The Value of Service Providers

Before I decided to self-publish, if anyone had told me how much work it is  in addition to writing,  I may have continued in my attempts to secure a literary agent in an effort to traditionally publish through a publisher. After self publishing for almost a year, I now have new appreciation for the freelancers who offer editing, formatting,  cover-design and tax preparation  services to self-published authors. All of these services take much time and effort.

I learned to do  everything, but still use the services of a freelance editor because even though I edit and revise numerous times, we never catch everything when it comes to our own writing. We writers know what we meant to write, what the story’s supposed to be – and that’s often what we read, so we miss things that don’t “jive” with that.

But I do everything else myself. I format my manuscript for eBook and paperback publication. I publish with Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon. And I learned photo editing to create my own book covers. It took a month and a half for me to learn and get comfortable with photo editing. I just did an illustration in which I put the image of a woman into a backdrop and then put another woman’s face on her body – the face of the character in my pending story. Admittedly, putting another face on a body was new for me so it probably took longer than it would have if I’d done this before, but it took two and a half hours to accomplish this and it’s still not quite as professional looking as I would like it to be. So, I’ll be working on it some more. 

Oh, and I also prepare my own  state and federal taxes. However, I worked for the Hawaii State Department of Taxation for fifteen years, so I have to admit that I had the background to be able to do my own taxes. If I hadn’t had this experience, taxes would not have been easy for me to catch on to it.

Hiring those who provide services can run into quite a bit of money, but good formatters, editors, cover designers and tax preparers earn every penny they charge. But my experience in self publishing has taught me that I like being able to do as much of the process as possible; I like the control and enjoy the creativity.. 

Here is the image that took two hours and twenty-five minutes to create. The Library of Congress photo of the barber shop is one layer. The woman’s body is another layer and her face is the third layer. For the face, I took another image, cut the face out, brought it into the barber-shop image and then had to scale it down to fit the woman’s body. As with each new project I take on, I learned a great deal and reinforced other things I had learned.

This next image took me an hour and fifty minutes to create. Again, it’s three “Layers.” They are: 1. the barber shop; 2 the the woman’s body; and 3. the woman’s face (which I cut from another image).The woman’s body and the face had to be scaled so they fit in the barber shop and the face had to be scaled so it fit the body.

The story that these illustrations will go with is one set in the late 1800s in which the man female character learns to be a barber.

My journey in self publishing has given me a new appreciation for all the skilled people who offer their time and knowledge to all of us.

Teachers, attorneys, doctors, caregivers, janitors, food service workers – all of those who make our lives better deserve to be valued and paid a wage they can live on without having to resort to two and three jobs.

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

I’ve written nine novels, close to 100 short stories and have five books published on Amazon. I’m often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” And in  the Facebook writers’ groups I belong to, I often see this question posted. Well, where do I get my ideas? Everywhere. Newspaper articles, history, things people say.

Because I’m writing fiction, I am addressing writing fiction.

There are many sites on the internet that offer writing prompts. I’ve gotten ideas from reading these. Search the internet for “short story prompts,” “romance prompts,” “fiction prompts” and “story idea prompts.”

5,000 Writing Prompts by Bryn Donovan really does list 5,000 prompts.

Other people’s lives can offer a wealth of ideas for you. I wrote a romantic short story based on the couple who lived across the hall from me. He said that when they were single, they both owned condo units in the building we lived in. They each lived on a different floor and met in the elevator. And eventually they got married, he sold his unit and they kept her unit.

Advice columns can be an excellent resource for ideas. News items are fertile grounds for ideas. History is another fertile ground for ideas.

When I was doing  historical research for a short story I was writing, I contacted the librarian at the El Dorado, California public library (most public libraries have an “ask a librarian” function). In connection with this, she sent me a newspaper article about the first woman driver in Placerville, California. That gave me an idea for another short story that I am including in my upcoming collection of short stories called Sweet Victory.

Incidents that happened in history can spark story ideas. The California Gold Rush. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Asa Mercer’s bringing marriageable women to Seattle in the 1800s. The women who worked as waitresses for the Harvey House Restaurants at the train stations. Circuses and the wild-west shows. Vaudeville. The silent-movie era. 

The Orphan Train Movement was the inspiration for my short story Nobody’s Child, which is also included in Stories of Hope.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City in 1911 was the basis for my story The Fire in my short story collection Stories of Hope, which is available on Amazon. 

Someone forced to leave the life and environment that he or she knows for some reason who has to adjust to and get along in a completely new environment works well in most genres of fiction. In my story Left Holding the Bag  (Stories of Hope collection), Lucy Mae Logan’s life changes for what appears to be the worst because of a chance encounter with a bank robber.  

The whole world is your resource. Don’t worry if you come up with an idea for a plot that’s been told before.  They say all story ideas have been written before. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back has been written over and over again. But, as with any story idea, you can make it all your own with your own characters and the circumstances in your story. 

Could this Harvey House at the Santa Fe Station in Chanute Kansas and the “Harvey Girls” standing out in front give you an idea for a story?

Click here to see this photo on the Library of Congress’s website. Do you know who the Harvey Girls were? If you do an internet search, you’ll find out and maybe a story will come to you.

Inspiration is out there just waiting for you.