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.

How To Earn $1 Million on Your First Book… or NOT!

Jackie Houchin

bag of moneyI was going to write this post on “how to make $1 million on your first book” and follow the story of paranormal-romance writer Amanda Hocking who actually sold 1.5 million eBooks in 2010 and made $2.5 million. “All by her lonesome self. Not a single book agent or publishing house or sales force or marketing manager or bookshop anywhere in sight.”

Following tips she’d gleaned from the blog of JA Konrath (an internet self-publishing pioneer, who boasted of making $100,000 in three weeks), she also uploaded to Smashwords to gain access to the Nook, Sony eReader and iBook markets.  “It wasn’t that difficult. A couple of hours of formatting, and it was done.”

Then… she got a $2 million contract from St Martin’s Press and… yada, yada, yada.   Here’sHerStory

Today the self-published book market is flooded with books, and unfortunately a lot of them are inferior in quality in one way or another.  Authors in a rush to publish don’t take time to write a quality story, edit, format, proofread, and design a cover professionally. And less than half of them make even $500.

So what’s a newbie author like me to do?

I’m currently working on a middle grade children’s book manuscript. It is a collection of twelve stories from the POV of seven kids who are the children of Missionaries in Africa. The kids take turns writing emails to their friends back home, telling of adventures, mishaps, mysteries, and lessons learned. In the process they reveal amazing bits of African culture, as well as showing how kids anywhere can use the Bible to help them in life.

Because it is unabashedly a Christian book and might be difficult to market, I decided to self-publish.  I’m also determined to make it the best possible book I can.

Okay. No problem.

I’m a journalist and a reviewer. I’ve written tons of stories for my granddaughters over the years. And these twelve stories have been “kid tested” to more than a dozen children at my church. (They loved them.)

So all I have to do is a minor rework so they fit together smoothly, check for typos and grammar errors, and ask a friend to help me upload it to Kindle and Createspace. Right?

WRONG!

IMG_3243As I began to read blogs about self-publishing and downloaded PDFs like “Checklist for Publishing Your Book” and “Which Format Should I Choose” and followed marketing blogs with tips on using  social media, launching your book, advertising, newsletters, and websites, I discovered there’s a lot more to consider.

How to self publish your bookI bought and read “How to Self Publish Your Book” by Craig Gibb, which details about titles, pen names, and blurbs, as well as editing, cover designs, formatting, promoting and marketing options.

Word by Word Editing“Word by Word, An Editor Guides Writers in the Self-Editing Process” by Linda Taylor describes in detail the process of content and copy editing, proofreading, formatting, and all the front and back matter I would need to write for a complete “up-loadable manuscript package.”

 

My take away, if I am determined enough to do it:

  1. Write/rewrite my stories so they are polished to a mirror shine and have a kid-compelling first chapter.
  2. Get my manuscript professionally edited. (I sent in a sample 750 words to be edited free to one publisher, and was aghast at all the track changes suggested!) A proofreader is also high on my list.
  3. Get professional help in formatting my manuscript for the various eBook and print options. (There are just too many things that can go wrong, and I know from a dear friend on this blog that the learning curve is steep.) This is especially important because I want to include photos or illustrations.
  4. Get a cover designer/illustrator who can format for both eBook and Print, and who can portray the vision I have for the stories.

How much is this going to cost me?  A lot.

Can a middle grade children’s book with a Bible slant recoup that in sales?  Only God knows. I’m really NOT out to earn $millions. Any profit I make will be channeled back into the Africa ministries that I love.

But… I DO have a person who has promised to read the book and write a foreward for it. He’s worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators and travels the world as a Partnership Facilitator. He’s been to Malawi many times.  Who knows where THAT contact might lead.

And YOU might even know a 7-12-year-old who thinks it would be fun to grow up in deepest, darkest Africa!  And want to read my book.

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