cheapass guide to publishing a book – Fit the Third

Annie get your text.

Regardless of where you got your words, if you spewed them out all over the page or if you stole them from somewhere else, you have to polish them up and add some bells and whistles before you can present them to the public.

The BAD thing is there isn’t ONE set of formatting rules, and there is no grammar or punctuation police to break in your house and take away your keyboard if you make your own decisions.  You will have to make some  decisions. And the only people you have to answer to are your readers.

One of my friends/readers was shocked and appalled at the idea that i would EDIT something I neither wrote nor was asked to edit.

If I am not going to EDIT the book, then why the hell am I publishing the book? Why not just paste in the pages from the PDF or just slap up the unpunctuated stream of consciousness rants of someone who wants to see their name on a book.

We have all held in our hands books that NEEDED editing, they were begging for it at birth and somehow didn’t get it.  And now here it is  a crippled book/child wandering around in the world, and everyone who picks it up to read it gets repulsed,   “ewwww!…you have run on sentences…ugh, you are filled with nasty typos! …. Bad Book, naughty book!”

Take some goddamn responsibility people!!   POLICE your work.

If you are working with your OWN TEXT, text you loving crafted or just got drunk one night and spewed over the keyboard…GET SOMEONE TO PROOF READ IT.  I have said it before and I will keep saying because ya’ll think your words are AS-IS.  Trust me, i’m the queen of AS IS and it sucketh.   You can never have enough proof reading, you aren’t  in any danger of making it worse, you can only make it MORE clear.

LESS IS MORE:….A buddy of mine who was used to writing research know the kind where YOU tell the audience what you are going to tell them, then you TELL them, and then you tell them what you just told them?  Needed to produce Magazine Articles…so she was handing me 4000 words where the Magazine only gave her 700-1000 words to say what she needed.   So you can imagine out came the pruning shears.

But you say “I’m writing a BOOK!  i have all the room in the world.”  No you freaking don’t – think of each page as segment of time, you have just as much time to make your point as the audience will give you. If they get tired of you trying to make your point, they will leave your book on a subway bench.

Write down everything in your head..don’t pre-edit, just let it drain out of you on to the page.  If  you try to move the words around INSIDE your head, you will lose something vital, and forget what your original inspiration was.  Then put the work aside and come back to it a few days later, and remove all the words that don’t belong there. put it down again and walk away.  Come back later and remove even more words, rearrange them again until you are saying what you mean in the LEAST number of words. When you can’t find a word to cut, that is your final product, no waste.   (no i don’t mean remove all the descriptors…that’s just silly – Go read Mickey Spillaine, very descriptive, and not an extraneous word anywhere. ) What is it Hemingway said?…write drunk, edit sober.

Basically every time you think your book is READY, it probably isn’t.

CLARITY • I use this test when I am editing someone’s words ( i am obviously trying to keep it sounding like THEM, not me,). . . if i have to read the sentence THREE times and i still don’t understand it, or even if i finally DO, that’s too many times. The sentence needs to be recomposed to say what it means the FIRST time through, if it’s complicated, TWICE can be okay.  But the rule should be DON’T ANNOY THE READER.  Their time is valuable, if they have to reread ONE sentence that’s okay, but you are handing them a book full.  If I have to reread three or four sentences in a row, I just stop reading completely.

FREE RANGE WORDS….words that you picked up somewhere when they fell off the copyright train. …BTW a LOT more books are out of print than are in-print. The internet is just filled with all the stuff from before 1923 for which no research is needed…after 1923 and up to 1965 books needed to be RENEWED every 28 years, if they were not renewed when they were supposed to be, then they are fair game.  This is what folks call ‘RE-SEARCH’  it’s the thing you do RIGHT after you have a good idea.

If you are working with an already assembled text, it probably needs to be spruced up for the 21st century reader.  note: Shit Changes over time. You WANT to interest the modern reader….I mean this is WHY we are doing this right?  you want someone ALIVE today or in the future to READ this book and understand its meaning and take away something they didn’t have BEFORE they read the book.  So you MAY have to DO stuff to it to make it better.

What do I mean when I say EDIT?

Editing can be as little as removing the EXTRA spaces before punctuation marks that were commonplace in the 19th century.   They had extra spaces before the semi-colons, question marks and exclamation points.  I can hear some BIBLIO-RELIGIOUSLY-minded people out there saying ‘oh no, you can’t do that, you need to HONOR the original text’ –  screw that.  You can claim as many as TEN entire pages  in your book, by removing all those extra spaces and condensing the text. Things like changes in punctuation piss off computers, if  you had one of those pages open in WORD,  all you are going to see is highlighting where WORD is telling you there is a problem.

Spelling –   If you are editing  your OWN words – use MODERN day American (or English, if you aren’t American) spelling. The further you go back in time, the less important spelling becomes.  You will find that up to the mid -1800s, spelling was a more creative endeavor.  If you are composing this book to just impart INFORMATION, you can probably go straight up with modern spelling.  If you are trying to offer up a sense of TIME and PLACE, you may want to let the original authors’  flavor bleed through.

Example: My town transcribed 150 years of town meeting records and they changed all the spelling to modern day.  In the few published histories of the town, all the quotes from the minutes are using the original spelling.  This SHOULDN’T make your head explode, the TWO documents are created for TWO different purposes. The First is to impart information, the second is to give the reader some taste of the history.  I split the difference, I let direct quotations STAND as is, but the text of the book shouldn’t be confusing.  Footnotes are your friend!!

TRUST BUT VERIFY: Don’t trust the freaking computer, it MAY not understand that you meant to type RUN and typed FUN instead – because they are both words right?  Multiple typos of any sort, are a sign you really didn’t give a shit about your words;  and if you don’t care, then why should they, right?

I know I make tons of them online, but i try my best NOT to let them into PRINTED books.  Someone Amazon reviewed one little book and claimed their were typos and i pulled it  and corrected the typos..but the review will always say they were there. Doesn’t matter no one buys that book anyway.

There are DIFFERENT flavors of editing rules – Pick ONE and stick with it.

Punctuation:   Oxford comma or no Oxford comma; comma inside the quotation mark or outside?  it can be safe to let WORD make some decisions, but it is really better if you understand WHY it is making those suggestions.

Formatting:  Quotations longer than four sentences INSIDE the paragraph or set off and indented?   Book titles quotations or italics?  How much space between paragraphs? how big are your margins?  Page numbers centered or on the side?

Stylebook:  What you are doing is creating a STYLE BOOK for YOUR publication, it is easier if you steal rules already created and in use than make up your own. There are editing conventions people in various disciplines USE – for example: people who write research papers and people who publish books use slightly different rules.   Get a book off the shelf that is LIKE your book, but from a big time publisher, steal their rules.

Notate: And when  you make your decisions, WRITE THEM DOWN. Software like WORD and Pagemaker etc.. will save these things from project to project, and template to template. But what happens when you change the template for ONE book, because the book is 397 pages and you need more room in the gutter and want to steal some space between the paragraphs so you can get the page count down to 379?   and then you use that same template to start your next book and FORGET that you made changes?  Yeah i know..”oh i’ll never make that mistake..i will save a backup copy”….trust paper, not the computer, just make a note someplace of all the formatting decisions so you can FIX things after they get broken and  you can remember which template is the CLEAN copy.


End Fit the Third.















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