Don’t Hit the Submit Button

This blog post is meant to be a peek behind the curtain of the writing, editing, and publishing aspects of being an indie writer and author.

This is my first experience on this journey to write, edit, publish, distribute, and market my Star O’Brien mystery series. Currently, I’m in the publishing phase for the first book, Death on Clare Island. And, I’m about 20,000 words from completing the writing phase for the second book.

By far, getting to and through the publish phase has taken determination and persistence. I’ve already described the Bowker ISBN issue in an earlier blog post. The latest snag began when I uploaded the manuscript to Amazon’s KDP for preview and a printed poof copy.

Then, the proof copy arrived in the mail.

First, the ISBN I purchased wasn’t on the back cover. “Why not?” I asked. No one, including the individual whose publishing services I’d paid for, knew the answer. So…I contacted Amazon who informed me that when Amazon prints the proof copy, they create a temporary barcode and number that indicates the book is a proof copy. They assured me that when I finally hit the submit button, the ISBN number I provided will be on the back cover.

There was much about the formatting that I didn’t think a reader would like. Such as the line spacing, justification, chapter headers, and scene breaks. The cover design was so much darker in print than it was when viewed online.

So, I didn’t hit the submit button. Instead, I reassessed where I was with the individual whom I’d hired to bring this book project to completion. Then, I reached out to my virtual assistant who recommended the eBook Formatting Fairies at Within two days, I received the mobi and epub files to review. The Vellum format looks beautiful and inviting to the reader’s eye. Next, the fairies are working on formatting the print on demand version. And, the cover design is in the hands of a freelance graphic designer for revision.

Bottom line. I’ve learned that I don’t want to put all my work into the hands of one individual who says he/she can do it all (edit, format for print and ebook, cover design). I also know that for my next book, whomever I work with for editing, there will be a set of deliverables with payments tied to due dates.

I wrote earlier in this post that it takes determination and persistence to be a published indie author. Moreover, it takes patience. Don’t be in a hurry to hit the submit button until you are totally satisfied that your work product will be pleasing to your readers.

Look for an update to the launch of Death on Clare Island sometime in mid-January.

Setbacks Happen

My Death on Clare Island mystery novel did not launch on Monday. I guess it’s all about clear communication. That’s why we write, isn’t it? To share and communicate an idea, a feeling, a viewpoint.

The reason I didn’t launch yet has to do with the purchase of a block of ISBNs from Bowker. Unfortunately, Bowker had a data breach of their shopping cart portal. They are dealing with the issue, but in the meanwhile purchases must be requested via a form. The form, when it reaches Bowker, is processed manually. So…for three weeks, I’ve been checking and calling Bowker about why I hadn’t received my purchase. Finally, yesterday, I discovered that I had made a request that did not have an official checkbox for that purchase on the form. Therefore, it wasn’t processed. I resent a newly completed form this morning.

This experience underlines how difficult it can be to communicate what we really mean. It was only when someone in customer service reviewed the application the second time, I sent it that we discovered my error. Thank goodness for the customer service rep. And person to person communication.

I also learned that it is best to buy a block of ISBNs so an author has some sitting on the shelf, ready for use when needed.

Setbacks happen but when seen in the rear-view mirror, it will seem like a minor detail. I’m disappointed but the book will launch. As soon as I have the ISBN and a better idea of the launch date, I will let you know.

In the meanwhile, I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving.

The Date is Set

The book publishing action item list is unfolding. I’m tremendously grateful to Wil, my editor, for all the nitty, gritty, detail-oriented work he’s doing. Have you ever heard of organic tagging in Microsoft Word? Well, neither have I.

There’s still purchasing ISBNs and the final, final review of the formal document to get done. And I’ll complete a preview read of the book when it’s uploaded to Kindle format.

Have I mentioned how much coffee I’m drinking lately? Our puppy, Turlough, wants to know when I’m taking a break. He’s been providing distractions like chewing on one of my throw pillows or eating the corner of one of my hard cover books.

That all said, Death on Clare Island is set to launch on Monday, November 19. I can’t wait to hear from readers about what they think of Star O’Brien.

Martha’s Writing Routine

I’m pursuing a dream to write and publish a mystery series, the working title of the first book in the series is “Death on Clare Island”. The series features Star O’Brien, a voice for the lost, the missing, and the dead. One of the things, I often struggle with is what my writing routine should be. It’s been a process of discovery. Here’s what’s been working for me.

  1. The Notebook

When I began writing my mystery series. I had no idea how I was going to grow the story into a full-blown book. An avid reader of PD James, I went looking for ideas about her writing process. I read, in one of her interviews, that she often outlined an entire story first. She explained that when writing a particular chapter didn’t appeal, she could go to another chapter and write that scene.

And so, I bought a spiral notebook and outlined every chapter of my book. The outline was written in longhand form, about a page per chapter. This practice has helped me continue getting my words on paper. Sometimes when the words just aren’t flowing in a particular chapter, I opt to write one of the outlined chapters which, at that moment, appeals to my creative flow.

PD James’ book about writing detective novels.

  1. The Bible

As a reader of mystery novels, I remember every detail of my favor series main characters. So, as a writer, I want to reward my readers by consistently presenting the series characters. In the beginning, I’d have to keep searching back through the story to remember what color jacket the character was wearing in the opening scene. That’s when I created the bible.

In there, I write information about the series main characters. What is their back story? When were they born. Where did they go to school? I’ve continually adding information to the bible.

Now, when I’m writing a particular scene, I go back to the bible description for that character. This assists with how I write what the character says. The backstory also helps me get into and portray the character’s emotional mindset and why he or she may be acting as they are in the scene.

As your story and characters grow, having a series bible is invaluable.

  1. Put Your Butt in a Chair and Write

There were many nuggets in Elizabeth George’s “Write Away” but one stood out (sorry no pun intended): put your butt in a chair and write. Thinking and planning are necessary but most important is actually writing. Which brings me to my last bit of advice for this post.

  1. Figure Out Your Writing Expectations

Will you commit to writing a certain number of pages each day? Or a certain word count? Perhaps you set a timer and write for a set period.

I use a timer and a word count expectation. I write for thirty-minute periods with a ten minute get up and stretch break. I typically write in the early morning and strive for two to four hours. I have a goal of five hundred words each day. And, I keep to this routine Monday through Thursday. I use the remaining days of the week to read other authors, do research, and peruse relevant articles in magazines such as Writer’s Digest.

I hope this helps! Let me know what you think via the contact section.


This is the overriding emotion I’ve been dealing with during the last few weeks. Not so much fear of failure, but more a fear that I haven’t represented my heroine as best I can. Of course, I won’t know the answer to that fear until the book is published and, if I’m fortunate, readers provide feedback.

I’m grateful to my editor who has scrupulously reviewed the manuscript. Additionally, a trusted writing colleague has read the edited manuscript to find any residual copy errors and cognitive disconnects. But, here it sits on my computer, waiting for me to “jump in with both feet.”

Those are Bill’s words. His advice, many years ago, on the morning I soloed our Cessna 152 at a pencil thin airport in New Jersey. “Just jump in with both feet.” he said. And, so I did, changing my life forever.

I love my heroine and the characters who populate her life. I want her readers to love her as I do; to admire her moral code; and to identify with her relentless pursuit of being a voice for the lost souls.

And, so I am taking the next step in this writing journey. I’m returning the edited manuscript to my editor today.