Posted in Guest Post

Guest Post: Writing Tips by Neil McGarry & Daniel Ravipinto

Today at Reviewing Shelf, I welcome Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto, the authors of The Duchess of the Shallows. And since I had the privelege of having them here, I thought why not make use of it and ask them some writing tips, since as a reader, I do dream of writing and publishing one day. They were very cooperative and below you’ll find the writing tips. Get reading!

Some Tips on Writing

            Since publishing The Duchess of the Shallows (, we’ve had the pleasure of giving a number of interviews. More often than not, at some point during the interview we’re asked, “What advice would you give to other indie authors?” We’re always hopeful that our insights into the world of self-publishing will encourage other artists to take a chance on their work, but on those rare days when we’re feeling cynical we’re also tempted to answer simply: “Quit. Now.”

That’s an exaggeration, of course; we wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. However, the joy of going it alone is balanced by the numerous challenges and frustrations that inevitably confront indie authors. So to help out anyone else out there who wants to take the self-publishing plunge, here are a few tips:

            Write the story you want. Agents and editors are where they are, in part, because they know what has sold, and they’ll push you towards it. This involves encouraging you to not only write well but to write to the tropes. Let’s be clear: there is nothing wrong with a trope, which is really just a universal truth of storytelling. There are lots of books that contain a Child of Destiny or an Ancient Evil because readers respond well to those. However, tropes that are not personalized or given new life become cliches, and there is something very wrong with those. Industry insiders aren’t always good at telling one from the other, but as an indie author you have the freedom to reject the cliches and embrace the tropes in your own way.

            Be your biggest supporter. Making do without a publisher not only means no advance money; it also means that the only person pushing you to finish that second draft is you. No one is going to hang on your phone or fill up your inbox with entreaties to work faster or hit X deadline. That sounds good until it’s June and that book you were supposed to finish by March is still on your hard drive. So don’t give up on you.

            Be your biggest critic. You’re out there alone, with no editor to guide you or proofreader to correct you. Since these people really do help improve a book, you need to find someone to stand in their place. Join a writing group. Invest some money in a freelance editor. Engage test readers you trust to be fair and honest. Above all, be hard on yourself, because no one else will.

            Don’t anticipate respect. In many circles, the term “indie author” carries all the cachet of “leper.” No major bookstore will stock your work, and even the independents will eye you warily when you show up with a box of paperbacks. (We know this first-hand) Some of this is functional; they order from certain providers, and if your book isn’t part of that provider’s inventory…well, better luck next time. Mainstream reviewers will also ignore you no matter how much you beg, and, sadly, many of the indie reviewers will do the same. Readers will openly and unshamefacedly announce their intention to get your book from a torrent site for free. (Something else we know first-hand.) There’s not much you can do about this, so accept that there are some people who just view indie authors as incompetent, inept, worthless (see “leper” above) and go on with life.

            Believe in your work…and act like it. That means promoting the hell out of your book. Request reviews. Buy ads. Agree to any interview that’s offered. Talk to people in bookstores or coffee shops. In short, act like you’re willing to do whatever is necessary to make your novel a success. And you are, because you believe that it can be.

Self-publishing can seem pretty daunting, because, well, it is. However, the rewards you reap are your own to celebrate. We’ll never forget the day we earned a starred review from Kirkus (, the gold standard of literary reviews and a sign that despite all the adversity and the endless and often thankless work, our belief had paid off. And it still is.

Wow, that was some guest post, guys, inspiring with a reality check. Thank you so much for the wisdom you have shared with us today. Wish you luck with your book!

About the authors:

Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto are, collectively, a computer programmer, afraid of heights, a former technical writer, a rabid Go-Go’s fan, a board-game designer, a founding member of the Alan Turing Fan Club, an award-winning interactive-fiction author, a native Philadelphian, an ex-drummer, one heck of a party thrower, a pianist, from New Jersey, the holder of three degrees, an avid role-player, an improvisational actor, an uncle, a stand-up comedian, not particularly fond of flying, a video gamer, a lover of Halloween, a story-game/RPG developer, and an Ultimate Frisbee enthusiast. They are currently hard at work on the next installment of Duchess’ story, The Fall of Ventaris.



Buy links: Amazon | Nook  | Paperback



Authored by Neil McGarry, Daniel Ravipinto
Illustrated by Amy Houser

Number of pages: 326

Genre: fantasy

Publisher: Peccable Productions

A game is played in the fog-shrouded city of Rodaas, and every citizen, from the nameless of the Shallows to the noblest of the Garden, is a player or a pawn. And no one is as he appears.

Not Minette, brothel-keeper and obsessive collector of secrets. Not Uncle Cornelius, fearsome chief of the gang of brutes and murderers known as the Red. Not the cults of Death, Wisdom, and Illumination, eternally scheming and plotting along the Godswalk.

And certainly not the orphaned bread girl known as Duchess.

Yet armed with nothing more than her wits, her good friend Lysander and a brass mark of dubious origin Duchesswill dare to play that game for the most coveted of prizes: initiation into a secret society of thieves, spies and rumormongers who stand supreme in a city where corruption and lies are common coin.



Often seen with a nose buried in a book, you might spy me at a library while 500 unread books adorn my shelf. At other times, I'm busy travelling solo, eating out or looking for my new escapades. You will always find me doing too much all at once.

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