By Debbie Burke


From 1965 to 1985, the Kalispell Weekly News was great regional paper in northwest Montana. It was owned and operated by George Ostrom, a colorful character who’d been a smokejumper, mountain climber, journalist, author, radio personality, and legendary raconteur. His stories and op-eds were always entertaining and full of folksy, rustic humor.

The masthead of his newspaper read:

George Ostrom, Editor/Janitor.

That masthead always made me smile because it perfectly sums up the life of a small business owner. The title “owner” may sound impressive but that’s also the poor schlub who gets called in the middle of the night when the plumbing stops up.

Indie authors are small business owners and monarchs over their writing realm. My kingdom consists of a messy dining room table, littered with sticky notes, piled with draft manuscripts, cluttered with invoices, ISBN records, etc. My throne is a secretary chair on casters with a donut cushion. The royal duties are a to-do list that grows longer every day. As fast as I cross off one task, five more are added, each requiring a different skillset.

Today is launch day for Deep Fake Double Down, # 8 in my Tawny Lindholm Thriller series. By the eighth book, the publication process should be polished, refined, and trouble-free, right?

Wrong, dead wrong.

Each new book presents its own set of unforeseen and unforeseeable problems.

Deep Fake Double Down had its fair share of (mis)adventures.

Here’s a synopsis: A corrupt prison warden covers up the murder of an inmate by creating deep fake “evidence” against an innocent female corrections officer. The videos go viral on social media and soon every cop in Montana is gunning for her. 

Initial drafts went well with encouraging comments from critique groups.

Target release date was January, 2023. Notice the past tense.

The story was on a roll, about 75% done. Then in December, my beloved Windows 7 computer died. Here is the obituary.

Now I had to learn a new Mac computer with unfamiliar commands. At the same time, the all-important third-act climax of the story needed to be written. The process forced me to reach deep inside my creative soul…

…to come up with adequate curse words to express my frustration!

The working title “Deep Fake” was dramatic, punchy, and hinted at the story conflict. My initial research found only a few books using “Deep Fake” in the title. All were several years old, and one was categorized as “humorous erotica.” Whatever that is, it wasn’t a comparable for my story.

My talented cover artist Brian Hoffman designed an excellent cover here:

I checked off those tasks on the to-do list…or so I thought.

Now to research. Artificial intelligence and deep fakes are complex and rapidly changing. The more research I did, the more I knew I was over my head. I had to find experts to guide me. The story needed enough detail to give readers a taste of technology but without slowing down the momentum of a fast-paced thriller.

With seven previous books, I’d been fortunate to find experts easily. From drones to elder fraud watchdogs to fire lookout towers, specialists were willing and generous about sharing their knowledge.

Not this time.

I reached out to authors, engineers, and software designers whose articles I’d studied. I explained I was writing a thriller about deep fakes and asked if they’d review passages for accuracy and authenticity.

Two initially agreed. A month later, the first one ghosted me. Two months later, the other one, from a major university, unexpectedly had to clear it with the “compliance department.” She wrote back that the compliance department told her manuscript review was not permissible because they were an “FFRD center.”

What’s FFRD? I had to look it up.

Turns out it’s “federally funded research and development.” Not sure what that has to do with a fictional story but no means no. Scratch that source.

Contacted more experts in the field. No responses. Clock ticking.

Back to the title. If my book had launched in January as originally planned, the title Deep Fake would have been fine. But…

…in March, bestseller Ward Larsen released his new political thriller entitled…Deep Fake. With deep fakes prominent in the news, obviously I wasn’t the only writer eager to tackle the subject. Ward beat me to the punch and I’m glad he’s doing well with his book.

However, now my book needed a new title. I enlisted help from a focus group of trusted writing colleagues. They came up with a slew of good alternatives. Brian created a new cover with the new title, Deep Fake Double Down.

A month before release, I put the book up for pre-order, certain I could finish the remaining items on the to-do list before the deadline to upload the final manuscript.

Some parts of the process fell into perfect alignment. Steve Hooley came up with a terrific marketing idea. Recently he wrote about side hustles for writers, including his own hand-crafted legacy wood pens.

The McGuffin in my story is a secret mine of rare Montana Yogo sapphires, a treasure that’s worth killing for.

Deep Fake Sapphire Pen by Steve Hooley

Steve kindly offered to create a custom design as a marketing premium: the “Deep Fake Sapphire pen.” What a thrill when these arrived in the mail! For a chance to win a beautiful pen and a signed paperback, please visit my website.

Other marketing opportunities arose, including several speaking invitations, a magazine interview, and a radio chat with TKZ’s own John Gilstrap and his cohorts, retired Admiral Bill Stubblefield and Rob Mario.  Many thanks, John!

Meanwhile, the clock was ticking but I still hadn’t connected with any deep fake/AI experts.

Finally, an astrophysicist friend connected me with TED fellow Peter Haas, but he wasn’t available to talk until a week before the deadline. Gulp.

Peter’s input was worth the wait. He corrected info that was outdated because of new developments. He taught me cool new jargon like NerF (neural radiance field, not to be confused with those squishy game balls), Tor (a web browser that makes you anonymous), and exit node (a relay to anonymously send and receive traffic on the net).

The explosion of deep fakes has understandably led to increasing distrust of news sources. Peter talked about two groups with the mission to protect provenance of information. Content Authenticity Initiative and Project Origin are supported by Adobe and Microsoft/EDC/New York Times respectively, using digital watermarks to verify that videos, photos, and other digital data do indeed come from the sources they are purported to be from.

Don’t worry—the above won’t be on the test!

Needless to say, Peter’s input required frantic rewrites of several scenes.

At the dizzying rate that AI is changing, it’s impossible to stay current. The best a writer can do is choose a moment in time and set the story at that moment.

Remaining tasks on the to-do list:

  1. Read the entire book out loud.
  2. Final, final, final proofread (this occurs after copyeditor proofreads).
  3. Format the ebook. Here are screen shots of two formatting styles offered by Draft2Digital and Kindle Create.

Side note: you can format with D2D then upload the epub or pdf to Kindle. Although I prefer the appearance of D2D templates (this example is called “Grime”), the Amazon process goes smoother if you use Create to format the Kindle version.







4 Final, final, final read-through of the preview.

5. Upload to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

6. Upload to other markets through D2D (using the Grime template).

Another side note: In a perfect world, the ebook and paperback would go on sale the same day. Rather than delay release until the paperback was ready, I decided it was more important to meet the April 25 launch date for the ebook.

  1. Format the paperback (formatting for ebook and print book are different).
  2. Upload the paperback to KDP.
  3. Order a proof copy, which is scheduled to arrive in a few days.

Two days before the deadline, I crossed off the remaining items on the to-do list except for:

10, After reviewing the paperback proof, hit the final “Publish paperback” button.

11. Order a box of author copies.

12. Stock the warehouse (otherwise known as the fireplace hearth in our home).

Yes, I proudly wear the crown of Queen in this Publishing Empire. My masthead reads: Author/editor/researcher/spell-checker/formatter/publisher/marketer/inventory control/warehouse stocker/bookkeeper/janitor.

Excuse me, Her Highness must now go vacuum.


TKZers: what are your various job titles? Which is your favorite? Which is the one you dread?




For a chance to win the Deep Fake Sapphire pen and a signed copy of Deep Fake Double Down, please join my mailing list here.

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31 thoughts on “Editor/Janitor

  1. Nobody said this gig was easy. Thanks for sharing your trials and tribs, Debbie. Glad it all worked out despite the setbacks. I think my least-favorite part of the production process is having Word read my manuscript to me. Has to be done, since if I read it aloud myself, my brain still sees what’s supposed to be there, not what is there.
    After the book’s out there, marketing is my dreaded chore. I’m an introverted recluse.

    • Terry, you’re the one who nudged me to go wide with D2D. Their support is great.

      Marketing is definitely the hardest part for the majority of writers!

    • …[M]y brain still sees what’s supposed to be there, not what is there.

      Our optic nerves don’t go to the frontal cortex, they go to the limbic region, a part of the Guardienne, then to the visual cortex for processing. The Guardienne knows what is supposed to be there, and supplies it, will-ye-nill-ye.

  2. Congratulations on your new book release, Debbie! I’ve never had a release that didn’t involve a challenge or two along the way, but you get the indie author medal of honor for overcoming all the ones you faced.

    Titles: Writer/Author/Publisher/Editor/Proofer/Marketer/IT Guy/Customer Service Rep. I’ve probably forgotten a few. I define Author as the public face of a published writer.

    My favorite will always be Writer, followed by Publisher. That said, on Saturday, when my library cozy mystery is released, I’ll finally be a Mystery Author, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

    Enjoy your latest book birthday!

    • Congratulations, Dale! Look forward to your book on Saturday!

      Ya just never know what strange problems you might encounter. That’s why I wrote this post for people who haven’t yet gone through the process.

      No matter what, I wouldn’t trade my life as a writer for anything.

  3. Congratulations, Debbie, on the mountain you climbed to publish Deep Fake Double Down! I had heard of some of the challenges you faced. I hadn’t heard the whole story. Even the telling of your struggle to climb the publishing mountain brought sadness and laughter…especially that reaching deep within your soul…for the proper curse words.

    Indie writers are self-employed entrepeurners. First to work, last to leave. We do the grunt work no one else wants to do. Actually, there usually isn’t anyone else. And we get to take all the blame for any mistakes. My least favorite hat to wear is marketing. I still haven’t figured out how that is supposed to work. It seems like a moving target. ?Get out the shotgun?

    To those of you who haven’t yet read Deep Fake Double Down, I encourage you to get the book and read it. It’s one of Debbie’s best. It will keep you up late reading…then beginning to worry about all the havoc deep fake technology could wreak in your life.

    Thanks for telling us the story behind the writing, Debbie. Congratulations!

    • Steve, you’ve been a rock throughout this crazy process, listening to my endless whining! Thanks for your kind words, the gorgeous pens, and your friendship. Ya meet the nicest people at TKZ!

      Authorpreneurs (Dave Chesson’s term) have all the responsibilities but we also enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishment. It’s definitely worth the struggle.

  4. Love this, Debbie. Happy Release Day! I’m reading Deep Fake Double Down now, and lovin’ the lightning-fast pace and spending time with Tawny again. <3

    With my new thriller releasing tomorrow, man, can I relate. My titles include author, secretary (scheduling editor and designer to finish around the same time), formatter, publisher, neurotic, researcher, bookkeeper, proofreader, marketer, promoter, bank teller, blogger, book tour organizer, copyrighter, virtual assistant, counselor (breathe, Sue, breathe), and animal tamer when the furbabies object to the long hours.

    Somehow, it all works out in the end. You got this!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Sue! The task of “neurotic” cracked me up! I forgot I also wear that hat!

      Congratulations on your launch tomorrow! Wow, TKZers are busy this month! You really have marketing nailed and you’re my role model. {{hugs!}}

  5. Congratulations on winning a hard fought battle! I can’t wait to read it! Writer is my favorite title—it keeps me from having to do the janitor stuff.

    • Thanks, Patricia! I suspect most of us climb on this merry-go-round with the expectation that writing is our main job. Then we learn the truth!

  6. I love the approach you took to this article, Debbie! We can all relate to the many hats we have to wear as authors, but that’s part of what makes this an interesting ride, eh? You deserve a medal for that most important quality of a good writer: endurance.

    Deep Fake Double Down is hitting the market at just the right time. I know it’s going to be very successful. Just remember all of us at TKZ when you’re answering your fan mail.

    I have to cut this short. It’s wash day. 🙂

    • Kay, I forgot all about laundry.Thanks for the reminder (hmmpf!).

      Thanks also for your good wishes! TKZ and friends like you play a big part in this writing life.

  7. Great rundown of your challenges in releasing Deep Fake Double Down, Debbie. Congrats on it!

    My tagline is: “Author. Publisher. Mighty fine swimmer.” All the other stuff—including janitor—is in there, too, behind the scenes.

    The Indie author life . . . wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • Harald, “mighty fine swimmer” is a necessary skill since authors spend so much time bucking the tide and swimming upstream!

      “Wouldn’t have it any other way.” I totally agree!

  8. Great post, Debbie! But what a roller coaster you’ve been on.

    To my list of authorial duties (which have been nicely summarized in the discussion), I’d have to add Dad Supervisor and Dogmom to Hoka.

    I’m my 90-year-old Dad’s only caregiver, which I am proud to do. He’s a Korean war vet, and the best dad ever.

    Hoka is a kid who wears German Shepherd fur and skin. And she’s spoiled rotten. I’m sure y’all can relate. When she says, “Take me for a walk” we say, “How far?”


  9. My job title? Venture Capitalist.

    Because I got a big slap in the face when, facing surgery last September, I paid someone properly to do the cover and interior formatting for the second novel in my mainstream trilogy – my way. He may end up being canonized.

    I found out how much my time is really worth. I did everything for the first volume – all he had to do 🙂 was to follow my example, and also take my very clear sketch and words to create the cover I’d already acquired the photo licenses for.

    IT IS NON-TRIVIAL TO PRODUCE A BOOK. One gets better with practice, I’m sure – I’ll probably do the third one when it’s finished, because graphics, etc., are a lot of fun – but there seem to be an infinite number of steps to muck up.

    I was at the helm. I got what I wanted. It cost me – worth every penny. I had even less energy than usual due to the need for surgery and the many medical visits before, but I got my book out before I went under the knife – and had one of the longest recoveries ever. It’s a very satisfying book.

    Venture Capitalist covers it all.

    • Alicia, you faced some huge hurdles and got it done! Congratulations!

      Yes, when you find someone who understands your vision and follows through with it, that’s a blessing. It helped that you had such a clear vision and had done it yourself with the previous book.

      • I recommend doing it yourself, especially the first time – because you understand how much work it is, and most things turn out to take time but not be difficult.

        In asking my friend (who is a writer/publisher for himself and his wife), I knew what I was asking – and am fortunately able to afford paying someone properly for their time. He did most things HIS way – but to MY standards – which only works if I know what I’m talking about.

        And I needed to be able to ask for the changes I wanted – while he was very patient when I pointed things out. I was delighted I thought of him in particular, as we had an online relationship that went back years, and perfect transparency.

        Getting something on Fiverr or even something fancier depends of a balance of asking for what you want and getting what they produce; that wasn’t going to work for me because I had a book out that I took a lot of care with – and I want the trilogy to be a set inside and out. It took a load off at a time when I really needed that peace of mind, without sacrificing quality or features, and I was very blessed. You got that exactly right.

        A book in hand is worth two in the bush?

        • Great points, Alicia. If you’ve built a house with your own hands, you have knowledge and experience on which to base your directions to the contractor.

          If you don’t have that knowledge, whether out of ignorance or naivete, you may make requests w/o realizing they’ll drive the price up or are unreasonably difficult.

          If you do have knowledge, you may also catch the contractor trying to slide by with shortcuts that undercut the integrity of the structure.

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