How To Tell A Great StoryGreat StoryTelling Network Newsletter
Volume 14, Issue 3 – 15 March 2018

After the last newsletter was sent out, I received an email from a subscriber asking me about editors he could work with. This gave me the impetus to write about my journey so far with editors, agents and publishers with regard to ‘the novel’. As I’ve said in the story below, although I can now laugh at some of what happened, there was a time I was in tears for days.

While I’ve shared a personal account, Rohi has responded by sharing how a writer can prepare his/her manuscript for publishing on

I hope that you can laugh along with me and also learn from Rohi. Ultimately, I pray you’re inspired to continue sharing your stories.

Happy storytelling.
Aneeta Sundararaj


–> Trials and Tribulations of the Edi-Mission Process by Aneeta Sundararaj

–>The Foolproof Guide to Publish Your First E-book on Amazon by Dr. Rohi Shetty

STORY ME – Trials and Tribulations of the Edi-Mission Process by Aneeta Sundararaj

[Full disclosure: Some of the links in this story are affiliate links which means that if you follow them and buy the stuff, I get a percentage of the payment made with no extra cost to you.]

Sunrise at Baray Lake
Tomorrow is a new day.

During the opening monologue of the 2018 Oscars, Jimmy Kimmel spoke about the discrepancy in the payments made to Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams in a movie. The fee for the actress was paltry while the actor received a huge sum of money. They had the same agent and Kimmel said, “[I]f we can’t trust agents, who can we trust?” This reminded me of what I call the ‘Edi-Mission Process’ which involves interactions with agents, editors and commissioning publishers. Today, I laugh, but there was a time I did nothing but cry.

There are also two reasons why I choose to share these stories with you now. First, is that a subscriber wanted a recommendation for an editor he could work with. Second, I’m ready to venture back into self-publishing ‘the novel’.

Broadly speaking, the editing process can be divided into three parts which are writing and preparing the manuscript for editors, editing the manuscript and where I am now.

Perhaps, some background is necessary. I completed the novel in 2010 and started the submission process. By 2012, since there was no response, I decided that something wasn’t right and reworked the novel from scratch. Then, life happened. Between 2013 and 2016, I lost seven people (including the dog) and didn’t have the heart to work on it. I spent 2017 picking up the pieces of my writing life and now that we’re in 2018, it’s time to look again at this project. Quite simply, the novel deals with issues that arise because of two concurrent legal jurisdictions.

Round 1 of Edi-Mission Process: Font, Spacing and Numbers
Today, there are books, websites, tutors, mentors and even software that can help you write a novel. When I started, I turned to books such as Artists and Writers Yearbook and First Draft in 30 Days. They taught me about the usual requirements like use 12 Point, Times New Roman font, double spacing and only on one side of numbered pages.

The biggest problem with the novel was its plot and structure. The one resource that helped me was James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish. I learned about Doorways, Disturbances and the amazing power that comes from putting things in the right place.

Round 2 of Edi-Mission Process: Being Insulted
Once I was ready, I sent the novel out into the world. My first option was to go local. This meant asking writer friends for their professional opinion about the novel. They gave their feedback and helped me re-work the piece. But I wanted something more. I wanted someone who had no clue about my world to tell me if the story would work. I chose to work with some editors from the UK. This proved to be half a mistake.

Before that, you may ask why the UK and not the US? Well, I was trained in UK English and write in that manner (meaning I write ‘colour’ rather than ‘color’). It seemed easier.

The half that wasn’t a mistake was because the editors identified a fundamental issue and asked me a simple question – why was I highlighting this jurisdiction issue in the first place? The answer is something Malaysians take for granted which the British, with their single legal system, can’t understand. I worked the answer to this question into the novel.

The half that was a mistake related to blindly working with an editor because he was ‘supposed to be the best’. This editor insisted that I change my story fundamentally by removing the legal issue altogether and concentrating on a murder-mystery instead. I told him that it didn’t make sense as if I did, all my fellow lawyers would laugh at me. He then said two things that still annoy me. First, no one cares what Malaysian lawyers think. Second, I should insert a ‘white’ element in the story (such as a half-Caucasian character or make the setting somewhere in Europe) so that it would appeal to British readers.

Desperate to please the editor, I tried to do what he asked. But the story didn’t make sense at all and he scolded me for not following his ‘strictures’.

After shedding some tears and paying his demand for full payment (including all bank charges and fees), I reached out to writer friends. One explained something important to me: When an editor avoids addressing the queries you’ve raised and starts picking on nitty gritty, he does not understand the novel. Unwilling to come across as stupid, he’ll pick on your abilities as a writer. More often than not, he will go back on what he’s said previously.

Here’s a perfect example. One of the characters in the novel is Papa Aunty. In the opening pages, I explain that ‘Papa’ is a Tamil word that roughly means baby. In fact, my grandmother’s nickname was ‘Papa’. A year ago, the editor had said he loved these exotic names. When I couldn’t follow his instructions, he wrote to say that British people would be confused by the use of the word ‘Papa’ for a woman.

I wondered if British readers were, in fact, so dim-witted that they can’t fathom a world where one’s grandparents are referred to something other than Grandpa and Grandma. I mentioned this when I contacted the people at In particular, I wanted an editor who would help me make this story understandable to the reader, not change the focus so it was a commercial success.

I was so lucky to be paired with fabulous editors like Debi Alper and Susan Davis. I also signed up for the self-editing course. By the end of 2014, I was ready to begin the submission process again. But, as I said, life happened.

Round 3 of Edi-Mission Process: Level Playing Field
That said, once I started re-submitting the novel in earnest, I had some luck. For one, Legend of Nagakanna, which is a chapter in the novel, was accepted as part of the anthology called We Mark Your Memory: Writing from the Descendants of Indenture.

While I am delighted by this success, I am aware that my desire to have the novel published in the UK is no longer as intense, especially when I receive comments and feedback like the ones below.

  • Thank you for sending novel. … Aneeta doesn’t know how to write a novel.
  • It was nice to meet you [recently]. I’m sorry. I don’t think this is a right fit for our agency. I’ve put the [books you gave me as a] gift in the post and am returning them to you.
  • Aneeta’s legal knowledge is a bonus, but she has made the good character good and the bad character bad.
  • Anita, I apologies. You can’t hammer the story down your readers’ throats. You have to seduce them with your words like Charles Dickens.

The least they could have done was to get my name correct. Or worked on their grammar and punctuation.

Two months ago, I was grateful to be rejected by a particular publisher because the day after I received his email, I learned that he was publishing the memoirs of a politician the world hated. Imagine! The politician and I could have had the same publisher, much like Wahlberg and Williams having the same agent.

Laughter aside, here’s what I’ve learned from all this:

  • Honesty is important.
  • Don’t insult me, my dreams, work or people.
  • I admire the publishers who rejected my novel because they were scared the issues in it were too sensitive.
  • I will still work with an editor who refused to take my money because she didn’t know my part of the world and thought she wouldn’t do justice to the novel.
  • I respect writers who write about their world, rather than a world that their editors think will sell.
  • With the internet, we’re now on a level playing field.

Ultimately, it’s wonderful to work with agents and publishers because our combined resources allow for a project to reach far more of its potential than going it alone. This, however, should never be at the expense of insulting each other.

I would love to know your stories of working with editors, agents and publishers. Please share them. You can send me an email ( or place your comments in the box below.

STILLNESS AND FLOW: The Foolproof Guide to Publish Your First E-book on Amazon by Dr. Rohi Shetty

Once you have done the incredibly difficult task of completing your first book, you need to decide where to publish it. Let us assume that you have decided to save yourself the time, money, energy, and stress of trying to persuade a traditional publisher to publish your book. Instead, you take the first definitive step to name, fame, and gain and publish it yourself. Kudos! Onward.

Since this is your first book and you don’t have much of a fan following yet, other than family and friends (if that), it’s best to rely on Amazon to publish and distribute your book. Amazon is the world’s biggest bookstore and it’s open 24×7 worldwide. More importantly, you can publish your e-book (Kindle book) for free. You can also update your book as many times as you like, again for free.

And the best part? You don’t have to wait for weeks, months or even years to get your book published. You can get it published on Amazon as soon as you prepare your book for publication. That’s what you are going to do right now. So fasten your seat belt and let’s get going already.

So what do we want to achieve at the end of this preparation process? Same as Apple—elegance and ease of use.

The most important part of the preparation process is to make sure your book does not have any spelling and grammatical errors. Have zero tolerance for any typos. Use Word’s built-in spelling and grammar checking tool, but proofread your file manually as well. Ideally, print out your document and read it aloud.

You can also use the free version of Grammarly and Hemingway Editor for additional help. (You will have to register but it’s free and takes just a couple of minutes.)

Now save your digital book as a new file with doc or docx format. The two main principles of preparation: keep it simple and keep it consistent. For example, we don’t want too many fonts in our book and we don’t want different spacing between lines and paragraphs in different parts of your book.

The most effective way to simplify this whole process and to maintain consistency is to apply styles. For example, I apply

  • Normal style to body text
  • Heading 2 to chapter titles
  • Heading 3 to section titles and so on.

Then you can be sure that all the elements in your book will be consistent.

Front matter
Front matter includes the beginning pages of a book, such as

  • title page
  • copyright page
  • dedication
  • preface
  • prologue

Important: Don’t forget to insert a manual page break after each element of the front matter.

  1. Title page: Center the book title on top and the author name below it. For example,

The Ultimate Guide to Walking Meditation
Rohi Shetty

[Insert manual page break]

  1. Copyright page: This page usually follows the title page. For example,

Copyright © 2018 Rohi Shetty

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, or transmitted in any form by any means, without permission in writing from the copyright holder, except for brief quotations in a review or on social media.

Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.

Published by Happy Books.
Pune 411 001, India
Cover design by Leonardo da Vinci
ISBN-13: 999-0-9999999-9-9
First Edition: March 2018

The dedication page follows the copyright page. Again, insert a page break. For example,
This book is dedicated to my readers—May your tribe increase!

Preface, introduction, and foreword
All these three elements are optional.

  • The preface is used to share interesting insights and information that’s important to the background of the story. Kellie McGann says that what she likes best about a preface is that you get to sign it, put the date, and even the location.
  • The introduction explains why you wrote this book, why it needs to be written, and why you are the right person to write it.
  • The foreword is not written by the author but by someone else, usually an authority figure. For example, E.M. Forster wrote the foreword for Mulk Raj Anand’s first novel, Untouchable.

After you’ve created your front matter, you can format the rest of your book.

You can use Word-default paragraph indentations, bold characters, italics, text spacing, and separate paragraphs and headings in your Kindle book. Delete headers and footers, including page numbers, which do not translate into Kindle format.

Page Breaks
Insert a manual page break after the last sentence of each chapter to keep the text from running together. To do this, click “Insert” at the top menu bar and select “Page Break” or use the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+Enter. Depending on the number of chapters you have, this may be a time-consuming process but the effort is worth the improved reading experience.

Line Breaks
If you need to insert a line break in the middle of a paragraph or sentence, press Shift+Enter so the spacing between sentences in that paragraph will stay the same.

Inclusion of images
If you want to have pictures in your book, don’t copy and paste images directly into your Word file. Instead, insert JPEG images by clicking on “Insert” and then on “Picture,” then locate and select the picture file. Center all images in your book.

If your book has a lot of images, it can be viewed in color by readers using the free Kindle apps for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Android. Otherwise, images on Kindle are displayed in 16 shades of gray.

Hard returns
A hard return is anywhere you press the Enter or Return key while typing in your manuscript. Hard returns are invisible unless you choose to show all nonprinting characters. To show them, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+*. (For Macs, use Command+8.) You’ll see hard returns in your manuscript marked with the paragraph symbol (¶).

The placement of hard returns in your manuscript can affect the design of your book. Hard returns indicate where you want new paragraphs to start or line spaces added. You shouldn’t use hard returns at the end of every line. Use hard returns only to start a new paragraph or to create an extra space between paragraphs (for example, to start a new section within a chapter).

Don’t use tab spacing to indent the first line of paragraphs. I suggest you don’t indent the first line of the paragraphs in your first book. Instead, leave extra space between paragraphs.

Table of contents
You should create an active hyperlinked table of contents in your book for ease of navigation. Since Kindle e-books are reflowable and Kindle content can be viewed with different font sizes, don’t include page numbering in your table of contents because they won’t be accurate.

On a PC, you can use Word’s built-in Table of Contents tool. On a Mac, you’ll need to create a Table of Contents manually using the Hyperlink and Bookmark functions. For more help, click here.

Text boxes and shapes
Don’t use text boxes and shapes to create diagrams. If you want to include these visuals, insert them as images.

Drop caps
Drop caps are large capital letters at the beginning of a block of text with two or more lines of regular text. They are typically used for the first letter of the first sentence of a chapter. Don’t use them in your first book.

Back matter (optional)
Back matter is additional information at the end of your book, such as bibliographies, appendices, notes and glossaries. Back matter can be laid out in any order you choose, as long as you insert page breaks after each section. Indexes are not recommended.

Book cover
You need to create your book cover separately. Don’t include your cover image in your manuscript file. When you publish your book on Amazon, your cover image will be automatically added.

Saving as filtered HTML
Once you’ve completed the entire process, save your Word file as Web Page, Filtered (htm or html) for PC or Web Page (htm) for Mac. This format is required to build a successful eBook.

When saving the Word file as html, all the images (if any) in the Word file will be extracted and stored in a separate folder. This folder will be saved in the same location where the HTML file is saved.

Uploading your eBook for sale on Amazon
Once you’re satisfied with the quality and presentation of your book, upload your file to Amazon KDP Bookshelf and complete the publication process.

For more information on publication of your book on Amazon, refer to this Help page.

Time-limited offer
If you need help with any part of the publication of your book, let me know. You can send me an email or place your comments in the box on the webpage.

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