We are all told, “live your life to the fullest”; I am here to do just that. Uncomfortably Dark serves as a vessel to project my passions and lift up authors from all genres to greater heights in their endeavors. Below, you will find some tools, resources, and websites that have helped me along my journey. I hope they will do the same for you.
Check this page often for more resources and tools just for you!
So, I wrote a book, now what?
The world of indie publishing is not an easy one to navigate, full of authors, all doing the same thing, trying to be seen and heard, tiny rowboats in an ocean full of steamers and cruise ships, hoping not to succumb to the undertow or be eaten by the Great White sharks of the business.
How then, do we compete with Blake Crouch, Iain Rob Wright, Scott Nicholson, Bentley Little, Matt Shaw, Jeff Menapace, and Wrath James Wright, or... gasp, the King? We work. Period. Day and Night. Put in the work. Pay your Dues. Grind and grind harder. And accept, that it’s not a competition, not at all, even though it can feel like it.
Readers, real readers, read thousands of books in their lifetime, and there are millions of readers in the world. There is room for us all. The key is to get those readers to notice you, without the backing of traditional publishing, agents, and PR people. In my recent journey, down this path of indie publishing, I have learned so many things from so many great people that I cannot begin to thank them all. What I can do, however, is pay it forward, which has been my motto since day one. That is what I hope to do with this page.
I will say this to you, congratulations, on getting that book done, or novella, or collection or being published in your first anthology. Congratulations! It’s something to be proud of, but do not let the pride of this first step blind you to the humbleness of the remaining steps. There is a lot to do, so let’s get started!
Why do I need an editor? I am really good with grammar, in fact, I’m awesome. Kudo’s on thinking that, I thought it too. But then, I stepped away from my manuscript for 4 months, patting myself on the back, planning the sequel and began working with a mentor. Less than a week after working with my mentor, he very bluntly recommended that I take another look at my “published product.” When I did, I was mortified and embarrassed, because you see, I AM really good with English and grammar. I went over my book what seemed like a hundred times, and that was after proofreading by my beta readers, and a retired English teacher.
But, after being away from my book for so long, I could finally see it with fresh, objective eyes. And I saw every error, every missing comma, every typo and wrong word, in shocking clarity. I was appalled and immediately started over with a fine tooth comb. Six months after I originally published my debut novel, I held a mini-relaunch, complete with a new cover and a freshly, albeit, heavily edited manuscript, and it was a product to be proud of, finally.
When you are writing your book, you live it, breathe it, sleep it. You edit, and revise, and edit and revise and those words become seared in your brain. You reach a point where you literally cannot SEE the mistakes, because your brain is inputting the correct information for you. This is why you need to take a break, before you finalize it for publishing.
Best advice I ever received, write it, edit it, revise it, then PUT IT AWAY, for at least 90 days. You will be glad you did, especially if you are a NEW author. Walk away! Start building your site, build your audience, begin to promote and build interest. You have a hundred other things to do, go do them.
Go back in 90 days, pull that file back up, then call that editor. You will immediately see why and you’ll be glad you did. Also, here is the hard part, be humble, be patient and be aware that they will rip your manuscript apart, gently, but yes, you will raise your hackles. Just breathe, that is their job and they are good at it. Any good editor worth a dime, will make your writing better and by default, your story. A good editor will become your partner in writing.
Their suggestions are 99% of the time, needed revisions and necessary corrections. They will catch the small things that you do not, they will help keep the story flowing and make sure your reader stays engaged and enthralled and not thrown off because you changed narration style in the middle. An editor is more than a proofreader, they look for ways to improve your readability, your story structure, your plot and help maintain consistency all the way through the novel.
Editing is expensive but there are ways to find great editors at reasonable rates. This is where those Facebook author groups come in handy. Start asking around, develop a good network of authors and you’ll find out that many of them do great editing on the side for great rates. You do not always have to resort to calling an expensive online editing service. At the end of the day, this is your product. Your story is your product, it is only as good as what you put into it. Look at your manuscript right now, is it the most professional representation of yourself? Don’t publish it until it is.
Beta Readers & ARC's
What are they and why do I need one? Great question, so glad that you asked. Let’s start with beta readers. Beta readers can be a great resource, when you get good ones. Start asking around early, as soon as you know you have a manuscript in the works. I am lucky enough to have friends and family that love to read, that were really interested in my book, so I had ten eager readers from the start. The obvious problem with friends and family is: will they tell you the truth? We like to hope so, but the best beta-reader mix is a couple of friends, a few acquaintances, and some readers that you don't know.
If you are already promoting your upcoming novel, put a post up asking for beta-reader interest, in READER groups, on Facebook or Instagram. Do not post these calls in Authors groups, as they are all doing the same thing you are. Sure, a couple of authors might offer to beta for you, but generally, this will be hit or miss and you cannot expect the same author to always beta read for you, because they did it once. They are working on their projects too. Make sure you are respectful of the author friendships that you are cultivating, those can really go a long way over time, you do not want to wear out your welcome by always expecting them to take on your projects too.
If you have a website, blog or newsletter, put a beta-reader call in those too. People will respond, most readers love to get their hands on something new and to be asked their opinion. Most readers will jump at the chance to be involved.
Okay, so what’s an ARC then? Another great question, let’s move on! So, ARC can mean two things. First-Amazon Review Committee. Sounds fancy doesn’t it? It is just what it implies. A group of folks willing to jump out on Amazon the day you release your novel, or at least that week, and BUY the kindle version and THEN leave a review of it. The best way to do this, is enlist your beta-readers to also be your ARC. They have already read it, and are best prepared to do an immediate review of it.
Well, if they already read it, why do they need to buy it? You are on a roll, dear friend, excellent question. They buy it, so the review shows as a verified purchase on Amazon. Less chance of Amazon removing it or not allowing.
As far as the purchase price goes, you control that, so for the debut week, set your price at .99. That way, your beta readers are not spending too much for something they already read, and hey, you never know what financial situation people are in. They’ll appreciate the low price tag, since they are doing you a favor. Also, a word of advice on this method, while it is widely used, when not used properly, it can cause you some issues later on, in Amazon world, namely due to the algorithms that run the beast that is Amazon. When enlisting your beta-readers to also commit to this obligation, make sure to only ask those that truly read the genre you are writing.
Why, if I ask them all, I’ll have more reviews? That is correct, however, it will skew the algorithms that now control who sees your book on Amazon. Why does that matter? Because, if half of your beta-readers, now become your ARC, and they normally only read romance, your book will now be pushed to other readers that normally read romance as based on the reviews and purchases by customers that normally buy romance.
For example: Mom, Aunt Jackie and Ethel all read romance. They all join your ARC and you write horror. You want Amazon to push your book to horror readers. When Mom, Aunt Jackie and Ethel purchase your book and leave a review, Amazon “thinks” your book falls into a genre they typically read and buy (romance), so now your book is being shown to other customers like them, not horror readers.
Okay, so you said two meanings for ARC, what's the second meaning? Moving right along then, the other meaning is just simply Advanced Review Copy. I have seen these produced and offered in a few ways. Some authors purchase proof copies from Amazon, after uploading their manuscript and offer those as ARC’s. Most, offer an edited version on PDF, Epub or Mobi file and just email those to their beta-readers and/or reviewers.
*Rule of thumb on reviewers, it is common courtesy and standard practice to offer your industry reviewers an ARC copy or file. Do not expect them to buy your book if you are asking them to review it.
Show vs Tell
What does this mean? This is one very common issue that a lot of new authors will struggle with, how to show the reader what is going on in a story, rather than telling them. It sounds simple but it’s just a bit more complicated than a person new to the craft realizes. So what does it mean and how do we accomplish this, and why does it matter?
What does “show, don’t tell” mean:
This is the difference between telling the reader what the character is feeling, rather than allowing the reader to imagine it for themselves, drawing from clues within the context.
Tell: Sarah felt angry as Steve walked out of the house.
Show: Sarah’s face flushed with heat as she clenched her hands into tight fists, storming after Steve as he walked out of the house.
The “Tell” sentence very simply tells the reader how the character felt regarding the scenario that is taking place.
If you compare it to the “Show” example, you’ll see a longer sentence, showing us Sarah’s reactions to the scenario, allowing the reader to understand that she is angry, furious at Steve, based on her physical reaction.
When we are conversing with friends and family, just telling them about our day or relating a funny incident at work, we typically use a mix of show and tell within that story, depending on how much we enjoy telling stories. This usually depends on the scenario.
For instance, if you had a meeting with your Human Resources department at work to relay a situation that happened in your area, you may say the following things:
The employee became violent and angry.
The customer began to sob.
I felt upset and threatened by his actions.
I felt diminished by her criticism.
Take the same situation and relay it to close friends over drinks or to a close family member. You may say these things instead:
The employee began to yell, turning red and throwing objects around his desk.
The customer's face fell and tears began to run down her cheeks when I told her that I could not refund her money.
I began shaking when that man pushed me against the wall, demanding my purse.
I hunched over in my seat, trying to become invisible as my manager berated me.
Depending on the situation, we tend to use certain phrases in our conversations, phrases that would be appropriate for that time, place or person.
When we are writing a story, sometimes it is easier to tell the reader what we want to say rather than show them, because we are “telling” them a story. However, in fiction writing, you actually want to “show” the reader a story, much like a movie. Allow the reader to fall into your writing, immerse themselves into the story and feel what the characters are feeling. Allow them to take their cues from the cues of the people in the story. Those non-verbal cues that we all know and love, those emotional responses and physical reactions. Being able to master show vs tell, will make the difference between a good storyteller and a great one.
Here is another example:
“Hurry up!” Mom said angrily.
“Hurry up!” Mom snarled.
The first sentence tells us that mom is angry with the character she is speaking to, while the second sentence shows us with a strong verb.
Another way to really employ this technique is by using strong visual verbs, verbs that allow the reader to create a visual image in their mind of how the character is behaving.
Bob walked down the block, directions in hand.
This is perfectly fine to say. Boring, but fine but it’s also telling the reader what he is doing.
Try These Instead:
Bob shuffled down the block.
Bob ambled down the block.
Bob strode down the block.
Bob stormed down the block.
Bob ran down the block.
I can guarantee that you visualized a different “walk” in your mind for each verb that I used above. Each line is just a bit different but speaks volumes to your reader as to the mood of the character and the urgency of the situation.
Let’s try one more example with verb usage:
Matt cut the attacker with the knife from the counter.
Okay, fight scene, simple, Matt cut the guy. But did you visualize it? Could you see it in your mind? How did it happen?
Matt grabbed the chef’s knife from the counter and slashed the masked man across the chest.
Matt grabbed the gleaming steel blade from the countertop and thrust it at the attacker as he lunged at him.
Matt yanked the knife from the counter and stabbed it into the attacker's left hand, seconds before he could stab Mary.
Matt rammed the gleaming kitchen knife into the masked man’s chest, driving it deep in through his chest as he knelt over him.
These sentences are more graphic, more exciting and intense and gets the reader invested in the situation unfolding in front of them. This is how you get a reader hooked on your words, how you get them immersed in the story as you bring them along for the ride. By mastering showing over telling, you are guaranteed a stronger story, and better responses from your readers.
There are several resources online that discuss this and I’ll list them below.
This will take you a pdf file that you can download for a handy reference.
Self-publishing school has a ton of information on writing. Save this link.
Reedsy has a very informative author blog that covers a wide variety of topics.
The 3-Act story structure has been around as long as writing has been a craft, often referred to as plot points or story beats, it revolves around a simple concept, essentially your beginning, middle, and end.
Sounds simple enough but it's a bit more complex than that when you break it down. The further you break it down, the more it will help you guide your story along, whether it's a short story, novella or novel.
Let’s start with the big picture. All stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. The start of your story is where you introduce the characters and build up to the problem that is at the heart of your story, also known as your plot.
The middle of your story is your call to action. How is your main character going to respond to the problem that they now have to face? Will they respond? Will they become a hero or a bad guy ? Will they refuse the call to action? Will they overcome their fears? This is the core of your story, where the action is. This is where we discover who your main character really is, deep down, where they take up the Hero’s quest or cower in the dark.
The end of the story is your grand finale, the climax, the end of the fireworks show. This is the final battle and the rescue of the princess! This is where you close out the story with an explosive plot twist, grand battle or happy ending. Then you tie up your loose ends and calmly walk everyone home with full and happy hearts.
So how does this help you guide your story? Well, think of each chapter as a mini 3-part structure, then take that further and break each scene into its own 3-part structure. Not only will this help guide each scene but it will also help direct your dialogue and keep it down to strictly necessary conversation between characters.
Look at the sample scene below and see if you can identify the P-A-R used in the scene.
The shrill beeping of my alarm rudely pulled me from the arms of my Latino lover that I had been waltzing with in my dream, and snapped me back to reality. Groggily, I slapped one hand down on my cell to stop the alarm.
My body did not want to move but my bladder was screaming at me. I wiggled my toes and stretched, enjoying the warmth a few minutes longer. My eyes drifted closed as I snuggled back into my quilts but then snapped open as my bladder once again contracted painfully.
Groaning, I swung my legs off the bed and sat up, rubbing sleep from my eyes. Poking my toes into my slippers, I stumbled off to the bathroom to pee. Once finished, I washed my hands and stood looking at my face in the mirror, the swollen bags under my eyes were only further proof of the night I just had. I yawned and padded back to my room, absently snagging my robe and shrugging it on as I did so.
Now then, make my own coffee and hide out here or keep my coffee date with Marco? I stood in front of my closet, contemplating my life decisions as well as my clothing options.
What is my Problem?
What was my call to action?
What was my resolution?
What is my next call to action , thereby becoming my next scene?
Let me know how you did with this practice. Try using this technique for your next scene and see how easy it is to employ. We will discuss more on the writing craft over the next few weeks. Make sure to check out the links below for some great articles on the process and make sure to download those PDF’s that they offer. They are great resource tools.
Resources From Around the Web:
Check these links for further study on the topic.
Masterclass.com has a great article on the 3-act structure.
On Reedsy-they give an awesome breakdown of The Hero’s journey-another widely used story method, that you can also easily revert to the 3-part structure as you outline your story.
Writers Edit also gives a great breakdown of this process and they offer tons of other advice for new writers.
Websites and Resources
For Authors Only
The below sites are designed for authors to help promote their books, collect email addresses from readers to add to a mailing list and to help them set up newsletters:
You will also need a reader magnet, which brings us to the next tool.
A reader magnet is a free book or short story that you can use to offer to readers that sign up on your list. This can also be the first chapter or two of a novel in order to pull them in and make them want to buy the book to read the rest. You can use the free program, Calibre, to format a reader magnet. It only takes a few minutes to set up.
Free Booksys- you can place an Ad on here for a targeted promotion that goes to a massive audience of readers that will download your book. Your book must be free for the day of the download. There is also a bargain newsletter they run, that you can place an ad for, and your book has to be on sale, must be $5.00 or less.
Stay tuned for my article on my recent success here (not a live link yet)
Try out this site too, join up as a new author. Set up a profile page. Set up a profile page on any free author site that you can. They also have a nice graphic media tool that allows you to create professional Ad's for your books in seconds to post on Instagram or Facebook.
Where to submit?
If you sign up for this newsletter, you will receive emails with lists of open calls from across the writing market. Many writers often cross over into other genre's, don't be afraid to submit to other genre's or poetry markets, if you dabble in verse.
Look for Open Calls being posted in the author groups on Facebook. I see calls being posted daily. Take a chance and submit!
Horror Podcasts-submit to the many great horror podcasts out there, such as Creepy, the NoSleep Podcast and Chilling Tales for Dark Nights, just to name a few favorites. Make sure to follow the submission guidelines for each.
Reviews-How to get them?
Browse the online reviewers, see who is new, send inquiries to see if you can get some new reviewers to review your books. Be sure to browse their site first. Find out what they read and what they do not read. Find out their current backlog and how they prefer to be contacted. Reviewers fill up months in advance; be mindful of this and be patient.
There should NOT be a charge for a book review, from anyone! If they say that there is a fee, move on. Paid reviews are NOT ETHICAL REVIEWS.
Also- Author to Author reviews-I know it sounds like a great idea, but it is not. Again, big red flag for Amazon. They will watch for this and flag you or begin to remove reviews. Ethics at work again, if you are trading a review with a fellow author that you admire, respect or are friends with, are you really going to give them a bad review?
Getting reviews takes time, but with proper marketing and promoting, you will get all the reviews you can handle.
Other things to consider:
A re-launch party: get a website up and running, refresh your online presence and build some hype up around your books.
Try having new covers made; that can go a long way towards refreshing interest.
Do cover reveals for the new covers.
Make sure to start posting your favorite reviews for your books. Let new readers see what your current fans are saying.
Get involved in author groups that offer help and insight. There is always room to improve writing skills.
Network! Network! Network!
Keep it Professional!
David Gaughran Free courses- Great Writer! Tons of free courses about how to promote and market your book. Sign up for his course, sign up for his newsletter. There is a ton to learn from him and it's mostly all free.
Need a Book Cover?
Tried and True Cover Designers!
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Lynne Hansen Art
Rooster Republic Press
Staci Layne Wilson
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Red Cape Publishing
Matt Seff Barnes
Matt Seff Barnes Designs
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Wendy Saber Core
Fabled Beast Design
Eerie River Publishing
Todd Keisling Book Cover Design
Silent Q Design
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