From Manuscript to Publication
Let’s pick up where we left off in yesterday’s blog.
Here’s how, as an indie author, I get a novel to publication.
1. I have finished my first draft. Hooray! I rock! I am amazing!
2. I read it through and realize the first draft sucks.
Of course, it sucks! Every author who is honest will admit the first draft sucks. Sometimes I even cringe when I read my first draft. I wonder: Who wrote this thing? My dog? Has she been playing with the computer again because I left her alone?
Being an author means getting up, throwing off your utter disgust with your talent, you skills, and yourself, and beginning the long, arduous process of rewriting, editing, and proofing.
3. After about four or five drafts my story stops sucking and I begin to see its potential and promise. Once I’m feeling confident, I send it to four or five beta readers to check for typos, story line, character, and inconsistencies. They send back comments and critiques.
If you’d like to be an author, it is important to remember one thing about people who beta read or professionally edit for you: they don’t hate you, they are trying to help you. So, suck it up and take the criticism. As an old script writer once said, “Don’t be precious with your writing.” I feel free to stand my ground when I absolutely disagree with my readers, but I’d say 98% of the time their criticism and suggestions make sense.
4. I take everything my beta readers have given me and correct all mistakes and issues. Once I do that, I read the story again. I might even send the manuscript to a beta reader one more time for a final check if I have questions.
So, I’m now done. Right?
No! I’m not done. Not by a long shot.
Fortunately, I already have the story in the proper printing format. I use Lulu's 6x9 trade book format, since I print my books with Lulu. I prep the template for my story and write directly on it. It’s so much easier to do than writing a whole novel as a straight Word document and copying it into the required book format.
5. Now I need an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), that long chain of digits found below the bar code on a book’s back cover and on the first or second page of the text. You need this number if you expect to get your book into distribution. I purchase ISBNs through Bowker Identifier Services, the official U.S. identifier agency. It is good to decide whether to buy one or two ISBNs at a time or in bulk. These days I buy in bulk because it's cheaper and I know I will be writing more books. If it’s your first novel, though, I’d advise getting only one or two to start out.
6. A book needs a cover. I had a professional make one for me once, but I’ve made my own for all the other books because I cannot afford a professional service – yet! And, no, I am not happy with my earlier book covers, but I have learned from my mistakes, I am getting better at it, and some blue-skied day, I will re-do the first three Saint Maggie covers.
Fortunately, I now get help with my covers from my partner Dan Bush. He happens to be a retired art and media arts teacher, who graduated from what is now the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He always has great input because he seems to see colors I can’t - but he also an eye for design.
I do my covers old school. I make a draft in Publisher and convert the finished product into a jpeg. Yeah, I know. I need to get some graphics software. Then I need to learn how to use it!
7. I now have a completed manuscript in the proper format, a cover, and an ISBN. It’s time to go to a publishing or printing platform. As I said, I do this through Lulu. Some people do it through Kindle (Amazon's self-publishing service for both eBooks and paperbacks, since they are discontinuing CreateSpace). There are other services out there, too. Self-publishing involves uploading the manuscript and the cover to the publishing/printing platform, deciding how much the product will cost, how and where it will be distributed, what rights you will have for the book, and all those good details.
8. Then I push the button and hold my breath.
Sooo simple. (There should be an official sarcasm font because I'd be using it on the previous sentence.)
9. Oh, wait. You can’t do a paperback without an eBook! I publish this through Kindle. Fortunately, it’s just a matter of repeating what I already have done for the paperback. Kindle does not require authors to have an ISBN. It has its own identifier called ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number), and it is free. However, if you publish through any other eBook format, you will need to get a new ISBN. Important: every new format and/or significantly new edition or version of a book requires a new ISBN.
Indie publishing is not for the faint-hearted, because once I publish a book, the work isn’t over.
10. I need to do publicity, marketing, and social media so people will know my work is out there and (I hope) buy copies. Life is a never-ending whirlwind of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and arranging for and going to book festivals, books signings, and talks.
And that's all it takes to be an indie author. (Apply sarcasm font again.)
It seems like a lot of drudgery, doesn't it? So, why do I do it?
Because I love it.
Being an author is like any other job. There are things that I find annoying and would gladly dump, and others that are fun and satisfying. It doesn’t bring in a lot of money, but I am compensated in other ways. (P.S. Don’t expect to become a best seller overnight – or ever – unless you are very talented and very lucky.)
I am an indie author because of love . I love to write. I love to talk to people about my stories. And I love to play with my invisible friends, a.k.a. my characters. My love of writing and the honor of writing and/or sharing a story are what keep me going.
See you Monday!
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Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder