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Inside The Guts

Self-Publishing: The Saga Continues

Not Nice and Other Understatements
Well, it looks like all the care and attention to formatting BEFORE uploading to CreateSpace paid off. The cover passed right away, and just one tiny tweak to the interior — which had to do with mentioning “Available through Amazon and other retailers in the introduction by Joseph Paul Haines — and I uploaded the corrected copy and fully expect it to go through with no problems.

Some notes about the interior for next time:

* It helps if you choose the size of your book and the font first when putting it together. Saves time later on. I chose 6×9 as the size, and Garamond 12 for the font.

* Everything goes on one document.

* Formatting for print is vastly different than formatting for the web. You want your book to look professional. Although, if you are a writer primarily for the web, you will need to resist the temptation to include all the white space and eschew the indents. That’s not how it’s done professionally, so think about that.

* Page breaks after each chapter or story. This way, when you’re tweaking out a chapter, it doesn’t throw off the rest of the formatting you’ve done.

* Page numbers start AFTER the front matter — meaning the title page, the copyright page, the table of contents. Page numbers will go in the footer of the page.

* Chapter titles (or story titles) go four paragraph spaces down the page and centered.

* There’s no such thing as looking through it too many times. I’m sure there’s stuff I missed, and I’ll kick myself when I see them, but at some point you have to let it go. It helps to let it sit for a couple of days in-between picking, because you’ll see a lot more when your eyes are rested. You’d think being a professional editor would be a help — but when it’s your own work, not so much. Heh.

* I used Open Office because for one thing, I hate M$ and Word drives me nuts. Plus, with one click of a button, OO transforms your document into a pretty .PDF file. One click. Love it.

* Label your versions like, Working Title 1.0, Working Title 1.1 to keep track of where you are. After each editing, I exported to .PDF to see what it would actually look like. Sometimes you catch things in the .PDF that you don’t see in the .doc form.

Notes about the cover for next time:

Let someone else do it.

Seriously. I am not good with graphic programs, photo programs, or anything remotely looking like a combination of art and computers. I’m totally lost. I can barely take a digital picture and upload it to Photobucket. Therefore, I know my limits and tapped my good friend to format the cover for me. I commissioned my daughter to take a photo for the cover — something she is very, very good at — supplied the copy and photo for the back cover, sent it to my friend, and he did the rest. For which I am eternally grateful.

Yes, I probably should learn to do that myself, especially since I very likely will go through this process again.

Random thoughts:

When putting together a collection of shorts, flow is very important. You want one story to flow into the next, and you want to vary the placing of long stories with shorter ones.

Leave the Table of Contents for the last thing to do. *sigh*

I included an introduction written by Joe, who knows my work very well; an acknowledgment page; an afterword and a publication history. I copied the format (but not the content, that’s my own) of a copyright page from an actual book. I gave credit to the photographer, the cover artist, and the introduction-writer.

I had to choose a name for my own press. 🙂

The next step will be waiting for the proof to arrive in the mail so I can approve the printing. That will take about six days to three weeks. Then, I can start setting up for pre-orders, autographed copies, and start a marketing campaign. But, that’s for another post, although you can see some of my thoughts about marketing in this post.

“Not Nice and Other Understatements – A Journal of Flash Fiction” will be appearing shortly. I’ll let you know how the next stage progresses.

For now, my brain is really hurty!

Self-Publishing: In Which Our Heroine Wrestles With Formatting

I feel like I just ran a 60 mile marathon. Holy shitkes, I’ve been at it since just about 7:30 AM, and except for a couple of breaks to take care of other pressing business, I have finally stepped back for a breather.

My brain feels like oatmeal. Although, if I’m to be perfectly honest, I’ve had a blast. That is, if you ignore the bald patches, the chewed up fingernails, and the list of things that remained undone today because I’ve been totally obsessed with getting this thing just so.

First off, let me say I believe I probably saved myself a major rupture and hemorrhage by working in Open Office rather than in Word. I used to be in love with Word, but Open Office made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. That would be free. Not only free of charge, but free of annoying bugs designed to drive you straight to the looney bin or nearest bar. (Sometimes, they amount to the same thing, heh.) The other reason I chose OO is because it is supposedly much easier to transform to a .PDF file, and this is a requirement for CreateSpace files. Being somewhat technologically challenged, this is definitely a plus for me.

To begin, I had to format my files into something that looks like a book. I had the material chosen — an assortment of 36 short stories and flash fiction. I had them in a line-up with which I was happy — I added a story and flipped the order around a bit. Then, I had to add a title page, choose a publishing name, and type up the copyright page to include the two people working on the cover (more later) and a disclaimer about everything thing being fictitious and one that prohibits people using the material without my express permission.

I figured out how to add a footer containing the page numbers, which thankfully sorts itself out as you format, add, and subtract pages. Go me!

After that came the table of contents, although I don’t have the page numbers entered yet. Next, the acknowledgments, and two pages reserved for the introduction, to be written by a friend of mine.

Then, the stories.

I had to decide on the font for the titles, which I did to match the title page. Then, decide on the spacing for each story. I kept an eye out and adjusted so no widows showed up on the next page (you know, that odd word or sentence that looks all alone and “widowed”) and added blank pages where appropriate. For instance, a 100 word flash fitting all on one page I’d place on an uneven page number with a blank behind it, because that’s how it looked best to me.

I had to ask for some help with setting the margins, as this was a trifle confusing to me — easy to do on my best days, I have to admit. Heh. Then it was endless re-arranging until the text looked even and consistent. I even managed to pick up a typo or two, which is Very Good at this stage, although I face-palmed at how I missed them in the first place. See? I say it over and over, you just don’t ever see all your errors the first, second, or even seventeenth time through.

Insert the after words, the publishing history, and voila.

That sounds easy, right?

What I learned through this part of the process:

1. Patience is definitely a virtue. It’s like putting a puzzle together, and I don’t know if it’s my flash background, editing background, or just plain old anal-itis, but you really do have to be picky and take your time, often going over and over and over yet again to make sure everything is exactly where you want it. I have long believed in flash it matters a great deal to the story how it appears on the page, and I am quite anal about that.

2. Format the page size before you start formatting everything else. I made this a lot more difficult than it had to be because I was working in an 8×11.5 page size when my book is going to be 6×9. Starting at 6×9 means you don’t have to reformat AGAIN once you realize you need to re-size your page.

3. The inside margin corresponds to the “left/right” margins and the outside margins are everything else — namely, “top/bottom”. I didn’t have to worry about inside bleeds because I have no images in my book.

4. Every time you move something, even something as small as a punctuation mark or to add a space, the whole she-bang shifts. That’s just a fact of formatting life, and you’re gonna have to come to terms with it right quick or you’d better hide the sharp implements and flammable materials.

5. Creating a .PDF from Open Office is as easy as falling off a log. One click. That’s it. HALLELUJAH!

6. I have the most patient friends a girl could ask for.

Is the formatting done, you ask? Oh, hell no. But the bulk of it is done, I believe, although I just took another peek at it and I see some minor things that need fixing. However, my eyeballs are bleeding right now and need a break. I have passed the copy on to someone with un-bleeding eyes to take a look and see if I’ve done the majority of items correctly (not fooling myself for one minute I have) and to get back to me regarding any corrections.

The photo I was waiting for arrived, and it has also been forwarded to a volunteer to morph it into a cover. So, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. At least, this particular tunnel. More tunnels ahead, I’m sure, and I’ll let you know all about the next one.

🙂 Yep, still smiling!

Ruminations and Meandering Thoughts on Self-Publishing

I know I’m about to open up a whole can of worms here, but this is a subject, an important subject, that affects all writers of fiction. These are just ruminations and meandering thoughts of things I’ve observed in the last couple of years since I started in the business and the art of writing for money.

First of all, you may ask what makes me so qualified to express an opinion since I don’t have a novel on the bestseller list? I don’t have an academic degree in anything, other than the PhD I have acquired in the School of Hard Knocks. I am just a working writer hack. Just who do I think I am, really?

I have been reading since I was three years old. This old brain is stuffed full of stories of every kind, and this old heart overflows with the love of the written word. Couple that with an observant nature and an insatiable thirst for learning, and although I may not be a product of formal education, I have been around the block a time or two, and have learned a bit in the process. I might not be able to diagram a sentence in the tradition of Mrs. Outhouse, my high school English teacher (and yes, that is her real name, bless her heart!) but there’s one thing I know intimately, and that is story. Plus, I have been earning a living through writing, editing, and renting my soul to the devil for years. (Not really. If that were the case I’d rent my soul for a lot more than what I’m making. Heh. But earning a living from writing and editing is true.)

What I have observed lately is the world of publishing has cracked wide open, especially in the last couple of years. We can discuss for hours the implications of this to writers, but that’s not really the point of this post. In other words, I’m not going to get into a philosophical discussion about “art” vs “business” here.

Self-publishing is not new. Consider this who’s who list of self-publishers: Mark Twain, Margaret Atwood, L. Frank Baum, Ernest Hemingway, Benjamin Franklin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Rudyard Kipling, Walt Whitman….those are but a few. However, self-publishing has never become a respected vehicle for writers, and there’s some good reasons for that. For one, there are no gatekeepers. Say what you want about traditional publishing, but they get it right more than they get it wrong (Paris Hilton aside) and that’s because there are gatekeepers. Sure, it’s a crapshoot when you pick up the latest on the shelves, but chances are the material is in decent condition.

But self-publishing books? Well, there are no gatekeepers of any kind, and the only thing you really have to go on by buying and reading material from a self-publisher are reviews, if available, or word-of-mouth, which can be unreliable. And writers who opt to self-publish run the risk of a publishing stigma that maintains if you self-publish, it has to suck. Thankfully, I see that trend starting to change, although I suspect it will be a long row to hoe.

I have mixed feelings, and I’m sure a lot of other writers do, too. The thing that many writers fail to realize is this whole clusterfark is not about art. It’s about business (I can hear the wailing already — save it. I’m not listening, because I know I’m right and in your heart of hearts, you do too). Wail all you want, but the truth is the truth. If you can’t handle it, maybe you should be doing something else. Just sayin’.

Consider these points, if you will:

1. Whether going the route of traditional publishing as opposed to self-publishing, you are going to have to take on a bigger role in self-promoting. It is now a fact of writing life. No longer will you be able to “just” write and send in your material to a publisher and have it magically appear on the book shelves with no more effort from you. It’s not going to work that way. “Write it and they will come” does not apply. Sorry. You’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and sweat some more. Self-pubbers know this — have known it forever. Traditional publishers are going to expect you to do your part to get the word out about your book. Is it fair? Don’t care. It is what it is.

2. When is self-publishing a viable option? Well, there are a few reasons I can think of. For one, it is a smart business move to put together a small volume of shorter works and self-publish to get a buzz going about your novel. If it does well, you have something besides a smokin’ story to show a prospective publisher without compromising your material. Establish an audience — you’re going to need that, anyway.

3. For two, there is some excellent fiction that just won’t find a publisher. Why? Because it is not mainstream enough — meaning, the target audience (and if you don’t know who your target audience is, you have more problems than I can help you with) is not big enough for a publisher to make any money. The novel you’ve just written about the mating habits of the tse-tse fly is not going to appeal to more than a very small and very specialized market, no matter how well-written it is. Remember, this is a business — and this is not personal, so get your panties out of a bunch.

4. With the advent of electronic reading devices and of course, the Internet, a self-publisher has a better chance of reaching a larger audience than ever before. Not to mention opportunities afforded by digital publishing (known as “weblit” to some) in which some authors have found much success due to hard work and innovative marketing ideas.

5. Traditional publishers have a larger distribution and more resources than self-publishers. Again, this is the truth and why being published by a big house seems like the Brass Ring. But is it right for you?

So, what’s a writer to do? Stay tuned for the next post, in which I will give you my opinion of what a writer needs to think about before choosing which way to jump.

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