Working Notes – Backstage Pass

Last time around, for working notes, I had skipped over two books, and had to back track.

This time, I don’t have a book to talk about at all, because of another phenomenon of the indie publishing industry:  doing it yourself means actually doing it all yourself.  Everything.  The formatting, uploading, releasing, technical un-hitching, acquiring of ISBN numbers, the lot.

For the last week, since I finished with Lucifer’s Lover, I thought I would be able to dive right back into the second book of the Beloved Bloody Time series (and it is about bloody time, too – I’m dying to get back to it).  Ha!

Hoisted by my own petard, as they say.

Fact is (was…still is, as I write this), I wasn’t quite finished with formatting and creating  and releasing versions of Lucifer’s Lover, and technically difficulties mean that here I am, a week later, still struggling with getting the last two versions out the door.

One of the primary difficulties was simply a matter of time:  I’m also smack dab in the middle of the book tour for Bannockburn Binding, and I have to keep up with that, as well.  And as luck would have it, all my scheduled posts for my blog ran out at the same time.  So, I suddenly had to drop a few higher priorities in order to address a few urgent ones:  posts for this blog, guest posts for the blog tour…I figure you would like to read something interesting when you visit here and there, no?

Then, and only then, could I get back to formatting and uploading the last two versions of Lucifer – namely, Smashwords, and Createspace.  (Createspace is the print version – and feeds the Amazon print page, too.)

So for my “snippet” of my current work today, I thought I would give you a sample of the list of steps I go through to get a book out there, along with some notations.  I don’t always follow every single step, because some books are re-releases, for example, or for some other reason I might leave off steps.  But this is a standard, all-inclusive checklist for self-publishing a book, if you’re not paying for a lot of external processes like editing, formatting, distribution, etc.  I do everything myself but design the cover—but I have magazine editing experience.

First draft:  Write the book.  Pretty obvious, but just finishing a book is a milestone and should always be celebrated.

Final title for book.  A book`s title can change during the writing.  The final title is a marketing decision, weighed up with a careful eye toward reader appeal, with a dozen different criteria guiding the selection, including length, the initial letter of the title, the use or overuse of certain words and more.

Spell check and grammar check draft manuscript, then put book away to freeze.  (Get on with another book) I drift between not-very-good to terrible at following this step.  Oh, I spell check and grammar check the nuts off a script, no problems.  But putting it away and letting it freeze?  Yeah…not so good on that one.  But I do try, because I know how much more of a book’s strengths and weaknesses I will spot if I get just a little more distance from it.

Write blurb  This is a pretty standard duty for authors, but for me, there isn’t an editor or marketing department standing over my shoulder telling me if the blurb works or not.  So I sweat this task out, working and re-working the blurb, comparing it to best-selling books in my genre, tweaking until I think the blurb has the necessary come-hither quality.

Create book page on website and update site for upcoming book, etc. Again, another chore that was always mine.

Complete cover art questionnaire and send to cover designer.  Most authors get to fill in art questionnaires for their publishers, but I’m betting none of them have to provide the designer with printer’s specifications, spine width, trim allowances, bleed information, paper width and variations, the price of the book (which I have to figure out on my own, too), and more technical and graphic specifications of this sort.  I provide all this, along with the hero’s eye colour and the heroine’s full lips and pouty expression…

Read through book as a reader for impressions.  Mark up as necessary.  Here is where leaving the book alone for a while pays off.  I get to read it with relatively fresh eyes, and enjoy the read.  But often, if I haven’t left the book alone long enough, I’m reading and mentally editing as I go.  Still, I try to read like a reader…

Edit carefully.  Then spell check and grammar check.  Round two of the editing/checking/line editing/checking, typo-filtering process.  It’s here that I slide in professional editing or line-editing services if the book warrants it (it’s not a re-release, has never been edited before, or other circumstances).

Create Master manuscript with front and end matter.  It’s here that the publishing process really starts to depart from a normal author’s lot.  All the front and end matter that appears in a book I get to create myself, instead of the publisher doing it for me, because I am the publisher.  And I don’t get to invent it…it all means something.  This is where the acquiring of ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) comes into play, one for each version of the book – the Amazon, Smashwords, All Romance eBooks and Createspace version each have to have their own ISBN.  Then each have their own front copyright pages and copyright requirements.  Plus I’m also creating a “pretty” version as an Advanced Reader Copy.

Pour into Createspace template and format for page count.  This gets even more technical.  This is the two-page internal page layout for the print version, complete with bleeds, trim lines, folios (what you, the reader, calls a page number, but the printing industry gives a different name just to fool you), special fonts for the title page, justified text, kerning tweaks, and more.  This file determines how many physical pages will be in the print edition, which drives the price of the print edition, and also the spine width, which the cover designer needs to know to finish the cover.

Upload to Createspace.  The interior of the book gets uploaded to Createspace and waits for the final artwork, so I can hit the “publish” button on the print version and order a proof.

Create Amazon version from Master file and upload to Amazon.  Now I’m into full publication mode.  This task sounds simple enough, but there’s a lot of formatting involved to meet Amazon’s technical specifications, plus I have to resupply the same basic information all over again (Title, author, blurb, price, category, genre, tags, keywords, ISBN, bio).  Usually, each distribution platform wants the cover art formatted to their specific sizing, too, calling for a tweak of the original art files.

Format file for Smashwords and upload.  I admit I tend to procrastinate about Smashwords, because it’s technically the most fussy and difficult to meet the technical requirements.  They’re demanding, although they’re getting better.  Just like Amazon, I end up re-supplying the same basic information, re-shaped to Smashword’s specifications.

Format file for All About Romance and upload.  The fourth distribution outlet, and one of the easiest to deal with (except I usually end up forgetting to rename all my file formats and having to go back and re-do my book page anyway).

Send out requests for review and/or blog tour.  If the book is an Author Edition, or a re-release, I don’t do a blog tour.  If it has a huge number of glowing reviews already (like Lucifer’s Lover), I don’t even bother with the review requests.  Asking for reviews is a semi-new task for me.  Ellora’s Cave used to send out all their titles to a pre-set list of review sites, saving me the bother, until I built a list of other review sites that I liked and approached on my own.  Now, as an indie author, I have to find sites that will deal with indie published romances at all, and then do my own asking.

Update my site.  The book is officially released now, so there’s a ton of changes that have to be made on my website to reflect that fact.  Links, cover art, book page updates, widgets in sidebars, and more.  I also upload a copy of the book’s cover into my Facebook page.

Blog post about the release.  And then, finally, after all that, I get to tell you about the release.  Talk about the tip of the iceberg, huh?

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