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Silver Spring, MD
United States


Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

Book Shepherd?

Nan Barnes

It's hard to describe what I do. I help authors. As you know, it’s easier to understand a process when you break it down into manageable steps. Like a recipe; you just gather the ingredients, prepare, cook, and serve, right? Yes, but it’s not really that simple. Experienced cooks know that there are lots of choices, methods and tools at each step, and these will determine how the dish tastes.

My  guide for authors outlines “6 easy steps” - to imagine, plan, create, edit, design and publish. At each step, some authors will need help. It’s my specialty to know all of the choices, methods and tools, to prepare the book right along with the author, and to ensure the final product is excellent.

I’ve never identified with the term “book shepherd.” That implies that authors are sheep who need to be driven with a stick. I am a mentor, a skilled craftsman, and a seasoned veteran. I don’t push or carry anyone. My job is to carry the ball into the end zone. The team scores.

I call my business “author services”, which isn’t clever imagery like "book shepherd" but is accurate. Here’s how it works: in the early stages of a book’s development, authors will need very little from me: some encouragement, and perhaps a realistic assessment of whether their project has appeal to readers. They may want to discuss their book plan and get suggestions for better organization. Our shared goal is generating a better draft to work on later.

At steps 3 and 4, I wear my editor’s hat. People hire me to read and evaluate their draft, or to content edit it, or to correct it, or all of the above. I’ve found that more experienced authors know and expect to revise again and again, while beginners imagine this step is going to be quick and easy. I coach authors through revision, showing them the areas they need to improve, and teach them those writing skills the book will benefit from.

At step 5, the author has finished the manuscript and hands over the book. I design the book’s interior, which is easy if it’s text-only and more complicated if it is illustrated. (I specialize in family histories and memoirs, which often include photos, charts, footnotes, an index, etc. – these are the most complex book designs.) The author gets to collaborate on how it will look, while I handle all the technical software stuff. I then design the cover. Check out some of my cover designs here. I also make ebooks.

The last step, publishing, is where authors can really benefit by using an author services company. Why? We’re not a publisher, so we don’t want a piece of your profits. We set you up so that your book is ready to go: to submit to an agent, to submit to a publisher, or most likely to self-publish. We can do it for you by uploading the book to or LSI, or you can do it yourself with our guidance. Some of our authors just want a good, affordable printer, and we know lots of them.

Publishing is often the most unfamiliar territory for authors. Many people really enjoy writing, but they don’t have a background in the writing business. Our experience will prevent big mistakes with copyrights, ISBNs, book pricing decisions, etc.

That’s it –just six easy steps and you’re done! Not exactly. It’s not altogether easy, but our authors say the experience, and all that they learn along the way, is fascinating and infinitely rewarding. I have yet to meet an author who stopped writing after publishing. It may be a year, or three, but then they’re back with another book. Now they’re a better writer with a better draft, older and wiser, and eager to go through those not-so-easy steps again.