Jun 072011

Trying to get your work published is a series of confusions, one leading to the next, each to be solved before moving on.

To be published by a large, traditional publisher, but not a small press, you need an agent. And besides it would be nice to have someone alongside, who knows the ropes. Writing is a solitary game otherwise. But how to get an agent, especially in this era of vampires and paranormals? I don’t read them or write them, but I am getting tired of reading about them, they’re that ubiquitous.

Also, how long must one wait? For an agent to say yes, for a publisher to say yes, for the book to appear? I suppose if you’re young and have another job, a year or two each is no big deal. But I had to ask myself, after losing a decade, how many more years was I willing to lose in this never-ending waiting game? When I was honest with myself, the answer: none.

And so once again into the self-publishing world I go. After the unhappy end with iUniverse and the little matter of no longer having the money, who to go with? And more importantly, should I publish print books or eBooks only? I decided eBooks only. But as is my way, my decision sat on unstable ground.

Next question: who to hire as an editor? I went with the smaller, less expensive outfit. More in another post on that choice. In contrast to trying to choose an editor, revising my novel once I’d received the edits was a relief. This was known territory. Still I worried: was it good enough? Had all the lost threads and inconsistencies, the grammar oops and verbos been found?

I needed a proofreader. But they are hard to find. Amazon CreateSpace doesn’t even provide that service. Instead they offer a round of basic copy editing. But editing and proofreading are physically done differently. In editing, you read like a normal person, left to right, down the page, seeing both content and grammar. In proofreading, you read backwards, from bottom to top of page, sentence by sentence. I start on the first page, but it wouldn’t surprise me if others start on the last page. Not distracted by content, you’re more likely to catch grammatical errors, misspellings, and typos that way. It’s also faster. As a result, the cost for proofreading should be much less than copy editing. So to pay for the latter when you want the former is a bit heavy on the wallet.

I finally did learn of a real book proofreader. But she was booked into the summer. And so I huffed and sighed and groaned and printed out my manuscript, slapped it down on my desk, pulled out my green pen, and began proofreading. I was astonished that though I hadn’t worked as a proofreader in *mumble* years, I went right into proofreading mode as if I had never stopped. I wish I could learn that well today — it really hit home how learning today never becomes ingrained in me like things did pre-injury.

At the same time as I was trying to find a proofreader, I had to contend with what to do with the cover. Do I hire a cover designer or do it myself? A good book cover designer has a special skillset of knowing what looks good in that format and will sell a print book. Yet covers for eBooks work differently than covers for paperbacks or hard covers, which just a perusal of cover thumbnails on kobo or Amazon will tell you as most are designed for print and copied unthinkingly to the eBook.

Unlike other authors, I actually have some design skills and a decent eye for what looks good. And so it wasn’t a case for me of, of course get a cover designer. Cost became the overriding decision-maker. My work is free to me.

And finally came the back cover copy, or in Smashwords parlance, the extended description. But writing back cover blurb is the work for marketers. Now some in the traditional publishers don’t read the book, which is why the back cover blurbs don’t match the story, but good ones do and know what will catch the eye of a reader. I do not. But free is me. And I had a brilliant idea: all those query letters I wrote and had rewritten, they would make a good base for the description. I had already written a logline. So I used that for the short description.

Still, once I had done the soft launch of my novel She and could see the book page, I was not happy with my initial effort. I found a how-to and tried again.

Then someone asked me when readers like her, who read only print books, would be able to read my novel. Sigh. I revisted my first decision, and I suddenly remembered that NaNoWriMo had offered a CreateSpace proof to winners. Could I use that? Well, no, not for this novel, but it did get me to read the website for winners and realise that if I once again, did it myself, I could get it into print for free. So once again, into the tedious brain-busting physically-draining world of formatting I go. And do I go into the formatting world of Word, for which CreateSpace has a template, or my traditional desktop publishing world of Corel Ventura? Formatting a manuscript for print is different than for an eBook or the Kindle, and Ventura does give you more control. I have yet to do the Kindle on Amazon itself (Smashwords converts to Kindle format but it isn’t available on Amazon); I am both procrastinating and waiting to ensure my soft-launch readers don’t find typos or formatting errors. Formatting for print will take a few days and by the time I’m done, assuming I make up my mind which software to use, I will (I hope!) know of any typos.