Category Archives: Book Layout

Author Spirit Corley: Offers Children Self-Discovery and Self-Love

Spirit Corley’s, first self-published multi-ethnic children’s easy reader picture book, Jewels and the Treasure ME Discovery takes kids on an adventure of self-discovery and self-love through joy, empowerment, wonder, esteem, and shine ignited by vivid storytelling and imagery.

Spirit poses by day as Youth Workforce Investment Act state auditor, yet she is also an artist and advocate for children, with over 13 years case managing youth with barriers, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership.  It is Spirit’s true passion and purpose to work to empower all children; especially those who may be disenfranchised at no fault of their own; she stands for them.

Spirit’s endeavors are simply beginning with her new book, Jewels and the Treasure ME Discovery to reach out and do her part in her community.  More books and tools of empowerment that mirror multi-ethnic children will continue to unfold, as well as the I AM ME Discovery project and “Read with Spirit” which will allow for more collaboration and joining hands in common unity in the community she serves.

For more information on Spirit and her books:  You can contact her at:

Welcome Spirit,

Author Spirit Corley

Real Answer Real Authors: Why did you decide to publish?

Spirit:  I wrote my first easy-reader children’s storybook two years ago, and then I decided to publish it a year later. It was my way of honoring my inner child, as well as to empower kids through positive imagery and messaging.

RARA: What titles have you published to date?

Spirit  To date, I’ve self-published one children’s book, Jewels and the Treasure ME Discovery, and currently working on the next children’s book. Easy-reader children’s book genre evoke such imagination, it is the genre  I’m most fond of because I reminds me of my son and I reading together at night and the joy it brought us both. Such wonderful memories!

RARA: How are you currently marketing your book and what has given you the best results?

Spirit:  I’m currently marketing my book through social media. I keep my messaging personal by writing short messages etc. on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

RARA: Are there any books or websites that you have found the most useful?

Spirit:  I wish I would have had Jill’s blog during the self-publishing process, but most of what I discovered was through just research, and sometimes trial and error., and I found to be resourceful as well for new authors like myself.

RARA: What has been your greatest challenge in self publishing?

Spirit:  My greatest challenges are time, being just one person, and resources. What I’ve learned is to remember why I’ve chosen to write in the first place, for the joy of making a difference, however small.

RARA: What is the best advice or tip you can give a new and aspiring author?

Spirit:  Don’t make the assumption that after publishing your first book, the ROI (Return of Investment) is automatic. Secondly, don’t take things personally because once the book is written and published, you gotta get down to the business of marketing it. Moreover, be fearless in your approach to reach out for others support, and “think outside of the box,” for better results. Lastly, just do your best and keep believing in yourself and your work. I always aspire to be inspired, and making a difference in my community infuses that spark.

Thanks for taking a break and reading about one of our authors.  If you would like to be included in the series, please contact me at

Some of my next blogs will be about getting your book into the library system and marketing your book through Amazon.  Click the follow button to be notified as soon as these are posted.

And in case I don’t see ya… good afternoon, good evening and good night.


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Self-Publishing Author, Sally Cochran

Sally Cochran, author of Teaching Horseback Riding Lessons: A Practical Training Manual For Instructors, owns and operates Equine Kingdom Riding Academy in Greensboro, NC. Along with her husband Matt, she serves over 100 people each week through various opportunities – lessons, camp, boarding, leasing, parties, and more. She holds a Level 2 Certification through the American Riding Instructor’s Association (ARIA) in Recreational Riding and Hunt Seat on the Flat, and is also certified through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) for teaching riders with disabilities. Equine Kingdom has become one of the most popular riding instruction schools in the area in just a few short years, and Sally decided to write about her success to share with other horse professionals.

Sally holds degrees in Business Administration and Global Logistics. She teaches many different styles of riding and enjoys reading, working on her farm, and writing, as well as one of her favorite pastimes, martial arts – she holds a 1st degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is testing for her 3rd Degree black belt in San Shin Kai in November 2013. She is currently working on publishing her next book, 501 Riding Lesson Ideas, which should be out in late 2013 available for purchase, and she will be introducing many more books for the riding instruction field.

Her books can be reviewed and purchased on and on the website at

Thanks for joining us Sally,

Sally Cochran image

Real Answer Real Authors: Why did you decide to publish?

Sally:  Publishing my book was a decision made born out of a desire to provide the equestrian world with a great book on riding instruction – a book that fills a need for riding instructors everywhere. There are a lot of books on the market for riding lessons and instructors, but Teaching Horseback Riding Lessons is a niche all its own – it is a book for instructors that are just starting out, or those that want to break into the market of riding lessons but don’t know where to begin. Having been an instructor that had a difficult time starting out due to a lack of guidance and assistance, I wanted to publish a book that would help other instructors in ways that I never received.

RARA: What titles have you published to date?

Sally:  I recently published my first title, Teaching Horseback Riding Lessons: A Practical Training Manual for Instructors, in September 2012. We have two other books coming out soon – 501 Riding Lesson Ideas and 52 Weeks of Lesson Plans for Beginning Riders.

Sally Cochran book cover

RARA: How are you currently marketing your book and what has given you the best results?

Sally:  My main method of marketing thus far has been through contacting farms and riding instructors with information about the book and how it can help them, as well as sending article excerpts to magazines and online publishing venues. We have advertised in several places as well. Due to working around the clock running my business teaching riding lessons to able-bodied and riders with disabilities, I have not had the time to market the book as much as I would like.

RARA: Are there any books or websites that you have found the most useful?

Sally:  My favorite resource thus far has been “The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing” by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier. It has been wonderful, packed full of ideas for marketing, writing, and promoting your own self-published book.

RARA: What has been your greatest challenge in self publishing?

Sally:  The biggest challenge in self publishing is marketing my book – if I don’t spend time promoting it, it doesn’t sell well. I notice a huge difference in when I actually have time to promote it, versus when I am so busy running the rest of my business that marketing falls to the wayside. 

RARA: What is the best advice or tip you can give a new and aspiring author?

Sally:  Don’t let anything hold you back! If you had the inspiration and drive to write the book, then you must believe in why it’s important that the world get to have a part of it. Get it out there, do the best you can, and then BELIEVE IN IT. Believe that the world NEEDS your book, and promote it that way!!

Thanks for taking a break and reading about one of our authors.  If you would like to be included in the series, please contact me at

Leave a comment

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Fashionista Writes to Motivate Women

My name is Latonya Thompson, born and raised in Florida. I am a fashionista girly, girl who likes to help embrace other women; whether it’s by providing good advice, give a listening ear, up lift someone’s spirit (being motivational).  I started writing as a hobby but never looked into publishing or becoming an author. I would always keep a journal and write down thoughts and short stories/poems. I enjoyed writing letters which turned into a mini quick read (2 full pages easy).  One day I got this haunch to write and produce books for the public, along the side of my 14 year career and mother of four. I decided I want to do something for me and reach out to the public.  My books are dedicated to women and are based on inspiring and helping to motivate others. I have also created my own website ( that also speaks to the selling of my books, advertising, inspirational quotes and information about giving back to the community. My books are also featured and sold on Thus far I have created my own Journal for women titled Beautiful Me, autobiography which includes the topics of relationships, forgiveness, faith etc.  This next book is titled “All about Me”. I am currently working on my third book and it is titled “Converting to the other Side.”

Welcome Latonya,

Latonya Howard Image

Real Answer Real Authors: Why did you decide to publish?

Latonya:  I decided to publish to be of an inspiration and to help motivate other readers through my books. 

RARA: What titles have you published to date?

Latonya:  I have published my own inspirational journal titled “Beautiful Me” and I am currently working on releasing my next book, which is an autobiography titled “All About Me” (You can find peace in starting over) published by Mirabooksmart.

RARA: How are you currently marketing your book and what has given you the best results?

Latonya:  I am currently marketing my book/s through my website and amazon. I had a book release party to also help market my first book. I have written a Play to my second book to be released in December 2013.  The Play will have excerpts from my book “All About Me”.  I will be having a launch party with select vendors on site that will help me promote my book. I am teaming up with a local boutique that will sell a couple of my books in their store with a special promotion. (First 10 customers to purchase my book will also receive a free gift card valued at $10 to use at the boutique)

RARA: Are there any books or websites that you have found the most useful?

Latonya:  Jill I have been on your website and I do find it to be very useful. I like the information you have given on how to get a press release on new and upcoming book releases. 

RARA: What has been your greatest challenge in self publishing?

Latonya:  My greatest challenge with self publishing has been publicizing/exposure.

RARA: What is the best advice or tip you can give a new and aspiring author?

Latonya:  The best advise that I can give to an aspiring author… Writing and publishing your book is a great accomplishment.  You see all of your hard work flourish right before your eyes and others can appreciate your talent as well. Even if you do not receive much exposure or have high sales; Author will still be your title. Take pleasure in your works!

Thanks for taking a break and reading about one of our authors.  If you would like to be included in the series, please contact me at


Filed under Book Layout, Book Marketing, Self Publishing Author

Kristi L. Stout: Writer, Author and Illustrator

Kristi L. Stout was born a Californian in 1980 and has moved around more times than she can count. After a three-year stay in the beautiful, Pacific Northwest she found herself back in sunny, southern California where she continues to write, create art and raise her daughter. A loving spiritualist and inquisitive adventurer, Kristi has been drawing and writing stories since she could hold a pencil. Graduating from college in 2005, majoring in Media Arts and Animation, Kristi’s professional career has involved everything from graphic design, to industrial design, fine arts and illustration.

Welcome Kristi to the table,

Kristi L Stout Image

Real Answer Real Authors: Why did you decide to publish?

Kristi:  I have a message that I want to share with the world and stories inside me that just have no other choice but to come out.

RARA: What titles have you published to date?

Kristi:  The Quest of Heart is my first officially published book. However I am a contributing author to an online European-based forum called Where I write articles about creative rebellion and conscious thinking.

Kristi L Stout Cover

Short Book Description:

Follow a girl as she searches for the other half of her heart. Along her journey she meets friends and almost loses her imagination along with all the color in her life. Her encounters remind us of the hope that can be found inside our hearts. 


The Quest of Heart is available for purchase through and Amazon.  eBook is available through Kindle and Google Play Books.

RARA: How are you currently marketing your book and what has given you the best results?

Kristi:  So far my Rebelle Society platform has been a wonderful tool to spread the word as they are a world-wide forum. My book sort of ties into self-help and spirituality so I am also approaching Unitarian Congregations in San Diego County via a close connection with one particular congregation in the Philippines.

RARA: Are there any books or websites that you have found the most useful?

Kristi:  There is a great authors blog through Infinity Publishing that has some excellent ideas for marketing yourself. I have taken lots of their tips and advice as well as just some creative ideas of my own with the fantastic help of my business manager. Thinking OUT-OF-THE-BOX in this case can be excellent and fun.

RARA: What has been your greatest challenge in self publishing?

Kristi:  Just getting it out there. Getting it seen and marketing in general. When you are the creative mind behind the stories and illustrations, marketing proves to be a time-consuming challenge for the creative. But a necessary step in getting the message to the world, one I am charging head on like some kind of warrior.

RARA: What is the best advice or tip you can give a new and aspiring author?

Kristi:  Well, I am a new author and it’s been blood, sweat and tears to get to the point I am now and I’m still going strong still without any huge breaks. It is quite helpful in this case to have a strong faith when pushing your book because it is the driving force behind what you do. For instance, the thought: If I just keep going, something will break. The hope that something is just around the corner. Hang onto that with ferocity and I think something good will come. 

Thanks for taking a break and reading about one of our authors.  If you would like to be included in the series, please contact me at

Leave a comment

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Editing: The Big Bad Wolf

Working with an editor can be scary.  What if they don’t like it?  What if the editor changes the story?  Will they really understand you and your book?  How expensive is it?  Will you get what you pay for?  What is the difference between proofreading and content editing?   (BTW – these are all good questions to ask your editor directly when getting an estimate.)

As an author, you have a vision. You have a unique story to share.  As a self-publishing author, you have the choice of whether or not to work with a professional editor and who that editor will be.  And I cannot stress the importance of a professional edit!

The editor’s job is to recognize your strengths as an author and help you use those strengths to reach your target audience. This can be anything from fixing grammar to helping develop more content in specific chapters (Outlined in the Levels of Editing below). Some editing, like Content and Developmental editing, requires more than one round of editing and includes a dialogue between the author and editor.

No matter what the editor may suggest to you, it is your manuscript: you decide whether to accept or reject suggested alterations. A good editor will provide you with a 4-5 page sample edit, and some feedback about how and what they believe your manuscript needs along with a quote. At the bare minimum, it is good to at least get a sample edit done before publication so that you know how your manuscript will be perceived by your audiences.

Levels of Editing

1)      Proofread/Verification Edit

  1. What: Spelling, grammar, format/style (MLA, APA,      Chicago, AP)
  2. Where: Line by line
  3. Description: A proofread/verification edit is a basic edit. This service is for an author who is only concerned with their      manuscript being functional for publication. This service is also used as a polish for more thoroughly edited manuscripts.

2)      Copyedit

  1. What: Proofread + syntax, word choice, clarity, consistency, logic
  2. Where: Paragraph-Chapter
  3. Description: Copyediting is a mid-level service that is ideal for authors who are only concerned with syntactic functions.

3)      Substantive/Content Edit

  1. What: Copyedit+ structure, content, voice, audience
  2. Where: Entire Manuscript
  3. Description: In Substantive edits, we delve deeper into the text looking at semantic and pragmatic functions.  This type of editing includes comments and reviews of the text in relation to the overall context.  Substantive editing frequently necessitates 2-3 rounds of editing between the author and editor.

4)      Developmental Edit

  1. What: Substantive edit + content development
  2. Where: Manuscript and beyond
  3. Description: Developmental editing either begins with a known unfinished manuscript or is bred out of a Substantive edit. In a developmental edit, the author and editor work on developing content, rewriting sections and improving the overall structure of the manuscript.  This service requires a minimum of 2 rounds of editing.


The cost will vary depending on level of edit and the editor. Some editors charge per page, per word or per hour.  I have seen edits range from $2-$5/page.  I would suggest a per page estimate because some editors may be slower and take advantage of the per hour estimate.  This way you have more of a handle on the bottom line at the end of the day.


A good editor friend of mine helped to put this blog together.  I have worked with her professionally over the last year and she has proved to be very efficient and a great editor too many of my authors.  If you would like to reach out for an estimate or a sample, please contact Ciara Brewer at

Check out my previous blogs on press releases and working with a printer.  If you are not following, just click the follow button on the right hand side to be emailed when new blogs are posted.   If you are interested in being a part of the Author Interview Series, please email me at jill@mirabooksmart,com

As always, I appreciate any comments, suggestions or feedback. If you have a blog topic you want me to cover – send it over.

…and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.



Filed under Book Layout, Self Publishing Author

Will people judge my book by the cover?

Hell yes they will!   I hate to say it, but we all do it.  Every day we see things and immediately know if it is pleasing or makes us feel good, bad, ugly…whatever.  You don’t want to brush over the cover design and if you have someone helping or doing the cover for you – be sure to communicate as much as possible with them.

I did a lot of thinking first with my cover.  That sounds kind of silly but I just thought about what kind of elements I want on the cover.  Do I want an image? What kind of image?  Random person? Typical sky or book scene?  What colors or fonts do I want?  Hmmm…there is infinite options which is kind of scary.  I looked on my bookshelves and searched through similar books on Amazon and just did some good old fashioned brainstorming. I often refer people to and have them put some key words relating to their book in the search box.  You can get some great ideas doing that too.

I have a background in design so I did the layout myself.  I graduated from Art School in 2002 so this was right before more fancy programs came out like Adobe InDesign.  I just used Illustrator – probably about 4 versions old – but it got the job done.  If at all possible, DO NOT use Word to layout the cover and definitely do not use clip art.  If you learn anything from my blog, let that be it!

First things first – what is the right trim size (height and width of finished book)?  Well, most books are perfect bound so they will require a spine.  The spine is that little piece connecting the front and back.  This is what people will see when the book is sitting on a shelf.  The spine size is figured with number of pages and type of paper.  Click here for a spine width calc:  You also want to add bleed to the cover as well when doing the layout.  Most printers will require 1/8″ of bleed.  What is bleed you say?  It is extending the cover outside of the trim mark so the images or color goes to the edge of the page.  My book size if 5.5 x 8.5 so my cover layout will be:

.125 (bleed) + 5.5 (back) + .10 (spine) + 5.5 (front) + .125(bleed) = 11.35″ wide

.125 (bleed) + 8.5 (height) + .125 (bleed) = 8.75″ high

It is a good idea to set guides where the bleed is and where the spine is.  That way you know the exact space you are working within with placing images/text on the front or back cover.  This is pretty confusing for most people – especially if they are unfamiliar with design layout.  So I hope this shed some light.

RESOLUTION!  You know when you are looking at an image and you can see a bunch of dots – that means the resolution of that image sucked.  NEVER pull an image off of the web.  A) you do not own it and can get in big trouble.  Imagine becoming a super famous author and someone coming back to sue you for some little image?  B) the resolution of images on the web are 72 dpi normally.  This is so they can load quickly on your computer.  They are not for printing.   It is ideal to have an image at 300 dpi to scale.  So for instance, if you take a picture with your camera and put it on your computer – you want to keep it at that size or maybe just a little larger.  If you go and blow it up to a poster size, all those pixels or bits of color get stretched out and now the picture isn’t crisp and clear, it is fuzzy and sucky.  I could talk all day about resolution but I think you get the point.

FONTS – stick to what you have on the interior.   Like I said with the manuscript blog – too many fonts, too confusing.  That is all I have to say about that.

Speaking of manuscript blog – be sure and look to your right under ‘recent posts’.   Check out the last couple if you haven’t already.

As always, I appreciate any comments, suggestions or feedback. If you have a blog topic you want me to cover – send it over.  

…in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.


Filed under Book Layout


I will be the first one to admit that I should of created a blog the minute I had the idea.   That way I could record all the brainstorming and back and forth that I have done – and there has been a lot.  I have already done a bit of work with the book so I am going to backtrack a bit.  As previously noted, I am not a writer or an editor – you have been warned!

So my book is about marketing tips from authors (hence real answers from real authors).  I have collected what I feel is the best 60 tips to compile into one manuscript.  The very first thing you want to do is size your word document to the intended trim size of the book.  Trim size = height and width of finished book.  If you don’t have any idea, first Google most common trim sizes.  Or you can go to your bookshelf with a ruler.  Either way, you should come up with your answer.

So in word, go to page setup/paper/size and there you can put in the height and width and adjust margins.  Margins are good at about .5-.75″.  Okay so after that little step, I start to copy and paste each tip onto its own page (don’t worry – each author will get credit for their tip).  Since my page is already sized to my trim size, I know exactly the space I need to work within.

One thing you don’t want to do in word is be space bar happy.  This can screw with a lot of things – especially if you have someone helping you with formatting or editing.  I would suggest a simple tab if needed.

FONTS.  So many fonts, so little time.  What I did is take a paragraph, copy and paste multiple times into one separate document and then start changing each paragraph to a different font.  Always, always pick a serif font for easy reading.  Serif fonts have the little tails.  This is why everyone and their dog likes Times New Roman – although there are others out there that bear just as much as TNR but are a bit of the underdog in the font world.  I like Garamond and Palatino personally.  Anyway, sans serif fonts are good for titles because they are straight and more bold – this is more like Arial or Century Gothic.  So pick a font that gives you the warm and fuzzies and move on.  2 fonts total, 3 tops.  You don’t want to get font crazy – it’s confusing.

Font size – every font is a bit different in size even at the same point size.  I don’t know why everything has to be so complicated, but you will need to play with that too.  10-12pt is good.  14pt maybe for our older folk.

One thing that is a real PITA with word is adding page numbers to a document.  This I had to look up.  Instead of me re-typing all of this, here is a nice link:

I realize that this blog is getting long so I will end on that note.  Will have more coming on manuscript and next up…cover design.


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