Sunday, December 7, 2014

Finished with another book, or am I?

Yesterday I wrapped up a very promising 3rd draft of last year's NaNoWriMo story, The Freeze.  I had that feeling, that I'm done feeling. A rush of emotions. Happiness, relief, but then doubt and weariness.

Why?

Because one thing I've learned since I started self-publishing is that when you think you're finished, you're usually wrong.  No, take that back, you're definitely wrong, particularly if you are celebrating finishing your final draft.

So, you might ask, what's left to do?

Good question. Here's a quick list to give you an idea, and perhaps to give me one as well.  A checklist of things I have yet to do.

1. Get a second look at the thing.
Honestly, I haven't done this in the right place yet. Getting a beta reader to look at your story should happen after you are confident it's ready for public eyes.  Maybe this time, eh? I really should.

2. Format for publishing.
This gets tricky, particularly if you distribute through more than one venue, like I do. I've found that each one prefers, or even requires, a very specific set up. Some require standard front matter. You have to obtain an ISBN # and put it in the right place, or an ASIN # if you're publishing on Kindle. And, while you don't necessarily have to do it, you probably should write a quick note for the end of the book. Yeah, that's not really fun, but think about how you feel when you finish a good story and find that the author has tacked that personal touch at the end. I know I like it.

3. Come up with a back cover blurb.
 This can also be the description you will post with the book on websites. For me they are either the same or very similar. I don't think I've yet mastered the art, but writing reviews has made the task easier. My goal is to write a single paragraph, short and sweet, that shows what the story is about and why the reader should want to read it. In any case, this needs to be ready before you go to publish. All the venues I use require you to post one, and some don't have a save progress option; it's all or nothing with those, so have it ready.

4. Craft a cover.
Ok, so this one's tricky. So far, I've done all my own covers, but I must say that you'll probably get better results if you hire someone with a solid portfolio and graphic artistry skills to do it for you. Then again, if you're like me, you don't have a budget for that just yet.  So, I will be doing it again.

Right now, I'm looking at my topic and at my other books and thinking, "Holy cow, did I really just write another book that lends itself to a blue cover?" Sure, blue's my favorite color, but honestly, I'm not doing this on purpose.  Can't make it white or the edges disappear on the selling pages.  Le sigh.

So, yeah, you need a cover before you publish as well, and like the content, the cover needs to be formatted differently for different venues.  I usually use the same one for Kindle and Smashwords, but the print one has to be a specific size and quality. And it has to be set up a bit odd because the top, bottom and right edges will be chopped off. That's a pain.

Photoshop helps, but not as a means to stitch together different pictures or fix a fundamentally flawed one.  I use it to layer background color, image, boxes (on which to place the text), and text onto the cover. Don't get caught up in fancy fonts or complex images. Simple is good. Readable is good. Shrink your cover to the size it will be posted on Amazon. Can you still read it and tell what it says? And, like the content, ask a few people to give you their opinions.

5. Get ready to publish the book.
This is where you'll actually start uploading all the content, the cover, and the blurb. Personally, I like to load the book everywhere and save, but not publish. Then I like to order a print proof and do one more round of line editing. Whatever I catch there, I fix in all three formats: print, kindle and smashwords. It's amazing how many things you'll find in the print version of the book you thought was perfect. It's worth the few dollars you'll spend on the proof and the shipping. And yeah, this is another reason why I say I'm not done when I think I am. I know better.

6. Set a date and promote.
Yes, time to let people know the book's coming. There are a few ways to drum up interest. You can sign up for blog tours, book blitzes and schedule interviews. You can take out ads.  You can recruit some ARC reviewers and get them to post their opinions before release date.  So far, I've not been very good at this part of it, mostly because I just want to skip right to publishing.  Because of that, I won't go into detail here.

7. Publish the book.
At this point, you are ready. Everything's in place. It's release day (or just prior to). You've announced/promoted. You're happy with the book, the cover and the blurb. You know where you're publishing. Now, just log in, hit publish and wait. Wait, because with self publishing, your book usually has to go through a review before it posts.

If you've done this before, you'll have a good idea how long it takes for each venue. Like for Amazon, I'll hit publish the night before release. For CreateSpace, I'll hit it 2-3 days before release. For Smashwords, well, I just post it on release day and the book filters out to the various booksellers over the course of a week, but it's available on the Smashwords site right away.

8. Promote the book.
And promote yourself and your brand. Talk with people. Chat with readers online. Write a blog. Share short stories and poetry. Write reviews and participate in the author community. Mention your book when context allows, but don't shout "buy my book" in every message board and chat room. Basically, this part of it never ends. Some of us are better at it than others. I've noticed that those that are good at it have readers and bloggers and fellow authors behind them, cheering them on and spreading the word. I hardly ever see an author that has achieved that standing on the power of their own, personal promotion efforts. And, it takes time. Have I reached that level yet? No, but I am enjoying the journey there and feel lucky to have met some very interesting people along the way.

So, yes, I'm finished with The Freeze, but as you can see, there is a lot of work left to do. I'll keep you posted.