Book Production · My Books · My Thoughts · Writing

Self-Publishing—How Difficult is it?

Woman looking at books—self-publishing

As a self-publishing author, I usually do most of the tasks to publish a book. It isn’t easy, but I love it. I write the book. Next, I have always hired a professional editor because I know it’s impossible for me to distance myself enough from my work and not make mistakes. Because of my computer skills, I love laying out the cover, and I have done four of my six books. In self-publishing A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir, I paid someone to do the cover, but I suggested the total layout and added to it.

Also, I do the interior layout with Vellum, a Mac program that creates the print version and four e-book formats. I also enjoy this part because it lets me express myself creatively in how the book’s interior looks.

See how my current book has gone! My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? has been hanging on the edge of being published for several weeks. After reading and studying many marketing books, I decided this time I would pay to have the cover done, and that’s been the hold-up. They asked me to send all the parts for the cover in one email and here’s what they required:

  1. Trim size/page size (5X8, 6X9, etc.)

2. Paper type (cream or white)

3. Exact page count of your fully finished formatted manuscript (to determine spine width)

4. Back cover text (the book description usually works for this)

5. Short author bio and picture (this is optional, and please make sure any picture you send for the back cover has a resolution of 300dpi or higher)

6. Your publishing venue (Ingram Spark, KDP, both… if Ingram Spark, please also send the ISBN)

6.5. If you want an Ingram Spark hardcover, would it be a case laminate, dust jacket, or jacketed case laminate?

Normally, when self-publishing, I do everything for the book and am in total control. Then I have total control of the timing. The book cover company I hired for this book finished the e-book cover about three weeks ago, and I liked it.

Then I had a delay with the book description for the back cover of the book which I never write. With my first book, someone advised me to never write my own book description—that I was too close to the work. So, I always hire someone to do it. Recently I was traveling, and she was too, so we had delays because of that. Then she missed the meaning of the book at first, so we had several rewrites. So, this delay held up the cover getting done. Finally, she got the message from the book and wrote an acceptable description.

Then, off to the book cover layout company with all 6.5 items listed above. I provided pictures I wanted used, so I created a Drop Box shared folder. When they did the first paperback cover, the front was easy—it was the e-book cover. They had lots of trouble with the back cover.

I shared a picture with them in Drop Box of Lin’s gorgeous garden for the back cover because I loved the whole idea that so many people adopted gardening and an appreciation of nature during the pandemic. This book addresses a hard topic, so I wanted that positive result reflected in the cover.

After waiting and waiting, I emailed the representative of the company, and he said he emailed it to me three days before—I never received it. So, he resent it. First cover they sent me to approve had no picture on the back cover—it was a bland back cover with only the book description, my picture and a super-short bio.

Then, we started the revision process that took several days—much longer than necessary. When they added the garden picture to the back cover, they overlaid a green shade over it, so you couldn’t see the garden clearly.

So, I asked them to fix that, and they did after several days. Finally, they sent me three choices. Here are two of them. My husband, Lin liked one; I liked the other. Help me select the cover for this book by responding in the Comments section below.


Choice #1 has the green overlay of the garden. Choice #2 has a colored picture in the background of the Lin’s garden. Vote for one!

Choice #1 – Green overlay
Choice #2 – No green overlay—Colorful

In my future of self-publishing, I don’t know if I will hire someone else to do the cover. If I don’t, I would avoid the frustration of working with an outsider and the expense. But I like the two choices provided for this book, because it looks professional and they did creative things I would not have! What a dilemma!

Are you self-published? How do you handle the stress of self-publishing? AND BE SURE TO VOTE ON WHICH BOOK COVER I SHOULD USE—#1 OR #2? (Scroll below to the Comment area and respond about which cover you liked and your self-publishing experiences.)

Recent Blog Posts You Might Have Missed:

~Pre-Order My New Book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? To be released in August

Flippo in the sand—self-publsihing
Flip for Flippo!

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there:

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Stop by my website for all the information you need about me & my books:

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page:

~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces:

Book Production · Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts

One Year Later! Let’s Celebrate Flippo’s Biography!

One Year Celebration!
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad from Pexels

Let’s celebrate one year since I released Flippo’s biography!! So much goes into publishing a book! Here’s what I did with Flippo’s. On May 3, 2020, I uploaded three formats of Flippo’s biography to Ingram Sparks’ publishing company. Flippo wanted hardback copies available, so that’s why I selected Ingram to publish his biography. I also published the paperback and Kindle e-book version through KDP on Amazon with the publication date of May 8, 2020. Whew! A year ago, I met myself coming and going for sure!

One year—that’s hard to believe! Because I self-publish, I do all the work to prepare a book to be released: create the cover and the interior. What made this an outrageous task is I had three covers to make: the hardback, paperback and e-book formats. Then I had to format the interior for each also, making sure each version had its own unique ISBN number! I really worried about messing up on that!


Dust jacket for Flippo's hardback book
Hardback Dust Jacket with Template from Ingram Sparks

The hardback version required a dust jacket, which is a much larger space than a paperback cover, so I had to alter it considerably. (See image above.) I battled with the layout, making sure the title stayed on the spine and the text didn’t run over on the folds of the dust cover—tricky for sure!

Previously, I had laid out paperback and e-books covers for my other books, so I had less trouble with these two, and their dimensions were similar, so that helped!

But prior to the actual layout of these, I had to come up with the design. John and Neeca Flippo and I wanted the picture of Flippo calling as a young man with a live band. What a wonderful picture depicting Flippo calling as a young caller! It needed to be the focus point of the cover. Then I searched for the background graphic, and I wanted something that looked like a dance floor and found that.

Then, I experimented with the font and the color of the title, arriving at the one I felt stressed the title and went with the color scheme of the picture and the background. I love all these parts of design work!

Bryan and Kenta Swift helped me with the back cover. I wanted to feature Flippo’s favorite places he called, and they suggested I cluster them around the edges. I first added the four on the top: Asilomar, Kirkwood Lodge, Wagon Wheel, and Chula Vista. Flip had identified those four as his favorites. Then I knew I had to add Japan! He loved his trips to Japan and the Japanese people.

Early in my self-publishing career, advisors encouraged me not to write the book description on the back of the book, so I paid to have someone do that.


Vellum app - One year later

For the interior layout, I used an app, Vellum, which is only available for Mac computers, and I love it. That took time too, though, doing the three formats! Then I decided because this was a history book of square dancing and people might be interested in looking for a specific person or places, it needed an Index. I found an app to help index the keywords, but what a grueling experience that was!


Finally, I was ready to upload the covers and the interiors for each format. Before this book, I’d only used which has become KDP, and I knew their upload process. Ingram Sparks was totally different. It required the .pdf documents for the covers and interiors to be in a specific format, PDF/X-1a:2001.

Adobe’s InDesign app is the publisher’s standard and creates that format, but I don’t have it because of its expense. So, I researched every nook and cranny on the Internet and found a solution—I outsourced my covers and interiors to and someone there converted my files.

So, after I successfully uploaded the documents to Ingram Sparks, I uploaded them to KDP, as well. Each of these publishers provided me with a “eproofs” to look over and give my final approval.


Stack of books - One year later
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

After that, the sales poured in from the pre-order list, word-of-mouth and my advertising on the Internet, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, I had a heck of time getting the shipment of books. After several weeks’ delay, I’ll never forget opening the box of hardbacks and holding that precious book in my hands for the first time. I think Flippo would have been proud!

Also, because of the pandemic, CALLERLAB was canceled, and I had planned to release the book there. So, the travel restrictions forced me to have the release party online with Zoom, and we had a fabulous time swopping Flippo stories that night.

With the continued restrictions and no dancing, the sales have dropped off, but I keep Flippo’s biography in front of the dance world on square dance Facebook pages and through emails to possible interested parties.


Release party for one-year anniversary of Flippo's biography

Here we are one year later. I know the sales will spike once we dance again. Also, I’m having a Zoom celebration on May 10, 2020 7:00 PM MST to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the release of Flip’s biography, so join me for a fun-filled night. Go to the Facebook Event page and click you are going or email me at

A year later—so much has happened! Have you ever self-published a book? If so, how did it go?

Have you bought your copy of Flippo’s biography yet? If not, now’s a good time!

(Scroll down a little farther below to make comments!)

Previous Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

Just Another Square Dance Caller cover one year later!

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there:

~One-Year Anniversary of the Release of Flippo’s Biography! Join me to celebrate on May 10, 2021 from 7:00—9:00 PM Email me at if you are interested!

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Visit my website for all the information you need about me & my books:

~Visit my Amazon Author’s Page:

~ Give Mom a gift for reading this year! Visit my Etsy Shop for a Mother’s Day sale of 20% off select titles and bundles:

~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces:

My Thoughts · Writing

Three Vital Apps for the Writer

Three Vital Apps - person writing with computer
Photo by Judit Peter from Pexels

As a writer, I have quite a toolbox of apps I use regularly as a writer/blogger. The three vital apps I return to are ProWritingAid, Scrivener, and Vellum.

When I begin a writing project, I start in Scrivener because it is the ultimate organizational tool to keep everything you need in one place. Here’s one delicious advantage of Scrivener. In researching for any of my books, I can add the URL of a favorite website into the program and keep it there. When I need, it opens up right there in Scrivener—no hunting or spending countless hours searching for a page I need.

Here’s another Scrivener feature I love! Last year when I was revising Just Another Square Dance Caller, we were traveling, and I bought the iOS version of Scrivener and worked on the document on my iPad on the flights going and coming. It synced perfectly with the desktop version.

Before I send it to the editor, I run each chapter through ProWritingAid (which is an app and a website) to catch any grammar and syntax mistakes. Usually, this handy tool finds those hideous errors I do repeatedly and can’t see! At first, the summary overwhelmed me, but now I focus on the Realtime errors identified.

When my manuscript is back from my editor, I then import it into Vellum for final print book and e-book layout. I add pictures and graphics and send it out to be printed. When I started publishing in 2014, I didn’t have Vellum, so I formatted my first couple books in Microsoft Word in templates provided by (now—that was difficult.

So, when I found Vellum, I imported my first self-published books into the program and republished them. I love the final product Vellum produces. I love the ease of use as well.

Here are in-depth looks at each program.

ProWritingAid Logo--Three Apps

ProWritingAid Website and App

  • The Essential Editing Tool for Every Writer
  • Online & Desktop Editing Tool—interface the same
  • GREEN AREA Menu (Drop down menu): (FILE: New, Save, Save As, Upload, Export), EDIT: (Use Curly Quotes, Convert to Straight Quotes, Convert to Curly Quotes), REPORT: (Print, Email), TOOLS: (Word Explorer), YOU: (Documents, Profile, Settings, Edit My Dictionary, Edit My Snippets, Support, Plugins), OTHER: (Old Editor), LOGOUT.
  • PURCHASED ONLINE ACCESS & APP: Features on the Menu: Core (Realtime, Summary, Style, Grammar, Thesaurus, Overused, Combo, All Repeats), Repeats (Echoes, Structure), Structure (Length, Transition, Readability), Readability (Sticky, Cliches), More Reports (Diction, Pronoun, Alliteration, Homonym, Consistency, Acronym, Pacing, Sensory, House, Plagiarism)
    • Writing Style: (General, Academic, Business, Technical, Creative, Casual, Web) and Language: English General, English UK, and English US.
  • The Summary can be printed, emailed, or opened in a new window. Note Key Actions
  • Cost: $20 – Monthly $79 – 1 year, $399 – lifetime.
    • FREE VERSION: Summary Report of Key Issues,19 Writing Reports (Does not have Acronym or Dialogue), Edit 500 words at a time, Use online only
  • Helpful Feature of website: Blog with articles. 5 Categories: The Writing Process, Blogging and Content Writing, Grammar Rules, Writing Apps, and How to Use ProWritingAid

How to Use

  1. Go to website:
  2. Sign up for free & identify what type of writer you are.
  3. Click on “Start Web Editor.” They offer a two-minute tour video.
  4. Copy and paste document in window
  5. Save – CAN NOT SAVE in Free Version, so
  6. Work your way across the Menu and make appropriate changes


Scrivener-Three Apps

Scrivener 3.2.2

  • Writing organization app
  • Mac or PC – $45 – Free Trial
  • Tailor-made for long writing projects
  • Has Project Templates for Blank, Fiction (Novel, Novel with Parts, and Short Story),
    • Non-Fiction (Essay – Chicago Style, General Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction with Sub-heads, Paper – APA, Paper – MLA, Research Proposal, Undergraduate Humanities Essay), Scriptwriting (BBC Radio Scene Style, BBC Taped Dramas, Comic Script, Documentary Script, Screenplay, Stage Play (UK), Poetry & Lyrics and Miscellaneous (Persuasive Lecture and Recipe Collection). It has an Interactive Tutorial, User Manual and Video Tutorials.
  • Scrivener costs $49 for Mac OS & Windows and $19.99 for iOS

How to Navigate

  1. Download app – have Free Trial – and install.
  2. Open App and select Template
  3. Gives General Suggestions on Genre
  4. LEFT COLUMN MENU: Collections & Binder Info – Different for each genre
  5. TOP MENU: File, Edit, Insert, View, Navigate, Project, Documents, Format, Window, Help
  6. MENU ACROSS THE TOP OF OPEN WINDO: View: Binder & Collections Hide or Show, Search, Add: New Text or New Folder or Import, Trash, Insert, QuickRef, Quick Search, View, Compile, Bookmarks, Compose, Inspector
  7. INSPECTOR – RIGHT COLUMN—Synopsis, Bookmark, (General Metadata, Custom Metadata & Keywords), Snapshots, Comments & Footnotes
  8. Backups when you save and quit–QUIT APP EACH DAY TO CREATE BACKUP!


Vellum--Three Apps


  • Create Print Interiors & Beautiful Ebooks
  • Only on Mac – MacOS 11 or newer PRICES
  • COST
    • Vellum Press – Created Unlimited Ebooks + Paperbacks – $249.99
    • Vellum Ebooks – Create Unlimited Ebooks – $199.99

How to

  1. Download Vellum & install.
  2. Open – Immediately you have the choice to “Import Word File,” so click and import document.
  3. MENU IN OPEN WINDOW: Navigator and Preview
  4. LEFT MENU: Contents & Styles
    1. Contents – Places your document into chapters.
    1. Styles – Choices for Heading, First Paragraph, Paragraph After Break, Ornamental Break, Block Quotation, Verse, Photograph, Portrait, Caption, Header and Footer, & Body
  5. IN CONTENT, MENU ACROSS BODY (LEFT SIDE): Asterisk Pull-down Menu (Subhead, Ornamental Break, Image, Alignment Block, List, Block Quotation, Verse, Web Link, Store Link & Internet Link–PUT ALL TEXT WITHIN ONE OF THESE FOR FORMATTING).Bold, Italics and Underline text. Pull-down Arrow for Font Choices: Small Caps, Sans Serif, Monospace, Superscript Up, Superscript Down, Strike through. Right Margin Word Count: In Book, In Bodymatter, In Chapter, In Chapter/Book
  6. MENU ACROSS PREVIEW (RIGHT SIDE): Ebook Formats or Print, Move Forward or Back in Document, Generate Button
  7. TOP MENU: File, Edit, Chapter, Text, View, Window, and Help


Finally, do you want to write a book? Start with these three apps and you’re on your way!

Would you be interested in an online workshop on these apps, other writing apps and websites to produce a book or blog? Let me know!

Previous Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

Just Another Square Dance Caller cover

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there:

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Visit my website for all the information you need about me & my books:

~My Amazon Author’s Page:

~ MARCH MADNESS SALE: 20% Discount my Etsy Shop for select paperbacks & digital copies:

~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces: