Jess Nickelsen: Discombobulated
June 24, 2021 - Getting organised


I’ve resurrected my old bullet journal. For a time it had been appropriated for some Ironsworn game logs; but I’m needing it more and more to help get my head around the things I need to do, keep track of, and learn, with regard to this writing journey. (Man, I hate the word journey’ in this context; but it’s actually quite hard to think of a different one. Writing approach, perhaps?)

I know I haven’t had a lot of writing news to report on lately, but there’s been a lot of thinking going on (sometimes I just need time to process, and uh, synthesise).

The process of releasing a book to Amazon was a really interesting one, and I suppose I approached it from a technical perspective: figutinr out what steps I needed to go through to prepare the document, how to go about acquiring an ISBN, and what you do with it once you have one (in NZ it’s all done through the National Library); looking at what actually goes into front matter; what to put at the end; setting up a newsletter; an author website; an Amazon author page; registering your overseas bank and tax details with Amazon…there are so many pieces to the overall puzzle, and while you can make a book with a quite rudimentary understanding of these things (like I did), you have to be willing to change your approach, and of course keep learning, if you need to.

And so, you can expect to see some tweaking as I go, and I’ll try and. fill you in on things I’ve learned as I go, because really, that’s the point in sharing all of this. I also want to emphasise that I don’t have a huge budget for my early forays–I’m doing this as cheaply as I can without cutting corners or ending up with a book that feels cheap” (though of course that’s objective). To that end I’ll report in on any strategies that seem to work, but also those that don’t. Hehe.

Some of the choices I made with regard to The Dark Offering were:

  • as these were short stories I felt much more comfortable basing my editing process on what I could do, along with getting a review from people in my writing group, rather than going through a formal editor. I know this isn’t something that I will always do (especially with longer more complex projects) but that’s why I tried to keep my first one simple.
  • I didn’t try to design my own cover, but did manage to find a pre-made one that seemed to capture enough of the unsettling vibe that ran through all of the stories. It stood out to me on the page, and didn’t feel too out of place next to any of the other book covers in the genre / categories that I’d been researching. Obviously the dream is to get one custom made, but that’s something I’ll have to look at down the line.
  • I decided to run my author page through Github Pages rather than via a paid host, though I did want to grab the domain for my name (
  • I formatted the manuscript with Reedsy’s free browser-based tool. It was good, and I have no complaints at all, though some may not like the fact that there’s a formatted by Reedsy” auto-inserted in the front matter.

Going forward I definitely want to look at doing the formatting myself. I am not particularly artistic, so covers are never going to be something I’ll try to do (though I have entertained myself with creating covers on

I was going to list here some of the books and courses I’ve found really good, but I think instead what I’ll do is create a resources page here on the blog and put everything up there so it’s easier to find.

In terms of changes or ongoing learning though, I have taken a few steps this month:

  1. I’ve bought several of Holly Lisle’s shorter workshops: 7 Day Crash Revision,” Publishing While Broke” (whee!), and Title. Cover. Copy.” I’m hoping that these can serve as some good refreshers on the editing, publishing and marketing approach I’m slowly developing. I have several other of her longer classes and they were good, though intimidating at the time. I feel like a run-through of these would also be a good idea right now.
  2. I’ve also switched my mailing list to ConvertKit, from Buttondown. The Buttondown formatting was giving me headaches, plus there were some things, such as the ability to offer free books on signup, or setting up a welcome email, that it didn’t seem to be able to do. It’s still early days (and yeah, I know the sign-up is a bit knobby, but then again, so am I) and I’m sure there will be more tweaks ahead.

I think that’s it? In the meantime, Wellington is in level 2 for the week. A visitor from Aus came over (we have a travel bubble) for a weekend holiday, and when they got home, found they had developed Covid symptoms. Turns out they contracted it in Sydney before they came over, and potentially weren’t symptomatic while they were here, but it sounds like they have the Delta variant and have potentially been in close contact with potentially thousands of people during the time they were seeing the sights. Government is tightening things up while we wait and see how many people they’ve infected….