Monthly Archives: June 2013

Small business chat – Stevie Maiden

Today we’re saying hello to Stevie Maiden of Maidens Fayre. Stevie makes jams, chutneys and pickles as well as having diversified into covered notice boards and bath bombs, and, importantly for other crafters and makers, started and is very involved in the Second City Craft Group Facebook group, which offers a peer group and support to crafters in Birmingham, UK.

Stevie is among the many people who have turned a hobby into a business. She’s met some hurdles along the way but worked hard to overcome them, and you know what they say – something’s definitely worth doing if it’s hard to do!

What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

My business is called Maidens Fayre. It started as a hobby at the end of 2011, but I decided to push ahead with it as a business more than a hobby in April 2013.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I almost didn’t: I was finding it so hard to fit it into my life that I had to decide if I should carry on or not. However, someone decided to try to stop me – so I pushed back really hard and went for it. I’m glad I did.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

It was because my husband’s family always buy us nice things for Christmas. Because of my age, I was finding myself quite unemployable and we didn’t have a lot of money to get them decent gifts. So, I decided to show my appreciation for them by making them a hamper full of home-made goodies.

Had you run your own business before?

No, I’d always worked for other people. I know I’m a hard worker. The week I met my husband, I’d just done a 63 hour week in a pub. So, If I can work so hard for a wage, surely I can do it for myself.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

I started off slowly, just making things for people I knew. I then joined an online craft group and found so much support and interest that it gave me the confidence to try having a table at a fayre. From there on, it was fayres I turned to, until I started a business page on Facebook. Now things can be sold from the moment people know I’ve made them.

Sadly, there were some issues with the founders of the original group, so I started The Second City Craft Group, so I could stay in touch with the lovely people I’d met online.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

That people won’t always be happy for you . I’m a very honest and trusting person, so it shocks and upsets me when people actively try to stop you achieving your goals. I don’t understand it – it’s not in my mentality.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

Make your preserves with seasonal items. Don’t decide what you’d like to make and go in search of the ingredients. Believe in yourself – especially when everyone is telling you that you’re good. Strangers don’t need to lie to you.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

I wish I’d jumped in with both feet and not been so cautious.  Belief in yourself is the best thing. Sadly, as I’ve got older, I find it doesn’t come as easily as it once did.

What are you glad you did?

I’m glad that when I reached the crossroads, where I needed to either go for it or stop, that my cussedness kicked in!

What’s your top business tip?

I’m not sure I have one. I’m not keen on treading on people to get where you want to be. I hope I never develop that trait.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

I diversify all the time. Every time I find a glut of something, I feel compelled to buy it and make use of it.

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

I’d like to be doing bigger fayres. I’d also like to find a company that will deliver my produce at a reasonable rate, so I can get them out into the world. Even better, I’d like to supply a few shops.

All exciting stuff! There’s a good market for lovely home-made products like these, and I hope Stevie manages to find ways to do online ordering on a larger scale to get those products out there. I think not treading on people’s toes is an excellent business tip. I’ve got where I am partly because of my honesty and ethics, I’m sure, and from treating “competitors” as colleagues, and there’s no need to be unpleasant or unsupportive. Small businesspeople need all the encouragement and support they can get (hence this interview series!) and well done to Stevie for supporting other people, too! How was Stevie doing a year down the line? Read her 2014 interview here!

You can find Maidens Fayre on Facebook  or email Stevie or call her on 07739 965 666.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my new book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.


Posted by on June 29, 2013 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


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How do I change the colour of text in Word?

How do you change the colour of the text in your Word document?

Why would I want to change the colour of the text in my document?

You might want a section of the text to stand out, to match your company branding or to look attractive on a menu or other display document. It’s easy to change the text colour to do this.

Note: don’t use changed text colour to alert your proofreader/editor to something you want to do – read this article to find out why.

How to change the text colour using the menu bar

You can find the text colour button in the Home tab, in the font section of the menu bar:

1 colour in menu

Make sure the text that you want to appear in a different colour has been highlighted. Locate the letter A with a red underline and click on the down arrow to the right of the letter to access the Colour menu:

1 colour template from menu

To see how to use this palette, hop down past the next section and join me at “How to select your colour”.

How to change the text colour using right click

You can do a lot to a chunk of text by highlighting it and right-clicking. Try that on some text now by highlighting it then right-clicking over the highlighted text:

2 colour in right-click

You will now find not one but two ways to change the text colour – a button with an A underlined in red (circled) and a Font menu (arrow). If you click on the button, you’ll get to the same point as in the section above. Click on Font for now ..

3 colour in right-click

In the Font menu, you’ll find all sorts of things you can do to your font – very useful if you want to apply particular effects to the highlighted section of text. For now, we’re going to use the drop down arrow under Font color to select our font colour:

4 colour template in right-click

We’ve now got a choice of basic colours, with common ones at the bottom. Click, for example, on the first green, and your highlighted text will turn green, although you’ll need to press the OK button to make that change stick:

5 change colour

How do I choose a custom colour for my text?

You can, of course, go even more customised than this. In both ways to access the menu, you’ll find the words More colors… at the bottom of the palette:

6 more colours

Clicking on this option will give you the Customise colours dialogue box, with two sets of increasingly customisable colour palettes to choose from. First of all, we have Standard colours:

7 more colours standard

You can see that we’re on the Standard tab here: there are plenty of colours and shades of grey to choose from, and you click on the colour and press OK to accept it. Or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can select the Custom tab

8 more colours custom

… and have a huge range of colours to choose from. Here, you can click on the colour and then move the arrow up and down to adjust the amount of black in the colour, and it handily shows you the original and new colours at the bottom of the dialogue box.

Now you know how to change the text colour in Word to an almost infinite number of colour choices. You can use the same button or right-click and font option in Excel and PowerPoint, too.


This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here

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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing


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Important information for Google Reader subscribers

Hello there! This is aimed at people who subscribe to this blog and my other one via Google Reader.

*update: link to Feedly is now correct, sorry about that!*

Google Reader will be shutting down at the end of June 2013, so you will need to export your feeds to another reader, or you’ll lose them.

I have moved over to Feedly which allows you to import your Google Reader subscriptions and offers functionality for tagging and saving posts until later. I’ve found it’s good and reliable and easy to use, and it works on desktop computers and tablets, phones, etc. This is not an affiliate link or paid advertisement – I took some advice and looked at some alternatives and this looked best for me.

Of course, there are other RSS feed aggregators out there, and Library Guru Phil Bradley has kindly gone through and assessed them all for us in this blog post.

If you don’t want to use RSS feeds anymore, you can subscribe to this blog via email – just look at the top right hand side of the screen and you’ll see a link in the sidebar.

I hope you are able to continue to subscribe via Feedly or email or some other form and that I continue to see you over here. Any questions, please ask!

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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in Blogging, Organisation


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Peer or pier?

English spelling is rife with these short words that sound the same and cause trouble. Just look at pare and pear and pair, or bear and bare, or peek and peak. But just like those, these two are very different, and their meanings don’t overlap at all!

To peer is to look with concentration or difficulty – “I peered at the dusty manuscript in the dim light”. It also means to be just visible – “the sun was peering around the side of the mountain” (the origin of this meaning may be from appear in 16th century dialect). A peer is a member of the nobility in Britain and Ireland, or a person of same age, status, rank or ability as oneself *my peers in the business world are a group of women who set up businesses a few years ago when they were around 40″. As an extension of this, it can mean simple equal (in quality) – “as an editor, he has no peer”.

A pier is any long narrow structure e.g. leading out to sea for boats to more on or for entertainment, or projecting from an airport terminal giving access to planes. It is also the pillar of an arch or pillar supporting a bridge, wall between windows or adjacent openings. Its origin is unknown.

“I peered at the pier through the mist as my peers danced away, celebrating their business success with some peers of the realm.”

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


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Small business chat update – Tone Hitchcock

Today we’re saying hello again to Tone Hitchcock, brother of an old University friend, who I’ve known since he was about 16. I originally interviewed Tone on 5 May 2012, and his plan for the next year? “This time next year, Rodders, we’ll be miwionaires … or at least, doing model and prop work more consistently so that Bryony, my wife, can lessen the amount of hours she works”.

So, how’s it all gone? Is Tone a millionaire yet? Has he met any millionaires? (Maybe) and what has he learned along the way?

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

I’m pretty much where I thought I would be a year from the last interview. Not a millionaire yet, but things are progressing well, and, despite last year being much more challenging than I though it was going to be, I’ve made some amazing contacts, and worked on some amazing projects. Bryony hasn’t managed to cut down on her hours yet, but she does have a shiny new job that allows her to be a bit more flexible, so we can work around the boys together really well. Also, I certainly feel more professional than I did a year ago!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

My working methods have changed a little in that I now am much happier to farm work out if I need to, rather than trying to do all of it myself. I think, just because you CAN do everything on a project, doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. For instance, I enlisted the help of an amazing joiner, and an astounding automaton designer for the Victorian Donation Box I recently completed for Oxford Town Council. I wouldn’t have produced nearly such a good final piece without them, and the time, stress and effort they saved me were well worth the money. I’m still pretty much a one-man band, it’s just that these days (to stretch the image a tad…) I hire in extra session musicians when I need to.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

The thing that I wish I’d known a year ago is this: Do Not Get Involved With Massively Wealthy, Bonkers And Demanding Clients: They Will Comprehensively Make Your Life A Misery. To provide a bit of background on this, I was contacted by an internationally renowned fashion photographer who also does design work to create some sculptures for a client’s garden in Ibiza. The clients were very exacting, but consistently failed to provide information in a timely way, kept changing their minds, insisted on ridiculous things, and generally had no concept of how a project like this should have gone. I actually lost money on it after all the to-ing and fro-ing, but it is all complete now, and has (at least) provided me with some lovely images for my portfolio.

I will also think long and hard before ever working through a third party again, as it made the whole design process somewhat akin to Chinese Whispers. I do now have an excellent relationship with the photographer, though, and we are planning further projects together. Neither of us will work with those particular clients again.

I’ve also, as a direct result of this debacle, substantially tightened up the small print in my contract, and am going to join BECTU, the media and entertainent union. They provided me with sterling advice during the worst of this situation, despite me not being a member at the time. I would definitely recommend them to anyone else in my line of work.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I think another important thing that I’ve learnt is to rely on my gut instincts. It sounds a bit hippy-dippy, but I really do think that it’s important to trust your own feelings on a job: if something feels amiss, that’s probably because it is. Even though, on the surface, the Ibiza project was a peach, something didn’t feel right from the word go, and had I listened to that feeling and backed out when I had the chance to, I would have saved myself a load of money and 6 months of stress. On the other hand, I would also have missed out on some amazing contacts, learning new techniques, and 3 weeks working in a millionaire’s garden in Ibiza, so it’s swings and roundabouts really…

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

So… this time next year, Rodders, we’ll DEFINITELY be miwionaires… Well, maybe not, but I will definitely be doing more prop and model work. This last year was testing, but it has also provided a really good foundation to build on. Moreover, it’s also toughened me up a bit professionally, which is a good thing: in common with most artists, the business side of things is not something that comes naturally to me, but it is a massively important part of my work, and shouldn’t be taken for granted. If the paperwork is up to scratch, I can get on with making random bits of weirdness (the fun part) without worrying.

Whew – that was some year for Tone, wasn’t it! But he’s learned a lot, and tightening up your business procedures and terms & conditions is always a good thing – I learned that lesson myself a few months ago! It’s particularly hard for artists and other creative people to address these issues, as they want to be out there creating, but as we’ve seen from Tone’s story, vitally important. Here’s how he was getting on in 2014

See what Tone’s been up to recently at Anthony Hitchcock Art & Design at You can, of course, email Tone or call him on 07929 272 513.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my new book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.


Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


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How to search for almost anything in Microsoft Office, other software and web pages

Today we’re going to learn about the wonders of Ctrl-F and how it can help you to search for text almost anywhere.

We’re going to look at an overview of the basics in this article, then I’ll go into more detail on advanced searching and replacing in another one.

What does Ctrl-F mean?

Ctrl-F is shorthand for “press the control key and the F key at the same time“. It’s the way in which key combinations are expressed. You will have one or two Ctrl keys on your keyboard (I have two) and it’s usually easiest to press Ctrl, hold it down, then press F.


If you’re looking at a  Word, Excel or Powerpoint document, a web page or, in fact, many other things, you will now be able to search for text in that document, on that page, etc. Let’s go through the different places you can use this.

Searching in Word 2007 using Ctrl-F

Word is one of the places where searching is most useful. It also offers the largest range of options for searching, and we’re just going to look at the most common today but watch this space for an article on advanced searching.

I use Ctrl-F to …

  • Search for a place in a text by a word in its heading
  • Search for tables / figures and references to them in a document to make sure they match up
  • Search for chapter headings in a book / thesis when I want to check they have a consistent style
  • Search for a name to check how it was spelled last time

and many other things.

When you have a Word document open, to bring up the search dialogue box, press the Control key and the F key at the same time. You’ll then be presented with the basic search box:

Word 1

It will usually appear to the side of the document, so as not to obscure the text. Enter the text you wish to search for, in this case Richard Branson, and press the Find next button (or the Enter key). Word will highlight the text you’re looking for.

That’s great, but what if you want more accurate searching? Press the More >> button for more options:

Word 2

Here, you have options to match the case, find whole words only, etc. For the moment, we’re going to concentrate on just these two (see the article on advanced searching for the other options).

If you choose Match case, it will search for only those words in the exact same case as the one in the search box. If you choose Find whole words only, it will look for only that text, not that text included in a longer word. We’ll have a look at how that works in just a moment.

Moving along the options, we have a Reading Highlight button. This will highlight all of the instances of your search word in your document. I find this useful if I’m writing a text to use for Search Engine Optimisation purposes and want to see how many times I’ve included a particular phrase:

Word 3

Note: if you change your search term, you will need to Clear Highlighting before highlighting again, otherwise all of the original highlighting is shown.

The next option is Find In. This is useful if you only want to search a particular part of the text for your word. Highlight the section in which you want to search, and then choose Current Selection (or, if you’ve got a section highlighted for some other reason, choose Main Document.

Word 4

Let’s have a look at some of these options in practice, using a rather odd paragraph I made up for illustration purposes:

Word 5

Here, I’ve just searched for char, not worrying about any additional options. You can see that it’s found char, but also character, charlady and Char, because I didn’t specify that I wanted only the word form “char”.

If I want to only find “char” in the text, I need to tell Word to Match case and Find whole words only. Then I will get the desired result:

Word 6

Searching in Word 2010 using Ctrl-F

Of course, they went and changed this to make it more useful and user-friendly in Word 2010 … I was a bit flummoxed when I first tried to use it, but you can get back to the dialogue box we’ve looked at above, and there are some additional useful features.

In Word 2010, if you press Ctrl-F, you’ll be given a Navigation pane to the left-hand side of the document:

Word 7

Put your search term in the box and it will automatically highlight all of the instances of that word in the document, give you the number of times it appears, and list all the instances so you can click and visit each of them:

Word 8

This is handy, and although you can do more things here to do with looking at the whole document, you can’t immediately refine your search to whole words only, match case, etc. But you can get to that familiar dialogue box.

Click the down arrow next to the search box and you’ll be presented with a list of options. We’ll look at the advanced ones next time.

Word 9

For now, select Advanced Find, and a familiar dialogue box will pop up …

Word 10

Searching in Excel using Ctrl-F

All of the other software in Microsoft Office uses Ctrl-F, however to a more limited and less customisable degree. In Excel, pressing Ctrl-F will give you this dialogue box:

Excel 1

Press the Options button and you have some options for where you search and the form of the word:

Excel 2

This works the same in Excel 2007 and 2010.

Searching in Powerpoint using Ctrl-F

In Powerpoint, Ctrl-F gives you a small dialogue box:


Again, you have enough options to be useful, but not the range of options you find in Word, and again, this works the same in Powerpoint 2007 and 2010.

Searching on web pages using Ctrl-F

I find this so useful, especially if I’m searching my own web pages for a word I’ve used or maybe misused (I used this a great deal in the great proof-reading to proofreading change I made a few years ago.

This varies according to the browser you’re using, but hitting Ctrl-F will always bring you up a search box of some kind:


  • In Firefox, the search box appears at the bottom of the screen and gives you the option to highlight all and match case
  • In Chrome, the search box appears at the top of the screen and gives you the option to search whole word only and match case
  • In Internet Explorer, the search box appears at the top of the screen but doesn’t give you any options

Please note that these options might change in future as the browsers are updated.

How to search a PDF using Ctrl-F

One of the few things that you can’t search using Ctrl-F is a pdf document. However, most readers (I use PDF-Exchange), as well as having their own search functionality on the page, will allow you to use Shift-Ctrl-F to search!

pdf 1

You have some options:

pdf 2

And it works in a similar way in Adobe, too.

If this doesn’t work, there is always a search function in your pdf reader itself, for example:


Searching anywhere using Ctrl-F

As well as the standard Microsoft Office products and web pages, you can often search other interfaces using Ctrl-F, too. For example, because my WordPress interface uses the web browser, I can search for words in posts I’m writing:


I can use it in Skype:


And I’ve even tried it in my transcription management software, ExpressScribe, and you can use it there, too!

express scribe

Today we’ve learned about how to use Ctrl-F to search almost anywhere in any type of document or application.

Coming soon – advanced searching in Word and Search & Replace / Go To.


This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

If you’ve enjoyed this post and/or found it useful, please take a moment to comment (I’ll just ask you to provide a name and email address; you don’t have to sign in to WordPress) and share the post using the buttons you can see below. Thank you!

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here


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Be careful! Decimated

I have always foamed at the gills slightly when someone has used decimated to refer to “lots of people/things”, as in “The invading army decimated the defenders and no one on that side survived”.

That’s because I’d learned that decimated means to kill a tenth. The clue’s in the first part of the word – from the Latin decimus or tenth (it came into English via Middle English). There is a specific use of the word that does mean that – in ancient Rome, one in ten of a group of soldiers could be killed to punish the mutiny of the whole group.

But look in your dictionary nowadays and you will see something along the lines of “To destroy a large proportion of something” as the first and major meaning. There may be a little explanation relating to those pedants among us who still insist on the idea of killing only a tenth of the population of whatevers. But this is one that has passed into common usage, and having found this out, I am no longer permitted to froth at the gills when I hear the “other” usage.

I was going to say that I’ll still never use it myself in the less precise way … but I’m not sure that I have ever, actually, used the word …

Be careful! is a series of posts about words that are misused commonly – but really shouldn’t be. It’s not a new variant of meaning, it’s an error that gets duplicated as people see the word misused and copy it.

Contact me via email or via my contact form.


Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Be careful, Errors, Language use, Writing


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Small business chat – Pat Wilkes

Today we’re saying hello to Pat Wilkes from Starlight Gifts by Pat. Pat found out about this interview series via Facebook, which I’ve found is where a lot of crafty people hang out. It’s interesting that Facebook pages consistently seem to do little for people who sell services, like me, but do very well for craft-orientated businesses. As I find I do well with Twitter, I wonder whether the opposite is true there.

Pat’s had an interesting career path, following one area then swapping over to a more creative side of things. It’s so important to be flexible and to continue with what is either selling well or making you happier – one of the things I find over and over again when talking to other small business owners is this theme of being flexible and adaptable – this is what makes your business last long term.

So, let’s meet Pat and find out what she’s learned along the way …

What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

My business is called Starlight Gifts by Pat and it has sort of evolved from Starlight Therapies and Gifts, which I started a couple of years ago. I am a qualified Aromatherapist, and it’s only this year that I decided that my creative side was actually getting stronger, so I no longer practise my therapies and am concentrating on the gifts now. So it’s only really since last September I have been promoting and trying hard to get the business growing.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I set the business up to hopefully make it a full-time occupation eventually, after working in a job that no longer makes me happy anymore.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

I love making and creating, and as the pile of lovely gifts, cards and jewellery grew, I knew that the only way to fund making more was to sell them.

Had you run your own business before?

Not really seriously, but I had run my therapy business more like a hobby, because I enjoyed my aromatherapy.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

I am running the business alongside working part time, because I realise how hard it is in the craft business to make a living. I am hoping to create a full-time job from this.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

Not to be as self-critical of what I do.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

Be less critical and do not under-value yourself, and what you make.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Not booked craft fairs without asking a few questions of the organisers.

What are you glad you did?

Getting out there and meeting the customers at craft fairs: it’s built my confidence in what I’m doing, especially when people recognise my stall after seeing it on social networking sites. Finding my own style and branding.

What’s your top business tip?

Keep promoting the business. It’s hard work and many hours are put in on social networking, but do talk to fellow crafters and put yourself out there.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

It’s going well so far, if slowly, but the business is growing. It’s hard work, and I am learning all the time. I have diversified: after starting out with jewellery and cards, the gift selection I now stock works so much better for me.

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

I would like to have either reduced my day job hours right down or have stopped doing the day job altogether. This is a long-haul dream, not something that I expect to work in a few months.

Lots of learning by experience, working hard on promotion as well as making the actual products, and changing and re-assessing as she goes along here – all good pointers to a long-lasting and sustainable business. Let’s hope Pat has followed me down the path to full-time self-employment by this time next year. Find out what happened next here!

You can visit Pat’s website at and view her products, or visit her popular Facebook page. Click to email Pat, too!

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books.


Posted by on June 15, 2013 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


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An Editor Writes: 10 Lessons I Learned When Writing My Own Book

going_itWhen I set out to write a full-length non-fiction book, I had two ideas in my head:

1. I can just stitch this together from my blog posts – easy!

2. I’m a professional editor and writer, I’m used to writing to deadlines, so I’ll get this done quickly and efficiently.


This article is about what happens when you go over to the other side – when editor and content writer becomes (self-)published author.

Sitting down to write

The first thing I found when writing my own book was that it’s so hard to make yourself do it! I knew towards the end of 2012 that I had amassed the blog posts that I needed to write a book about a year of self-employment. So I picked up all the posts out of my blogs, popped them in a Word document, and thought, “Oh, look: a book”.

First lesson learned: I should probably have organised the book using a software package like Scrivener. This would have made it easier to organise … and reorganise … and reorganise it.

Second lesson learned: I should have set aside time for this process in my diary, like I do for my clients. You’d think I’d have learned this from trying to slot some academic research into my schedule – apparently not!

Emotional blocks to writing

I don’t know whether it’s because when I write for my clients, it’s “white label” work, which means that my name doesn’t appear on the finished piece, and having this appearing under my own name made it feel like I was under the spotlight, but I kept getting blocked. When it’s paid work for a client, I’m as busy as can be, but somehow there were a zillion other things I could do to avoid working on the book (sound familiar)?

I was committed to it; I knew it could actually help people; people had TOLD me to write the thing, but I’d get blocked and veer away from it in my mind and physically when I tried to sit at my desk. This happened particularly at the editing stage.

Third lesson learned: Treat writing like a job. Set deadlines and stick to them. Try to sweep aside the emotions and get on with it, as you would with a job.

How to organise your book in a million easy stages

It all looked a bit messy and unbalanced, so I made some of the posts diary entries and some of them articles. Nope, still looked wrong. This is where I realised that you can’t just turn a blog into a book without some serious editorial decisions. I moved stuff around, added an introduction to each month, and stuck bigger, more general pieces in appendices at the end.

Fourth lesson learned: If you think it’s going to be easy, you’re probably doing it wrong. Nothing good comes without a struggle, right?

How to edit an editor

Like a good writer who’s learnt from others, I was all ready and eager for some beta readers. I recruited two friends initially. Each did a useful read-through for me and gave me some good comments. One of them, and I say this with the greatest appreciation and respect, edited my book like I was editing my book. She’s not a professional editor, but she’s good. She picked out typos (ouch) and weird sentences (ouch) and missing links (ouch) and repetitions (eek) and huge structural issues (argh!).

Ouch, ouch, ouch.

I’ve written in detail elsewhere about my reaction to this edit: suffice it to say that I felt wounded, winded and disconsolate. What a marvellous lesson about how my own clients feel when I edit them! It did put me off for a good while, thinking this book was rubbish, how dare I think I could publish something, let alone publish something good that people would want to read. In fact, I left it for FOUR MONTHS!

Fifth lesson learned: Editing is vital, but it does sting. I must continue to be as kind to my editing clients as I possibly can be. However kind the editor is, it still feels brutal to have your work criticised and pulled apart. I will not make it more brutal for them.

Sixth lesson learned: You can get a blog post out of anything. Mine on being edited was one of my most popular so far!

Getting round to rewriting

I mentioned emotional blocks: this was the big one. I read through the editing comments. No: I skim-read through them, muttering and sobbing. Then I closed the file and ran away from it. It sat there, taunting me. “So, you were going to publish in the first week of January, were you? It’s February already …” I just couldn’t make myself do it.

In the end, I had to force myself. I had to treat it like any other job, open up the file, and start on it. Of course, once I started, I could see a) how good the editing was, b) how to make it better. I was tough with my precious words. One of the major problems with the text was that it was repetitive – every time you write a blog post, you’re expecting new people to read it as well as subscribers, so you tend to reinvent the wheel. Put that in one document and you’re, frankly, boring people. So out came the delete key, and I honed and polished, added some bits too, but chopped thousands of words off the total, to make a much slimmer and better read.

Seventh lesson learned: Be ruthless. If it is at all expendable, out it comes. Chop out the dead wood. If you can’t see the dead wood, get someone to chop it out for you. It will come out better for it.

When it comes to your book, looks are everything

Well, not everything, but …

I was so keen to publish that I started out with a terrible home-made cover. Then a friend tweaked my original book’s cover to make a new matching one, but it still looked a bit too home-made. I then  found a book designer online and got a lovely cover done. I looked into getting the interior of my book designed professionally so I can put out a print-on-demand paper copy, but the book needs to sell some more copies first to be able to pay for that!

Eighth lesson learned: Your book really does look more professional with a professional cover; it will stand out for the right reasons. If you have more than one book, it’s worth getting an overall consistent look. My first book started to sell more when I got its cover updated to match the new one. Get this done first – it takes ages to update the cover on Amazon when you’re embarrassed about your old one!

Soft launch aka the obsession starts …

A read-through from another friend and it was ready to go! I’d already tried the process once (with a book that was much shorter and easier to write!) so I knew the mechanics of publishing for Kindle on Amazon. I’d read up about the process and I knew about the choices, and decided to go for Amazon exclusive, as I could then enrol the book in KDP Select. I get quite a few loans on my other book, and somehow I make more royalty on loans than sales on that one, per copy. I priced the book carefully – as low as I could make it while still getting the higher royalty from Amazon. I also knew to soft launch, build some sales and reviews, and then do a bigger launch.

So I published the book, and I did the social media thing, and I told people about it, and I sent out one or two review copies. And then I was reminded of the obsessive nature of authors – I’m still constantly checking for reviews, sales, likes, comments … It’s like it’s your baby and you have to watch over its every breath.

Ninth lesson learned: Reviews will come, whether you hassle people or not. I knew a few of my first readers. I put up pleas for reviews. It takes longer to read and review a full-length book, and the reviews will come in time! And if you read a book by an indie author – do review it, it means the world to them!

What next?

Once I had a few five-star reviews (finally!) I’m making more of a noise about the book. I picked up this tip from The Creative Penn and it worked with the last one – give people something to look at when they’re making their buying decision. And here it is, out there, selling and helping people (the main thing) and I’m proud of it and all the hard work.

Tenth lesson learned: Do it. At very least you will find out something about yourself and other authors. At best, you’ll have an income stream and you’ll see some lovely reviews and know you’ve helped and/or entertained people! Go for it!


The book that I’m talking about here: Going it Alone at 40 – and the book’s own web page with links to worldwide Amazon sites to buy it.

That blog post about being edited: On Being Edited

Book designer: I actually used someone on  for this, on the recommendation of a writer friend: I don’t normally like low-cost sites like this, but my designer offers lots of extras that pay them better, so I felt it was OK.


Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Blogging, Copyediting, Ebooks, New skills, Writing


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Marinade or marinate?

This one was suggested to me by my friend, Laura Creaven. I do like it when people suggest Pairs to me – so keep them coming, everyone!

Here we have two cooking terms which look oh-so-similar – but one is a noun and one is a verb!

A marinade is a mixture of oils, spices and vinegar in which we soak meat, fish or other proteins such as quorn or tofu, so that they soak up the flavours.

To marinate is to soak such items in such a mixture.

But wait: what’s this? The dictionary also has a verb, to marinade, which means … to marinade.

So you can marinate or marinade your slab of tofu or your fish, but you can only soak them in a marinade.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


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