Monday, 27 October 2014

Publishing Lessons Part 1

Earlier this month, I completed stage one of my largest publishing project to date, when the ebook version of my debut novel Gorgito's Ice Rink  came out on Amazon for Kindle. Work continues on the print version, which will be launched in November, but I thought I'd jot down some of the lessons I've learned so far:

I do need a proof-reader: Everyone tells you this when you publish independently; and I did what I was told, hiring the wonderful Julia Gibbs to 'give it the once over'. My manuscript had been read umpteen times by me; twice by my husband; twice by my sister; and a final time by the laptop, as discussed previously on my blog. I challenged Julia to find anything in what I considered to be a near-perfect manuscript. She laughingly accepted my challenge; and found dozens of errors including a misunderstanding of how an em dash works and at least two spelling mistakes!

I do need a professional cover designer: When I publish non-fiction 'how to' ebooks, they tend to sell on the basis of content and I design my own covers, using Create Space templates. When I published my collections of short stories, I used illustrations by artist friends. My first inclination was to follow this route again. Colin Avery , who illustrated both Life is Not a Bed of Roses and Parcels in the Rain produced an illustration for me, using a photo of 'the original Gorgito' as a model. It is a beautiful picture, and it will hang on my office wall as soon as it's back from the framer, but it didn't express the concept of a serious novel. On the recommendation of another author, I approached Berni Stevens, who agreed to take on the task. I scoured her website for examples of my favoured style, told her what I wanted to achieve - and she did the rest.

I can do the rest myself: Actually, this isn't a new lesson. I've been formatting my own books for the past three years and, apart from the first time, have been putting them up on Amazon and Smashwords myself too. All that's needed is a reasonable understanding of Word (or whichever word processing software is being used), a copy of one of the publishing guides (several of which can be downloaded for free) and a bit of patience.

I need to allow more time for the process: Despite taking nearly seven years to complete the novel, I left myself a ridiculously short period of time to get everything done when I set the launch date for 8th October. To set up a pre-order page on Amazon, you need to load your final version on the site at least ten days prior to launch. This was a bit of a problem, since my manuscript was still being proof-read at the time and (as mentioned above) was not quite as ready as I'd thought. Luckily, it is possible to update the file up to three days prior to launch.

Writers are a generous bunch: Again, nothing new here, but worth saying once again. I set up a twelve-hour online launch party via Facebook and then set about planning how to fill the time. Music was relatively easy (thanks to my husband and YouTube) and virtual cake and champagne are easy to find (I use morguefile.com to download free images), but I needed something more to keep people's interest. With less than a day to go, I sent out a few emails and messages - and quickly gathered more than twenty ebooks and audiobooks to use as prizes in the draw. So a big thank you to the following writing buddies who helped to make my launch party such a success: Margaret Barnes; Tina K Burton; Judith Cranswick; Patricia Fawcett; Della Galton; Susan Holmes; David Hough; Peter Jones; Edward Lanyon; Liz Lee; Tarja Moles; Madalyn Morgan; Cl√©mence Moulaert; Terry Tyler.

[If you would like to enter the Goodreads Giveaway with the chance to win a free copy of Gorgito's Ice Rink, you can find details here] 

14 comments:

  1. Thanks for an informative post, Elizabeth. I agree that writers are a generous bunch and it's really great when we can all work together to get the publicity machine rolling. Amazon is a lonely place to try and make oneself visible!

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    1. Hi Sally. Yes, it certainly can be lonely at times, but there's always someone out there in the ether to talk to. Glad you found the post informative. I'll be doing a follow up after the print version comes out next month. E x

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  2. This is such great info, Elizabeth. I watched what you did with interest as a novice myself and I picked up lots of great tips! I even won a prize :) Thank you and I hope sales are still going well.

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    1. Hello Julie. The party was fun, wasn't it? When I did my first one, back in 2012, they were a rare occurrence, but these days we could spend all our time on virtual cake and fizz if we wanted to - and if we didn't have to spend time writing :-) E x

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  3. I didn't laugh, did I?! Thanks so much for your kind words, Elizabeth, and it was a great pleasure to read your novel. I wish you the best of luck with it.

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    1. Well, Julia, your email definitely had a slight smirk on its face. Thanks for keeping me typo-free!

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  4. So how does an em dash work? Enquiring (or is it inquiring) minds want to know...

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    1. Well apparently there are two ways: leaving a space on either side — like this; that's the way I've been dong it and the way it's often shown in books. However, the correct way is without a space—like this. And I must admit, I prefer the tighter look, so that's what I now have in the book—and will use in all future writing :-)

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  5. You're welcome, and I look forward to reading it, and Madalyn's novel, which I won!

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    1. Well, I know you'll enjoy Maddie's book, Terry - and I hope you enjoy Gorgito too :-)

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  6. Thank you so much for this post. I'm about to launch my first novel on Kindle and your post reassured me that I am on the right path.

    I haven't been this nervous since I gave birth to my first born. lol

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  7. I'm so glad you found it useful, Colleen and good luck with your launch. (I'm about to collect my paperbacks from the printers - now that really is nerve-wracking!)

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  8. Great article, thank you - I was very excited to learn about morguefile.com!

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    1. It's really great, Liz. Morgen Bailey first introduced me to the site and I use if for many of my illustrations (I'm a rubbish photographer!).

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