Back when I monitored the NYS Legislature I often heard fellow lobbyists compare passing legislation to making sausage. The same can be said of publishing a book. So, I thought I’d let people into my experience publishing my novels, using as a case in point my soon to be published sixth thriller, Inauguration Day.
I started self-publishing in 2011 two years after completing a first draft of what became The Expendable Man. Over time I’ve been able to shorten the process somewhat, but the publishing world is constantly changing so it’s not as if what I did in 2105 with House Divided will be exactly what I need to do in 2017.
A critical obstacle to being a successful self-published author––however you want to define “successful”––is getting one’s manuscript in shape to be published.
Too many writers err in publishing too soon while a few are never satisfied and take longer than necessary. The problem is there is no system by which an author can submit his/her manuscript to an expert and be told, “it’s ready” or “it needs more work.”
Having been a journalist early in my life I knew I could not publish The Expendable Man without having it professionally edited. I felt the content was ready, but I knew I personally could never ferret out all the possible typos and grammatical mistakes that inevitably creep into a 75,000-word document.
I paid an editor who was referred to me by a friend to go through the manuscript. She did find a bunch of problems, which I dutifully fixed. Later, however, readers would write to me having found publishing errors that editor missed.
No writer wants to publish a book that contains errors. It is doubly frustrating because the writer must rely on his/her editor to find those mistakes. It’s a helpless feeling to be told, there’s a word missing in a sentence, or you wrote form when you meant from.
Over time I’ve tried several line editors––that’s an editor who’s cleaning up the document, not helping with plot or character. Once you’ve found a good editor and cleaned up your manuscript, the next step is deciding how to publish your book.
Today writers can avoid going to print altogether, and in some cases this may be the best solution. I’ve found plenty of people who enjoy my novels want print versions. So, I’m forced to give them what they want.
There are a host of companies that will turn an author’s manuscript into a print product. Some charge way too much and require the author to buy a certain number of copies. Others offer more ala carte services and help with marketing. I use a division of Amazon known as CreateSpace.
I like CreateSpace because I can tailor what I get from them to my personal needs. For example, they offer cover design services, but I don’t need that service. I use a graphic designer who I met while running a business in Albany, NY. She’s done all six of my covers and I trust her.
What do I need from CreateSpace to convert a 400-page double-spaced Word document into a paperback book that conforms to industry standards?
1. The option of submitting my own cover.
2. The ability to choose the size of my book. I like 8” X 5 & ½”
3. A template that converts my document into that format.
4. The ability to preview the result in print and correct mistakes before it goes live.
5. An easy step to converting my book to e-book format.
6. One step submission of both formats to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other distributors, which means I’m completely removed from the purchase process. CreateSpace prints and mails a copy of my book to each purchaser.
7. Helpful staffers who can answer questions.
8. Online resources.
9. Only paying for the services I use, &
10. Record keeping so I know how many books I’ve sold each month.
In Part II of How the Sausage is Made, I’ll cover how I market my novels.