Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 31, 1911: Titanic Launch Day

Today is the centenary of the Titanic's launch in Belfast. It's also the day I had originally thought would be a good release date for my book.  Well, as you can see, when they launched the Titanic, it was far from being done. So, too, is my book.

Granted, the writing of the book is done (as long as I don't go crazy and decide to revise it again), but all that other stuff that goes into publishing is still not ready for primetime, as the original SNLers would say. I would have liked to at least be able to launch my website today, but alas, I spent too much of the holiday weekend playing and not enough working. Though I did get a good amount done yesterday. I think the design and layout is set. Now all that's left is that pesky content. (I'll also be redesigning the blog to match, so there's yet more work to do.)

Anyway, back to my original point. One hundred years ago today, the Titanic was first launched from the Harland & Wolff shipyards in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The ship's hull had been finished, but all the bells and whistles (not to mention funnels) still had to be added, so the launch was basically the first test to see if the ship would float. After that, workers took another 10 months to fit her out with everything else she would need. Still, the launch was cause for celebration, and drew a large crowd to cheer her on. You even had to have a ticket to attend. And today, Belfast is celebrating the anniversary.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day

It's a holiday weekend, which means I have an extra day off and therefore should be getting all sorts of work done on my book, right?  Well... sort of. I did get some things done, mostly yesterday. I finished up some last-minute research (found a new book at the library I hadn't read yet, as well as a few on Google Books) and changed around a scene in the novel to better fit the timeline, am about 95% settled on a title (finally!), am about 75% settled on a cover design (found an awesome font yesterday that got the design geek in me all excited), and started creating my web site. I have everything done in the Kindle version except the copyright and "About the Author" sections (I never know what to say about myself), so I'll soon be able to do a final read-through of that for formatting quirks.

All in all, it hasn't been a complete waste of a weekend.  On the other hand, I've also spent way more time than I should playing Yahtzee on my iPad. (EA Games had a sale this weekend. It was only $0.99! How could I resist?)  I still have a day left, and my plan is to get the web site closer to finished, and maybe finally get that author section done so I can start that final Kindle pass. If neither of those are inspiring enough to get my butt in gear, I may skip them and start the print formatting in InDesign instead. I know that's going to take some time, so the sooner I get started, the better.

I wish I was 100% on more of these decisions, though. I'd feel much better if I was sure of the title and cover art, but I keep going back and forth on both. Where the cover is concerned, I have 2 versions: a light and a dark. The light version uses a photo of the Titanic as it sailed away from Ireland, and while it's pretty, I worry that it looks too much like a literary fiction cover and not a paranormal/time travel/romance cover.  And while the dark cover (featuring a dark sea and iceberg) probably fits the theme of the book better, it's very dark, and I worry it won't show up well in ereaders or in thumbnail form on sites like Amazon. *sigh* I'm torn. I'm tempted to scrap them both and start over, but... ugh. I don't want to start over! So, the debate continues.

Another dilemma I'm running into involves the web site. I have a design that I think I like, but the hardest part is going to be content. What do you put on an author website when you only have one book out? (Or one book that has yet to come out?) I already have a separate blog, which I'll obviously be linking into the site when the time comes, but then what? I need content for the home page as well as the "books" page that will one day list all of my novels. For now, with just the one book, it's going to look pretty sparse.  I know I'll have a synopsis and possibly a short excerpt, as well as links to all the places it can be purchased (my goal is to have it available for all the various ereaders, iBooks, and a print version from either CreateSpace or Lulu). If I'm feeling brave, I may even tease whichever novel I decide to release next, if I decide by the time the website goes live. Outside of that, what else is there to say? It's frustrating. Maybe I'll spend some time googling around and looking at sites of other new authors, see what they have. When all else fails, research!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Post-editing work

My edit is finally done. The .doc and the .html file are both adjusted accordingly, and everything is essentially ready to upload again and check out. But not quite yet. This first time, I was concerned most with the formatting of the novel itself, as well as doing one final read-through. Now that that's done, and I'm on step closer to actual publication, I have a little more work ahead of me.

There's more to a book than just the story itself, and I have a little more writing to do. The easy part: the acknowledgments page. Easy because I don't want a long, rambling list of names. I guess in my case it's more of a dedication page: one line to thank the people I most want to thank. That's already written, and easy enough to format. Center, start down a few lines, italics, end page. Done.

The bigger ordeal, in the case of this book, is the research notes. Because most of the book is historical, I want to be sure I give credit where it's due and include a list of sources I used. Or, given my spotty record-keeping (oops!), as many sources as I can remember. Luckily, I bought the majority of books I used, so they're on my bookshelf right now. I also wanted to include some notes about the historical figures involved and who they were. While I made every effort to stay true to the real people in my book, I couldn't go into too much detail about them (they weren't the main characters, after all, and my heroine isn't omniscient). So as a little bonus, I wanted to include short bios of them to give the reader some added information about who they were and what happened to them after the ship sank. I've been working on this all week when I can, and have it mostly done. All that's left is the bibliography portion. And after that, an "about the author" page. I'm kind of putting that one off to the end. I never know what to say about myself.

One thing I'm going to have to look into soon is the rest of the front matter involved in a book: the copyright page and legal notices and whatnot. I'm guessing that will be generated automatically when it comes time to publish, but I know better than to assume, so I will be doing some research on it later. My goal for now is to have the rest of the extras done and formatted, and a new file uploaded to my Kindle, by the end of the week.  That way I'll have Memorial Day weekend to go through it one last time and fix any lingering errors. After that's done, it'll be time to focus on building my website while also formatting the book in InDesign for print. (Not to mention doing some research on other ebook formats. I'm hoping that by having it in .html I can bypass some of the headaches of converting from Word to ebook.)

Oh, and there's also the small matter of a title. Have I mentioned before how much I hate titles?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

Note: this post was supposed to have been published yesterday (May 12). I have no idea why it didn't. I guess Windows Live Writer wasn't playing nice.


Today is my 35th birthday. It still feels strange to say that number. I don't feel 35. Hell, half the time I don't even feel 25! I never got to the point where I felt like I was finally a grown-up. Maybe because I don't have kids of my own?

Anyway, years ago, I decided that my life's goal was to be a published novelist by the time I was 35. So here I am... 35. Not published yet. Maybe that's why I'm jumping on the self-pub train (I refuse to call it a bandwagon, because that implies that it's a fad or short-lived trend). Well, I may not have been published by the time I turned 35, but damn it, I'm going to be published WHILE I'm 35! So I say that's good enough.

While toying around with ideas the other day, I came up with what I thought was a good plan: set the release date for my book to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Titanic's launch. I knew the ship was launched from the builder in Belfast sometime in 1911, but wasn't sure of the exact date.  If the date hadn't passed yet, I thought how perfect!  Well... the ship launched May 31, 1911.  So I may be pushing it to aim for that date.  That would give me less than 20 days to finish my edit, get the Kindle formatting flawless, get a website designed and running, start possibly doing some promotion, and get a paper version ready to go. I could maybe get the Kindle version up by then, but the rest?  I don't know. It doesn't help that I have yet to settle on a title or come up with a cover design I like. Without any of that, I can't start the website. So May 31 is out.

I discovered something in my research of this possible release date thing: you can't set a future release date for a Kindle DTP book. That's a little upsetting, to be honest. I liked the idea of having a future release date I could announce, and having the book ready to go and up on the site so people could see that it was going to be available soon.  I wasn't looking to have it sit there for months before it was released, but a few days, sure. I don't even care about doing pre-orders (I know at first my sales will be limited to my friends and family), but it would have been nice to be able to see it go up on the site and have everything there (I hear the product description doesn't always show up right away) when it's officially released. Maybe it's something they're working on, but for now, it doesn't look like you can do it.  Oh well. At lest now I know.

I'm going to spend most of the weekend finishing my edit and getting it ready for Kindle. After that, maybe I'll start on formatting it for print in InDesign. (I'd like to be able to have both versions out at the same time, since the majority of my friends/family don't have ebook readers.) I'm still debating the pros and cons of CreateSpace vs. Lulu: more research is needed. After I get that going, I can then focus on the other ebook formats. I'm torn between using SmashWords and doing each platform individually, so that requires some more research, as does iBooks.  I hear it's hard to get a book in there, so I need to do some reading around on that. Good thing I like research! (Gee, how many times can I use the word "research" in one paragraph???)

On a side note: tomorrow would have been my grandmother's 86th birthday. She's the grandma I got my pen name from, so happy birthday Grandma, and thanks for the name! :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Big Edit (the latest one, at least)

This falls under the "do as I say, not as I do" category. All the advice out there about not editing your own work, but rather having a third party (preferably a neutral one) edit for you, is good. Editing your own work, no matter how good you may be, isn't the best plan. You miss things because you read what you know it's supposed to say, rather than what it actually says. I know this because I've edited my novel about 5 times now and continue to find errors. But I'm stubborn, and cheap, so I'm ignoring all that good advice and doing my own edits. I feel like I've gone through it with a fine-toothed comb by now and there isn't anything left to find. I could be wrong, and if I am I'll be the first to admit it, but like I said, I'm stubborn. (I am a Taurus, after all.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Title Trouble

I'm terrible at titles. When I used to write more casually, I would use song titles because they were all I could ever come up with. Now, since I'm aiming to publish my book soon, a song title would be a bad idea. Not original, for one, but most likely copyright infringement as well. As I used to work in music copyright, I have a healthy respect for it and don't want to take any chances. Besides, I want my book's title to stand out, not get confused with a song.

Up until recently, the working title for my novel was Ship of Dreams. The bulk of the plot takes place on the Titanic, so it was a fitting name—until I did an Amazon search yesterday and found more than just a couple of books with the same name. So... back to the drawing board.

I'm not entirely upset by this. I knew all along that my title wasn't very good. It was bland and unoriginal, but it fit my book, so I thought that would be all right. In a way, I guess this is a blessing in disguise: the impetus for me to get off my lazy butt and come up with something better. I'm about 75% of the way through my latest edit (mainly for Kindle formatting errors, but also a general edit as I never seem to be happy with my work and am always making changes), so maybe some turn of phrase in that last 25% will jump out at me as a good title. One can only hope, because if it doesn't, I need to start brainstorming, and as mentioned at the start of this post, I'm awful at coming up with titles. I'm almost as bad at naming characters, but at least there are baby name books and sites out there to help with that task.

At least I learned something out of this. Before you get too set on a title, do an Amazon search. See if there are other books out there with it.  If there are, are there a lot? Are there any in the same genre as yours? It's not necessarily bad for more than one book to have the same title, especially if the title is simple, but only if the books are vastly different. Otherwise you risk confusion. The same principle works with pen names. If you find that there are other writers out there that share your name (or the name you want to use), it might not be a bad idea to find another one. I made sure to search around with Allison Kraft before I chose it. Not just on Amazon, but Google in general, as well as godaddy.com (had to make sure the domain name wasn't already taken). I was toying with another surname, but found the .com was already taken. So, decision made: Kraft it was.

For anyone wondering where I got Kraft in the first place, it's a family name. I've become very interested in genealogy in the last couple of years, and thought it would be a nice way to honor my roots. If I'm not going to use my real last name (it's hard to pronounce and spell for some), it seemed like I should at least stick with something in the family, rather than picking a random name out nowhere. My grandmother was a Kraft (sadly, no relation to the cheese), and the name is close in length and alphabet to my real name, so it felt right.