The perils of a would-be author (Act II, creating a book)

Luck has a very uneven and fickle hand, one that no one can truly rely upon. Instead, if you wish to avoid the yawning jaws of defeat and grasp the laurels of success, you need to be prepared. And writing is unlikely to be any different to any other creative process.

Planning to be a self publisher

As I intimated in the first of this series of articles, charting my journey through the unfamiliar waters of writing fiction, I intend publishing my own works, rather than using the more standard literary agent and publisher arrangement. Why? Because I wish to maintain control of what I’m doing. Yes, I accept that I may well not enjoy the successes of being publicized by a well funded and marketing-savvy publisher, but I also retain more control and more of the fees per sale of book.

So this is a gamble, albeit an educated one, since I am already helping businesses market their services via the web through Octane, I have a better grasp than most of what’s required to market an intangible item, such as an electronic book.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, since we’re dealing with the foundational activities, right at the beginning of the process. And here’s where all of the skills and tools I use on client projects are brought together, because writing a book is just the beginning.

The process is write, build, promote, track and then analyse, in that order. However, we need to get the product in place first.

The anatomy of a book

Notice how I say creating a book, and not writing a book? Writing is just the beginning, and only one part of the whole creative process, which I’ll now discuss.

I’m not going to dwell on the aspects of writing, because that’s a completely different topic all its own, which is far too cumbersome for me to discuss here. Why? Because writing is such a personal and subject thing, I don’t think it makes sense for me to talk about what I do and expect those methods to work for or apply to you. So let’s assume you’ve written your book, now what?

Proofreading and copyediting

If you’re writing fiction like me, then the understanding (consensus) appears to be that readers of fiction are less likely to suck through their teeth and wince when they hit bad grammar or typographical errors. But if you’re writing factual, documentary novels, then expect to irk their displeasure. And the reasons are actually very simple, really; the former are reading for escapism, whereas the latter are more likely to use your work for reference, and accuracy is a legitimate yardstick they choose to measure you by.

Either way, at the very least, I recommend you enlist the services of a proofreader. However, if you’re writing factual literature, a copyeditor is essential. That said, if your fiction incorporates factual information, contemporaneous asides, flash-backs between dates et cetera, then you need a copyeditor, to weed out any continuity errors.

Okay, I can hear you mumbling something like “You’re as new to this as I am, so what the hell do you know?” I have form; I’ve written several ebooks, one of which, entitled: How to use WordPress to manage your company website, is rather popular.

Earlier yesterday, I received back my first proofread copy of Earth Day, my up-coming short story, with a sample copyedited version, for me to discuss with Stephanie, the woman of words I’m using to refine my book.

Book design and cover illustration

Mark of Asylumseventy7 also sent me a draft copy of the cover illustration, which we’ll be developing over the next week or so. Since then, I’ve taken elements of his work and created the book cover design for Earth Day. But do you really need a book cover illustration? If you want your potential readers to take you seriously, yes you do.

I come from a print design background, so I know the importance of design as a means of communication. Your book has to compete with a myriad other books on the same or similar topic, whether you’re on a bookshelf in W.H. Smith in Barnsley, or in a web page category listing for hiking & biking in Belgium on Barnes & Noble, the rules are exactly the same.

But even then, the illustration itself is only the first step, after which you will need to consider having your book designed, with the appropriate typeface, that combines aesthetic appeal with legibility, and a layout style that is subtly remarkable yet unobtrusive.

You see where I’m going with this? If you want your book to be a success, you need to speak with the right people and probably spend good money wisely. I can’t tell you who to choose, but I can’t overemphasize the importance of creating a quality book.

Having spoken with Clare from Self Publishing Advice earlier, I had a few suspicions confirmed. First of all, placing images or illustrations into documents destined for Amazon’s Kindle isn’t optimal, on account of the relatively poor quality display of the device.

Secondly, I’d be better served withholding the more elaborate book designs for other book stores, like Issuu, Lulu et al, and just use a simple textual format for Kindle and Apple’s iBooks.

On the issue of cost, I’d already done some research and found that £1.49 was about the right price for an eighty page short story.

Next, I’ll be going through the aforementioned building, promotion, tracking and analysis, which is going to be essential to my social media efforts.