Being An Indie Author – Job description involving 3 hats – Part 2: Publishing

This is the second in a series of 3 posts where I’m taking a look at my job as an indie author.

The first post in the series where I talk about how I go about the authoring/writing process can be read here. This second part looks at the publishing process and part three will look at marketing.

Preparing to Press the Publishing Button

The manuscript is complete. Now the hard work really begins. I redraft the whole thing many times, cut out whole sections, write new ones, make sure the whole thing makes sense and is well paced and well told. I check for consistency within the story. I check my research for factual accuracy. And I check the grammar, punctuation and spelling. I keep going until, at last, all is perfect – according to me.

So, I can’t put it off any longer. Now it must all go to the editor.

Professional Editing

A professional editor is vital to ensuring that the final product is the best it can be. This is the case whether a manuscript is going to be published by a traditional publishing company or by an indie author.

A professional editor must be able to spot all the mistakes, inaccuracies and blunders. They must be thorough, honest and harsh when necessary. If something’s not working, or could be done better, or is just plain rubbish they must say so.

My editor, John Hudspith, certainly does all of the above – and more. He’s a ruthless alchemist of prose. He points out where the manuscript isn’t perfect, the places it’s flat, flabby or lumpy – but he also makes useful suggestions as to how to improve things. His keen eye also spots missing or incorrect punctuation, and possible factual flaws or blips in the plot/character details.

Then I as the author must take all his constructive criticism on the chin, must not be precious, must get over myself and consider all his advice and suggestions seriously. And by doing so I ensure the book is polished and ready for its readers. John also helps with getting the back cover blurb and the front cover strap line just right – something that is vital in attracting readers to the book.

So I owe a huge debt of gratitude to John and if you want to know more about his editing services you can visit his website here.

In-House Proofreading

My current proofreader is my husband. He doesn’t do proofreading professionally but pre-retirement it was part of his job to check complex technical documents before they were released. He has a precise and accurate eye when looking over text. He picks up on yet more missing commas, ambiguous or inaccurate wording, and misspellings. This is despite me having read the document many times and John also having passed through it. So a good proof-reader is vital and I’m glad to have Mr S on board. He’s now open to working with other indie authors – so if you’d like to discuss using his proof-reading service then do get in touch via the comments section below and I’ll pass all queries on.

Professional Book Design

Another vital member of the team is the book designer.

In spite of the old saying advising us not to judge a book by its cover, it’s something most of us do. In truth the cover of a book has an enormous job to do. It has to fit the genre of the novel. The cover images have to suggest what’s between the covers, and the cover text has to be displayed in a way that will make it eye-catching and easy for browsing book buyers to read.

Then there’s the layout of the interior of the book to consider. The text needs to be presented in a reader friendly way. The font the size and the spacing have to be spot on. Then there’s the design and layout of chapter headings, page numbers and headers. And the book must look right regardless of whether it’s being read as a paperback, an e-reader or a phone.

Now, I’m neither artistic nor very good on the technical side of things but fortunately I don’t have to be. And that’s because I go to Jane at JD Smith Design for all my design needs.

I provide Jane with a design brief. This will include a short synopsis of the book, the formats it will be published in i.e. print and e-book, and a vague, just about coherent idea of what I’d like the cover to look like with maybe a few suggested images.

After a bit of back and forth emailing Jane will come up with the very cover design I was looking for – even although I didn’t know exactly what that was it before I saw it.

And once we’ve got the cover sorted out, Jane gets to work on the interior layout and design for all the various formats.

I love the look of my books and I get so many compliments on the covers. So, yes Jane is another alchemist who works magic on my book. If you want to find out more about JD Smith Design you can do so here.

And, I should add, it’s not just the books Jane designs for me, she also designs all my essential supplementary materials including, bookmarks, fliers, posters, postcards and a large roller banner  – all of which do a great job when it comes to marketing.

Pressing the Publish Button

Yes, indeed – publishing does happen at the press or rather the click of a button nowadays. So once the cover and the interior have been finalised it’s time to set up all the different formats on the appropriate websites such as the printer, distributor, and online booksellers. And then it really is as simple as clicking the button marked publish.

And now my book is out there – out there in the company of millions other books. All I have to do now is get it noticed. I have make sure folks know it’s available and how to get a copy. Now it’s time to get marketing – or rather to continue and step-up the marketing that will have already begun before publication.

 

Invest in your Writing – Part Two: Let’s get Critical

Critical Eyes are a Critical Investment

Image via clipart
Image via clipart

Welcome to part two of this three part series of posts on investing time, money and effort in your writing.

Last time we looked at getting on course i.e. getting started on taking your writing seriously. This time we look at the next step.

So you’ve written a novel, or a memoir, or a collection of short stories. Maybe you’ve written a set of essays, or an instruction manual, or perhaps you now have enough poems to make a book. Now what?

Routes to Publication

Most likely you’d like to share your work with some readers beyond your circle of family, friends and the cat and so you need to get published. So how does that work? Well you can approach literary agents and if you’re lucky get taken on by one. You could even approach publishers directly and with even  more luck and a following wind be snapped up by one of them. And of course to increase your ‘luck’ in being offered a contract or publishing deal, you will have done careful research on which agents and publishers to approach, i.e. ones who actually represent/publish writers of your particular genre. You will also have investigated the nature of such contracts and will know what’s a fair offer and what you can and should negotiate on.

I did the above. I was encouraged by the fact that my first novel got to the ‘second-reading’ stage in the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Getting that far in that scheme is usually taken to mean the manuscript is publishable and leads to an introduction to at least one agent. But I had no success, I’m afraid. Bad luck or poor writing? Not for me to say. None of the agents or publishers I approached ignored me. All offered encouragement and constructive advice. None felt they could sell my work. My novels don’t fit neatly into any one genre, but spill over across several, plus the main characters in both are women who are no longer ‘chicks’–– and older women just ain’t cool––apparently.

But that wasn’t the end of my ‘getting published’ dream. We are indeed (as writers) fortunate to live in interesting times. Recent years have seen the rise of the independent author-publisher. Now, put all notions of the old concept of vanity publishing out of your head. Things have moved on considerably from the scenario where a desperate-to-be-read writer would spend a lot of money on poorly produced volumes of their work, only to end up pulping them, having stored them in the garage unloved and unsold for months or maybe even years. No, it’s all different nowadays.

The rise of the indie author or author-publisher (pick your favoured term) has coincided with the rise of the digital or e-book. As e-books popularity increased, book distributors such as Amazon saw an opportunity; an opportunity that would bring them sales, sure, but would also allow anyone with a written piece of work to publish it.  Kindle desktop publishing (KDP) was born. All an author had to do was have their manuscript in a suitable format for uploading, get a cover from KDP’s cover creator facility and press upload.  Other companies such as Ingram and Smashwords and the makers of the Kobo and Nook e-readers also got on board. The uptake of this opportunity by authors was considerable and this led to Amazon and Ingram, amongst others, offering the facility to produce paperback as well.

I went down the author-publisher route, set up my own imprint and have published two novels with a third one (this time for children) due out early in 2015. I  joined the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) set up by the indomitable Orna Ross and this means I have access to lots of very useful advice and protection, as well as a network of authors and publishing industry experts whose knowledge I can draw on. I’ve become au fait with marketing, especially on social media and have made a reasonable number of sales but I’m nowhere near making a profit – yet.

Why no profit? Ah, well, that’s where we come back to the investment thing at the heart of this series of posts. Yes, it’s time to get critical.

Polish before you Publish

So, if, having read the above, you’re enthused to publish your book, please just stop a minute. Don’t rush into it and don’t publish your first draft. Don’t publish your fiftieth draft. I can assure you it won’t be good enough. Whether you want to pursue the traditional agent/publisher route, or whether you decide to go indie, you owe it to yourself and your manuscript to get dispassionate, critical eyes to assess and critique your work. Get networking and find an editor, a cover designer, a proofreader and a book designer. At the very least get an editor. If you join ALLi as an associate member (£44.00) i.e. unpublished writer, you will be able to tap into a rich database of tried, tested and approved book professionals who will knock your manuscript into shape.

If you take this advice and perfect and polish your book, you have more chance of getting an agent or publisher’s approval, but more than that you have a publication-ready manuscript regardless of whether Penguin (other publishers are available) think you’re next big thing.

If you do self-publish, you’ll have a book worthy of your readers hard-earned money and investment of time. The last thing you want is your reader throwing your book  (or their e-reader) across the room in frustration at your poor spelling, several typos, plot inconsistencies and nonsensical sentences.  And furthermore, it’s not unheard of for traditional publishing houses to pick up a successful indie author having been impressed by a good product that’s building a satisfied readership.

But more than any of that, it should be a matter of pride and of belief in your writing to produce and publish the best version of that writing. And, especially if you choose the indie route, the quality is down to you. The author-publisher is gaining respect. Booksellers and book fairs are beginning to be just as approving of the independently published as they are of those who are traditionally published. Again ALLi has been at the forefront of this move with their Open up To Indies campaign.

However, it’s down to us as writers whatever route we take to publication, but especially if we go the indie route, to ensure that our book is edited and proof read, that the cover is not some generic, distributor generated one, but is worthy of being the first judgement readers make of our work, and that the interior layout is easy on and pleasing to the eye.

So develop a professional attitude, invest in your ‘business’ and GO GET CRITICAL!

And if you still need convincing, and even if you’re not wanting to be published, consider this, seeking and accepting constructive criticism won’t just make your book a better read, it will make you a better writer.

Some useful contacts:

These are the talented people whose services I’ve used to make my books the best they can be, clck on their names to go to their websites for more information:

Editor: John Hudspith

Book and cover designer: Jane Dixon Smith

Proofreader: Perry Iles email – chamberproof@yahoo.co.uk

And you’ll find the Alliance here

 

 

So You Want to be a Writer – Five Steps to Writing Heaven

First draft is just the beginning

1. So you’ve decided to be a writer of novels. You’ve maybe taken a class or a course. You’ve read a couple of  ‘how to’ manuals. You have an idea for a story. You understand about ‘character’,’ plotting’,’ setting’  ‘point of view’ and ‘voice’. You go for it and over weeks, months, years you get the story written. You write ‘The End’ and put it away for a month or so to let it ‘drain’ or ‘simmer’ – (pick your metaphor). 

2. Then you retrieve it. You share it with other writers, get feedback – and on this point I can’t recommend highly enough having one or two writing buddies. That is other writers with whom you have a mutually supportive, but above all honest relationship – people who will tell you painful truths like ‘get rid of that character, that plotline – they stink!’ Or who will push you to extend yourself when you need it and who will praise and encourage you when you deserve it. 

3. And finally you revise, redraft and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.  And now it’s ready to submit to agents and publishers, right? 

4. WRONG! Please, please consider getting your manuscript professionally edited. Word of mouth recommendation is best – as with most things – but if you can’t make contact that way, then there are professional bodies for editors  – in the UK the SfEP website http://www.sfep.org.uk/ is a good starting point – and they are worth investigating. Yes it costs money BUT you should see it as an investment – in yourself and in your writing. I can personally recommend my own editor, John Hudspith,  http://www.johnhudspith.co.uk  who also happens to be an excellent teacher of writing. 

5. THEN – take the editorial advice and rewrite AGAIN. Now you might just might be ready to seek publication.  

There are a lot of  ‘how to’ manuals out there – I list several on the ‘Writing’ page of this blog – but one of the best – if not the best – that I’ve discovered so far is one first published in 1934 – and still in print and that’s Dorothea Brande‘s book ‘Becoming a Writer’. 

See you in Nirvana aka on the bookshop shelf… 

The 3rd most beautiful bookshop of the world!
Image by stukinha via Flickr

 

Literal weeding leads to metaphorical flowering…

I was struck by the similarity between my two spare time interests of gardening and writing when I was working in my garden at the weekend. This year, as you can see in the photo, the poppies in several parts of the garden are spectacular, and there may have been something subliminal going on when I named one of the characters in my new novel, Poppy. But I’m really thinking of more general parallels. 

 Both are, of course, creative pursuits and both require effort and a certain amount of expertise to knock the plot into shape.

Weeding and pruning are both terms that writers use when referring to redrafting and editing.  And it’s not unusual to transplant whole chunks of text or storyline. Sometimes a much-loved character just doesn’t fit in to the story and must be sacrificed – in much the same way that a beloved plant can get too big for, or no longer suits, its situation. And sometimes both types of plot yield surprises – things self-seed, or don’t turn out as expected.

When I get a bit stuck with the writing, I find that a bout in the garden gives me thinking space and, as I hack through the literal weeds, the metaphorical ones fall away too.

Do you see what I did there? Came over all writerly 🙂 I could go further and refer to ‘seeds of ideas growing and blossoming’ or to strands ‘branching out and intertwining’.  Next I’ll be using flowery language but that would be blooming awful…

Okay, I’m going now.