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.

A Hodge-Podge

There’s always something happening in the writerly world of Nettaland, and I really should be spanked for not blogging regularly. I could promise to be better about that, but I hate breaking promises. The shards are sharp and really hurt when you step on them.

Anyway, here’s the hodge-podge of what’s currently on the table:

~ I am closing on on the completion of a Special Project, and I’m excited. My client is happy with me, and says so here. Truth is, she’s been a dream client, and I can’t wait until “Lovers and Beloveds” hits the shelves. Believe me, you will love it. I think the pre-orders are open until July 15, but you can find out more information here. Hop on, because I have a feeling this thing is gonna blow wide open. Remember, you got the scoop here 🙂

~ With the completion of this project, I will have two openings for editorial services in about two weeks. Contact me for details.

~ Some of you who have followed me on my private blog are most familiar with my whining about “The Blood”. This is a short story whose history is ten times longer than the final word count. I won’t tell the story behind the story here (but I will if it’s published, promise) but suffice to say it’s been a long, torturous road with this thing. It is one of those stories that JUST. WON’T. LET. GO. I wrote the initial inception SEVEN years ago. Yes, you heard that right. It has been reworked and rewritten until I was satisfied, has garnered more rejections than a pimply-faced thirteen-year old at a high school dance, and I finally got to the point where I figured it was just going to be one of those stories that meant more to me than it ever would to anyone else.

Until one of my favorite magazines put out a call for vampire fiction. I sent it in. No word yet, but all signs look promising. I’ll post the link and tell the story should it be picked up.

~ One of my favorite authors has a new story up at Strange Horizons and it is LOVELY. Love her work. Check it out.

~ For those who are looking for a website and book cover designer, I can’t recommend Matt highly enough. He’s not only talented, the man’s a machine, great to work with, and an all-around nice guy, even if he is an Aussie ;). If you have a need, he’s your guy.

~ I’ve been asked to guest blog on Cape Cod Holistic, so that’s something I’ll be working on. I’ll post the link when it goes live — but it’s a great website and I’m honored to be asked to be a part of it. I’m contemplating subject matter, and hope to have something up in the next few days.

~ Ah, yes. Pallas. She tasks me, so she does. I’m really wondering, at this point, since the ending seems to be giving me fits, if I should just leave the ending alone and start editing from the beginning since the first chapter continues to bug the hellfire out of me. It’s the weakest chapter of the lot, in my opinion, and the more this beast sits in the trunk the more I see what’s wrong with it and how to fix it. I realize there’s no rules and I can do what I want, but the truth is I’m in uncharted territory here. I really need to finish this thing, but stuff like Life and Paying Work has had to take precedence. Stress. I haz it.

Other than that, I continue to plod along, and wonder why I didn’t choose an easier career. Heh.

The Glamorous Life

Yeah. Well, that wouldn’t be freelancing.

Although I love it and I can’t see me doing anything else at this point, if you think writing and/or editing full-time is a glamorous job, let me put it to you straight.

You are outside your mind.

It takes Ballz of Steel. Endurance and stamina. A twisted sense of humor helps, and so does Mad Organizational Skillz. You must have discipline, and an endless supply of coffee.

And, if you happen to write fiction as well as non-fiction, you must be able to juggle many objects in the air. For me, I find it impossible to do both at the same time. It’s like a switch from the left brain cell to the right brain cell, and if I try to run both at the same time, I flip the breaker or blow the fuse. I try not to do that. It’s such a mess to clean up brain goo.

Feast or famine in the Freelance Universe, that seems to be one of the universal laws. Therefore, since lately I have had demands for my writerly services of a non-fiction type, all fiction (to include the last three chapters of Athena’s Promise and Flash Fiction Friday *sob*) have come to a screeching halt. So has Twittering (double *sob*!) and Facebooking. Priorities, yanno.

So, as I sit here with a pile of articles to write (thank ya Jeezuz, for the work, I really need it) in my pajamas after being up all night with the pukkies, the word “glamorous” is not even in my vocabulary. Deadlines will be met No Matter What, money will exchange hands, bills will be paid and hopefully, at some point, I’ll be able to dive into my fiction world once again.

In the meantime, I’m rolling in words like a pig wallows in mud, and I’m just as happy. I never was the glamorous type.


Wait – You Mean It’s Monday?

Wow. And the first days of June. Holy shiznola, where did May go?

Let’s take a little stroll, shall we, and fondly remember what did happen in May.

I found a couple of copy gigs that have become small eggs in my basket. Not enough to really earn a whole lot of money, but eggs are eggs and I’ll take them.

I finished Part One of a three-part project and it went really well. I’m very pleased about that. I received another nibble about my editing services, and I’m really happy about that. I love editing. Love. It.

I’ve settled in to the new digs a little bit more and it’s become increasingly homey. I still have a lot to do, but it’s getting there. I especially like the squirrels that run back and forth across the roof. The pitter patter of little rodent feet is so…funny. Heh. I put out crackers and popcorn in the morning for breakfast, and I’ve actually caught one of the little buggers on video munching away.

As long as they eat outside, we’re cool.

Mother’s Day was particularly difficult. The first one since Momma passed. I was dreading it, and I was right to dread it like I did. It knocked me off-kilter for a couple of weeks, actually, if I’m to be completely honest. The next bad spot I see ahead of me is her birthday. Trying to put a positive spin on it is not easy. I miss her every day, with every breath. I keep waiting for it to ease, but it’s not happening. And that’s just something I’m going to have to accept, at least for now.

My friend Peat is doing awesome. I’m so happy for him, I can’t even tell you. Classic case of a good guy making good.

I’ve “discovered” another great writer, and I love it when that happens.

Conversations with the Inner Circle of Netta have prompted me to finally start my own project. (I know, it’s about time, isn’t it?) It’s my second novel, untitled, based on my experiences in the hotel industry — with a Netta-twist. I believe the proper term is “urban fantasy”. I am way excited about this, to the point I’m actually dreaming about it at night. I’ve got a start, but it’s a real juggling act in between the non-fiction. Sometimes it’s difficult to switch between the left brain and right brain, especially when you only have two brain cells to start with. Heh. You either have two on one side and none on the other, or they’re split up and lonely without each other.


So, goodbye to May, and hello, June. Let’s see what you have in store. As long as it involves words and squirrels, I’m sure it will be interesting.