Writing for Greatness, or I Finished. Now What?

Show of hands: Who here has ever written something of a creative nature? Who thought it was better than the dreck being put out at your local chain bookstore?

Now, who here took the time and the chance to publish?

It’s true, the bar to being a successful writer/author/poet/creative type is high as ever, and it’s not one that is likely to ever go away barring a cataclysm of such magnitude that we’ll wish we were Rick, Maggie and Daryl on The Walking Dead, and our skills at writing won’t matter at that point. However, until that time, while the ways to the big publishing houses may be guarded, there are other ways to get your works out there. The best thing is, most of them are free.

And for those of us who wish we had a shoestring for a budget, that word “free”… Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Of course, like the man said, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. There’s an initial cost to publishing your work, but if you want it out there, you’re going to need to do it. Your first step is to decide which way you’re going to go with your work: electronic publishing, or ebook; or print-on-demand, meaning someone prints your book as requested and ships it to customers who came across your name and said “Gee, this looks interesting.” Either way, you’ll need the most important thing for your book besides what’s on the pages: The cover. Plenty of people will tell you when they’re going through a bookstore, the thing that catches their eye about a book is its cover. It catches their interest, and gets them to read the backcopy. It’s the hook and the line that pulls a potential reader in, so the importance of a cover cannot be overstated. Unless you’re a creative graphic genius (if you are, you’re a lucky sod), you’ll need to find an artist that not only fits you, but fits your work. Most artists are very flexible, and can work a multitude of styles. Your best bet is to check their portfolios. A good rule of thumb is “if you like what you see, go for it.” I wish there was more to it than that, but hey, you’ve already wracked your brain when it comes to your work. Let it happen.

The best place to find cover artists are, you guessed it, other authors. As in, we’ll tell you who we commission for our covers. An excellent place to find other writers is, not surprisingly, the internet. Facebook has a multitude of author groups that you can join. The great part is, you’ll not only find good information on how to get a cover artist, but you’ll find a ton of good stuff on how to (or more importantly, how not to) publish. This is a good thing, since most of these groups are run by people who want you to succeed as a creative type, and won’t purposefully steer you wrong. You’ll learn a lot more than you initially thought you would, and you’ll actually believe Facebook is good for something.

Yeah, I wrote that last sentence with a rueful smile, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Once you get your cover artist to make an awesome cover, you’re down anywhere from 75 to 100 bucks. Yeah, I know. It’s a bit of change, but you know what? It’s worth it. My cover artist, I wouldn’t trade her for anyone, and it’s a complete jazz to see the actual book in your hand, with an actual cover, on a book that you wrote. It’s like “I wrote this. Holy crap. It’s like I’m a real author!”

Slow down, though; we aren’t quite to that point yet. We still have to get the thing published.

There are several ways to get books published, and as I said, the ways are usually free to put your books out there. However, if you’re selling them, the places you’re selling your books on will take a royalty. No free lunches, remember? It’s okay, though, since it’s not a huge amount of money being taken. Most places will also advertise you a bit if you go exclusively with them. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is an example of that, and can be used in conjunction with CreateSpace, a Print-on-Demand service that Amazon also provides. However, KDP locks you in 90 days exclusivity, where you can’t publish anywhere else like Barnes & Nobles PubIt! service, or Smashwords, both very much great places to publish, so you’ll have to make the choice of how you want to have your work out there.

One thing to note here: Formatting. Get used to doing it yourself. There are services out there that will happily format everything for you… for a price. Smashwords offers a free (really free; no cost) style and formatting guide that works for all types of formats. It’s ostensibly used for access to the Smashwords premium catalog, but hey, if it works, it works. It’s not that difficult to do anyway, and just takes about an hour or so. You’ve already spents hours, days, weeks, and even months getting your book together. What’s another hour to make it look spiffy?

Now, here’s where it can get kind of tricky: How do you want it done? Ebook? Well, page count doesn’t matter, since readers can increase or decrease the font size, rendering any page count completely irrelevant. It’s also much easier to distribute, as it’s just a file. Sorry, I know that you worked hard on it, but hey, you should hear what I call my books. Keeping a PG-13 rating on this blog is hard work, I tell you. Regardless, if you’re publishing as an ebook, it’s just a matter of uploading the file, uploading your awesome cover in the right resolution (something any good cover artist will school you on), setting a price, putting a blurb about the book, and putting it out there. That is, in a nutshell, that.

Dead tree version… That’s the tougher part, and will run your cover cost a little higher, usually just 25 bucks, so it’s worth it in the long run. You’ll also need an ISBN. This is a serial number for your book that allows it to be sold as a “real” book. Depending on how you want to distribute (more on that later), an ISBN can run from free (awesome but slightly limited in usefulness) to about $100 (pricey, but opens up distribution opportunities). Print-on-Demand is a wonderful thing, but it gets a wee bit tougher, as page count matters, and your cover artist will want to know how many pages, what size your book is (6″x9″ is popular, but there are a bunch of sizes available), and what you want on your backcopy. I don’t care who you are: Unless your book is over 1000 years old, it needs a blurb for the new reader. It’s that little bit of fluff that you see on the inside cover of hardcover books, and what you read on the back of a paperback. It’s the sinker to the cover’s hook and line. So your artist needs that bit of information to put on there. After that, it’s a matter of getting the proof, which can be either electronic or physical. A proof is simply how the book looks. Whether you get it in electronic or physical form is up to you. I prefer electronic as it’s a lot quicker and looks exactly like the physical. Your mileage may vary, so choose your path wisely.

Once you’ve got your proof, you have to choose your distribution channels. Using CreateSpace, you can distribute for free on the CreateSpace store and both Amazon and Amazon Europe. Awesome, yeah? This gets you the most royalties, by the way, so this is a good thing. For an extra $25, however, you can use their expanded channels, though you’d have to get a different ISBN. Yeah, I know, it’s a bit of a pain, but since you’re doing the publishing, you get all the bonuses and the difficulties in publishing. This is one of those times.

After that, it’s pretty much all on you to promote yourself. So… do it! Go on podcasts that feature writers. Get a Facebook page and Twitter account to pimp your stuff. Network. The key is to BE SHAMELESS. As you are the author/publisher/publicist/everything but cover artist, you have to make it happen. Don’t be afraid to drop the fact that you have a book out, and where it can be found. Tell people that if they like it, they can tell their family, friends and neighbors; if they don’t like it, they can tell their enemies. Who cares as long as you and your books get talked about? The whole point is to get your name and your work out there. If you have the extra cash to spend on ads, spend it. Realize: No one knows who you are until you tell them who you are. No one knows how good your books are until you tell them, and they read them. All you have to do is talk about what you know, which is your writing and yourself. It doesn’t get easier than that.

To help all those who have gotten this far, here are some links for you:

www.designedbystarla.com : This is my cover artist, and she’s awesome. Starla will work with you and make sure you have the best cover ever. Of all time. Just awesome.

http://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq : You can find all sorts of really good information here, not just for formatting, but stuff about publishing, literary agents and how to get your books out there.

www.roundtablepodcast.com : Just a great resource for authors. I’ll have an interview with Dave and Brion from the Roundtable Podcast soonish, but go there now and check these awesome fellows out.

http://deadrobotssociety.com/ : Don’t let the name fool you. This is an excellent podcast with a full-on plethora of stuff for both the up-and-coming and established writer.

 

These are just four of the starting places you can go to get your books published, or at least get the right start. Bottom line: Don’t be scared of the challenges being your own publisher poses. Take the plunge. Make a mistake? Fine. You know for next time not to do that. Just freaking publish. You might just surprise yourself and the world.

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~ by Walker on February 13, 2013.

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