In this post, I’ll cover the basic steps in getting your book published, and point you to some additional resources.
Every good story starts with a good idea. Ideas are all around us. Sitting at the breakfast table with an elder. Driving to the grocery store in the car next to you at a stop light. See that woman putting on her mascara? Where’s she going? What about the young family walking past your house on a Sunday afternoon?
Ideas come from observation. Observation leads to learning. And learning leads to experience, emotion, emergence. Like a butterfly struggling to escape the cocoon, the newly fledged writer gazes in awe at the new world surrounding her. Take some time to be silent. Take a walk. Breathe. Meditate, if that’s your bag.
The hardest part. Sometimes it’s like slogging through six feet of slush on a zero degree ay. Sometimes it’s a walk in the park. Most writers begin with a rough outline of where they’d like to go. Maybe you have a deck of index cards. Maybe you use a word processor, like Microsoft Word, or Apple Pages. I read somewhere once that Ray Bradbury started a story by rolling a sheet of paper into the typewriter. He’d type a word at the top, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and type another word. Then fleshing out the story just meant filling in the void between the first word and the last word.
Writing is hard work. It requires practice. It requires putting in the time. Luckily, many others have gone before you, and can offer reams of advice. My friend, Linda M. Hasselstrom and I are in the process of publishing a volume of her essays on writing, “Write Now, Here’s How”, in which she distills 6 decades of writing insights. In 300 pages, she dispenses advice on how to think about writing, when to write, and many other observations drawn from her years on the prairie.
Likewise, the internet has many sites devoted to helping you, as a writer, become better at your craft. When I was younger, I drew inspiration from Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones”; William Safire’s books on words; Stephen King’s wonderful book, “On Writing”. There are many more.
The key to writing is to write. Bradbury says you must write every day. Don’t try to write a novel. Write what’s in your heart. Write what’s in your soul, what stirs you. If it’s not interesting to you, chances are it won’t be interesting to anyone else, either. 1,000 words a day is not hard, but it might net you a story a week. And you will get better. Find your voice.
It is possible to layout an entire book in the same software you use for your writing. If you are a Microsoft Word or Apple Pages aficionado, you already have a leg up. There are some great tools available on the web, as well. Mac users can use Vellum (although it’s expensive) to format eBooks. If you feel uncomfortable doing the actual layout of your book, there are many designers (besides ourselves) who can do the job for you.
Putting the cover together is best left to visual experts. As the first thing potential buyers see when they find your book, it is an important marketing tool. It must match the tone and content of your book. Imagine, if you will, a childrens’ book with an inappropriate photograph on the cover. Wouldn’t sell very well, would it? Or perhaps a scholarly tome about castles and kings, but with a decidely Goth flair to the cover that misled readers into thinking they were in for a rollicking fantasy romance. Stuart Bache, one of the best-known indie cover designers, has this to say about cover design:
The cover has to work within its market. That doesn’t mean it needs to be a carbon copy of those already out there, all I mean is needs to have a sense of the familiar about it (i.e. it looks like an action thriller, romance, etc.).
Familiarity is how many of us buy a product, big brands use it all the time in terms of colours, typography, and imagery. And you can totally have a unique cover AND still have familiar tropes from a genre.
Adobe makes some of the best (albeit expensive) design tools for both Mac and Windows. Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop are purpose-built tools that are worth their weight in gold in the proper hands. The learning curve is steep, however.
And of course, we can handle both cover and interior design for you.
Proofreading and Editing
The author is mainly responsible for the content of the book. We will check for visual errors, mis-spelled words, and typographical booboos, but when it comes to the actual words, you are in charge. Editing and proofreading are not the same thing, by the way. Editing is the crafting and nuancing of precisely the thoughts you wish to convey. Some authors will edit endlessly. Some authors will hire an editor, whose sole job is to make sense of the chapters that perhaps you are too close to.
Proofreading, on the other hand, is checking for errors. Grammatical errors and syntax. Making sure the subject and predicate line up with each other. Looking for changes in tense that don’t belong. Typographic niceties, such as single spaces between sentences, proper ellipsis, capitalizations, and so on. We will do our best to make your work perfect in that regard, and will even suggest copy changes, on occasion.
Publishing and Distribution
Distribution through print on demand (POD) is the way to go for an independent author these days. In order to get your book published, you’ll want to copyright your work and apply for an ISBN number. The publication process has a host of niggly little details that you may or may not want to be aware of. Copyright, ISBN, hard-cover, paperback, trade paper, eBook, ePub, Kindle… what do all these terms mean to you? Just ask… we can help you with a portion, or the whole taco. Your decision. We can arrange for worldwide distribution through our print-on-demand channels and help you get into bookstores, libraries and brick-and-mortar shops. Ebooks are also an avenue you might want to consider.
Some authors prefer to manage their own marketing, through social media, email blasts, and actual postcards. There’s absolutely no substitute for meeting the author at a book-signing. And often the author has a robust mailing list that can be put to good use in asking for pre-release reads of a new title. Other authors may like to have the entire process managed for them. And that’s okay. As marketing professionals, we can help you with that, as well.
Hopefully, that gives you some insight into the wonderful world of independent publishing. We’re here to assist you in whatever way works best for you. Use the Inquiry Form to start the conversation, and to set your foot on the exciting journey towards your next book.