Will this be the year you write a book?

It could be. Three hundred words a day and you'll finish a draft by the end of the year, even if you wait till February to start. Even if you only average 250 words a day.

Let me help

The archive at my Writer, Editor, Helper blog is filled with advice for writers, from how to start a novel to formatting your work for submission. And now I have a new mission to write and publish my own books. Why not come along? I'll encourage you, feed you tips, and point you to the best resources I've found.

Compatibility test

Why are so many of us intrigued by the prospect of writing a book? Let's get two favorite reasons out the way right now, because frankly, if either of these is your goal, you're going to need a different newsletter.

I'm not in it to be famous

Have you heard of Gabrielle Zevin? Javier Zamora? Johann Hari? All three novelists have literally millions of readers, yet they still aren't household names. Do you seriously fantasize about telling a stranger on the bus that you're a writer and them asking "What have you written?" and you telling them the name of your book, and them saying "Get. Out. You're my favorite author!!"? Yeah, me too. But seriously?

I'm not in it to make money

It does happen! And I'm waiting with open arms. But I'm also realistic. The odds are not with us: 90% of self-published books sell less than 100 copies. Most of those high-earning indie authors have many books in print, often in popular series-fiction genres (romance, fantasy, thrillers). Some spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on ads. They take seminars on how to game the rankings algorithms at Amazon. I once attended an entire three-day conference pretty much devoted to all that. For many of these high rollers, marketing their books is as much fun as writing them.

Plenty of terrific newsletters and podcasts explain that kind of thing. Joanna Penn's The Creative Penn website is filled with smart, engaging advice for self-publishers who want to make money. For a reality-check, read Clayton Noblitz, "The Making of a Six Figure Author: How Authors Evolve with Their Income."*

[SKIP THESE KHAKI BOXES if you hate notes. I’m a big fan, so my newsletters will have notes. But at least I won't make you scroll up and down for them.]
Sources for author sales data: Self-published Books & Authors Sales Statistics [2022] and the Noblitz post. Source for ad sales example: Mark Dawson,

I'm here to help you write a book

There are plenty of compelling and perhaps more realistic reasons to write and publish a book.
  • To leave a record of something important and personal, such as a memoir or family history. 
  • As a creative project. You have stories in your head, you enjoy puzzling out plots and characters, and you think others will enjoy reading them.
  • To teach or preserve an expertise or knowledge.
  • As therapy. You find clarity in writing out issues on paper.
  • As a challenge. To write a book is your Mount Everest. 
  • (Your reason here.)
Although this newsletter isn't meant to be a publishing A-to-Z, I'll give you links to checklists and how-tos that I've found especially helpful. I'll talk about money and marketing, but it won't be a main focus. 

My own projects fall under the "creative project" answer: middle-grade novels I want to self-publish. And I want to reissue two of my traditionally published but long out-of-print books. I've already started. I'm already making mistakes. I'm learning a LOT the hard way so you don't have to. (More on that below.)

Could I get you to answer a 30-second poll?

Whether writing a book is still a dream or you've published several, I'd like to know. It will help me choose topics that interest you. I'll share the results next time so you can see the kind of company you're in. No signup is necessary to do the poll, and it's anonymous. Thank you!


"Indie" versus "traditional" publishing

I will use these terms a lot. Traditional publishing happens when an author gives up (sells) the rights to print and distribute their work to a publisher in exchange for either a flat fee or an advance on royalties. The publisher assumes all the risk and expense of manufacturing and selling the books; the author pays nothing. The author can retain the copyright, but the contract limits their rights as to what they can do with the work.

In independent (or indie, or self-) publishing, the author keeps all the rights and must arrange and pay for printing and distribution. The author receives all the profit from sales (minus production costs and fees). The author chooses where and how to sell and distribute the books and which formats to publish in (print, ebook, audio).

The exciting thing about indie publishing today is that it needn't involve significant investment or risk. We aren't talking about mortgaging the house to end up with a garage full of books. Those days are gone. More on that in future letters.

There are clear advantages and disadvantages to both kinds of publishing. Depending on the kind of book you want to write and what your resources are (skills and money), one or the other might be the right choice for you. I will always keep that in mind.

Learn more: Should You Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish? A terrific intro by publishing guru Jane Friedman.

Classic Peanuts cartoon by Charles Schulz. Snoopy reads a letter: "Dear Contributor, Thank you for submitting your story to our magazine. To save time, we are enclosing two rejection for this story and one for the next story you send us!"

Learning the hard way: Publishing under my own "imprint"

You can self-publish a book using your own name as the publisher, but an imprint that isn't your name gives a book a more professional look. It can be useful in keeping your publishing income and expenses separate. And it's a worthy exercise, puzzling out a name that represents you and your project(s).

Confession: I didn't do enough homework before I filed a claim on the name Duckweed Books in Cook County, IL, where I live. I thought it was a one-time $50 fee, but it actually has to be renewed every year. I also didn't know there are related chores and expenses they don't tell you about during the application. I've already had to spend another $95 to place a newspaper ad (in three consecutive weeks) announcing my legal notice for the assumed business name. And then I couldn't resist buying the domain name . . .

Next time

I'll do better homework. I'll prepare for cans of worms. I'll work on knowing when to stop throwing good money after bad.

So what do you think? Was it worth the money? Should I frame it?

While we're at the confessional . . .

I settled on Duckweed Books at the end of a personal malaise. I had failed to find an agent, which is more or less required in traditional publishing.** I didn't think self-publishing was a viable option for my children's books. (I still don't, but that's another topic.) And I was discouraged by the massive glut of aspiring writers I saw as competition. So I gave up on my lifelong dream of being a full-time writer. I had no plan B. It was a dark few months.

When I finally got over myself and decided to join the ranks of indie authors, I wanted an imprint name that had personal meaning. Thinking up a name is harder than it sounds! I bet I googled thirty or forty names that were already taken by publishers. (It's usually not a problem if your publishing name is also in use by, say, a massage therapist or restaurant.)

In an inspired moment I searched online for "invasive plants native to Illinois." At the time, it reflected my ambivalence over becoming one of literally*** millions of self-publishers currently swamping the publishing landscape. But now that I'm excited and hopeful about going indie, Duckweed's homespun connotations are still perfect for my books.

And I cracked myself up making the logo!

Learn more: David Wogahn, Why Self-Publishing Authors Should Consider Establishing Their Own Imprint

**You might think my failure to get an agent disqualifies me from giving advice on getting published, but you would be wrong. I'm even prepared to advise you on getting an agent. Make what you will of that.

***Literally literally. I like to exaggerate, and I'm famous for making up numbers, but I almost never do either in print.

YOUR books

Let me know if you published a book (indie or traditional) during October, November, or December 2022. I'll give you a shout-out in the next newsletter.


Did you hope this newsletter would be something else? Let me hear from you at

And thanks for reading -

*If you scrolled all the way down here to find the notes, I'm sorry. Notes are in the khaki-colored boxes.

At my Facebook page Writer, Editor, Helper you can comment on this newsletter, ask questions, and get to know other readers. I hope to see you there!

Do you have a friend who would like this newsletter? Feel free to forward it so they can subscribe.
In Future Newsletters (unless I change my mind):
  • How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish?
  • Outline Your Book, or Wing It?
  • Metadata, Our Best Friend

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