How I Finished my Poetry Manuscript in 2 Weeks

I chose and gathered together the poems for Inside a Writer’s Head several months ago. I tried a few times after that to organize the collection to no avail.

Part of that was my own fault, for trying to organize the collection while choosing the poems, but I also had no idea where to start.

Cue the guiding hand of the Praxis program. I was only one week into Module one when I started thinking about my portfolio project for this month. I talked with Hannah Frankman, the module one advisor, about my goals for the program and how it played into my longer term goals. I initially wanted to finish and publish Inside a Writer’s Head for my project but was advised that a better project would be to market it.

I had my work cut out for me. It was hard at first, and I had to do some research to get some ideas.

To help eliminate the block I had created, I deleted all the section names I’d added. Then I started reading and moved poems around as I did so. I familiarized myself with the poems such that I got ideas for sequences and poems to put together. As I read through the collection more and moved the poems around more, it got easier.

I amazed myself by finishing the manuscript in one week instead of two.

In order to do this, I put my other projects on hold so the poetry collection would be ready for this month.

I also scrapped my initial plan of designing the cover myself. I knew it would take me more time than I had to play around with options and create a design I was happy with.

I reached out first to Alexandra Wagner, a Praxis participant in my cohort. She said she would be unable to complete it by the time I needed it. I asked for suggestions of who to work with and found Jacob Beman. He has a website where he sells clothes with designs he created, and I liked the style and nature of his work. He agreed to work with me and did a really great job on my book cover. I reviewed his work here.

Three things allowed me to have a self-publishing-ready poetry collection: Focused work, a deadline, and finding the right designer.

If you can focus on the project you intent to complete instead of jumping project to project you will surprise yourself how quickly you can complete it.

The deadline for completing the project seemed really tight and super hard to meet. I pushed myself to finish quickly and surprised myself with the speed of my work. If I hadn’t had the extra push to finish the collection before November, it would have taken me longer. If it had been less urgent, I wouldn’t have been as focused or as driven to complete it as quickly as I did.

Find a designer whose work you could see being a great fit for your vison of your book cover and who is excited to work with you. Both of those make for a great experience working with that person and lead to you getting a result you love.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. For $5 you get early access to part three of the Diary of Kaashif Sarwan and another post later this month as well. There are other rewards at every tier, so be sure to check it out!

Inside a Writer’s Head Giveaway!

I’m going to giveaway free e-copies of Inside a Writer’s Head. This post will likely be edited as I refine the nature of the giveaway.


On November 28th I’m going to use a random number generator to determine who will receive free e-copies of Inside a Writer’s Head in the form of an epub or pdf. There will be one winner per 30 entrants. I will also select one winner out of every 15 entrants to receive a preview of Inside a Writer’s Head containing four poems in the collection and poems that didn’t make the final cut as a pdf.


Ways to enter:

Like and share this post on Facebook and like my Facebook page.

Like and retweet this post on Twitter and follow me.

Like this post on Instagram, follow me, and tag two people in the comments.

Like this blog post you’re on right now, follow my blog via email or WordPress account, and share this post on Facebook or Twitter. Send me the link to your post in the comments or alyssachantelwright@gmail.com with the subject line Giveaway Entry.


For each of your entries, you will receive a message confirming your entry along with your entry number. These numbers are in the order in which I saw the entry and added it to my list of who entered where. Your confirmation is for your sake and mine to help me keep track of who has already entered.

I may add more ways to enter later on if this gets more popular or I find a better way to track entries.

Module 2, Week 2, Project Update 2

The other day I shared that I had run into a problem with my project, specifically with the video for last week.

Yesterday I finished my edits and successfully exported and uploaded the video!

I have an older computer, and it was not cooperating with OpenShot long enough to export my video. I had to shorten it quite a bit before it exported the whole video. I cut out a lot of fluff while still getting my point across. Now that I’m aware this can be an issue, I can pay attention when I export this week’s video and not submit it late again.

Because I had this problem, I spent time solving it instead of working on other aspects of the project, such as sharing more on Twitter and devoting more time to writing my blog posts. The last couple days felt a bit thrown together, and I want to spend enough time on each post that it doesn’t feel rushed and like I didn’t give it 100%.

This week I shot the new video on choosing a self-publishing service to go with the written guide I wrote. I also posted on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter everyday.

I started out making the images I post with Vintage Font, which worked really well, until the app wouldn’t let me save my design. I hit their ten free design limit and they wanted me to get a paid version. It was really expensive for what it is, so I deleted the app and went on the hunt for an alternative. I’m not trying to sell the design I make, I just want to create designs for Instagram that I can share other places using images I own. I wanted something free and simple to put text on my photos.

Unsure what to do, and having been unaware of Vintage Font’s paywall, I reached out to my friend Justine. She’d made some text images for me before, so I asked her about it. She suggested Font Candy. That has worked great the last couple days, and hopefully it continues to do so. If it doesn’t, I’ll include that information and the new choice in an update.

I’m planning to do a giveaway of the Inside a Writer’s Head ebook, so be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and like my Facebook page.

I started the giveaway, details in this post.

Become a Patron to get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or a signed physical copy of the collection!

Unexpected Project Roadblock

Last Wednesday night I uploaded my YouTube video for the week on organizing and formatting a poetry collection. I realized later that only some of the video had gone up.

After some investigating, I determined that OpenShot, the video editor, had failed to export the full video. I tried several times and ways and it wouldn’t export the full 11 minutes and a few odd seconds video.

So this week on top of editing the video on choosing a self-publishing service, I have to go through last week’s video again to see if I can shorten it or if I have to make it into two videos.

I have my work cut out for me, but I’m going to push through and still meet my deadlines!

Choosing a Self-Publishing Service

This post is not sponsored by the Alliance of Independent Authors, BookBaby, Medium, or Marcin Wichary. All information is based on my research for this post and while I was at this step of the self-publishing process for Inside a Writer’s Head.

I have a few recent posts about preparing a poetry collection for self-publishing. This post is more general and can be used for finding the right self-publishing service for any project.

There are a huge number of self-publishing services available nowadays. I couldn’t possibly investigate and review all of them. What I can do is discuss some qualities to look for when choosing a self-publishing service. When you find a service you like, you may want to review this page by the Alliance of Independent Authors rating self-publishing services to see what they have to say about that service.

Your Goals

Before you can find the right self-publishing service, figure out what your goals are. Do you want to give your writing to family and friends? Do you want to sell it? Do you want it to be something you giveaway to your audience, possibly as a free ebook download or a Patreon reward or in some other way? Do you want an ebook, physical book, or both? Are you going to design the cover or have someone who will? If a physical book, do you want a hardcover (dust jacket?) or softcover book?

Ask questions and really understand what you hope to accomplish.

I wanted to sell my writing to the most people possible, but also have the option of giving it away.

Cost vs Reward

Think about what the service costs, what you can afford, and what is being promised for a certain price.

Keep in mind what your goals are. If a service is really cheap but won’t check all your boxes for what you hope to accomplish, it may not be a good fit. On the flip side, if it’s way outside your price range but has everything you could ever want, it’s also not a good fit. As a side note, if the promised quality doesn’t match up with the price point, do some more research.

When I chose BookBaby I knew it was higher than I had anticipated. I thought about what they were promising for that price and did research on them and other services before deciding. For what I paid I’m getting 25 copies of my poetry collection, an ebook available on all platforms from Amazon to Apple’s iBooks, print on demand, and distribution of my book to catalogs for major retailers, and Amazon. I also got a free book review, which I shared on my Published Work page.

Ease of Use

You will also want a service that is uncomplicated and clear about the steps. Some services may have old or clunky software or process for uploading your writing and cover. There may be other advantages to a service that do make it a good choice even if the uploading process is harder or more time consuming.

The Finished Product

Find other authors who used the service(s) you’re looking at. What do they have to say about the service and their finished ebook or physical book? Is their review positive or negative? Why?

If they have a bad experience with the self-publishing process with a given service, see if that is common. If their negative review is with the end result, evaluate what they hoped to accomplish and if what they received aligns with your goals. Do the same for a good experience and a positive review of the end result.

While researching options, I found an article on Medium comparing the quality of four self-publishing services for printing 15 copies of a hard cover book. Marcin Wichary shows images of the books he received, discusses his goals and what he liked and disliked about all parts of each service. If you want physical books, definitely check out his article, even if you’re doing soft cover books. He shows the pages, the type quality, and the interfaces used.

 

These are the three main things to consider when choosing a self-publishing service, your goals, the cost vs reward, and the finished product. They all intersect, and the services that excell in all three areas are the services to choose from for your project.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. By becoming a patron you can get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or even a signed copy of the physical book!

Project Update, Week 1

The first week is not quite over, which is good because I still have some work to do to reach my goal.

I started the week off strong. Before November even started, I posted my project outline, which has since been edited a couple times. I planned to jump right into my project and work on it for four weeks instead of taking one to refine my plan and three to work on it.

I wanted to expand into Instagram, so I made an account, @alyssac.wright. I had gotten an idea for promoting my poetry collection while driving home one night. I could use an app like Vintage Font to put lines from poems in Inside a Writer’s Head on nature photos! So I spent about half an hour walking around my neighborhood taking pictures of trees, bushes, the cornfield, and a horse.

Since setting up my account, I posted an image every day promoting Inside a Writer’s Head. I also started thinking about ways to promote my blog on Instagram as well in addition to my poetry collection. I did that for the first time yesterday.

I ran into a roadblock after the excitement of jumping into Instagram and committing to post at least once a day. BookBaby didn’t get me my proofs until Monday, so I don’t have a sale page. Additionally, the proofs weren’t right, I found a couple mistakes, so that pushes the release back further. I don’t know when that will be resolved, and all I can do is wait.

I’ve been sharing the posts I made for Instagram to Facebook and Twitter as well. They get some likes on Facebook and Instagram, but nothing on Twitter. I need to rework my approach for promoting Inside a Writer’s Head on Twitter. I still want to share the photos, but I probably need to post more and learn more about the platform. I’m relatively new, and haven’t figured out how to tweet in such a way that people pay attention. That’s on the docket for the coming week, to tweet more and play around with different kinds of tweets to see what works.

I posted my two blog posts about organizing and formatting a poetry collection. I filmed the video on those subjects, and I’m in the middle of editing it now. I will update this post when it’s up on YouTube.

I filmed on Monday and started editing a little bit. I didn’t do a lot, though, and I realized yesterday that I should have spent more time on it. The main thing I did yesterday was edit the video, and I didn’t get very far. I spent most of today doing that too, and I’m not done yet. Now I know, though, to allocate lots of time for this process.

I spent a lot of time on my project so far in addition to everything else I did that wasn’t directly tied to it. I feel really good about what I’ve accomplished so far, and look forward to seeing how much more I can do next week.

Leave any questions or advice about my project or Inside a Writer’s Head in the comments below. I’d love to discuss with you.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. By becoming a patron you can get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or even a signed copy of the physical book!

Formatting a Poetry Collection

Before formatting a collection, you’ll need to have it organized. I discuss that in Choosing a Poetry Collection Organization Style and Organizing a Poetry Collection: What I Learned.

I have hand-written most of my poetry, so poems were left-aligned and single spaced. When it came time to type them, I had them all centered. When preparing for self-publishing, I had to decide which way to present the poems. I chose to mix the two, depending on which I thought looked best. You have to make the same choice.

For an ebook, you will leave the margins normal for an 8×11 standard sheet of paper. If you’re self-publishing, as I did, you’ll need to know what file type to save your collection in. Bookbaby calls for a pdf. With Google docs you can also export a document as an epub file.

If you are using a self-publishing service, find out if the cover needs to be separate from the text file or included in it. If you plan to sell/give away/distribute your poetry collection yourself as a downloadable pdf or epub, you probably want the cover image in the document.

For a physical book, you should have some sort of instructions or a template from your chosen self-publishing service. You’ll need to adjust the paper size and the margins in a document editor.

This last part is what I misunderstood and had the most problems with. Adjusting the margins and changing the paper size of your document are not the same thing. In Google docs, go to File > Page setup, and you’ll see this:

The circled box is what you need to change. Depending on the dimensions of your book, you may not need the same option I have selected.

These are the main things you need to think about when formatting your poetry collection for self-publishing. I hope that was helpful.

If you have any questions about formatting a poetry collection or Inside a Writer’s Head, leave them in the comments below!

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