Creator Spotlight – Kate Winter

By Alivia Stiles

Kate Winter is a self-publishing author, editor, and designer located in Eugene, Oregon.
Kate’s website: https://manuscript2book.com/

Eugene and getting started in publishing

Alivia Stiles
Are you a Eugene native?

Kate Winter
No, I moved here about 15 years ago. I was drawn to the Pacific Northwest in general. And my father at the time, when I was looking at possible cities, he said I might like this area. My father had been through Eugene a few times on business and said it was the kind of place he thought I would really enjoy. I looked into it, it really seemed like my sort of place, and it was!

Alivia Stiles
So how then did you get into a career of editing and designing for the self-publishing community? Did you stumble into it? Or was there an intentional, step-by-step path you set out on?

Kate Winter
Well, it’s all kind of a long journey. So I’ve been doing this since the late 90s, since print on demand was even a thing. Like that was when the very, very first companies were doing that kind of thing and were printing on demand just one copy at a time for self-published authors. I had a couple of acquaintances and friends who were writers and wanted to self-publish, but were intimidated by the layout part of it. I kind of knew computers and knew Microsoft Word but I just started teaching myself how to do it [layout and design], so that I could put together some books for people. And I got pretty good at it, so I just kept doing it! I’ve been doing it since then, just as a side hobby, either as a favor for friends or for some extra money here and there. During the pandemic, my hours at work got cut way back and suddenly I had the opportunity to try doing what I’d wanted to be doing, which was trying this freelancing business full time. I gave it a shot, started getting out there, and have been doing it as my primary job for the last year or so.

Alivia Stiles
Oh, wow. So you just saw a need and were like, hey, I can do that, I’m going to fulfill it.

Kate Winter
Yeah. And I just kind of taught myself, I’ve taught myself most of the stuff I know how to do in my life. I just fiddled around at it until I figured things out. And I’ve just kept on top of how things change, you know, as the industry and software have changed. And as the conventions have changed, I’ve tried to keep up to date. So I was in a position to really go all in this past year and make it my whole business.

Alivia Stiles
Right. Today there’s a big movement toward freelance work. Do you identify with the title freelancer? Are you registered with freelancing platforms?

Kate Winter
I consider myself a freelancer. I’m not on any platforms because what I do is pretty niche and I wanted to try doing it on my own with my own website, not as any part of the conglomerate freelance websites. Because frankly, if you can do it that way, I think it’s a better deal. You end up making more money and having more control that way. So I’m just doing it independently.

Change in the industry

Alivia Stiles
So you’ve been involved in this industry since the late 90s. How would you say it has changed?

Kate Winter
Well, technology is primarily what has changed a lot. You know, back then, I don’t even know that we had ISBN for the books we were publishing. It wasn’t really official yet, they weren’t registered in any way. The quality of the books themselves was not very good back then. And there wasn’t even that thing called the e-book, so when this all started, it was just print. There was no Amazon.com. You could print your book, but you still had to figure out a way to get anyone to know about it. So, you’d have physical copies of your book, but how did you sell them to anyone? You didn’t really know how to do that. Most people would just try to sell them to their local bookstores which sometimes worked. But there was no other way to get it out there. In the last 25 years the internet happened, and e-books, and Amazon, and now it’s a completely different field. At this point, theoretically, at least, you could self publish your book and it could hit it big. You could get picked up by a regular publisher if you do the right kinds of things and know how to work the system. A really good Amazon ranking could lead to getting picked up by a real publisher. There’s more opportunity to break out now.

Alivia Stiles
How would you say then, that the past two years with the pandemic especially, have changed this industry?

Kate Winter
The writer side changed. A lot of people suddenly had time to finish the book they were working on. I think there’s been some pent-up demand for what I’m doing, because a lot of people suddenly had some time and space working from home, so it’s easier to do some of their own projects too. People have been able to write more and put some more attention on that part of their life. That’s been great!

Alivia Stiles
It really has been a time of great opportunity, I think, for artists and people interested in more alternative career pathways.

Kate Winter
Absolutely. I mean, I definitely don’t know that I would have gotten around to getting out on my own with the business had it not been for the pandemic. It really opened up that opportunity for me and a lot of my clients seem to have experienced that same thing. Maybe one of them will publish a book that will become their new career!

how to: Get published, become a publisher

Alivia Stiles
Do you have a favorite genre of writers to work with?

Kate Winter
I don’t really pick too much based on projects. I get a lot of people writing memoirs and that sort of thing, because a lot of my clients are retired and have the time to do this as well as have something to say because they’ve lived a long time and they’ve accumulated some stories. I’ve liked history a lot. I have some fun projects that involve a lot of vintage photos and historical stories. I like working on nonfiction because I get to learn about a lot of different topics that way.

Alivia Stiles
What are some first steps you would recommend for someone who is looking to get their book published? Say they have the manuscript, what are the next steps?

Kate Winter
The first thing should be some kind of editing. Even if you are an excellent writer, everyone needs a second pair of eyes to go over their manuscript, at the very least for just typos and little grammar things. Even editors need other editors to look over their work. So that’s step one. Preferably get it professionally copy-edited but even if you can’t afford that, have someone you trust to be objective, that has a decent grasp of the English language, to go through it and check it over. At that point, it’s pretty simple. You turn it over to someone like me to do interior formatting. I mean, you can do it yourself, it’s just that if you’re not well versed in the industry, you’re probably going to end up with something that looks self-published. As the author, you don’t necessarily recognize all the little bits of books, all the little details that say, ‘this is a professionally published book’. Interior layout is essentially putting in the page numbers, the headers, and hopefully making it look beautiful inside. Then you do cover design, which is, of course, very, very important. Thinking about how a book will look on the bookshelf or website. If you’re going to do an ebook version, that conversion is usually the last step.

Alivia Stiles
What are the first steps to take for someone who is looking to do what you do?

Kate Winter
Well, I do all the interior design in Microsoft Word, I do not use fancy software. A lot of people use Adobe InDesign. Learning Adobe InDesign definitely would be helpful. But I still use Word and I like it. It’s simple and everyone has it, so you can trade files back and forth very easily. Start looking at books that you have, paying attention in ways that you might not have when you’re just reading a book. Pay attention to how things are laid out, what the pages at the beginning of the book are, what order do all the little bits and pieces of a book go in, pay attention to all the different ways that you can put page numbers or the header in a book. I actually get distracted when I’m reading because I start paying attention to the design of the book. It’s just something you start noticing and then you’ll have an idea of what everything should look like. That’s a good way to teach yourself. You just have to start figuring it out and paying attention. There’s a lot of literature on the websites of various print-on-demand companies like Lulu and KDP that will tell you all the little bits and pieces to think about. If you study those you’ll start getting an idea of what the process is.

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