Post-NaNoWriMo Publishing Checklist

So, it’s been a week since the end of NaNoWriMo and participants have gotten a chance to step away from their writing and clear their minds. Many of them are now considering publication. But how will they achieve this goal? You can’t just go from NaNoWriMo to published without a few additional steps. That’s why I want to dedicate a post to a post-NaNoWriMo publishing checklist.

  1. Rewrite

Odds are your NaNoWriMo draft is very rough (that’s the kindest term I use for my own first drafts). After all, NaNoWriMo is all about volume, not quality. That’s why, before you even try publishing your NaNoWriMo book, you first need to revise and rewrite your manuscript. Hopefully you’ve had some time to recover since the event ended, so you can come back to your manuscript with a fresh eye and see what is and is not working. If you can’t read it objectively or you want a second pair of eyes to look it over, seek out a beta reader.

Your initial batch of beta readers can be friends and family. However, the closer you get to a polished manuscript, you’ll want more impartial beta readers (i.e. people who don’t already have some sort of acquaintanceship/relationship with you). That’s where paid beta readers come in. It can be pricey but it’s worth it to have a publishable manuscript. For those on more of a budget, there are plenty of beta readers available on Fiverr and similar websites.

If you deal with a minority or other underrepresented group which you are not a part of, you may want to hire a sensitivity reader as well to make sure that your manuscript is plausible and factually sound. You should also find specialized beta readers for other topics you’re not an expert in, such as surgeries if you’re writing a medical drama, the legal system if you’re writing a crime thriller, etc.

For more help with post-NaNoWriMo revisions, be sure to check out this podcast.

2. Edit/Proofread

This point sounds similar to rewriting but it is slightly different. Rewriting is getting your manuscript to the point that you feel you have a story people would read. Editing and proofreading ensure that the writing behind the story is polished. Rewriting involves closing plot holes and checking consistency; editing and proofreading strengthen the writing and eliminate spelling and grammatical errors.

As with rewriting, you’ll want to recruit friends and family to help with editing and proofreading at first but, as you get closer to your final copy, you will need to recruit outside help. Editors and proofreaders do not come any cheaper than beta readers but, as with beta readers, you can find plenty of affordable options on Fiverr.

3. Writing a Blurb

Whether you’re self-publishing or going down a more traditional route, you will want to write a short blurb describing your manuscript. Writing a blurb will help prepare you for pitching your book to publishers (you might even be able to use your blurb within the pitch), and you need a blurb for the back of your book if you’re self-publishing. As with the other items on this checklist, you can always hire someone from places like Fiverr to help you write this blurb and/or your pitch (beware of scammers). Keep in mind that no one knows your book better than you do, so it’s best to write your own blurb and/or pitch and then recruit someone to help you edit and proofread it before use.

4. Cover Design

For those who want to pursue tradition publication, you won’t need this step as the publisher will help handle this. However, if you are publishing your manuscript yourself, you will want to give this step special attention. We say don’t judge a book by its cover but let’s face it, everyone does. If a cover is unappealing or does not accurately represent the content, people won’t read your book. You could find someone you know who’s a good artist to create something for you. However, it’s always best to have a professional artist/graphic designer help you.

Again, it’s not going to be cheap but it’s crucial to a successful self-published book. You can hire someone from Fiverr, even going to Fiverr Pro if you don’t trust that the Fiverr sellers are professional (visit this page for more information on Fiverr Pro). For the best results, you’ll want to visit websites and online communities for writers and check out the cover designers that they recommend. People in these communities have already gone through the struggle of publishing; let them share their wisdom with you.

None of this is easy and it will take a lot of time to accomplish. It’s worth the time, effort, and money to create a professional, polished product. If you do the work ahead of time, it will save a lot of wasted time and effort from publishing before your manuscript is truly ready.

Have any tips for novice writers looking to be published? Any thoughts on self-publication or continuing after NaNoWriMo? Drop a line in the comments below or e-mail me at and your wisdom might be featured in a future post.

Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Writer’s Market Freelance Pricing Guide

As a result of Ameel’s comments on my previous post, I have decided to post a link to a source which I think freelance writers and editors will find useful. The resource is a pricing guide for freelancers from Writer’s Market, which you can find here on the Writer’s Digest website.

I discovered this guide after I was gently told by a couple clients that I was far under-pricing my services. I had only experienced the peanut-sized pricing of Fiverr and similar sites at that point–even my experience there was minimal–and so I had no clue what my prices should actually be. I won’t say what any of those original prices were (and you better not either, Ameel!) but I will say that all my book reviews went for only $10 back then.

What can I say? I was new, I was trying to build a client base, and I was naïve enough to jump in blindly without any real research to speak of.

It hasn’t been more than a few months since then but I’ve learned quite a bit, and one of the most important things I’ve learned is to use the Writer’s Market pricing guide.

Image retrieved from Writer’s Digest

The guide is an excerpt from Writer’s Market Companion, 2nd Edition. The excerpt includes calculating your expenses, calculating hourly rates, negotiation, raising your rates, and sample rates.

Did you know that it’s acceptable to charge $1 to $3 per page for proofreading a book? Or that you can get $28 to $150 per hour for writing brochures and fliers? That’s just a sample of what you will find in this pricing guide.

The best part? It’s free to download! You only have to give them your e-mail address. (Don’t worry; Writer’s Digest and Writer’s Market are well-established and reputable, so you don’t have to worry about giving them your e-mail.)

One caveat: this is only a pricing guide, so you shouldn’t take it as the pricing gospel. Each client and each project are different and it might be necessary to keep your rates negotiable until you’re more established as a freelancer. You can afford to be firm on higher prices once you have more experience, but you’ll want to retain some flexibility in order to keep the jobs coming.

Do you know of any guides or other resources which could help freelance writers and editors? Have any good examples or horrible warnings from your personal experience you would like to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or e-mail me at and your wisdom might appear in a future post.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Freelancer Tip: Learn to Say No

It’s time for me to pass on some wisdom I’ve earned through causing myself unnecessary stress. I’ve talked to you about the pitfalls of self-employment, writers as workaholics, and the love/hate relationship between writers and time management. Today, I want to talk about something which is important for freelancers and in life overall: learning to just say “no.”

It sounds simple, but learning to say “no” is much harder than it seems. There are many reasons to not say “no”: you don’t want to disappoint people, you need the money or favor attached to the agreement, you’re too shy or passive to argue, etc.

No matter your reason for not doing it, telling people “no” is a very important skill for freelancers to master. Whether you’re a freelance writer, editor, graphic designer, voice over artist, or anything else, you have to get the courage and the assertiveness to tell people when you can’t do something.

Unfortunately, it’s very hard for freelancers to do, at least in our work. The most common reason is that we need the money. Freelancing jobs, no matter what the medium, are few and far between. That’s why we take on as much as we can–well, as much as we can get, even if it’s more than we can handle.

Image retrieved from Coffee with Dan

I have very recently stumbled into this conundrum. I have taken on several beta reading and book review jobs (around five right now, one due right after the other and the shortest being 125 pages). I also have a part-time job (three hours a day, five days a week) writing online quizzes which, if I make it past the month-and-a-half probation period, can become a regular gig. All of this on top of grad school, a new puppy, this blog, and my own writing. It’s been pretty…chaotic in my head.

I need the work, I really do, and I’m more than happy to do it. However, for my sanity (and my ability to get some writing done myself), it would be best for me to cut back. If I said “no” every now and then, I would probably be able to handle my workload much better.

Fortunately for me, I have yet to experience the real issue with overbooking: a decline in the quality of the work. Some freelancers can thrive perfectly well under pressure as far as the quality of their work goes. Others…not so much. They’re spread far too thin and can’t keep up with demand. Those freelancers are the ones who have to learn to pick and choose the best projects and reject the rest.

I wish I could give you advice on actually saying “no.” If I knew how to do that, I’d be a lot more relaxed right now. All I can tell you is that you need to remind yourself how much better things will be if you don’t take on every project that comes your way. That way, you’ll see more benefits in regulating your work over doing everything.

Do you have any tips for saying “no” to potential clients? Advice on how to better manage time and projects? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below so we can all benefit from your wisdom.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Sensitivity Readers: Useful Fact-Checking or Restrictive Censorship?

Today I got the latest edition of Writer’s Digest. As I was perusing and generally avoiding working on my critical response due next week, I came across an interesting article about a publishing trend which involves hiring “sensitivity readers.” Needless to say, I was intrigued to learn more.

What are sensitivity readers? Mandy Howard, who wrote the article published in Writer’s Digest, was kind enough to provide a definition from Writing in the Margins, an online database of sensitivity readers: sensitivity reading is editing for “issues of representation and for instances of bias on the page” (Writer’s Digest, January 2018, p. 8).

With this definition in mind, I’m going to turn to an aspect of the article which, admittedly, bewildered me. Namely, a passionate debate about the role/appropriateness of these specialized beta readers has be sparked with #diversity, #thoughtpolice, and #ownvoices.

The debate really shouldn’t surprise me. After all, everyone has a different opinion on everything. (I dare you to ask the question “Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie?” in my household. You will get three distinct, passionate, and articulately-argued answers.) Still, my personal view of the matter made the debate seem unnecessary to me.

Here are the three sides of the argument:

  1. #diversity: These are the readers and writers who support people at all stages of the manuscript’s development hiring sensitivity readers. Their argument is that it is just another kind of fact-checking. After all, if you are writing from a perspective which is not your own, you are most likely to get something wrong. Don’t want egg on your face because you misidentify a Muslim woman’s garment, right? And what if you inaccurately described how a deaf student interacts with his professor? Nobody’s perfect. If we’re going to include diversity in our works, we have to make sure that we do it right.
  2. #thoughtpolice: These critics of the concept believe that sensitivity readers suppress creativity and expression. Howard points out that ptheir argument often falls back on the claim that classics such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin would not have been written the way they were under such insistence on political correctness because they portray these groups so negatively. One Washington Post letter to the editor which Howard references even compares sensitivity readers to censors.
  3. #ownvoices: This hashtag arises from more critics of this concept, but they don’t criticize it for nearly the same reason as #thoughtpolice. Their problem doesn’t seem to be with using sensitivity readers. Rather, they argue that people from these diverse groups need to write themselves. Shouldn’t we have books about African Americans written by African Americans? Books with transgender characters by transgender authors? How about books about Jews by Jews, or books about autistic characters by autistic writers? We need more diversity in our writers as well as our characters.

You have probably already guessed my position on the matter. I side most with #diversity and #ownvoices.

I think that sensitivity readers, like other beta readers and editors, serve as tools for revision and refinement. More importantly, they’re a research source. Just like you would search the Web, scour the archives, and interview experts (including those with first-hand experience), you can gain invaluable information about a different perspective from your sensitivity readers. Nothing enriches writing more than genuine human experience.

In regards to #ownvoices, I agree. We need more writers from diverse backgrounds. I’d much rather read about a perspective when written by someone with that perspective. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we shouldn’t write from different perspectives. We need to have both in order to represent realistically-diverse worlds in our stories. Sensitivity readers will ensure that we accurately portray perspectives which aren’t our own, and utilizing this resource is a step in the right direction.

For more articles from Writer’s Digest, be sure to visit You can also visit Mandy Howard’s website for more of her work and find your own sensitivity reader on Writing in the Margins.

What do you think about sensitivity readers? Are they fact-checkers or censors? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, but please remain civil. We welcome all view points so long as they are expressed respectfully.

Writing and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Happy Hump Day, everyone. It’s a chilly, rainy, dreary day up here in the backwoods of Northern California. You know what that means? Winter is coming. Literally. You know what else it means? It’s time for my Seasonal Affective Disorder, also called SAD, to kick in.

What’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, you might ask? It’s a form of depression related to changes in season. It begins and ends around the same time of year; for most people, it starts in fall and continues through winter, although rare cases can begin in spring or early summer. Essentially, it saps your energy and makes you moody.

So, in my case, my depression gets a lot worse once it starts to feel like fall–i.e. shorter days, stormy and cold weather, etc. It really gives me a love/hate relationship with rain and this time of year. I love rain and Halloween but I’m also moody and get virtually nothing done. (What can I say? I’m a mass of contradictions.) Even my normal anti-depressants don’t help as well during this time of year.

You might be wondering by now: how does this affect my writing? Not in a good way. There are more excuses to stay inside and I should be happy because it’s finally raining and we’re no longer suffering heat in the 80s or higher. I, at least, would expect that to be my ideal writing conditions. The reality? I’m drained all the time, I don’t want to do anything but sleep, I’m irritable, and I can’t concentrate. In other words, I have a hard time writing around this time.

Image retrieved from

Seasonal Affective Disorder is one of the reasons that I hate NaNoWriMo being in November. I’ve found that if something can go wrong in a writer’s brain, it will. Perhaps it’s Murphy’s Law of a Creative Mind. I’m guessing that I’m far from the only writer with Seasonal Affective Disorder, which makes the timing of NaNoWriMo, to say the least, inconvenient.

How can writers deal with SAD long enough to actually write?

I’m not going to lie, I don’t have any method guaranteed to snap you out of it every time. I know because nothing pulls me out of SAD every time I need it to. However, some methods can help ease the symptoms and, with any luck, something can get written.

Some of these methods work on Generalized Depression and other forms of depression as well as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Others specifically target the symptoms of SAD. All can alleviate SAD sufferers if they give these tips a shot:

  1. Light therapy: One of the first things my doctor suggested was light therapy with a “happy light.” This happy light is essentially a natural spectrum light box. You sit a few feet from it and it will feel like you’re outdoors in the daylight. I’m not sure how it works exactly but Mayo Clinic says that it causes a change in brain chemicals linked to mood. It often seems to help me but it is incredibly bright and I can’t use it if my dad is going to be coming into the room (this is the same man who would have us use only one light or, his preference, sit in total darkness if my mom and I didn’t fight him on it). So, while it helps, I can only have it out occasionally.
  2. Medication: As with other forms of depression, anti-depressants such as Wellbutrin can help. If you don’t have any form of depression the rest of the year, you can talk to your doctor about starting an anti-depressant before symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder kick in. If you’re like me and SAD makes preexisting depression worse, you can talk to your doctor about increasing your dosage, changing medication, or adding something to your current anti-depressant to see if it will help combat the added layer of depression during this time of year. Never reduce, increase, substitute, or otherwise change your medication or dosage without first consulting a medical professional, preferably the one who originally prescribed it to you.
  3. Brighten and open up your living space: Sometimes something as small as opening the curtains, turning on some lights, or decorating your rooms more brightly can improve your mood. It sounds simple but brightening your living space, exercising, going outside, and taking care of yourself overall can make a huge difference in your mood and outlook.

For more information on Seasonal Affective Disorder and how to combat it, you can follow this link to the Mayo Clinic pages on the disease. Remember, there are no cookie-cutter solutions that work for everyone. You just have to keep trying different approaches until you find the one that works for you. In the mean time, all you can do is keep pushing and doing your best to reach your writing goals. Also, don’t ever be ashamed of taking a Mental Health Day.

Do you have any tips for writers suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011