Catherine McGrew Jaime

Author, Historian, Lifelong Learner, Teacher, World Traveler

Category: Writing

Writing hints from an independently published author of many years.

Writing Timeline Games

My Writing – All Over the Place!

I know a lot of authors seem to focus on one type of writing. But like I’ve mentioned before, my writing is all over the place. While I write primarily on history topics, I often get going in a different direction – into the world of Shakespeare, science, or art, to name a few.

And even when I’m in the realm of history, my writing doesn’t fit as easily into one category as some authors. I write on different time periods (from Leonardo da Vinci to the American Revolution and beyond). And I write both fiction and non-fiction, both in fairly large quantities.

Writing Timeline Games

Because of my combined love of history and using games to make learning more fun, I also like to write timeline games. While that’s not the type of writing most people think about, I think it qualifies. Like with other types of non-fiction history writing, timeline games require a lot of research.

Our First Encounter with a Timeline Game

We first encountered timeline games in the form of Chronology, a game I found on a shopping trip to Walmart one day many, many years ago. The price was right, and the premise sounded cool – history and timelines. For the budding historians in the family (myself included) it was a great way to learn and review world history. Another thing I immediately liked about the game was that while they introduce the dates of important events, it isn’t necessary to have the dates memorized in order to play the game. (I’ll explain the basic game play below, but for now, suffice it to say that timeline games are about the flow of history, which this historian things is much more important than the memorization of dates and names.)

Years passed after we discovered that initial timeline game and we wondered if the Chronology folks would come up with any other cool games covering subsets of history, but we waited in vain. (They did come up with some topical versions – but they were things like Sports and Entertainment, so not quite what we were looking for.)

Making Our First Timeline Games

So in time my sister and I started developing our own line of timeline games. We started with the Civil War and the American Revolution, since they were history topics I had just spent significant amounts of time researching and teaching. For each of those historical topics I had already made pretty extensive timelines as we studied, so converting my timelines into games didn’t require much additional effort.

A sample page from the Astronomy timeline I made later.

The neat thing about timeline games is that they can be used with just about any history study. All you need is a list of important dates and events to put on cards. We generally put our information into the forms on our computer, but you could even hand-write them on index cards if you wanted.

Sample page of cards from our Presidents Game.

Our Current Timeline Games

Over time we’ve made timeline games on a whole host of topics. They’re currently available individually or in a bundle as downloads on and my hope is to have them all collected soon in a paperback version on Amazon (currently they are only available on Amazon as part of topical studies on the various topics),

  • American Revolution
  • Astronomy
  • Civil War
  • Civil Rights
  • Leonardo da Vinci (if you know my writing at all, that doesn’t surprise you!)
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Presidents
  • Space Exploration
  • Statehood

Once again, you can see some of the variety of topics I have written about. And you can make your own timeline game on pretty much any other history topic of your choice.

Playing the Game – the Rules

It’s also a game that lends itself to small or large groups. We’ve played it with up to ten players, and anywhere between three and eight players works especially well. You can even play the game with non-readers by modifying the rules only slightly.

And explaining the rules to new players is quite simple:

Everyone starts with one card in front of them, face up – the start of their personal timeline.  The remaining cards are face down in a draw pile in the middle of the table.

One person turns over the top card and reads the event on it to the person to their immediate left. That player doesn’t need to know the exact date on the card, they just need to point out whether the card would go before or after the card currently in their timeline. If they are right, they add the card. If they are wrong, the next person gets to guess.

Play then moves around the table. Of course, once a player has multiple cards, picking the right location becomes progressively more difficult (since each card could potentially go at the beginning of the timeline, at the end of the timeline, or between two particular cards).

Play continues until one player has built their timeline of the predetermined length (eight is a nice number, but you can decide in advance on a lower or higher number if you prefer).

Modification for younger players: Have one person read all the cards aloud, rather than having the players read to each other.

Modification when playing with an expert player: You can always handicap someone who knows the topic too well by requiring them to place more cards and/or by requiring them to actually give the date, instead of just the location.

And that’s all there is to playing a timeline game.

Happy learning! (And writing!)


Becoming a Full-Time Author

Retired or Changing Careers?

Within weeks of closing the homeschool resource center I had owned for almost fourteen years, I was filling out my application for Global Entry (more on that in a previous post, “Tips for Packing Light and Traveling Smart”). One of the questions on the form was “occupation.” I considered briefly putting down “retired” in the space, but I hesitated. Yes, my days as a business owner and as a homeschool teacher are primarily behind me (my own twelve children have all graduated and my teaching schedule has shrunk to almost nothing).

Occupation – Author

And yes, when people ask me what I’m doing now, I generally tell them that I’ve retired in order to travel more and write more, both of which are completely true.  So, instead of putting retired on the form, I listed my occupation as “author.” Fortunately, the TSA agent who conducted my five minute interview a couple of months later didn’t ask me my occupation (because by then I might have forgotten putting that on the form!), but instead merely commented on it. Something to the degree of “So, you’re an author?” I’m not sure why that seemed to surprise him, and he wasn’t really in the mood for talking (I’m sure there were dozens more people coming in behind me for the same five minute interviews), so that was as long as that conversation lasted.

But, had we actually talked more, I would definitely have said, “Yes, I am an author. I have been for a long time, though I write full time now.” Contrary to what I’ve read on some places on the internet, I think someone can write part time – I did that for many, many years, and wrote a whole lot of books that way! But it is nice to be a full-time author now, whatever that really looks like.

Full-Time Writing vs. Part-Time Writing

Like most anything else in life, I think writing (full-time or part-time) looks different for different people – or even at different times for the same person. Just like what we write can look very different: I guess there are authors out there who focus on only one genre of writing, though I have never been one of them.

Answering the “Difficult” Questions

I find that, like my interests, my writing is all over the place. I guess that makes it tougher to establish a specific brand or to attract a specific following, but it’s a little late for me to change that. It is almost as difficult for me to answer the question “What do you write about?” as to answer “How many books have you written?”

In fact, at the dentist last week I was catching up with my semi-retired dentist that I hadn’t seen in a while and he was asking me if I had written any books recently. My hygienist hadn’t realize that I was an author and of course she asked the typical question about what I write. I still don’t have an easy answer for the quantity of books. “Eight novels, three short stories, one textbook, a series of art appreciation books, and a variety of other non-fiction books” is a bit of a mouthful, after all. The slightly shorter answer to her “what” question was something along the lines of “I write on a variety of topics and historical fiction is my favorite.”

The Joys of Historical Fiction

As I mentioned in my previous post, “Seeing Stories Everywhere” I like historical fiction a lot. I read it, I listen to it, and now I write it. But just as I hope to continue writing historical fiction as long as I can, I am confident I will keep writing non-fiction just as long. I enjoy economics almost as much as I enjoy history (hence the first textbook I wrote was an economics textbook).

Writing about Economics

And when I can combine economics and history all the better. I put together a book on one of my favorite economists of old: Notes from Frederick Bastiat’s Essays on Political Economy and another one on Machiavelli: A Brief Look at Machiavelli and the Prince (that one combines history and economics). Someday I hope to take a closer look at some of my other favorite economists, including Adam Smith. Since few people have the time and energy to sit down and read the more than 500 pages in his book, The Wealth of Nations, I would like to do an annotated, abridged version of it (like I did with Bastiat and Machiavelli).

Timeline Games

Another thing I enjoy putting together are timeline games, but that’s a topic for a future post.

If you are also an author: Do you write part-time or full-time? What do you write about? (Can you answer the question easier than I can?)

Happy reading and writing!


Seeing Stories Everywhere

The Stories Waiting to be Written

Do you see the stories around you waiting to be discovered? Waiting to be told? Does every location, event, or person bring questions to your mind? Questions that you want to find answers to, or in lieu of that, to write answers for?

That’s how I tend to look at things. It’s one of the reasons I can’t imagine that if I lived and wrote for another 40 years (fairly unlikely since I just turned 60, but one can dream!) that I would run out of stories I want to tell.

Fiction vs. Historical Fiction

Dred Scott

Occasionally I read or listen to a completely fictionalized story and think, “I would like to try my hand at writing “plain fiction” someday. But then I shake my head and remind myself that for every historical fiction story I write, three more seem to join the “want to write about” list. (Which currently includes specific people or events like Dred Scott, the Scopes Trial, the Trail of Tears, the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II, to name just a few!) So it’s highly unlikely that I will slow down from writing historical fiction to write any other kind of fiction anytime soon. (Though I try to never say never.)

Starting the Life of a Writer

I wrote my first travel journal when I was a youngster, traveling through Central America with my family. But I didn’t really consider myself a historian or an author for decades after that.  The reality of both of those descriptive titles came to me when we lived in Wuerzburg, Germany for more than five years. It was there that, thanks to Helga, a wonderful German storyteller and historian, that history stories first came alive to me. And there I caught the desire to capture as many of those stories as possible.  (I wrote more about this in an earlier blog post, “My Growing Love of History.”)

As a homeschooling mom of many children (eight at that time), I didn’t do much writing for many years after completing my non-fiction book on the history of Wuerzburg, but the seeds had been planted. Even with little watering, they were there, and after many years and many more children (four more joined the family before we were done), the seeds finally blossomed.

More Non-fiction Writing

As with so many of my books, the next non-fiction books came from my teaching: Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci. (Another previous post, “Falling in love with Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Man,” covers much of my fascination with one of the greatest artists of all times.)

Historical Fiction at Last

From my love of all things da Vinci came my first attempts at writing historical fiction. As someone who has always been a fan of reading historical fiction (Jeff Shaara will likely always be my favorite author), and my love of stories, writing historical fiction should have seemed like a natural leap for me. But I had held back for many years, focusing my writing on the student books and non-fiction books that seemed to leap from my never-ending study of the various topics I seemed to always be researching for my teaching. An earlier blog post on my homeschool site, “Homeschooling with Topical Studies,” describes our journey away from textbooks and into topical studies and unit studies. One of the many joys for this author/historian of doing so many topical studies was the constant “excuse” for doing more research (one of my favorite things to do) and then finding ways to share that first with my family and later with a growing number of students in the increasingly large number of homeschool classes I found myself teaching.

When I finally sat down and tried my hand at writing historical fiction, I was quickly hooked. (It took me less time, one month, to write that first historic novel, Leonardo the Florentine, than it did to find someone to edit it for me, another two months.)

The series of historical novels on Leonardo da Vinci has grown to five finished books, with the sixth one on my writing schedule for later this summer, and at least several more to follow that one over the next couple of years. In between writing the da Vinci novels, I found time to tell other stories as well: the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition told from the perspective of Captain Clark’s slave, York; the story of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, told from the perspective of a fictional British spy; and the story of George, Edith, and Cornelia Vanderbilt and their amazing home, the Biltmore, told from the perspective of a young, fictional childhood friend of Cornelia.

Historical Short Stories

Several years back I also tried my hand at my first historical short stories. While visiting Cappadocia, Turkey and the surrounding area that included some amazing underground cities, I felt like the story just had to be told. Days of research and writing quickly became the first short story in what would become my Attack Trilogy: The Attack in Cappadocia. Soon after completing that book, I was turning my attention back to one of the stories of Wuerzburg – the allied attack of the city towards the end of World War II. I had known some basic facts of that event, but writing the short story of that attack required many more hours of research. For Christmas that year by son and daughter-in-law had already bought me a wonderful book, The Siege of Shkodra. Needless to say, reading that book on the plane heading home led to the third book in the trilogy, The Attack at Shkodra.

As I researched and wrote each of those books, I tried to do two important things – accurately portray as much of the history of the time and location of each event or person, and to tell a good story.   And I have found, as I write each book, the desire within me is to write more.

So, if the world around you seems filled with stories just begging to be told, don’t hold back! Someone somewhere may be waiting for just that story!

Happy writing! And researching!


Falling in Love with Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Man

Leonardo da Vinci Renaissance Man

I have enjoyed studying and teaching Leonardo da Vinci for almost twenty years now. But I had actually been buying books about him for a number of years before that. Even before I knew why, I was fascinated by Leonardo, the ultimate Renaissance man. And of course, the more I learned about him, the more fascinated I became.

Not only was Leonardo an amazing artist, he studied so many other topics, it almost boggles the mind to consider the things he was interested in, including, but not limited to: anatomy, astronomy, botany, cartography, geology, and zoology. The list seems endless, as do the pages in his notebooks on these and so many other subjects. It seems that very little was outside of Leonardo’s interests.

Drawings of various inventions by Leonardo da Vinci

Teaching Leonardo da Vinci

The first time I had the privilege of teaching a series of classes on Leonardo da Vinci, we delved into a different interest of his each week for eight of our ten weeks. After our introductory session we spent another class learning about Leonardo and his interest in the human body, another one on his interest in horses and his work on the equestrian monument in Milan, and yes, we even did a week on his amazing art. (You can see many of his paintings on this page – but please note, that page is still a work in progress!)

Not surprisingly Leonardo considered his art and his science to be mutually dependent, once saying:

“Study the science of art and the art of science.”

Sketch of a Deluge Witnessed by Leonardo da VinciAnd it is clear from looking at his work in both areas that he excelled in each of them! Had his notebook pages been published earlier, and his work in science shared with scientists that came soon after the Renaissance rather than centuries later, there is no telling what scientific advances might have been made sooner. But, alas, that was not the case, and his notebook pages were lost to many who might have benefited from his scientific work.

Leonardo’s Distractions

Botany Sketch by Leonardo da VinciIn the realm of art, Leonardo stood as one of the greatest artists of his day, in spite of actually completing only a fairly small number of paintings. It is likely that his perfectionist tendencies contributed to that low number, as well as his frequent “distractions” by work on math or science.

Non-Fiction Writing about Leonardo

As I learned more and more in my early studies of da Vinci, it was exciting to be sharing that enthusiasm with students of a wide variety of ages.  Even as I taught those first classes, I worked on my first non-fiction work about him. After six months of research and three months of teaching, I had written a short, but comprehensive, family-friendly biography of Leonardo da Vinci – Da Vinci: His Life and His Legacy. But that, as they say, was just the beginning. I was hooked!

The more I knew about Leonardo’s life and his work, the more I wanted to learn. Even after completing those first classes, I continued to read dozens of books about da Vinci, visited exhibits in various parts of the country about him and his work, and eventually made two trips to Italy to visit many of the places he had lived.

Two of Leonardo's Sketches of ChurchesAnd, as always seems to happen when I am engrossed in a topic, I wrote. The next book I wrote him was another non-fiction book – Doing Da Vinci for Kids. And then I kept learning and kept writing. (For more information on books I’ve written on Leonardo da Vinci, you can go to this page.)

Fiction Writing about Leonardo

But it would be many years and many classes later before I tried my hand at writing fiction. One summer I was at the Creative Learning Connection booth at a curriculum fair conversing with another author who had just completed his first novel. I mentioned, more in conversation than anything else, that I had considered writing a novel someday. He looked around my booth and stated matter-of-factly, “You should write about something you know. I think Leonardo da Vinci would fit that description.”

Several of Leonardo's Horse SketchesGoing home from the curriculum fair I casually mentioned the idea of writing historical fiction about Leonardo da Vinci “some day.” But my children wouldn’t hear of it. Several of them quickly insisted that I start right then, not later. And with some prodding, that’s exactly what I did.  Within a month I had written my first historical novel – Leonardo the Florentine. It would be several more months before I had found an editor for the novel and gotten it published. I’m not sure what was more exciting, holding that first paperback in my hand, or the recent release of Leonardo the Florentine as an Audible book. Both were pretty amazing!

As the years went by, my series grew, and I eventually wrote four more historical fiction books about him – Leonardo: Masterpieces in Milan; Leonardo: To Mantua and Beyond; Leonardo: A Return to Florence; and just recently, Leonardo: A Return to Painting.

500 Year Anniversary – May 2019

One of Leonardo's Designs for FlighIn May 2019 the world will celebrate the 500 year anniversary of the death of this great Renaissance man. My goal is to have my historical fiction series completed by then, meaning at least three more novels. In the meantime, I will continue to research him, continue to write about him, and continue to fall in love with Leonardo da Vinci.

And I hope I have managed to share just a little of that passion with you!

More KDP Publishing Information

After questions that came up at last night’s Writer’s Meeting, I debated whether to update my first blog on Publishing Options or whether to put it in a new post.  With the length of the first post, and the additional important KDP publishing information I needed to share, I decided it was better to write a new one.

Two points came up that need to be addressed, one that I had forgotten to include the first time, and one that was brand new information to me.

Publishing Paperbacks

In my first post I spoke of my recommendation to publish paperbacks through CreateSpace. That is not the only option out there, of course, but from my own experience and my research, I strongly believe it to currently be the best – the cheapest, the easiest, and yet, still high quality way to get books published in a “Print on Demand” manner.

But what I forgot to mention was another option that Amazon has just released – of publishing your paperbacks through KDP along with your Kindle books. Amazon is touting this as an “easier” way – because it only requires one account to keep up with rather than two. However, at least at the moment, my research indicates that the disadvantages of going that way outweigh the advantages, specifically the inability to purchase your own books through that system. (And having two accounts to deal with is no big deal!)

On CreateSpace you have the option of ordering physical proof copies of your books before having them go live for the whole world to see. And while I appreciate the ability to now proof my books digitally with CreateSpace, I ONLY use that option when I am making small tweaks to an existing book. My personal rule of thumb is to ALWAYS order a copy of my book before I actually publish it to the Amazon website. That is particularly important for books with pictures inside, but I find it useful for all of my books.

I also appreciate being able to purchase my own books at a low price, so that I can have a copy for myself, gift it to family and friends, give it to potential reviewers, or even sell it myself directly (something I did when I had a physical store to carry them in, but don’t plan to do now because of sales tax headaches).

But apparently there is no purchasing option through the KDP print system at the moment.  From what I can tell without participating in it, the system itself is probably very similar to CreateSpace’s (which would make sense, since Amazon is behind both of them). But as long as the option to purchase low priced copies of our own books isn’t there, I would just stay with CreateSpace!

If you want more information on the KDP print option, you can see look at Print Publishing Guidelines.

Kindle Delivery Fee

This second topic is actually one that I have to admit being ignorant of in spite of having published through Amazon for more than six and a half years now. Apparently, somewhere in the small print (and we had to DIG to find it last night) KDP explains that there is a delivery fee for our Kindle books (on top of the percentage they keep after giving us our royalties). And that delivery fee is based on the size of the book file. So for the vast majority of my Kindle books, which are text dense and tend to have only a few pictures, this has not been a big problem. But for a photo based book, or an illustrated children’s book like they are trying to publish, this can quickly become a very big problem.

In my six plus years of publishing with Amazon I have been very happy with their customer service and their business model. But this “hidden” fee certainly threatens to rain on my Amazon parade.

Again, to be clear, for those of us publishing books that are text-based not picture-based, this is a fairly small issue. But for people who are wanting to publish picture-based, or even heavily illustrated, books, this is something to pay attention to!

I checked my reports from the last few months and found that most of my books were being charged a $0.02 delivery fee. Obviously that’s not a big problem. But one of my books, that has pictures, but isn’t even what I would consider a heavy-hitter when it comes to size, had a $0.23 delivery fee.  Again, not the end of the world, but certainly significantly more than the other books I’m selling, and something I will pay more attention to in the future! (And the month I sold 100 copies of that book, it certainly added up to more than pocket change.)

Now that I’m looking for it, I see the delivery charge in my account when I’m publishing a Kindle book. This is a screenshot from one of my books that does have quite a few pictures. It has a $0.30 delivery fee.  Screenshot from my Kindle AccountNow, one thing to note – in this case, I’m still going to make more money going with the 70% royalty option (in this case $1.88 – $0.30 versus $1.05). But if my book was much bigger and the delivery fee rose above the differential of $0.83, it would make more sense for me to chose the 35% royalty, because at least right now, they are not charging a delivery fee on those books.

So, now that I know the delivery fee is there, and see where it is showing up on the KDP website, I can still recommend to authors that they put their picture-heavy books up as a Kindle book – BUT they need to pay close attention to the delivery fee, and make an informed decision of whether they need to choose the 35% royalty option or the 70% option.

For more information on the Delivery fees, see Amazon’s Agreement, and search for “Delivery Costs.”

Reader Questions

Are you using KDP’s service? Are you happy with it? Did I leave out anything important on the KDP front?

Happy Publishing!

Cathy, author of 65 Kindle books, but still able to learn!

To Use KDP Select or Not to Use KDP Select

Decisions in Self-Publishing

I am a BIG fan of publishing through the different options Amazon provides, now active in their programs for paperbacks (CreateSpace), e-books (Kindle), and audio books (Audible through ACX). And I do strongly encourage authors to use at least the first two programs as often as possible. But even once you’ve decided to publish a Kindle e-book, your decisions are not over. Next you have to decide whether you want to participate in KDP Select or not.

Like many decisions connected to self-publishing, this is not a simple “Do it” or “Don’t do it” choice.

How KDP Select Works

Let me start by explaining a little about how the KDP Select program works:

  1. If you have multiple titles that you are publishing through Kindle, you get to make a choice for each individual title (in that sense it’s not an all or nothing option, which I like, since I don’t want to have ALL of my books entered into it).
  2. When you choose to put a title in the program you are committing to give Amazon exclusive rights to the e-book version of that title for 90 days. You can mark your title to be removed from the program at the end of the 90 day period, or you can continue on for another 90 days.
  3. Of course, exclusive rights mean that as long as a title is in the KDP Select program, you can not offer it for sale as an e-book anywhere else (no uploading it to Smashwords, Apple, Barnes and Noble, or any of the other myriad sites that accept e-books). It can still be a paperback or audio book in places besides Amazon, this just effects your e-book options.
  4. For some people, the exclusive nature of the program keeps them out. They are not willing to give up their other publishing options. And that is a decision that you will need to make, too. I don’t have many of my titles in the KDP Select program, because I do make some sales on other sites. But, I do make most of my sales on Amazon (most months, more on Amazon than on all other sites combined). So, occasionally I am willing to put a book in the KDP Select program for 90 days.
  5. So, why even consider giving up the option to publish in other places? Amazon does give you a few benefits for being in the KDP Select program. For starters, only books that are in the program get to be in Amazon’s “Kindle Unlimited” and the “Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.” Those may or may not matter, depending on your book(s) – my experience is that more expensive titles will benefit most from those options. The other benefits for KDP Select books are being able to participate in the “Kindle Countdown Deals” and the “Free Book Promotion” option. Those are the two biggies that help sway me to consider KDP Select from time to time.

Making the “Right” Decision

For me, I doubt I will ever go strictly to KDP Select for all of my titles, but I will consider it for a limited time for new titles.

For more information on both sides of the issue, you may want to check out one or both of these blogs:

Smashwords offered a fairly extensive look at the KDP Select program from their perspective in their July 2014 blog post, Is Kindle Unlimited Bad for Authors? If you want more information on the program, that’s a good place to look.

Of course, Amazon has a different perspective, as they explain in their article, Why Enroll in KDP Select.

My Decisions

I hope by now you can see that it is a complicated issue, without a right or wrong answer. You get to decide which option works best for your book!  And again, you can always change your mind. (Though from personal experience I will say that it is easier to start in the KDP Select program and then bow out after 90 days, than try to get into it once you’ve published your book on other websites (where you then have to be sure to completely remove the book before trying KDP Select.)

I am starting my most recent novel, Leonardo: A Return to Painting, in the KDP Select program. I may or may not leave it there long term – that’s a decision I’ll make just before the first 90 days are finished, paying particular attention to what the Countdown Deal does for my sales.

Happy publishing!


Author of Leonardo: A Return to Painting


Answering the Question: Where Should I be Self-Publishing my Books?

Me along the beach in South CarolinaSelf-Publishing Questions

In upcoming posts I plan to address all three of my biggest passions beyond my family and my faith (writing, history, and travel). But today, let’s start with a particular subset of my passions that I get questioned about often – self-publishing.

Because I have written and self-published so many books for so long, I hear questions about it again and again – twice this week in fact. In general the question goes something like this: “What suggestions do you have for writers for publishing alternatives?” Or it might be “I have a book written, now what?” In answer to these and related questions, I’m going to share some of my favorite self-publishing options.

Self-Publishing Options

After many years of writing, I started publishing on-line in 2010. In the past seven years I’ve put together almost 400 e-books of various sizes on, a site dedicated to homeschoolers, and over 200 paperbacks through Amazon’s publishing arm,  So it’s safe to say I’ve got more than a bit of experience with such things!

I’m going to start this post with the assumption that you’ve already written your book and had it proofed and edited properly. Those topics might be an entire post by themselves at some time in the future. Here all I’ll say is, you have to do both before publishing your book(s) – writing and editing. You don’t have to pay tons of money for the editing (or any other portion of this publishing journey), but one way or another, it needs to be done.

If you’ve gotten past those and are trying to figure out your publishing options, here’s some of my favorites:

1.Paperbacks – CreateSpace

CreateSpace is my number one choice for paperbacks. It is easy, it is inexpensive, it is high quality, and your books can quickly be available on (I did try one other “print on demand” company for a few months before I found my way to CreateSpace, but in my experience, CreateSpace wins on price and ease of use. CreateSpace offers many different size options for your paperbacks – from 5×8 to 8.5×11, the last time I checked. I have done my paperbacks in a variety of those sizes.  And you have the option of doing the interior of your books in black and white or in color. Color costs more, of course, but both are economical options.

And regardless of what you may read on some blogs or in some books, I think you should make a paperback version of almost any book you’ve completed. As I mentioned,  CreateSpace is “print on demand” – so we’re not talking about a garage full of books here, we’re talking about buying at least one. And the books only have to be a minimum of 24 pages – so even some of your smaller book ideas can be made into paperbacks.

2.E-books – Kindle

When I finish a book the first two places I’m going to publish it are almost always CreateSpace and Kindle. Part of that is because both sites are so easy to use, and part of that is because those are the two sites I make the most money on. If you are doing a book that can be read on an e-reader (or these days, on an app on a phone), you should definitely consider publishing it to Kindle.  I have some books that are student workbooks, those don’t go on Kindle, but almost any other book I’ve written does go there.

There is an option on Kindle, KDP Select, that you choose for each title whether to participate in or not. I plan to have a follow-up post soon just to go into the pros and cons of that program. It’s biggest downside is the required exclusivity (for 90 days for that title). But again, I’ll have to come back to that in a post in a few days.

3.E-books – Smashwords

Smashwords is often the third place I publish my books. It is another site for e-books, and I do make some sales there, but Smashwords is actually most beneficial as a distributor of e-books. Thanks to Smashwords I no longer have a separate account to maintain at Barnes and Noble, but my books are available there, as well as on Apple, Kobo, and a whole host of other e-book sites – but all thanks to Smashwords’ distribution efforts, not mine.  The only time I don’t put an e-book on Smashwords is if I’ve decided to try it in Kindle’s KDP Select program. My latest novel, Leonardo: A Return to Painting will be in the KDP Select program for at least three months (the shortest time you can commit to it), so it is currently not being sold through any other e-book sites. But my other novels, and many of my non-fiction books, are also published through Smashwords.

4.E-books – CurrClick

In my writing, any books that aren’t in KDP Select and might appeal to a homeschool audience, get uploaded to CurrClick. The beauty of CurrClick is that books there are generally uploaded as Pdfs, and since they can be priced as low as $0.50, they can be quite small. CurrClick is my favorite site as far as the additional options they offer – from easily being able to make bundles to being able to send emails to previous customers about great specials going on there.

5.E-books – TeachersPayTeachers

For any and all materials that might appeal to a classroom teacher, TeachersPayTeachers is another great site. I found out about it a few months after I started on CurrClick. My sales haven’t been quite as good there as at CurrClick, but since I can easily add my books to both sites they are still a steady source of additional income.

Getting Started with Self-Publishing

The beauty of all of the above sites is that they are all free to set up accounts on, are all free to publish your titles on (you’ll have to pay a nominal price for the proof copy of any paperbacks you do, but that’s it for charges), and are relatively easy to use. When I started on each of these sites, I had no idea what I was doing, and knew no one else who was publishing through them. All I did was go on each site, find my way through the sign up process, and then started uploading books! When I started on CurrClick, a publisher had to apply for an account (I believe it’s still that way now). But on all the other sites it was just a question of going on the site and setting up an account.

6.Audio Books – ACX

I recommend the first five options (when they apply) to all writers who are wanting to publish their work. As I said before, they are easy and inexpensive. And all have great potential for helping you make money from your books, if that’s important to you.  This last option doesn’t fall in the same category. Audio books are not as simple or inexpensive as the first five options I’ve recommended. But, now that I’ve recently delved into them, I have to at least mention audio books. I have been enjoying listening to Audible books for several years now, and had long dreamed of “someday” having some of my books available in audio format.

But it wasn’t until a narrator approached me in January and offered to narrate one of my books, Understanding Presidential Elections, that I realized just how doable Audible books really are.  In fact, I currently have narrators working on two of my historical novels, Leonardo the Florentine and Failure in Philadelphia. I’m not quite the expert in this area as I am in the other methods of publishing, but I am very excited about what we’ve done so far!

Stay tuned for more on the Audible experience in a future post.

Ready to Start Self-Publishing?

Are you still overwhelmed? If I had to narrow down my advice to writers wanting to publish their works, my number one advice is “go for it”! Pick a site, set up an account, and work your way through the process.  On all of the sites I’ve published through in the past, it’s always easy to make changes – whether to my book cover, description, or even the book itself. It’s very unlikely that you will make a mistake that can’t be corrected. (The one site I can’t say that about is ACX for Audible books – that’s not in the same category as the first 5 options I mentioned.)

And my number two suggestion – don’t spend lots of money! I’ve met too many people who thought they were self publishing (but really, they were using some version of “vanity publishing” – and usually spending a pretty penny in the process).  Don’t be tricked into spending money you don’t need to.

Did I leave out any of your favorite publishing arenas? Or leave a basic self-publishing questions unanswered? Let me know.

Happy publishing!


Author of Simply Put: Self Publishing Basics