Writing Non-Fiction? Are you Realistic?

When I submitted my first book for publishing, publishing houses were still viable. I was brave and submitted a manuscript. The return message was discouraging as it is for most.  I was told I would do better with a platform. 

But that doesn't mean the person without a platform doesn't have something meaningful to communicate. 

The response I got that day also urged me to try article publishing first. I made queries mostly to no avail, and then got a gig with a web content company. To date, I have over 400 purchased articles published in a 10-year period. This is my anniversary of getting my paid writing career off the ground!

Over time, publishing houses went belly-up. CEOs were let go. Self-publishing began to take the stage.

I don't believe in writers pursuing self-publishing with companies that make you pay to have your book published. Too many friends of mine have ended up with stacks of books in their garage. They have no idea how to sell them.  

I do believe in Kindle Direct Publishing by Amazon (KDP). I have had good success with it. 

Typos and Edits 

Before you go and self-publish through KDP, though, I want to share some points. I recently paid $10 for a book from someone I met on Facebook. Something in her post resonated with me. I hoped I'd find a path and inspiration from her book.

It started off great. But then it led me down bunny trails. Reading it from the viewpoint of a writer who has done editing, her errors were glaring. There were grammar errors, punctuation errors, typos, and so on. But what really bothered me was understanding the point of the book and some of the examples. 

Motives and Focus

I believe some authors have the idea that writing a book makes them seem legitimate or important. I believe one's motives should be better than that. 

That leads me to write this blog and ask some important questions:

What is your reason for writing and publishing your book? 

Maybe you do have a good story to tell or sage advice to offer others. Perhaps you've uncovered a market in search of a solution you can provide. If that is you, what is the human part of you saying? Are you sincere with your motive or are you doing it to present an image? 

Is your motive for writing simply an attempt to earn loads of money? When I tell an average new non-fiction author what they can expect to earn they are sometimes offended. One friend said, "I can't charge a mere $5 for my book after all the work I've put into it." I've seen some authors charge over $20  for their book. I'm not sure there is a market for such by unknown authors. Amazon will suggest a price to set and the author will only receive a percentage of the sale. 

Yes, authors put in hours upon hours to write and edit. Some work on projects over years. All the author's marketing is on their own time too. Unless they write a blockbuster, their royalty payout will be fairly small in comparison to time spent.  

I don't mean to be negative, but realistic from being in the writing world interacting with writers for some time now. 

Get your motives right, clearly communicate your message, and set realistic goals for your writing and all will be well. 

Editing or Proofreading for the ESL EAL Market

There is a writing, proofreading and editing market for the EAL and ESL sector.

Many people need help with written work here in Canada and the USA.  The work can range from a newcomer needing to fill out government forms to an engineer writing a report. It might include a university professor submitting a scientific journal or a student submitting a paper. 

Some people I've helped with their written work have included:

  • A scholar submitting scientific journals  
  • An executive needing his CV tweaked
  • A BSc student applying to med school
  • High school students needing essays proofread
  • An MBA student's multiple submission of documents 
  • A recent immigrant's government documentation 
  • A Professional Engineer submitting a report
I offer my services virtually.  I don't ever have to meet a client face-to-face, but I can if necessary.

If you are a writer and want to help out this market try these methods:

  • Put ads for your services on online directories such as  www.Kijiji.comwww.craigslist.comwww.foundlocally.com
  • Post an ad in your local school or college.
  • Spread word by word of mouth.
  • Spend time in the ESL/EAL communities getting to know people who may need your help.
  • Do quality work and don't get pushed around.
If you want to do this type of work, set boundaries. For instance, it won't help a student if you significantly change their writing. Their professor or potential employer needs to see a true representation of their abilities through their writing.

Use the Right Style Guide 

Be careful to ask if there is a specific style guide you're to follow eg. APA, ALA, CMOS, or other. Scientific writing is much different than writing for the arts. 

Decide how you will do this work. When I started, I worked in person with one client.

Another author brought a thumb drive to my house and picked up the changes a few days later. 

Then I began email exchanges with clients. 

How to Do it

I always edit in MS Word with track changes on. I send back a marked-up and a final copy. I allow one revision in the price quotation.

I have found I need to charge more for most ESL/EAL writing when the grammar is extremely choppy. It takes time for me to understand what is being communicated. That is more time consuming than simple editing. It is about making the writing make sense. 

Getting Payment

I usually back the work and then forward an invoice to be paid through PayPal. 

I had one student who wanted to ignore the invoice and when she did pay it, complained about having to pay the Paypal service fee. In the future, I may only return half a document until it is fully paid. 

If you have an idea of how to do this more effectively, perhaps with a document download prevention program until payment arrives, that would be ideal. 

Editing and Proofreading Help for the ESL/EAL Student

I live in Southern, Ontario, Canada but I can edit your ESL/EAL work, in most cases, no matter where you live!

If you need proofreading or editing of your project, let me know how I can help at this email, or visit my website at www.RosalieGarde.com for further information.

Get Tough On Yourself and Write with a Point

An editor within the agency I write with rejected an article I wrote and submitted recently. I've had them rejected before, but usually, the editor has pointed to corrections needed. 

This time, the editor's words were piercing:

"You failed to deliver on the article's title.
Do not resubmit."

Wow. That hurt. Surely I could change the title. I'm certain something could be reworked. And, by the way, isn't it up to a client to decide if it is buyer-worthy or not?

So the idea that I failed to deliver on the article title's promise hit me. I didn't take the editor where they felt they would go. 

This was one article I just wanted to get submitted without letting it simmer longer. I didn't want to revisit it again after spending so much time on it already. But had I let it simmer, I might have seen the problem for myself and changed it.  

Make Sure Your Writing Delivers 

Literary agents will be sure to tell you problems like this are common. They want to know a book is going to deliver not only on what the title promises but on what the book back or Amazon description promises. They want to know the article they're about to read will give them some new insightful material and answer any question posed in the title or introduction. 

Sounds simple, but time and again authors miss the point. I've purchased self-published books and discovered that for myself. It may be that the book trails off in a new direction. This might happen when an author puts a book aside for a time and when they return, their personal passion, temperature, or mindset is different. 

I've started books only to discover what an author suggests works for all people doesn't work for me. This is so true in those writers who assume everyone has a fulltime job or career like they do. 

Sometimes the problem is a chapter problem. An author gets so attached to a chapter they can't bring themselves to chop it. It gets included but has little relevance to the rest of the book. 

When writing and editing, it's important we write for a target audience. Otherwise, we're merely writing for ourselves and our own fun. 

We can ensure we make a point when we ask ourselves important questions as we're writing such as these: 

  • What's the goal of this article, book, or book chapter?
  • What is the point of this paragraph?
  • Does this story illustrate the point of the chapter?
  • Does this anecdote reflect the book's theme?
  • What conclusion am I urging the reader to draw?
  • Have I enlightened, informed, or inspired the reader?
  • Do the stories I add undergird the theme of the book or simply make the reader feel displaced?
  • Why am I mentioning such-and-such?
  • Does mentioning such-and-such distract from the story?
  • Are my words bossy, preachy, or spoon-feeding the reader?
  • Is this book merely my own catharsis, a way to brag, an attempt to make a quick buck, or does it offer value to the reader?
  • Why would someone pay to read this?

Writing is easy and hard. Good writers get tough on themselves. 

Take Writing Breaks

This is probably an unnecessary tip. It is take a break when you have nothing to write. 

Over the past few months I've not been inspired to write. I was busy on a new websleuthing project for a group which is always fun, but I don't earn money for that. 

I had worked on a new book I hope to release and sell, and after so many edits, decided to put it aside for a fresh look later. 

I thought I'd go back to article writing, but everytime I sat at the computer felt brain dead. I had no motivation to write. Some old articles have sold but if I'm not putting out anything new, money will dry up. 

I simply want to suggest if this happens to you that you do other things when your writing enthusiasm disappears. There's no point spending time on writing things your heart isn't into. Wait for your inspiration to return and don't feel guilty. 

Writing a Memoir?

Someone in one of my Facebook writers groups posted a question about how to structure a book about her life experiences. I suppose she was writing a memoir. 

I gave her this response and thought it might be a good blog post:

"I know writing this will be therapeutic for you. 

To actually sell it, you'll need to consider who would read it and why. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

How will your experiences inspire or enhance a reader's life? 

Why would someone want to read it? Is there a hook?

Why would someone pay money to read it? 

If you were going to buy such a book, what would you expect from it? 

Will there be a point to the book aside from you having fun telling your story?"

The Point of the Book

I write non-fiction and often weave life experiences into my writing but I try to only do that if it moves the reader further. My illustrations should have a point that is connected to the theme of the book. 

Sometimes my writing presents a problem and provides some solutions and in the case of a memoir, I'd think the writer would have life examples pointing the way for the reader to find solutions for themselves. 

I went on: 

"If you can find an interesting hook or define a niche topic, you'll have more success. 

Would it appeal to someone the same age you were at the time? Is it geared for others questioning their faith upbringing? What caused you to have one foot in your faith and one foot out? Is that likely to happen with a reader too? Who are the people that might be in a similar situation?

Once you identify the person you want to share your story with, write it as though you are talking to them over coffee. Give your reader points to ponder. Ask them probing questions."

That's my 2 cents.

I cringe when I hear of another memoir being written. I don't particularly want to read another person's life story. There must be something compelling me to read it if the person has no existing platform.

I Am a Writer

Reprinted from a 2013 blog post.

This is a cover my daughter and I
designed for a competition we
didn't win.
Yesterday I brushed by this blog, read the stats and clicked on to my next blog, checked its stats and moved on.  I had nothing new to write.  I was empty. There was zip, nada, nil, zero.  As the day wore on I wondered how I could possibly be a writer and be word-dry.

As dawn broke this morning(well, dawn didn't exactly break--it was rainy and dark), I headed to the computer with my coffee.  "Oh," I said to myself, "Today will be a good writing day.  It's always good to write in the rain because there is no temptation to play in the sun instead."

So I zipped past my blogs again, hoping to fill them with something to keep them optimized, but nothing profound came.

Instead of doing any actual writing today, I fell back on the old R&R, Read and Research.  

Mid-afternoon I stumbled upon some interesting free downloads and in them was the concept I'm about to explain. The reason I've chosen to add it here is because half an hour prior, the same concept came across my path.

When a concept crosses my path twice in short stead, especially by two distinct individuals who, as far as I know, aren't connected, I pay attention.


The first writer shared that if you make vague "I want" type goals, you merely attract more of the same.  You attract a re-occurring want.  For instance if you state, “I want to be a competitive jockey,” your time and energy will result in that outcome--the wanting to be a jockey.

Instead, you should say, "I am a jockey and will compete competitively in 2014." With this stronger version of the same thought, you will be more likely to take steps to actually fulfill the goal.

Tonight I re-read a free download called You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One), by Jeff Goins http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007YJEIAS?tag=kiq-free-e-20.  In this little ebook, Goins suggests a person needs to believe they are what they want to be and then start acting like it.    

That goes with something I discussed with my diet coach too.  I suggested to her I do some visualization seeing myself as thin and seeing the scale reporting a lower number.

The concept is this:  If you want to be a thin, healthy person, say, "I'm a thin and healthy person."

If you want to be a writer, say, "I'm a writer."

Don't wait for someone to validate the idea.  Don't keep putting it in the future.  Accept your calling now. 

Creating Your Online Platform

The professionals will tell you that to sell your writing you need a platform or following. That is always helpful. 

But many writers are introverts who love story telling about fictional characters or non-fiction writing about something they feel compelled about. They don't want to go out an meet people. Using online tools will be helpful for them.

Love of Writing

Getting your writing out there feels therapeutic. Most of us are willing to write for free in formats such as this one. Having access to a world-wide audience through the Internet makes the process feel even more powerful. 

Finding Your Niche 

The question becomes: How do you find your target audience? How do you build a following? Who will you ultimately sell to?

I suggest you don't make your focus your church members. I mean don't self-publish a book and try to sell it to your friends. I suggest you don't just write and put it on Amazon hoping it sells either. (Although I've done this too,.

There are probably a number of ways you can gain a following or connect online that I don't have in my arsenal, but I can tell you what I have done. 

When I became a life coach, blogging was becoming popular. I started a blog just to see what would happen. When I received feedback, I was amazed, and a little scared. Someone WAS reading my posts!

Nevertheless, I continued adding posts until I saw a direction forming. Analytics were everything. I could see what someone had put into their search bar to find me, so I saw areas of greatest interest forming. 

It was seeing those statistics that I decided I could write a book putting most of what was in my blog posts into it. I did, and my books continue to sell almost one a week. Somehow, I'd reached an audience. 

If you want to work yourself into a niche, you might want to do something similar. Try blogging as a starting point. 

Social Media

I admit, I still haven't defined what I want my social media to do for me. I know I want it for social interaction--being an introverted writer. 

I DO have my friends divided up into lists. When I post to Facebook, for instance, I decide who I want the audience to be for that specific post. 

A temptation on Facebook is to gather friends as a way of finding buyers. I don't like that at all. I have had friend requests from those who have just published a book. I have never had conversation with some of these people. I know they only want to friend me to try to sell me their book. The same goes for products. What a turnoff. 

Marketing in social media from my standpoint is always relational. If you're never going to visit my post and comment, why do I need you as a friend? I will read your posts and comment in most cases, but your posts had better be about more than what YOU'RE DOING and selling. Relationships are important in any type of sales. 

Well, a writer gets to spew his or her feelings in a blog and that's what's come out today. Hope something in this post is helpful. 

Best wishes in your writing endeavours. 

2019 Tip List for Writers

So you want to write and perhaps become published. Here is your 2019 kick-off list of suggestions:

  1. Get a computer with a word program as eventually all needs to be entered into the computer (even if you start your writing in a journal).
  2. Set aside time to write and let your family know you're going to be preoccupied.  Perhaps build it into your schedule.
  3. Start writing at your sitting. Let all your ideas pour out. I insist, this is the favorite part of a writer's hobby or craft.
  4. At your next sitting, either choose the "carry on where you left off feature" in Word and continue writing, or read back what you wrote previously to remind yourself of the flow and carry on.
  5. Write simply as though you're talking to someone. Don't use big words if you can get by with a simpler word. The average reader has a grade 8 to 10 comprehension.
  6. Vary your words. Don't use the same one repeatedly. Use the synonym feature to alter your words as I did here with the words vary and alter.
  7. Edit by reading back quietly or aloud. Take out excess words. Fix awkward sentences. Start moving things around so the piece flows better.
  8. Remove extra information that doesn't move the story along or help explain the points. (Being willing to cut large amounts takes bravery because we get attached to our thoughts.)
  9. Research and be mindful not to violate copyright laws. Give references for facts, Bible verses, and quotes no matter how familiar.
  10. Read your piece  back again as though you are the targeted reader, or better still, have it read to you by pasting it into NaturalReader.
  11. You can print your work if you feel it is helpful to do so. This can help when you significantly need to move things around. But you don't HAVE to print it out.
  12. Keep reading and learning. The best writers are readers.
  13. Join Facebook writer groups to gain motivation and free tips.
  14. If you want to self-publish, forget those agencies that make you pay to have your book published. Go to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and start with a Kindle book. Read their many instructional tutorials to learn just what to do.
  15. If you want to try your hand at selling articles, look into Writing for Dollars, Contant-Content or other freelance content writing opportunities, or look into the guidelines of magazines who accept submissions.
  16. Add balance into your writing days by going for walks, joining an exercise group, finding social outings, and so on, because refreshing your mind and body will help your writing. You may also find fresh material when out with others.

    Well, I could go on. This list should help you for now. 

Do You Know How to Show Versus Tell?

Since I don't write fiction, I might not be the best to describe the "Show, don't Tell" principle of writing. It is, nevertheless, an important writing skill to hone. It is as important to hone as learning to write in active tense rather than passive. 

Just 12 years ago or so I was tutoring a high school student. I was teaching him based on old rules. I taught him to embellish his sentences with flowery adjectives. I didn't know doing so was now passe. No, we are not to say she donned a very lovely dress--very and words that end in ly are now to be axed.

The point is, we need to keep up with new writing rules. 

So back to the show versus tell example. The manuscript I'd looked at for a woman had deplorable descriptions that went like this:

Bob picked up his toothbrush, squeezed toothpaste onto it and began to brush his teeth. Then he turned off the tap, the lights, and made his way to his room. He pulled the blanket off the bed and climbed in. He was troubled because his wife was so belligerent to him and had cheated on him.   

I didn't see the entire manuscript so am unsure the importance of this detail, but it struck me as too much detail. It also struck me as telling not showing. I'm not sure it showed anything about his character or that it was important to the story. I mean, don't we all do this at night to get ready for bed? Isn't it a little insulting to the reader to give so many obvious details? Could she not have said: The man got ready for bed?

I told her she had written a report, not unfolded a story. It was like a detailed checklist. 

Here is a quick example of what she might have written in a more showing format:

Bob gripped his toothbrush tightly, brushing his teeth before making his way to bed, "Why did she have to cheat on me? What do I do now? I can't stay at my brother's forever."

The single bed seemed small, the room dark and lonely. The thin flannel blanket would be Bob's only solace. 

Again, I'm not a fiction writer so not sure I nailed it, but the second format explains the same series of events as the first, but in a way that unfolds the story. 

What do you think? Are you willing to practice showing over telling?