Wednesday, April 27, 2011

And the journey begins...

Time to dust off the ol' blog. It's been almost a year since I was first trying to land a literary agent for one of my novels, and I'm a little embarrassed at how quickly I caved in and gave up the fight. I like to think I'm not a quitter, but in this case, I was discouraged early on after reading so many agent blogs about how sick they were of getting queries on vampire novels. Well, vampires is what I usually write about, and they're in the book I was shopping around, so I decided to quit querying for the time being and see if either I could polish up my non-vampire book and try it, or wait a while and see if the vampire craze died down enough that interest might be renewed.

Well, patience has never been my strong suit. It didn't help that my novel takes place in 2012 and is centered around the centennial of the Titanic disaster. When I originally wrote it, that milestone was still years away, but now here we are just past the disaster's 99th anniversary, and my little novel is getting dangerously close to being outdated. Given how long it takes for a traditional publisher to get a new book out, I realized that even if I were to start querying again, get lucky enough to land an agent, then get lucky enough to quickly land a publisher, it would probably be much more than a year before my book saw a bookshelf anywhere. So I started researching self-publishing.

I have a confession to make, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this: I've been a snob about self-publishing. In my mind, self-pub was for people who weren't good enough to get a "real" publishing deal, and I refused to even consider doing it. Self-pubbed books always looked amateur to me when I came across them online, and they were always more expensive because print-on-demand has a higher cost margin. You're not printing in huge batches, so the cost to make one book is higher. So, it wasn't for me. I thought I was good enough that, with time and determination, I could eventually land that agent and get a book deal somewhere.  And for all I know, I still could. But now I'm not sure I want to.

I came across a blog in my Goggle searching that changed my mind completely. A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. The guy behind it is very successful in the self-publishing field, and the more I read his posts comparing the two methods, the more I started to see that I'd been wrong. People DO make money in this. And now that ebooks are so popular, there's a whole other avenue to sell your books. Being a tech junkie myself, I've been on the Kindle bandwagon for years now. I got my mother a Nook for Christmas last year, and she's become hooked as well. Getting a book on Kindle and other ebook formats looked like it would be (relatively) simple. I could do this!

I've designed website for over 10 years now, so doing the html coding was nothing new. I prefer to hard-code websites anyway, so I didn't have a problem with the code required. I did find a VERY helpful guide to the world of Kindle formatting here, however: Natasha Fondren that has helped me immensely with the quirks and subtleties of the Kindle DTP experience. Her tip about sending your Word document to your Gmail account and getting the HTML code from there was a massive time-saver. I had written my book in Microsoft Works and then carried it over to OpenOffice, and all the extraneous coding that resulted from the two programs would have been a nightmare to clear out. With my nice clean Google-created HTML and a free download of Coffee Cup HTML Editor, I was ready to go. (I normally use WordPad for my HTML coding, but given the length of this project, I wanted something that would speed up the process.  CC has shortcuts for common things like italics and bold, and has a handy snippets feature that let me save Kindle-specific coding like chapter breaks and headings so I wouldn't have to keep cutting and pasting them in.)

I spent the weekend on my formatting, got the book all done, used MobiPocket Creator to make it into the right format, and then uploaded it directly to my Kindle to read. I'm a perfectionist, and didn't want to start the actual Kindle DTP stuff until I was SURE the book was ready to go. I'm about halfway through a read0through, am finding a few formatting errors that need fixing, as well as narrative edits I want to make, so it's still going to be some time before it's ready for the public. But it's a good start, and I'm liking how it's turning out so far.

I'm also a graphic designer, though more a hobbyist than anything. I have a certificate from an online graphic design school, but after going through the program, realized that freelance designing wasn't for me. But it's helping now because I'm able to be my own cover designer. Only problem is: I can't decide on one I like. Well, not entirely true: I DO have one I like, but I'm afraid the "tone" of the artwork doesn't match the book's genre well enough. So I'm still picking at it for now.

Today, rather than do more editing, I made the final decision on my pen name (my real last name is one of those that, while short, is always mispronounced and misspelled. So I chose a family name to use instead), bought the domain name, changed the name on my blog to match, and wrote this. I am nothing if not an expert at procrastination and avoidance. But these were things that had to be done eventually, so why not just get them out of the way now? I will have to make the website at some point, but for now I think this blog will be fine. I still have a long way to go, after all.

Next steps: finish the edits, correct the formatting, and do another Kindle read. Once it looks good there, I'll upload it to my iPad and check it there, maybe even try it on Mom's Nook if I can. I'm not sure yet if my Kindle-formatted html file will work for those, but I think I can use MobiPocket Creator to make a file they can read. After I've checked it on a few platforms, I'll move on to actually publishing the darn thing. I plan on doing Kindle separately, then will probably use Smashwords for the other ebook formats/sites. I still have research to do there. I like to have control over everything, so I may decide to do the other sites individually instead, especially since I've already taken the time to do the html coding. Smashwords looks like it only uses Word files to do it's conversion, so that could be messy for me. We'll see when we get to that point.

Once the ebook portion is done, I'll either wait to see how it goes, or start formatting for paper. It looks like CreateSpace is the most popular bet, but again, there's still research to do.  Since most of my friends and family (my only guaranteed readers) don't read ebooks, I'd like to have the paper option sooner rather than later. Which means a whole new set of questions, such as ISBNs, trim sizes, etc. I'm also leery of the pricing.  With ebooks, I can price it at $2.99 if I want and still make a good royalty, but with paper, it looks like I'd have to charge $13.99 or more to cover all the extra costs. I hate charging that much for a paperback, even if it's mass market size. And as an avid reader, I know that personally, I hate PAYING that much for a paperback, too.

Well, I've rambled on enough for now. I've also run out of afternoon. Looks like it's time to go make dinner!  Maybe tomorrow I'll get back to that editing. ;)


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