A NEW LEARNING CURVE

By Bonnie Schroeder

 Unlike many of my colleagues, including several Writers in Residence, I’m a novice at self-publishing. My first two novels were published by the late, great Champlain Avenue Books (CAB), but they’ve closed up shop—which means those books are no longer available, not online, not in bookstores, not anywhere except in the boxes stashed in my linen closet.

It has therefore fallen to me to get those books back out into the world for people to find and—I hope—buy or at least read.

As I embarked on this journey, the best advice I received is this: “get professional help,” and they didn’t mean psychotherapy (although that may be necessary on down the road.) I took that advice and enlisted the wonderful Paula Johnson to guide me, answer questions, tolerate my whining—oh, and design the cover and format the manuscript for uploading to print and e-book formats. Thanks to Paula’s hard work (and a little of my own), it looks as if Mending Dreams, my very first published novel, will be resurrected later this month, first as an e-book and eventually in print as well.

Even with a pro steering me through this, I’ve had to manage some issues myself and make a few decisions. CAB really spoiled me—all I had to do was write the book and turn it over to them. But now …

First came the cover image. Paula sent me ideas for a basic concept, and I found an image I liked, which Paula then massaged and added the text. Here it is.

Yep, it’s a radical departure from the First Edition cover, and I confess that neither Paula nor I loved-loved-loved the image itself. However, it does speak to the heart (pun intended) of the story, it’s eye-catching, and it will tell the potential reader/buyer what kind of story this is.

This is an important consideration when choosing a book cover, as Miko Johnston observed in her recent post here.

Once the cover was set, and before we could proceed with formatting the manuscript, I had to manage those business issues. Fortunately, the copyright I registered for the first edition still applies, but I had to procure new ISBN numbers for both formats, plus an LCCN number. Those initials, as you probably know, stand for International Standard Book Number and Library of Congress Control Number respectively. The former is your book’s unique identifier, which you can purchase from Bowker. Some self-publishing platforms will offer to provide them for free (they’re not cheap!), but I wanted my own so I could take it with me to other platforms in the future if I wanted. And you don’t absolutely-positively need one for an e-book, but I went that route because I’m just a total control freak. The LCCN number tells libraries or any other interested party specifically where your book is located within the hallowed halls of the Library of Congress. Registration is free, although the website isn’t the most user-friendly, but they were quick to give me a provisional number, which will become official only when I send them a copy of the published print book. An LCCN number is not mandatory, but if ever I hope to get my book into libraries, I need one.

Paula did a fine job formatting both the print manuscript and the e-book, which I then had to read over for any weird section or line breaks and other things like that. In theory I only needed to scan the files because the text itself was straight from my triple-proofread manuscript, but that process wasn’t as easy as I expected. This was mostly because I got caught up in reading the text, and there were times when I came on sections where I went, “Wow, I don’t remember writing that!” In the end, I found very little to correct.

I learned a couple of new terms during this process: “Front Matter” and “Back Matter.” They are just what they sound like.

Front Matter comprises the title page and the copyright page, where those pesky numbers are shown, along with the usual copyright notice and typically a disclaimer about this book being a work of fiction, etc., plus any credits or dedication you want to include.

Back matter is where you place any Acknowledgements and the author bio. And here’s where professional help’s value is evident. Paula suggested I include some book club-type questions AND an excerpt from Write My Name on the Sky, my second novel. She also included my website url and a request for reviews at the end of the bio. These are things that would never have occurred to me.

The final touch is the back cover, where I put a short summary of the story that, with any luck, will entice a prospective reader to open the book and read more. It helps to have one or two “blurbs” by published authors, praising my book, and my good friend G.B. Pool stepped up and wrote a lovely blurb for the back cover of Mending Dreams. “You gotta have friends.” So true!

I’m still traveling along that learning curve. Next stop: distribution—how to get the book into readers’ hands. There’s a dizzying array of options, and I think I’ve narrowed the choices down. But that’s another story, for another day.

The bottom line is this: yes, it’s a lot of work to publish your own books. It’s scary and sometimes confusing. But for a control freak like me, it’s also exhilarating. And I want to emphasize that the path I’ve chosen is not for everyone. Many of my colleagues have gone the self-publishing route totally on their own, with great success. Several of them have shared their experiences, as well as tips for my own adventure—along with support and encouragement. However, such skills as I have are verbal, not visual. For a novice self-publisher like me, having a partner has made the journey less confusing, and I know the end result will prove I made the right choices.

Good luck on your own publishing journey, however you go about it, and thanks for reading.

18 thoughts on “A NEW LEARNING CURVE”

  1. Bonnie,
    thank you for sharing your self-publishing adventure. Yes, it can be intimidating initially and I found that after my traditional publisher went belly-up it made all the difference having a professional formatter and cover designer, neither of them expensive but terrific. The best part of having your book on amazon is that it is on the site amazingly fast once it has been submitted. Promotion, not so much! The self-publisher’s work truly begins after publication and authors must become businesspeople though for most authors it is our least favorite occupation. I have found that the greatest number of sales have been at in-person talks to clubs, local bookstores, book tours, at conferences as a panelist, and women’s and men’s organizations, even the VFW because one of my characters was a veteran. Another place I gave a talk was at a kitchenware store to discuss British food (a few giggles but it really has improved!) and at a shop that specialized in teas. Explore all the plot points, characters, and angles to come up with ideas for promotion.
    Again, thanks and good luck. Love the cover.
    jill

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Jill. I agree with everything you wrote, especially about promotion 😦 I’ve started thinking about special-interest groups where I might give a talk. Connecting with readers is the best part!!!

      Like

    1. Thanks, Mad! Glad you like that heart on the cover. It took a lot of searching to find just the right image.

      Like

  2. A great primer for self-published writers and those thinking of jumping in. As you said, it’s not for everyone, but sometimes that extra learning will help when a writer has to do this job. And as you said, Bonnie, it is a job. There were a few things you mentioned that I need to polish in my own endeavors. Thanks, good friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, GB. It’s good for the brain to keep learning, I know, but sometimes I wish I could be a little less “educated.” You have clearly mastered the self-publishing game, and you have the best covers.

      Like

  3. This is such a great post, Bonnie, and one that I think some readers will bookmark for later reference. It’s also great to have a helper/mentor/friend like Paula.
    PS: Sorry for the screw up earlier this morning. I forgot to change my long-ago scheduled post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jackie–and no worries about that little glitch. I am just grateful to the WinRs for letting me guest-post!

      Like

  4. Wow, Bonnie. I’m really impressed! I haven’t done a lot in the way of self-publishing, and clearly I’d have a lot to learn. But you’re clearly learning it. Thanks for providing us with some of the information! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Linda! You’ve been so successful with traditional publishing–you aren’t missing much except the “fun” of figuring out websites like Bowker and the Library of Congress!

      Like

  5. As everyone has commented, lots of great information here, Bonnie. It takes courage to do what you did, but it certainly paid off. Thanks for taking us along on the journey, and especially for all the guideposts.

    Like

  6. It’s a big job (or a lot of big jobs) and I won’t to do it again without Paula’s help. I love the new cover. It’s perfect! And as long as we’re mentioning helpful people, I notice Flo Selfman commented before me. She recently edited a novel for me, and I will forever ask Flo to take her red pen to any manuscript I write before sending it in. Write+Flo+Paula=book!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: