the Phantom Pilot

The worst mistake a self-publishing author can make, E-book or softback, is not having your work professionally edited. There are those “little darlings” we love to hold on to, but they need to go. —Susan Redmond, Finding the Light Inside You

Making a bad cover and not getting someone to check the book over for any mistakes. —Nahla Summers, 44 Rays of Sunshine

Not worrying about spelling or grammar mistakes. Not having a separate pair of eyes (or ten) looking at your work for any errors, or anything that doesn’t fit or make sense. Don’t rush into publishing it because you’re excited to have it out there. —M. Stringfield, The Forgotten

Don’t rush. It’s not a race. Take your time and make sure that you have developed the best product you can. It’s your name on the book and all the typos and grammatical errors are on you. —Joseph Mujwit, A Special Breed of Warrior

Not having enough funds and dedication to promoting the final product, after the time it takes to finish the project you run out of steam when you really have to push it. —A.K. Williams, How to Say Cheese

The worst mistake self-publishing authors can make is to create their own cover and logo. I call this buried treasure being covered by a turd. When potential readers/buyers are scrolling an online store they’re making a quick visual decision based on a one-inch cover. Keep visuals and text to minimum. I’ve seen the kitchen sink approach where an author tries to re-create a scene within the book, however this ends up looking very unprofessional and confusing to a potential reader. —B. Kapitan, How to Say Cheese

The worst mistake a self-publisher can make is to write a book they don’t know how to pitch. Being able to sum up your story in a single sentence means that it’s marketable—but it really proves you understand the concept of your book. It’s a point I feel strongly about because I’ve gotten it wrong so many times in my earlier novels. It’s not that books need an agenda. It’s that an author needs to grasp that a premise is asking a question. When we leave that question unanswered, we leave our audience unsatisfied. —Ryan Galloway, Biome

What can you not live without in your writing life?

Personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. No matter what the future holds regarding my writing career, if I’m not satisfied with my efforts, then little else truly matters. —Timothy Bryant Spear, String

If only one thing, a thesaurus. My vocabulary is fair, but that cross reference is the single best sharpening stone for writing that exists. —Craig Allen Heath, The End of an Ordinary Life

Reading. I’m a voracious reader of everything from how-to and poetry to fiction, to newspaper and magazine articles. Reading actually competes with my writing time. It’s a balancing act. —Lisa Turner, House Keys: Tips and Tricks from a Female Home Inspector

My thesaurus! Sometimes I get stuck for a word and I need to pull out my trusty little book. —Samantha Wren Anderson, Salsa with the Pope

I can’t live without my journal. And, I have three books on my desk, always: The Emotion Thesaurus; The Negative Trait Thesaurus; The Positive Trait Thesaurus authored by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. I also have Donald Maass’ books, The Breakout Novelist and workbook. —Susan Redmond, Finding the Light Inside You

My laptop and a new place to visit. —Nahla Summers, 44 Rays of Sunshine

Suspense! Oh, and my laptop. —M. Stringfield, The Forgotten

A comfortable chair. —Joseph Mujwit, A Special Breed of Warrior

Spellcheck. —B. Kapitan, How to Say Cheese

Coffee and whiskey. Sometimes together! —Ryan Galloway, Biome


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