The Balance by Michael Selden: Tips for Authors

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Today we’re hosting Day 4 of a 5-day virtual tour for a new YA novel, The Balance by Michael Selden.

This tour is sponsored by the National Writing for Children Center.

the balance by michael selden

In today’s post, Michael offers some tips for other writers.

Writing Tips from Author Michael Selden

I won’t pretend that there is just one way to write a story, but there are a few very basic things that are common to all successful writing, nonetheless:

• Write.

If you don’t write frequently and extensively you won’t get better.

Writing is a skill that develops over time.

In my case, aside from writing a few pieces of fiction over the years – here and there – wrote a lot of non-fiction for my work, both technical papers and technical proposals and contracts.

I wrote every day, to make my work successful.

• Read.

If you don’t, or haven’t been a reader, then it’s unlikely that you’ll write well.

To me, reading is almost as useful to a writer as is writing.

• Seek Criticism.

You need to reach out to others to get honest opinions of your work.

You won’t get better without them.

• Use Good Editors.

Editors are among the most critical reviews you’ll get, and these come with suggestions, which are also key.

I certainly wouldn’t publish anything without using at least one editor to review the work.

In my case I often use two or three editors, although each fills a different role: developmental editing, copyediting, proof reading.

That said about the writing pointers, let’s turn our attention to publishing – something I’ve had to learn over the past few years.

I put together a little flowchart or two to help with the discussion about a year and a half ago, posting it on my blog.

It turned out to be the most read blog post I’ve had.

Let’s assume you’ve written a book, you’ve revised it, polished it, had other people read the draft and you’ve incorporated good ideas back into the story.

The next step is finding a good editor and working to get the manuscript into publishable form.

I’d do this even if you’ll seek out an agent and a mainstream publisher.

I’ve worked with several editors and each brings their own perspective and experience to the party.

Many editors are very good at helping to ensure your text is clear and complies with the standards used by publishers, some are better for non-fiction than for fiction.

In my experience, those editors who also write, and write in genres similar to the one your story fits into are best for that work.

I like an editor who writes fiction and is not heavy handed, but works with you to achieve the goals you have for the story.

Once you have a decent error-free manuscript, it’s time to decide if you want to seek an agent or to self publish.

The traditional path is to find an agent interested in your story, and who is able to convince an editor to pitch your story to his or her publisher.

If they pick it up, you’re on your way, but you will probably be asked to help market your book, and it’s likely that the manuscript will need changes to satisfy the long chain of decision makers along the way.

Initially, I sought out an agent and there was an editor interested in the book I offered, but that editor didn’t want to pitch my book unless I changed it a lot—mostly to reduce the length. I declined and chose to self publish.

There are several paths to self-publishing.

You can go with an all in one service, like iUniverse, or an a la carte approach, perhaps using Create Space, or you can seek out your own team of artists, designers, editors, proofreaders, and so forth.

I chose the latter and worked with people who work for, or with, the big five publisher every day.

These highly skilled people sometimes form their own companies that contract with the big five, or the people work directly for them and moonlight on the side.

I work with both.

One of my best resources in finding proofreaders lately is a manager with Hachette Book Group, working at Little Brown.

As with other writers and bloggers, it’s useful for everyone to work together at times.

the balance by michael selden

The first image shows the steps needed to prepare the book, the book’s interior, and cover, just prior to the actual publishing.

Notice that there are lots of revisions in this diagram, including revisions throughout editing.

A book is truly never really done, but at some point you have to decide that you’re not improving it very much and to grudgingly declare it done.

the balance by michael selden

This second diagram “Publishing That Book” shows some of the different options available.

Even if you do not employ Createspace to find your editors and layout designers, you may want to let them publish your book for you – that is, to assign an ISBN and to print it.

I decided to form a publishing company, called Woodland Park Press LLC.

My company contracts with editors, designers, artists (either to create new art or to license images), and I bought a number of ISBN’s through Bowker and assign one to each edition of each book.

ISBN’s provide a unique identifier for every book.

I also register my copyrights with the US government.

You’ll need your designer to make tailor layouts of the book for print (paperback and, maybe, hardcover), Kindle, and e-pub (depending on how many formats you decide to use.

Each format gets its own ISBN.

Next you need to decide who will print your book and how many channels to sell through.

I use Lightning Source for print and distribution.

They are a part of Ingram (the largest book distributor in the world).

Generally, Lightning Source will only contract with publishers, which is one reason I created the publishing company.

I offer the Kindle version through Amazon, and I have (in the past) used Smashwords to set up selling channels through Kobo, iTunes, Barnes & Nobel, and libraries for e-pub versions of the book.

Recently, I decided to create an audio book for one of my titles: The Boy Who Ran.

For this I used ACX, an audio book exchange service, which connects you with voice actors and producers, and Audible (an audio book company) publishes the final product.

For The Boy, I auditioned 30 voice actors and selected the one whose voice best fit my vision for the book.

Working with the artists, both visual and performance, as well as the editors, designers, and so forth can be rewarding, too.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced has been marketing, which I’ll discuss in tomorrow’s post for this virtual tour.


Get links to each day of this virtual tour at the National Writing for Children Center.

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