Publishing — A Self-Publishing Adventure Part 2

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A little over a decade ago, my in-laws decided to have a new house built.  They worked with an architect and contractors and everybody else required, and over many months, they succeeded.  It’s a lovely, unique place that they enjoy to this day.  But getting there wasn’t so easy.  It required passion, hard work, and oftentimes a change in mindset.  The biggest mindset change that occurred, the one that made the whole experience difficult and challenging, was that suddenly they cared.

For example, they were asked what hardware they wanted on the doors — what type of doorknob.  My mother-in-law’s response — I don’t care.  Just put a doorknob on.

Okay, said the contractor, we’ll go with Brand X.

My mother-in-law looks at Brand X and discovers that suddenly, she cares.  Suddenly, it does matter, and suddenly, every single little tiny detail is her responsibility.

So it is with self-publishing.  At this point with my short story collection, 10 Bits of My Brain, I’ve had the copy-edits done and done wonderfully (thanks for the contact, Ed), and I’ve put a lot of work into learning how to format the text which has been fun.  I expect to have the introduction turned in within a few weeks (thanks David), and I’m delving into learning about covers.  So, all is chugging along fine.  Except for the fact that suddenly, I care.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve re-ordered the stories, or how long I’ve mulled over the placement of the Acknowledgements page.  Do I want to have that as part of the opening materials or at the end to cap things off?  I like both placements and dislike both for many reasons.  Now, I know that in many ways, it doesn’t really matter.  People either read that page or skip it.  But like the doorknobs, I care.

And that’s a good thing.

If you’re thinking about going down the self-publishing path, then I urge you to consider the type of person you are.  Because, if you really care about your writing and aren’t just trying to find a quick buck (which readers here know, you ain’t gonna find), then you are going to have to really care about the book itself, the experience beyond the words.  As I’ve been putting my book together, I suddenly became hyper-aware of all the little pages (the Acknowledgements page, the Title page, the Dedication page, the Table of Contents, the Copyright notice, the About the Author page) that go into the making of a book.  It’s suddenly my job to consider if and/or where those pages belong in my book.  Suddenly, I care.  If you don’t care, don’t waste a reader’s time by self-publishing your book.  Because, after all, when you self-publish, you self PUBLISH — you become a publisher and must think about those aspects of creating a book.

A major plus side to all this is that when you finish, you’ll be able to offer a lovely, unique reading experience that is your work of art — and not just in the words.  And it’s something that can last as long as the internet itself.  But you have to care.

NOTE — This is ConCarolinas weekend!  The whole MW group (minus Misty) is in Charlotte, NC, so we might not be as active on the site the next few days, but we’ll be checking in whenever possible, and we’ll be back on Monday.

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8 comments to Publishing — A Self-Publishing Adventure Part 2

  • Looking forward to seeing everyone at the con this weekend (but missing Misty).

    As for the publishing side of things, I second what Stuart said and have to admit that I had fun with those things even while I was agonizing over them. But to me the bottom line is this: if you don’t care enough to make every single detail of your book the very best it can be, why should anyone else care about it at all? The difference always has and always will be found in the small details.

  • Stuart, I can add an example for what you are saying a writer needs to do in self pubbing, and what happens when they don’t.

    I once picked up a POD by a self pubbed author. The font was size 9, or maybe 8, so tiny I couldn’t even read it with reading glasses. Not so much a problem with e-pubbing, where a reader can change the font size easily, but an indication the writer didn’t know what she was doing. Her cover was poor quality, fuzzy, confusing, and the page layout was sadly lacking. That lack of business acumen and attention to detail lost her a *lot* of sales. And from the way her eyes slid away when I flipped through the book, she knew it was bad.

    No writer wants to see her work and be embarrassed about it, hence the necessary attention to detail. We are proud of our stories. We also need to go the next ten miles and make the finished product of good quality. I can’t wait to see your book, and look forward to the quality of the writing and the quality of the product.

  • Caring is important, but it isn’t enough. A well-established SF author is epubbing backlist, and has designed the cover for the first book. Author cares deeply about appearance, understands the importance of a good cover, and is very proud of the resulting work.

    Despite all that, to my eye it is amateurish and screams self-pub and didn’t hire a designer. Which is unfortunate, because author is very good, this book never got the attention it deserved, and I’d really like it to find a wider readership.

  • Razziecat

    This process is beginning to sound very intriguing to me. I like to obsess over those kinds of details. Working in advertising, I’ve also seen what a difference it makes when you have someone with real artistic talent and graphic arts skills working with you. But I’ve also read the other pros & cons about this here on Magical Words, and all things considered, I think I’ll try for the traditional method first.

  • I second Phiala on this one. You have to care enough to get professional help when your own skills aren’t up to snuff.

    Even if you are a graphic designer, you should have your cover critiqued by a pro cover designer because book cover design is a specialized skill. The same goes for layout. Book layout has very specific rules that are not the same as that corporate newsletter you did last week in MS Publisher.

    And, of course, the same goes for the writing. No amount of reading or non-fiction writing prepares you for the challenge of composing a story yourself. (Ask me how I know!) And I don’t believe any writer is capable of editing his/her own work.

    Getting the help you need to do the job right is what really shows you care.

  • Hepseba ALHH

    I’d like to second Phiala’s comment. Caring is the important step that should lead to either a) hiring work out that you know you’re unqualified for or b) making a careful, conscious study of the new work or new media so the result really will be as professional as YOU can make it. Just like writers start our SO attached to their perfect words that experience hasn’t yet taught them need revision, so when we try any new thing there’s the danger of loving it without the context to see its flaws. The difference between exposure to something (reading) and actually studying something (critiquing) makes a huge difference in what we are able to see.

    An example relevant to my day job is power-point presentations. Perhaps when you first start making presentations you make sure you add lots of text to explain all your figures and choose a really snazzy background from all the different cool options power-point gives you. But if you care enough about your presentations to admit yours could be improved, then you watch lots of presentations and TAKE NOTES. I hate this presentation – why? Dark background is obscuring some of the text; not enough time to read all the text or equations; … This presentation is awesome and easy to understand – why? (though the why is something good is often more difficult to spot 😀 )

    Sorry to get so opinionated in the comments. Thank you for sharing this aspect of your project with us, Stuart, and glad to hear you’re having fun learning new things.

  • Hi all! Thanks for all your thoughtful comments. I just got home from Friday at the Con, it’s 1am, and I’m hoping this is coherent. It’s been great meeting everyone, both new and old, and already your trusty MW crew is working on ideas for the future. Lots of exciting ideas being tossed about.

    Razziecat’s comment sums up a lot of what I’ve been trying to say. This has already been an exciting, fun, intriguing process, but I’ve been trying to be so cautious in the way I word these posts because I don’t want to sound like a self-pub cheerleader with blinders on to the realities of the publishing world. For beginners, it’s still your best option to learn your craft and work your way up. As the publishing world changes, how we go about those things changes, too. But the basic idea is the same. I’ve tried to elaborate on this point several times but my brain is numb. I’m going to sleep now. Goodnight.

  • In putting up my backlist I’ve gone through the same process of discovering all the little decisions that need to be made along the way to publishing a book, and I love it too. Honestly, I’ve discovered I’m a control freak, and every step of the process fascinates me. It is nice, though, to be able to practice on ebooks, which are much less demanding than print, and so much easier to fix. As in anything, there’s always more to learn.