Book Review: How to Work from Home and Make Money in 2017


Book: How to Work from Home and Make Money in 2017
Series: N/A
Author: Sam Kerns
Genres: non-fiction, home business

Synopsis (from Amazon book page):
“Sam Kearns is a resource you can trust no matter what stage of your career you are in. I have purchased 3 of his books so far and I have not been disappointed.” Lene C

Are you tired of struggling just to get by with a paycheck that doesn’t quite stretch far enough? Or are you one of the millions of people who are out of work in an economy gone bad? Maybe you long to be your own boss so you can set your own schedule and choose the path your life will take.

Whatever it is that brought you to this page, you’re obviously looking for answers. The good news is you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve spent the past 20 years working for myself, and I would never dream of punching another clock or trudging to someone else’s office every day to collect a meager paycheck. That’s because I’ve discovered the secret: when you work for yourself, you’re happier, more productive, and you have unlimited earning potential.

After all, why would you want to work so hard to fund someone else’s dreams?

Working for myself has allowed me to live a lifestyle that many people can only dream about. I have the flexibility to create the life I want, take days off when I need to, and I decide how much money I make by choosing the hours I work

But don’t be fooled. Working from home at a home-based business isn’t easy. It takes hard work and dedication to build a successful business that makes money.

In my book, I’m pleased to offer you 13 proven, realistic ways to work from home and earn a great income. And I won’t just offer you a brief explanation of each method like some other books do.

In each chapter, I provide you with the information and facts you need to determine if that business is right for you.But I don’t stop there. I’ll also give you important links and resources, so if you decide you want to pursue one of the home-based business ideas listed in this book, you’ll have everything you need to begin.

So, the choice is yours. Will you wake up tomorrow morning and spend your day funding someone else’s dreams, or will you finally take the steps needed to claim your own success?

Why not start right now by buying How to Work From Home and Make Money? It’s one of the most important things you’ll do to begin the process of achieving your own dreams.

Notes of Interest:
I should probably start this review by saying I don’t normally gobble up “get rich quick” type books. I am a natural skeptic when anyone tries to sell me something and was born saying the mantra, “If something sounds too good to be true it probably is.” I downloaded this book as an Amazon Prime free read, and I admit parts of the book that didn’t appeal to my interests got skimmed, rather than read. However, I paid close attention to the parts that did interest me and tried to keep an open mind.

My motive in downloading it could probably best be described as “covering all my bases” because I have already done my homework researching work-at-home options for my specialty skills. However, making money from working at home requires a completely different set of skills. So, that is where I’m open to new ideas from a variety of resources, even if it means dealing with some repeat information.

What could have made this book better for me:

There were a few technical errors and an overall vibe that I couldn’t shake. I think the technical errors stood out because this was a non-fiction book partially devoted to how to be a professional freelance writer and author. But then he turned around and talked about hiring writer underlings to ghostwrite for him. That left me with the impression that I don’t know if I’m reading this author’s work, or his underling’s work. Am I seeing his errors or his underling’s errors? The overall vibe for the book fell for me after that.

I get the “entrepreneurial spirit” and wanting to maximize profit. And ghostwriting is a legit job; a lot of people do it. But paying underlings to do jobs you don’t have time to fulfill, while paying them less than what was originally offered, to skim part of their profit, just made me angry. Maybe I’m interpreting it wrong, but creating a middle-management man is not what most freelancers have in mind … if they’re aware of it. Most freelancers work for themselves to escape that kind of thing. But it’s hard to earn a living as a freelance writer. They don’t get benefits or health insurance. They sometimes can’t count on a regular income. And the gig economy, by its unregulated nature, opens opportunities for some profit-minded people to exploit the hell out of others. Have you ever seen a doctor or auto mechanic do free work in exchange for free advertising? I think not. Yet writers, artists, and other freelancer/self-employed people often work long hours for little pay or get scammed into doing work for nothing. Whether you’re talking about freelance contractors working at home or overseas factories paying for cheap labor, “outsourcing” is just another word for “greedy” if the worker is not paid full wages.

So, the shark-tank philosophy behind that advice pushed all the wrong buttons for me. It triggered the skepticism that normally makes me avoid these kinds of books. And it confirmed my understanding that there are two kinds of entrepreneurs. There is the person who always wanted to own his own bakery, so he puts his heart and soul into his craft, store, employers, and everything he loves about what he’s doing. And then there is the person who wants quick, easy money and will do whatever it takes to get it, even if it means taking advantage of someone lower on the ladder. Business is a self-sufficient dream job to the first type. It is a game based on winner-takes-all strategies to the second. Both can be successful, but ethics of method usually have very different outcomes for hirelings.

Having said that, I will add that this book is not about how to take advantage of people lower on the ladder. Only the section on freelance writing hit that nerve for me. If you’re going to outsource your work, don’t do it to cheat your workers and maximize your own profits. They’re trying to earn a living just like you. If you want to write 10 books and don’t have time, so you want to hire 10 ghostwriters, fine. But don’t take 10 full-pay freelancing jobs off the board and hire 10 writers to do them at half-price.

Onward …

What I liked about this book:

This is a neat little collection of the most popular, doable ideas for being your own boss and working at home. The book is divided into two sections for internet-based work and local-based work. And then each of those sections is further divided by job type. So, the first half will have information on jobs like freelance writing, on-line shops, and virtual assistance services. Then the second half will discuss jobs like pet sitting, cleaning services, or home-cooked goods delivery. In this respect, it’s a well-organized resource with basic “how-to” steps for set-up, initial expenses, what to expect in short-term and long-term maintenance, along with lots of links for further information.

Looking back over my highlights and bookmarks, I was surprised I took as many notes as I did. As I said, this isn’t the first time I’ve read about home-based business relevant to me, but I guess I was working on the premise it’s better to have duplicate information than to miss something helpful. I paid closer attention to the on-line based business sections because I’m an indie author who self-publishes. I run my own blog. I am available for freelance hire in writing, editing, and illustration services. And I have done English language tutoring in the past and am considering doing that again in the future. I’m studying marketing and updating my tech skills to aid in the quest of monetizing these services, but the book doesn’t cover things like that. It is strictly about generating ideas for home-based businesses. For example, instead of telling you how to write, it says you need to know how to write well or hire someone who can do it for you. Then you can figure out how to earn passive income from the product.

For the novel-writing section, the information sounded spot-on, but again, it’s not designed to teach how to write a novel or how to market it. It just shares what’s involved in production of a typical book. The information on blogs is something I’m actively digesting alongside my other research because I’m making plans to revise mine. For freelance services, I felt he was right to bring up the fact that ratio of time it takes to do a good job versus number of jobs you might take in order to pay your bills can lead to missed deadlines or jobs left unfinished. He does point out that self-sufficient income on freelancing alone is a challenge, especially for beginners, so I appreciate that he’s not making it sound like these means of generating income are effortless. I have not dug too deeply into language tutoring as an option, so I’m looking forward to checking out new resources in that part of the book. I had considered tutoring as a local option, but for some reason did not think of doing it on-line. That could make a big difference, since I prefer to work with ESL students.


If you are new to research on home-based business this is a good place to start reading. If you are well-versed on the subject, this book might still offer some new options you otherwise missed. Do NOT expect this book to help you make money without investment or effort. DO expect this book to serve as an idea generator that offers resources for turning ideas into action. You still must do the action. Nobody’s going to do it for you. And if someone works hard helping you achieve your goals, do the right thing and pay them well.

(Edit: Almost forgot to add that this book is updated annually, so I have seen that there is already a 2018 edition.)


How I Publish My Novels

Final chapter in this series on how I write my novels! If you missed the previous articles, you can find them here:

1. Drafting
2. Outlining
3. Plotting
4. Writing
5. Revising

As always, I’ll throw out the reminder that Scrivener is my software of choice for organizing and drafting novels. But my methods may be adaptable to other creative organization helpers, as well.

In this final segment, I’d like to cover publishing. I have never taken the traditional publishing route, so the only experience I have to offer here is self-publishing. But first things first … final edits.

Final Edits

When I felt there was nothing more I could for my book on my own or with the aid of beta readers, I hired an editor to help with final edits. Editors come in two varieties: content and line. They are different from proofreaders. Let me explain.

Content editors look at the content and context of the story overall and suggest ways to improve it. When I wrote my first book, I hired a content editor because the thing I was the most insecure about was whether or not it was a good story. Her feedback was invaluable overall, but in the end, since I am self-publishing, I had the final say on what to change and what not to change. She gave me tips on things like setting development, parts of the story that could be cut out, what didn’t work for her in terms of concepts, and advice on word count vs. story telling for fantasy novels. If I had any questions about plot holes or character development, I could consult her about that.

Line editors look at the script’s technical aspects. This includes proofreading for grammar and spelling, but they can also offer editorial advice in terms of what did or didn’t work for them, raise questions about clarity of wording or style, and suggest ways to make the script tighter and more efficient. I will admit I have never hired a line editor, due to my limited budget. But between my own expertise in English, the multiple eyes of the beta readers, and the content editor, most of the technical errors get squashed during the many revisions. What a line editor will not do is help you develop your setting, characters, or plot.

Finally, there are proofreaders. Proofreaders are not editors. They are not there to help you with the content or development of your story in any way. They are there to find your spelling and grammar errors, and that is it. It is not their job to give opinions on context, characters, style, word count, or suggest rewrites of any kind other than technical errors.

It’s important that you know what you are paying for when you choose professional revision services. And it’s important to remember that in self-publishing, the author has the final say. Always.

When I get the final feedback, revisions are usually quick because there is usually little left to correct. The book is now almost ready to publish.

Cover Art

The next thing I finalize is the cover art. I usually do my own because I used to be an art student. But there are loads of extremely talented artists for hire out there who would be happy to design a good cover for you. Pay them well! People really do judge a book by its cover.

The basics on cover art are simple. The thumbnail design needs to be distinct at a distance. The cover needs to look like the genre(s) it fits. It needs to be relevant to the topic of the story. And it needs to be as professional as possible.

I pushed the boundaries on the “thumbnail” rule with my own books, but that’s because I personally love detailed art. Plus, I wanted Aija and Trizryn represented either in part or whole because of the ambiguous relevance of the titles. They are both changelings. They are both fledglings. They are both having to confront some dark themes by book three. They are both heirs to the royal bloodline in book 4. And they are both in some way responsible for the saving dragons in book 5. … I knew the rule. I broke it anyway. Meh. I’m happy with my designs. But I can always change them later if I change my mind because I am in control of those decisions, rather than the publisher.

The Dragonling by Melody Daggerhart.

To get a feel for good cover art in any given genre, browse the top-selling books in that genre on-line or in a book store. Don’t copy ideas. But pay attention to what might grab the reader’s attention about the designs.

I usually start working on cover art somewhere around the third draft and give myself plenty of time to finish it before the final draft.

Keep in mind good art is not cheap and takes time. Also, remember the cover artist cannot read your mind. Provide as much reference as you can if you have specific ideas, and answer any project communications as soon as possible so they can get right back to work. The longer you delay communicating with your artist, the longer your finished cover will take to produce. Make sure the cover art is absolutely finished with the correct size recommendations for your chosen publication site before beginning the publication process.

Choosing a Publisher

I’ve already said I cannot offer advice on querying a traditional publisher. But I can offer a few thoughts on how to choose a venue for self-publishing.

Determine the size of the audience for your particular genre. Amazon’s self-publishing services have the most “reach” in terms of sheer numbers of readers. But that is also precisely why a lot of authors don’t want to publish through Amazon. They feel Amazon is monopolizing the market. And if authors feel that way, readers can feel that way, too.

I publish through Amazon AND Smashwords. Smashwords will distribute various formats including mobi to various sellers and libraries. So, people who prefer not to shop at Amazon can find my books through alternate distribution and formats. One thing to be careful of with this approach is exclusivity clauses. For example, if I sign on with Kindle Unlimited, I will have to unpublish from Smashwords because Kindle Unlimited requires exclusive rights. That means fewer formats, which might mean fewer readers reached.

Decide whether you wish to publish in digital or paper or both. The publisher you choose will determine options available. I have chosen to go with digital-only versions for now because I can more easily update the previous books as new books in the series are done. When the series is finished, I will pursue print versions. But for the sake of cost and time, digital is all I can afford right now.

Finally, choose a publisher that will return the royalties you wish to receive. Generally speaking, self-publishing royalties are higher than traditional, but you have to do all the marketing footwork yourself. (Actually, I’ve heard from people in traditional publishing that either way, you’re expected to handle your own marketing more often than not.) Print will be more expensive to produce than digital because of cost for paper and ink, and that price increase will be passed along to the consumer. The size of the book, therefore, will determine a large portion of that price. Otherwise, digital books can sell from .99 and up. My books are priced at $2.99 because 1) I am an indie author, so it’s unlikely people who have never heard of me will want to invest much more than that into something unfamiliar, but 2) my work is worth something. Dragonling took two years to write and some very, very long days and nights.

Pricing is a very controversial subject among authors and readers alike, but generally a book should not be given away as a freebie unless it is the first book in a series, or unless it is part of a special marketing event. Don’t be afraid to ask a fair price for time and effort spent crafting the product.

Publishing Process

The actual process for publishing will depend on the chosen publisher. Amazon’s submission requirements are very different from Smashwords’ because Amazon seeks to streamline whereas Smashwords seeks to diversify. You can hire someone to do this for you if the process feels too overwhelming, but I have always done it myself.

When I’m finally ready to publish, the first thing I do is create the front and back matter, if I have not already done so. Front matter includes title page, copyright page, dedication, table of contents. On-line sellers usually preview a certain percent of the book, so you don’t want to clutter the front matter with a lot of extras. The table of contents is the most important part of the front matter because in digital readers it needs to be interactive and work correctly. Back matter generally contains any series information, author information, marketing information (like web pages or other books by the author), and extras like maps, appendices, and acknowledgments.

The finalized chapter folders for Dragonling. I do one final word count for the entire script, then hit collate to spit out a .doc file in Libre Office or Word.

When everything passes one final inspection in Scrivener, I double-check my settings for exporting the files into Libre Office, then hit the collate button. Other than the index cards, collate is my favourite feature in Scrivener. I write scenes separately for ease of reference, but without collate, I used to have to copy and paste ALL of my scenes together in the end to form one long script. Now collate does that for me by taking all of my scene files and chapter folders and squishing them together into one script. I have a checklist to follow from here on out.


First, I make sure I export collated copies of the whole script for each publisher. For me, that means one is labeled for Amazon, and another is labeled for Smashwords. I also note the version of the story. I edit the copyright page to say “Amazon Digital Version” or “Smashwords Digital Version”. I add an updated copyright if I’m revising a previously published version. (I believe Smashwords now requires their name on the copyright page.)

The next thing I check is formatting. I will not go into detail here; it’s too complicated for this article. But generally, I check the book for strange spacings, margins and alignment, font styles and sizes, blank pages, too many pilcrows before or after chapter headings, etc. With Amazon Kindle, Word’s “Headings” can auto-generate an interactive table of contents. But for Smashwords, I have to program my own headings. That’s because Smashwords’ distribution engine, known as the meat grinder, needs specific simplicity to chop the script up and spit it back out in a variety of different formats. In general, the rule of thumb for digital publishing is the simpler the better. The more fancy the layout, the more likely it will have problems transferring between various file types and devices.

If the formatting check passes inspection, I sigh with relief/grab a snack to celebrate/dance around the room/squeeze my cat with unwanted hugs and kisses. If it doesn’t, formatting can be a nightmare to correct. … Just saying. Too many times I’ve had my italic and bold fonts completely stripped from the script while trying to fix something with formatting inconsistencies. Considering I use italics for a lot of telepathic dialog, foreign dialog, flashbacks, and emphasis … to lose ALL italics for the sake of a minor formatting correction is gut-wrenching. But as a last resort, there have been times when I had to nuke the entire script of all previous formatting and start over from “default”. This is why formatting is usually my most dreaded task of all.

Digital books require an interactive table of contents. For Amazon, this means highlighting each chapter heading as a “Heading” in Word, and then creating additional headings for front and back matter. For Smashwords, this means creating my own bookmarks for each heading, and then going back and creating hyperlinks for each bookmark. Tedious does not begin to describe this task when you’re talking about books with 30-50 chapters.

Finally, I check the front and back matter for any interactive links that need connecting to the web.

When all is said and done, I put the finished publisher-ready edit through a “homogenizer” like Calibre or Amazon’s Kindle Previewer to see how it looks in phone, tablet, and e-reader screens. I check the table of contents to make sure it works. I check other links to make sure they work. Then I do a quick skim to make sure there are no weird formatting issues I might have missed. If there are errors, those errors must be corrected; then the script goes through the homogenizer again to be sure the fixes worked.

All of this used to take a few days for Kindle and about a week or more for Smashwords. This year, however, I had to learn how to make my books functional with the newer Kindles, so it took 3 weeks. (sigh) … Hopefully, next time I can get it done faster, but this time I hit a lot of obstacles in the learning process and finally gave up on using Libre Office and switched to Word. My main problem was figuring out a way to put invisible headings on pages that didn’t have visible headings (like the dedication page) without the Kindle add-on nuking all of my previous formatting! Ugh! Live and learn. … For Smashwords, it took the usual week. (I cannot believe I actually preferred formatting for Smashwords this time around.)

HELP!!!! While using Libre Office to create the interactive table of contents for the newest Kindle Fire readers, I had to consult a lot of wiki and forum advice. How do you create a “Heading” for a page without its own heading … essentially an invisible heading? (Like the dedication page.) I puzzled over this a long time before I finally gave up on Libre Office and switched to Word’s Kindle Add-On, but even then I had to be careful because that erased formatting completely if I had to save and exit the program after the initial “preparing script for publishing” prompt. I still have no idea why. … Have I told you how much I hate formatting? … I hate formatting!

The Home Stretch

The rest of the process is easy after that. You upload the script. The publisher skims it for errors and spits out anything it thinks should be double-checked before publication. It’s usually just spelling errors and uncommon words mistaken for spelling errors due to the setting being in a fantasy world.

I correct what should be corrected, check the ignore box on what I want to be ignored, and resubmit the revised script. The publisher will notify me when it is approved and ready for publication.

If I haven’t already done so, this is when I fill in the details for the book’s royalties, formats, genres, credits, availability, and ISBN code. I update my tax information and upload the cover. This is usually quick and painless stuff.

The final element is the copy writing and blurbs. Again, I do this myself, but the option is there to hire someone else if it’s not your thing. Copy writing is very different from creative composition. It summarizes the story using journalism methods and marketing language to encourage people to buy the book. So many authors might prefer someone else to do it. The blurb, in particular, has to be short, pithy, and enticing.

Copy writing is usually limited to three to five short paragraphs. This is what we usually see inside the book cover in print versions and in long descriptions on the page where the book is sold. The blurb further condenses those paragraphs into three to five sentences. And that is what you normally find on the back of the book cover in print versions and in short descriptions when using a search engine.

When all of that is done, all that’s left is to hit the publish button! The publisher notifies the author when the book is “live” so purchase links can be shared on web pages.

I usually give it about a week before considering the publication done, just in case something goes wrong and needs immediate fixing. (Marketing is a whole other topic for a different discussion.)

Final Note

On a final note for this article series, I’d like to add that when I publish the newest volume in the series, I also update previous volumes. This is me taking advantage of digital format at no cost to reprint anything for both myself and my readers. This means I proofread each of the previous books one more time to catch any errors previously missed, cut down word count, or clarify minor edits, so the quality of each book is improved. It means I had to go through the mind-numbing process of reformatting each book all over again after updating front and back matter. It takes time to read, revise, and update four books that are over 100K words each, while also handling the initial publication of the fifth book in the series. But I do this because I want the books to be the best that they can be. There is always room for improvement, and I am committed to this series and to giving my readers the best that I can offer.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed a little insight into the stages of how I create my novels, from beginning to end. At the very least, I hope I’ve offered some insight into the work involved in creating a novel and self-publishing. It’s not easy. It’s not quick. It’s not pretty. But for me, the end result is worth the effort. I write because I am a writer … because I love telling stories. If other people enjoy what I’ve written, that adds even more depth and meaning to what drives me. And I thank my readers from the bottom of my heart for sharing the journey with me. ❤

Whew! Well, I’m exhausted now. How about you?

The Dragonling: Book Launch!

The Dragonling by Melody Daggerhart.

Just in time for Halloween! 🙂

At long, long last … after 2 years of drafting and revisions, 2 months of waiting on beta reader feedback, and 1 month of formatting issues, I am pleased to finally announce that the fifth book in the Elf Gate series has been published! The Dragonling is now available in digital format at the following links! Woot!

Amazon Kindle version:

Smashwords version:

I have completely reformatted the previous four books for the formatting options of the newest Kindle e-readers. And I have updated all previous books to include minor error corrections, minor formatting changes, and an update to the series information pages. Please update your older versions of each book you have purchased. This is one advantage digital publishing has over print! It should be a simple matter of removing the old copy from your device and downloading it again. I will be contacting Amazon to notify them of the changes so they can email readers. And at Smashwords, you will always have access to the older version, but should select the most recent one available.

(Edit: In looking up Amazon’s update contact information I see that they now only notify their readers of changes that make the book difficult to read. They do not notify reader when authors correct minor content, add new content, or add new marketing content. Therefore, dear readers, you will not be getting notices from Amazon. However, you should still be able to go into the tab that manages your Kindle account and download the updated version of previously published books.)

Q: Why digital format only?
A: Time. I am publishing all of these books against the clock amid other life events that have been patiently waiting for me to finish writing this series. Dragonling took twice as long as the other books to publish, due to various delays. So my primary goal is to FINISH THE SERIES before time runs out.

Q: I don’t have an e-reader.
A: Amazon has a free Kindle reader app, you can download and install. And Smashwords has a web reader version available for download, as well as formats like PDF.

Q: Will there ever be a print version?
A: I plan on doing a print version when the series is complete, but like the digital version, how soon I can accomplish that will depend on time allowance for writing.

Q: Can this book stand alone, or should I read the other books in the series first?
A: This book was not meant to be a standalone. Reading the other books in the series will help immensely with understanding what’s going on in this one. There are too many spoilers in this book for people who have never read the previous ones, and this book marks the beginning of the end for the main story arc of the series.

Q: I’ve read the previous books in the series. What can I expect from this one?
A: Just like the other books in the series, this one picks up where the last stopped. The main plot of this volume is about the protagonists protecting the only dragon they have in their camp, while the antagonists push everyone over the edge into a civil war between the dragons and elves. Readers will learn more specifics about Trizryn’s unique origins and the powerful, lost artifact his mother hoped to find through him. Aija continues to acclimate to living among the fae while seeking that ever-elusive gate that will take her back to the human world, and this time she finds an unlikely connection—another human. Reznetha’ir has to fortify the refugees in their new “camp” against two dragon factions at war after the true leader of the conspiracy is revealed. And Chizrae is harboring a very important secret about an obscure prophecy that could make or break the outcome of everything.

Q: I’ve never read the series. What is it about?
A: The Elf Gate series is epic, dark fantasy with elements of adventure, folklore, horror, action, romance, political intrigue, and comedy. It is a classic portal tale about a young English girl who is swept through an elf gate into the Other World of the fae.
These are not intended to be “Tolkienesque” elves. Nor are they intended to be stuck in dated fairy tales. These elves were referenced in the grim folklore of various human cultures, but have evolved into an industrial-steampunk/magical-technology society similar to that of humans … only differently.
This series is dark because it contains vampires, fantasy violence, strong language, and confronts controversial subjects like religion and politics. But it is not “A” horror book. It is epic because of its length and complex plot threads, but it is not necessarily “classic” fantasy. Good and evil are often ambiguous in these characters, yet this is not a gritty, Game of Thrones type of fantasy.
If you are looking for a light, quick read where good and evil are as easy to spot as the character’s fantasy race, these books might not be for you. However, if any of this sounds right up your alley, come along for the ride. 🙂

Q: What are the other books in the series?
Book 1, The Changeling
Book 2, The Fledgling
Book 3, The Darkling
Book 4, The Atheling
Book 5, The Dragonling

Series on Amazon:
Series on Smashwords:

The Dragonling might be a bit slow showing on the author pages, but it IS available for purchase now! :3 I encourage readers to leave honest reviews so that other readers may decide whether these books sound like something they might enjoy. And I hope you enjoy The Dragonling as much as I enjoyed writing it!

The Worry About Word Count

“Bad Cat Sleepy Books” by Melody Daggerhart Medium: digital art, Corel software Hours: 7 All copyrights reserved.

I’m still cleaning out my old blog, and today an old article I wrote about word count caught my eye, so I’m revising it. At the time, I was writing the third revision of The Atheling. My first reconstructed draft was about 200K. The second finished at 180K. And at the time I was writing the article, I had brought the count down to around 179K. (179,856 to be exact, but that wasn’t the final number.) The book was still a monster, partly because it’s a middle section in an epic-length tale. But figuring out a good way to destroy word count was a major victory for me.

Today I was attempting to destroy word count in the fifth revision of The Dragonling. My first draft word count for this book was around 165K, but that was taken without even being close to finishing that draft. Second word check came in around 175K for the second draft. But that included a lot of unfinished scenes that I knew I would have to return to … and probably drastically rearrange. Third draft went up to 208K, and I started cutting scenes because of my panic that the numbers might be getting too high. But it was starting to look more coherent, at least. The fourth draft peaked at 239K. Jeeze! How much higher could this go? … The first fifth draft (a.k.a. the second fourth draft, weirdly named because of drastic revisions that ended up changing major sections of the book, but wasn’t necessarily a true revision with me scrutinizing every line from beginning to end) cranked it up to a tune of 250,537. 😦 … Obviously, it was time to start murdering my darlings, as Arthur Quiller-Crouch once famously suggested. (Cambridge lectures, “On the Art of Writing”, 1914.)

Before I go any further, though, let me throw out a reminder I’m talking about epic fantasy series. And the word epic means … well, BIG! This genre is known for its length and attention to detail. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is actually one long story divided into three volumes. And perhaps you don’t need to know the exact words of the poems spoken or the definitions of translated Elvish or what someone’s lineage looks like down through the ages, but those kinds of “ornamentation” are exactly the kinds of details that give these imaginary worlds realistic depth. Also, middle and end books of epic series tend to be uber thick compared to first books or stand-alone books because it’s their job to bring all of those plot threads together toward an end. If the story is complex, it takes a lot of pages to follow each twist, complication, and obstacle encountered before that end is in sight. The alternative is to cut out scenes that could leave the reader thinking, “But what about this thing mentioned back in book 2? Whatever happened about that?” J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is an example of how heavily loaded plot closures can be toward the middle and end of a series. The last two books in that series were written as one ending, but divided in half for practical handling and purchase. (Something I might have to do for my own series if my next book’s word count becomes completely unreasonable.) If it’s a choice between thinner, quicker, cheaper books and a quality closure, most fans invested in a series would rather have a quality closure, I think.

But my first article on the worry over word count prompted me to do a little research back then. How big is too big when it comes to novels? When I first started writing, the standard word count for fantasy novels was 50-100K, which is bigger than most fiction genres because it takes into account that the author must use more words to build imaginary worlds. The average first novel published by an new author shouldn’t be more than 50K because big paper books cost more to produce than little paper books, and that cost is passed along to the consumer. Cost of digital production shouldn’t be as high, but word count still affects editorial fees, since they charge by the hour or word/page count, and marketing. Readers are also less likely to invest money or time in long, expensive books by authors they’ve never heard of.

And yet, when I voiced concern in the past about word count, the majority of responses from readers and writers alike was along the lines of, “whatever is needed to tell the story.” Though some people prefer short stories, nobody likes stories that feel rushed. So, while I’m still frustrated at how each book in my series gets progressively bigger, I have to remind myself that butchering scenes for the sake of word count simply is not the right approach for this particular series. The Hobbit is 95,022 words. Fellowship of the Ring is 177,227 words. But The Order of the Phoenix (from the Harry Potter series) was 257,045 words! And The Gold Finch was high on the charts during my first publishing of this article, making good sales in spite of having a whopping 296,586 words from a relatively new author! On the down-side, it’s also been rated as one of the least-finished books because people don’t have the time or attention to devote to it, for whatever reasons. I realize I might lose some readers if my books are too long, especially if bad editing or boring content comprises some of that wordiness. But I love long books, so I write what I would enjoy reading. And I take heart that I’m not the only reader who loves epic tales that continue bringing me back to familiar worlds and intimate characters. I’m not the only reader who loves stories so complex they simply take longer to unravel and play out.

Bottom line … Many writers, editors, and readers will drop a high-word-count script like hot metal. Word count matters because of publishing costs, marketing concerns, and reader preference and attention. But word count should never be the most important aspect by which we judge books. Words are merely the tools we use to ply our trade. “… it is up to the writer to say when the story is done.” [Quindlen, Anna (September 23, 2002), “Writers on Writing: The Eye of the Reporter, the Heart of the Novelist”, New York Times.]

Just for fun, here is a list of some of the longest novels ever written. I was not surprised to see that War and Peace was included. I was, however, surprised to see Les Misérables. And I felt rather pleased and proud to have actually read and enjoyed Varney the Vampire.

Freelance Publishing Services

Bad Cat Ink

I’m back! 🙂 And I have added a new page to my blog. As part of my grass-roots publishing business, Bad Cat Ink, I am now offering a few simple freelance services by contract. Right now I’m offering copy typing, proofreading, beta reading, editing, content writing, and small illustration. I hope to expand my offerings as the business grows.

You can find the tab at the top of the site, or go here: , for my contact information. Describe your project to me, and I’ll get back to you with a quote on the price; and we can work out the rest of the details from there.

Unless otherwise specified, my planner is now open for new clients.

And speaking of freelancing businesses …

I read this article today from Inc. by Melanie Curtin: “In an 8-Hour Day, the Average Worker Is Productive for This Many Hours”. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait for you to come back. It has some good information on the history of the 8-hour work day.

No time to read? Summary: the average worker pulling an 8-hour work day is productive for only 3 hours. THREE! I remember reading once that the average student in school actually spends only 2 hours learning anything because the rest of the time is spent waiting in lines, transferring to different classrooms, shuffling papers, etc. Also, I am aware that some countries in Europe have cut their work days to 4 days a week, or cut their hours to 6. Or they now allow time for workers to take naps, or do other things between tasks … like hit the gym or meditate.

I think the reason for these new, relaxed shifts is the ever-increasing numbers of people suffering from depression and anxiety, from over-scheduling their own lives and the lives of their kids, and from not being able to carve out time to even take care of ourselves anymore with basic necessities like cooking healthy meals, finding time to exercise, or getting enough sleep. We are burning our candles at both ends trying to multi-task, yet studies tell us there is no such thing. The human brain can do only one task at a time, so when we try to do more, our chances of making mistakes increase, productivity slows down, or we drop the balls we’re trying to juggle. We set ourselves up for failure trying to do the impossible. And then we beat ourselves up for not being perfect enough to keep the pace going. So that makes us feel even more like failures.

What does this have to do with freelancing? During my time off, I felt guilty for not working, even though I have been working on other things in my life that needed attention. I still planned my days from 6 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. I still had to-do list items that did not get done. I was still very stressed trying to push things into motion that seemed to be going nowhere. And on top of that, I lost a pet and was grieving while trying to carry on.

But even before taking time off I felt guilty for working only 2-4 hours a day this summer (because I work at home and have seasonal chores I have to do during early morning hours, and I’m trying to force clearance in my days now to take care of my mental and physical health). I kept thinking, “What kind of loser am I, that I’m clocking only 2 productive hours a day?” But I wasn’t looking at all the other “tasking” I was doing around and that, which now includes taking care of my mind and body so that I can be less sleepy, more creative, and not have health issues influencing whether I can accomplish my tasks, or not.

I have pulled my share of 17-19 hour days … through weekends and holidays. They suck. I have worked through all three meals (which consisted mostly of bowls of cereal, instant noodles, and cookies), fighting sleep over my keyboard, to try to finish edits ASAP. I have worked on multiple big projects simultaneously, and it never fails that one-by-one they fall away, until I realize I have worked on one thing to the exclusion of everything else. But then I feel guilty that I’m not doing five projects at once, when the truth is there are not enough hours in the day to keep that pace going. The result is I get sick, I get stressed, I suffer burn-out and depression, and eventually it becomes a struggle to get out of bed. So, how is that in any way even remotely productive?

I would love to see 4-day work weeks and 4-6 hour work days become the norm. Freelancers around the world would probably feel less like anomalies compared to their commuting peers to realize the average worker is only good for 3 hours. But the main problem I see with putting this plan into action is that hours can’t be cut without also boosting pay. Living wages, especially for non-salaried or part-time workers, are hard enough to come by working the 17-hour shifts through weekends and holidays. So, unless we can simultaneously cut hours and boost basic income rates (which has been done before and has been successful when it was tried), I don’t see this “drive yourself into the ground until you are insane” pattern changing for modern society any time soon. Still, it’s nice to see some countries are aware of the problems and thinking outside the box to try to find solutions.

What do you think? How many hours a day do you believe you are actually productive at your job, compared to how many hours you are paid to work? Do you think we will ever see a more balanced labor plan for the labor force as a norm?



Marketing Books for Free?

Image Source: Pixabay, congerdesign.

The Dragonling is now in the hands of my most trusted beta readers, and I am wrapping up front and back matter, updating web pages, cleaning out files, and working on the first revision of Book 6. (Book 6 is actually more like a first draft because it’s comprised of everything from the original draft plus everything that was cut from the previous books, so somehow I have to mash all of that into a comprehensible ending for the series. It’s such a collection of spare parts and scraps right now, I’m tempted to make its working title The Frankenstein-ling.) So for today’s blog, I decided to clean out my old blog, too, and resuscitate an old article with new life.

I came across an article I wrote when The Changeling was first published; I was offering free copies for a few days. I was a new indie author, and it was my first book, so I thought it would help with promotional exposure and “discoverability” (the current buzz word in marketing). Lots of new indie authors take this route. It was a controversial marketing move back then, and it continues to be a point of debate today. Should new authors, artists, and other professional “creatives” offer their works for free?

Some people dislike the idea because if you offer something for nothing, people come to expect it as a regular thing. It lowers the value of the market overall, but it takes the highest toll on the creative professional as an individual. It takes a lot of TIME to create things like novels and professional quality art. The Dragonling has taken two years to craft … so far. It still has to endure the beta read, the final revisions, and the final edit before it’s ready for official publication. That’s about 500 pages of work going through about 7 revisions total in the end. That’s waking up every day at 6:00 a.m. and logging in anywhere from 4 to 19 hours a day of drafting, researching, and editing, even on weekends and holidays. (And that’s not including the time and effort spent on cover illustration or marketing.) Creative work is a labor of love for the creative professional, but it IS labor, and our time and effort are worth something because we have bills to pay, too. No other profession puts that much work into a product only to give it away for nothing. Can you imagine telling a doctor you expect the first visit to be free, because you don’t want to have to pay until you know you’re going to like the service?

There is also the argument regarding whether give-aways actually work as a marketing tool. Most people who snatch up the freebies snatch them because they’re free, not necessarily because they’re truly interested in the product. A lot of one-star reviews come from freebie offers because the consumer didn’t invest anything in narrowing down his or her own preferences for the purchase. And free literature doesn’t necessarily lead to more reviews in return. Something-for-nothing receivers are under no legal obligation to return the favor, even when authors bait them by saying, “I’ll give you a free book if you review it.” Maybe it’s because some readers don’t understand how reviews are the lifeblood of marketing for authors, but usually reviews don’t happen simply due to lack of time or inclination. So, if it isn’t a long-awaited sequel, from a favourite author, or a book that really, surprisingly impressed, most reads will not result in reviews. Many free books aren’t even opened.

On the flip side, those freebies I gave away did result in some really nice, very gracious reviews I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I probably would not have reached my initial audience or found regular readers had I not offered that first book for free to draw attention to the fact that this series exists. And as a reader and consumer myself, OF COURSE I want to save money! So, yes, I will look for free books before I look for cheap books, and save the expensive ones ($15-20 for an e-book? Seriously?) for last.

Right now all of my finished books fall into the “cheap” category because I realize people are hesitant to spend money on an author and series they’ve never heard of. But it’s also important to me that my books be reasonably affordable because my love of reading comes from growing up reading stacks of library books. Had it not been for free library books, I would not have become a good reader or writer … because I couldn’t afford to buy books, otherwise. I side with Neil Gaiman on this matter in saying I don’t care whether you bought my book, borrowed my book, or don’t like my book and choose to read something else. Just read. Reading is fundamental to a free society.

But I, too, must pay bills and eat. 🙂 So, if you enjoyed any books in the series (however you got your hands on them), please leave a review to help other readers know what you thought of it, so they can decide for themselves whether they might enjoy them, too. For those readers who have already left reviews, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It does take time and effort to write a thoughtful review, but it’s always appreciated by the author, especially if that author does not have a big-selling name that helps books market themselves.

There comes a point when the creator deserves to be paid for the creation, or eventually she will stop creating and have to find another job. So, if a book, song, handcrafted item, or other creative work lifts your spirits or offers a few minutes of fun or a few years of beauty, support your favourite author, musician, and artist by offering a few dollars and reviews.

“Oscar Wilde quite rightly said, ‘All art is useless’. And that may sound as if that means it’s something not worth supporting. But if you actually think about it, the things that matter in life are useless. Love is useless. Wine is useless. Art is the love and wine of life. It is the extra, without which life is not worth living.” (~ Stephen Fry)

Digital Books For Everyone

Having finally published The Atheling yesterday, today, I’d like to throw out reminders that even if you don’t have an e-reader, this book (and many, many other e-books) are still available to you if you have a computer or smartphone.

Kindle app
Amazon Kindle store offers free reading apps for PC’s, pads, and phones.

Amazon has a free reading app that you can download here:… . I have a Kindle reader, but I also use this one on my computer. If you use i-products or Android products, you can purchase from the Kindle bookstore and at checkout choose to have the book sent to your Kindle or device with the reading app.

Here’s an article with more information about how to do that:…/54717-can-i-use-the-kindl…

Smashwords logo
Smashwords offers nine download formats .

Smashwords is my other current publisher because they offer nine different formats, including pdf, text, an on-line reader, and the original document. Would you believe PDF format is actually their most popular sales? Here’s an article on that:…/most-popular-ebook-formats-rev… . They suspect it’s still popular because of its easy formatting, universal PC acceptance, and familiarity.

So, if you’re interested in digital books, but don’t have a specific reader, give some of these other options a try. Many sites also offer public domain or discounted books for free or lowered prices. I still love my paper books, and my novels will eventually go to print. But I also love my digital readers since I can take lots of books with me and not have to worry about storage space. (Because, yes, I’m one of those people who has starry-eyed visions of some day owning a ceiling to floor library in my forever home.) 😉

Book Launch: The Atheling

The Atheling cover
The Atheling by Melody Daggerhart

The Atheling is now available at Amazon and Smashwords in a variety of digital formats! (Paper versions will not be available until the digital series is finished.)

Woo, woo, woot! One year in the making, three months past the due date I had in mind, and fighting high word count every inch of the way, this book has proved to be my most challenging yet. But it’s finally done.

A word about the series first: the Elf Gate books comprise a portal tale that stretches across several volumes like a story arc. Aija is mistakenly abducted into the land of the fae, where humans are outlawed and to be executed on sight. But she can’t find her way home because the gate she came through collapsed. With the help of Trizryn, the enigmatic elf who mistook her, Aija discovers fae have modernized like humans, only differently; that they are on the brink of civil war; and that she must learn to defend herself in a world full of magic she doesn’t understand. In trying to find a gate home before dragons destroy them all, they must unravel secrets not even Trizryn is aware of about himself and the fae court. This dark fantasy series combines elements of horror, comedy, romance, and adventure, in a modified steampunk setting. Rated for older teens due to language and violence.

I’m still in the process of updating author pages and such, but I’m ready to get word out there that the fourth book in the series is finally available. I published a short interview on Smashwords for its release. You can read the whole interview here: . But here are some highlights.

THE ATHELING picks up where THE DARKLING left off. Aija and her fae friends have a lot to accomplish in this book. They have to fix a broken airship and use it to rescue the hostages Ilisram is holding in Absin’navad and be prepared to confront him and any necromancy tricks he has up his sleeve. But, of course, things are never that simple. …
Time is running out with the dragons destroying the gates before Trizryn can find one to take Aija home, which means the falling gates are also taking chunks out the Veil that divides alternate realities. The dragons that have already risen are growing in number and are still prophesied to attack Brinnan, and Ilisram’s conspiracy against the Derra Eirlyn is looking more clear, yet more muddled at the same time. They need to get word out to the rest of the kingdom about what’s really happening in the fae court because they can’t trust the King to do it. And the King is still after Trizryn’s and Aija’s heads. …

This is still a coming-of-age story for Aija. This is still a spiraling-inward journey for Trizryn. Most of the characters introduced so far come together once more, along with a few new ones, for a full-blown assault on Absin’navad in attempt to free the hostages, locate the body of the Princess, and defeat Ilisram. So, there’s a lot of action in this book compared to the first couple where they were still learning to trust each other. I hope readers enjoy this fourth installment of the series.

The most difficult part of producing this book was, without a doubt, word count. I don’t usually care about it, but books that are too thick, particularly books by indie authors, don’t sell well. The fact that this is the fourth book in a series helps because fans who have enjoyed the first three books will hopefully look forward to more in the fourth. But I don’t want it to be too expensive to print or impossibly bulky for print when that time comes. Otherwise, I’m a big fan of series and long books, so I enjoy having more material to read on characters I’ve learned to love from books and TV shows. I love big books with new worlds and familiar characters that I can take my time exploring extensively.

The easiest part of this book was the flow of the action and dialog. My characters have a tendency to take over the story, and this one was no exception. But the interaction felt more fluid this time around — too fluid, if that’s possible. Which is why the excessive word count had to be curtailed. I had to cut out one scene entirely after about the third draft, but I fought hard to save everything else, even if it meant meticulously scrutinizing and cutting 20K words or more.

Many of the series questions will be answered in this book. Many more are pending. There are still one or two more books to finish. I initially drafted the final as book 5, but if it’s too big, answering all plot threads started is more important. I will split a large final book into 5 and 6, if necessary, to be able to give it the proper conclusion. The final book(s) will probably take longer to produce, partly for this reason and partly because I have a lot of personal things going on in my life right now that are demanding attention — the kinds of things that really don’t give a damn about whether I have readers waiting for the next book to drop while ideas are fresh in my mind. (*sigh* … life …) But I’ve already started revising the draft of book 5, so I promise diligence until completion as much as possible.

As always, I’ve also updated the previous books in the series to include information on book 4, correct minor errors, and give them more unity in publication formatting. You should be able to upgrade your previously purchased copies at the locations where you originally bought them.

Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed reading my drafts of this series as free web serials, please consider purchasing the final copies. Writers have bills to pay, too, and while these stories might be readable in a matter of a few weeks, they each took a whole year to craft. If you purchase a copy from either Amazon or Smashwords, please consider leaving a review to give other readers an idea whether these books might be something that suits them.

To those of you who have already left reviews for other books in the series or for the web series version of this one, or who just were present to offer support when I doubted myself (because artists forever doubt themselves), thank you for being patient and encouraging me to keep writing. I write first for myself because it’s part of who I am, and I will always have stories to tell because it’s how I process and play with the world around me. But without readers those stories are like plush toys in an attic, lacking children to love them. My readers are important to me. And I sincerely hope you enjoy the latest adventure in this series. 🙂

The Atheling Cover Reveal

The Atheling cover
The Atheling by Melody Daggerhart

The cover for The Atheling is done. 🙂  So, is the manuscript! (I think that deserves a double smiley, but I’ll spare readers too many emoticons per paragraph.)

Final word count was beyond my goal, so I’m very proud of myself for bringing a 190K+ script down to around 166K. I don’t have a final word count yet because I am still working on front and back matter, but that gives you an idea that it’s still a pretty hefty volume, though not as monstrous as it could have been.

Currently working on stuck on the blurb. (sigh) Why is something that’s only 200 words or less more difficult to write than something that is 166K+. And after that I have to format everything for uploading. But the end of the tunnel is in sight!

A few comments on the cover art … Some people are of the opinion that you should never put the faces of the characters on the book because it destroys the reader’s imagination of what those characters look like. Or, on a more practical level, if the artist doing the cover has never read the book, he might get the description wrong.

I am the author, so I know how my characters look. And I’m of the opinion that since I am the author, I am in charge of what the characters look like. 🙂

Whether to describe characters in detail or leave them open to interpretation is one of those conditions some people like to set rules for, but there is no such rule because creative writing is an art. Some people prefer details; others prefer to supply the details themselves. They’re both fine. Books that provide details are like completed water-colour paintings. Books that leave elements open to interpretation are more like abstract art or colouring books. Nothing wrong with colouring books. 🙂 But no one in their right mind would tell an artist to paint only half the picture and let the viewers imagine the rest. It is the artist who chooses whether to give the audience the opportunity to fill in the rest of the picture, or finish the entire painting exactly like she wants it done.

Do my characters look exactly like my cover art? No. My art style is pretty set when it comes to portraits, and it’s not a realistic one. In fact, my inspiration for drawing hair started way back in about 5th grade when I got my hands on the Revolver album by the Beatles. 🙂 I have a thing for long hair, and I remember trying to copy that hair many times. Art is based on interpretation, even with the basic elements in place. So, I love fan art. I love seeing how different interpretations turn out, even with the same basic elements.

Revolver by the Beatles: one of my early album art inspirations for hair textures and profile studies.

So, if funky art is good enough for the Beatles, it’s good enough for me. Creative arts and writing are supposed to be fun. Have fun with design.


Book Dedications

My Muse
My muse doodles to wake up, too. 🙂

There is no right or wrong way to write a book dedication. It’s extremely personal, so who is chosen, how that person is addressed, and what is actually said can be done in any number of ways.

So far, I’ve dedicated my first book to the friends who inspired me to write, my second book to my favourite authors who inspired me to be a writer, and my third book to my beta readers.

I’ve kept the brushstrokes broad because there are many people who contributed to my creatives process and works. I get more specific in the acknowledgements page if I feel certain people or references need to be mentioned.

I chose my friends because they are the ones I started telling stories for, who I first started writing stories for, and who have been my biggest supporters along the journey to being published. I chose favourite authors because if I had not been so engulfed in other people’s imaginative worlds and characters, I would not have been inspired to create my own. And if not for my beta readers helping me with valuable feedback on the nitty-gritty of cleaning up the scripts, I probably would have quit long ago, thinking no one else cared.

And while it’s fine to write a dedication that simply says, “For Mom,” I prefer to say why I appreciate those who lift me up enough to help me believe I can do this. If not for these people, I would not have made it this far, so I recognize that any success I have in the realm of writing stems from them and is priceless to me.

In trying to think of the dedication for The Atheling, however, I drew a blank. I couldn’t think of any other people who have contributed as much or more than those already mentioned … until today.  I have been running some long, long hours over the past month and a half to try to finish this book on schedule. And in spite of my midnight oil efforts, I’m still going to be late. It’s very discouraging, and has left me mentally exhausted. Sometimes I had to force myself to take a 20 minute nap. (I don’t normally nap because I feel like I’m wasting valuable time.) Sometimes I grabbed coffee or a snack to wake up. Sometimes I stumbled away from the computer to do light chores and make myself move. But the majority of my “wake-up calls” have come in the form of music.

My playlist has grown quite a bit over the past several days because of a handful of earworms that helped me stay awake and added atmosphere to the scenes I’m correcting. The role that music plays in the process of writing is a topic for another blog, but while I was half-asleep, trying so desperately to wake up enough to work through lunch I realized if those musicians were present in my office right now, I’d be at their feet and begging them to sing one more song to get through the next round of edits.

Just like with my favourite authors, I don’t personally know any of my favourite musicians. But I’m thankful all the same for their voices and tunes, which lifted me up and inspired me to keep going. My playlist for this book has been half Japanese and half Korean, but I’m writing in English. Occasionally, that means I see words like “you”, but hear words like “kimi” if I’m singing while typing, so I have to be extra careful that doesn’t distract me from catching errors in edits. But for the most part the challenge of working with multiple languages is part of what wakes me up between editing scenes. These cultures and languages inspire my content in the first place, so it makes sense that they would form part of the soundtrack, as well.

Music from Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faeroe Islands, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, and France have also contributed greatly to the Elf Gate series soundtracks in my head. Without my musical muses, I think I would have given in to fatigue and discouragement. I think I would be writing very different stories. So, since I can’t give my favourite musicians hugs of gratitude, a dedication in my fourth book will have to do.