Details of Self-Publishing

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: My writing organization is preparing an anthology. Would standard manuscript format apply? We are unsure of individual submission formats at this point. Please advise.

A: Standard manuscript format applies when submitting a manuscript to an agent or a publisher. Because you are going to self-publish the anthology, you may set the format any way you would like, but if an editor is going to edit the submissions, which I strongly advise, you would do well to ask for submissions in standard manuscript format, which does several things. It gets writers in the habit of using standard manuscript format; it is easy to read; and it gives editors room to work, if they edit the printed copy. Folks who are unfamiliar with standard manuscript format can go to and click on Tools for Writers. There they will find many free reports, including one that explains standard manuscript format. Continue reading

Publishers’ Guidelines and Preferences

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I am writing a collection of humorous personal experiences. I need advice on how to submit the collection to a publisher. Do I submit one or two chapters or more?

A: The answer depends on the publisher’s guidelines. Some want a proposal and one to three sample chapters. Some want only some sample chapters and a query letter. Publishers vary widely in their guidelines, and you must learn each one’s guidelines for submission and follow those guidelines to the letter. Continue reading

Branding, Brand Names, and Trademarks

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: At a recent writers’ conference, the word “branding” kept being thrown around. Am I behind the times? What does branding mean, when it comes to writing books?

A: First let me define the word “brand.” I liked the following shortened definition from, the best: “A brand is a product, service, or concept that is publicly distinguished from other products, services, or concepts so that it can be easily communicated and marketed. Branding is the process of creating and disseminating the brand name.” Continue reading

Radio Promotions

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I haven’t a clue about how to promote my book on radio, yet I’ve heard other writers have been successful doing so. What’s the secret?

A: Because I am a book editor, my expertise usually ends when a book gets published; however, I can tell you what a highly successful client of mine did.

He wrote a touching novel about a soldier in the Civil War, and he based it on information he found in an old family Bible. He labeled the book fiction, because he added dialogue and concocted details necessary to pull the story together, but he inserted photographs of the decapitated house where the real family had lived as well as marriage records and other documents to back up his story. After I edited the book and he self-published it, he and his wife loaded up their motor home and took off. Continue reading

Author Opinions, Synopses, Hyphenation, and Agents

book doctor 2015By Bobbie Christmas

Q: Is it ever appropriate for an author to express an opinion in a novel in an effort to influence readers? I’ve heard it’s called author intrusion, and we should avoid it.

A: My answer is that while author intrusion is rarely appropriate, authors still can slant a story or a character in a way that influences readers. One of my clients, who is opposed to killing sharks, wrote a gripping and successful novel about people who try to stop the slaughter of sharks for their fins. By the end of the story, trust me, most readers will be against slaughtering sharks as well. Never did the author intrude with a personal opinion; instead the opinions were those of the main characters. Through the characters’ research, dialogue, and actions, readers learn why slaughtering sharks is detrimental to the ecosystem. Continue reading

Thrillers, Genres, and Prologues

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: When writing a thriller, should I begin the first chapter of the story with action from the protagonist or antagonist (villain), or does it matter what character I start with?

A: The protagonist (main character, the one who wants something or wants to do something) and the antagonist (the person or thing that attempts to stop the protagonist from getting what he or she wants, also known as the villain) are the two most important characters in any book, but no absolute rule dictates which point of view should begin the first chapter. It seems to me, however, that if you want readers to empathize with the protagonist, it’s better to begin with that character. Remember that the first person mentioned in a scene should be the point-of-view character for that scene. Continue reading

Issues with Cookbooks

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I’ve written a cookbook. I do not have any pictures of my recipes, but would like to have them in the final book. Do I need to hire a photographer or does the publisher provide assistance with that?

A: If a publisher buys the manuscript and wants the recipes illustrated, it will take all responsibility for finding and paying a professional who specializes in food photography, an art in itself. Continue reading