We are in the middle of a publishing revolution, traditionally it was a long hard road to become a published author and the path was paved with rejections slips. Publishing a book is a big job and publishing houses don’t have the resources to print all the books that are sent to them. Instead they have to be picky, usually deciding whether or not a book is sellable within the first few sentences. It’s a competitive market and a lot of bestselling books were rejected by numerous publishing houses before someone agreed to take them on. For an unknown author the chances of getting a foot in the door are pretty slim. These days with the power of social media and the internet, doing it yourself is perfectly achievable. I’ve been reading since I was a child, I know books and felt confident I could produce one with a completely professional look.
I knew the first place I had to start was with the cover, it’s a cliché we’ve all heard before, ‘never judge a book by its cover’ but let’s face it, we all do. I searched long and hard for a cover artist for The Shadow Series and eventually decided on award winning designer Damon ZA. He was more expensive than other artists I’d found but he made an offer that was impossible to turn down. Two covers to choose from and unlimited changes until you were happy with the finished product. It’s pretty scary having someone put a cover to your book so the added security of unlimited changes was what sold me. Now I don’t think I could work with anyone else. He was creative and fast, I gave him full artistic reign and he produced the four amazing covers with just brief book descriptions to work with. I honestly couldn’t be happier with the finished product.
Writing the blurbs—that short paragraph on the back of the book—was one of the hardest things! I wrote so many and had numerous people critique them for me but it didn’t make the decision any easier. How do you use one paragraph to sum up an entire novel? And how do you make it intriguing without giving too much away? That little project in itself was a major time drainer. As a reader you don’t often think about who wrote the blurb and yet that’s the paragraph that draws you in. If it’s bad—forget about it. That’s a lot of pressure to work under! Same with book titles, they did undergo a few changes, it’s hard to get the balance just right. I wanted four titles that went well as a set but I also had to make sure they sounded like they were the right genre.
Then when it came down to formatting I had no idea of the drama I would face, I had to do two versions: a print and an ebook. They are completely different so there’s no way to get away with doing it just once. Even little things like choosing the font is difficult, it does actually make a difference in the readability of a book. If the letters are too close together it’s hard on the eyes, you don’t want it too big or too small and it’s important to watch out for tricky letters like w and x, they have a habit of running together. There are also a lot of fiddly things like choosing margin sizing, headers and footers, the positioning of your chapters and section breaks. Indents are a big one, a large indent looks ridiculous and if you pick up a book you will notice the first line in a new paragraph or chapter isn’t indented, how on earth do you set your computer to do that? I learnt a lot in the process of formatting the print book. I spent a lot of time working on the front matter: the title page, copyright page, the acknowledgements and dedication. I made mistakes like adding the front matter without formatting section breaks then I couldn’t set the headers and footers to skip the first few pages. All these little details impact the overall impression of a book, all I can say is, I don’t know where I’d be without Google!
And there were more hurdles after that. I needed my word document to be a PDF but all the programs I tried for conversion changed the custom page sizes back to A4 and then threw out all my formatting. I had a friend with Adobe which automatically registered my custom pages but his computer didn’t have the same font I’d used and once again it threw my formatting out. There was always a solution but it was certainly a test of patience.
Once the print version had gone to the printer I focused my attention on the ebooks, I published through Smashwords which offers a step by step guide to formatting, it was time consuming but I didn’t run into any major problems. My main fear with the ebooks is that there is no set appearance. With the print book I formatted everything and I know exactly where every indent or space is going to sit. With an ebook it’s not that simple, they are designed to be read on multiple devices so it will look different depending on whether it’s read on a phone or an ereader.
Then there’s Amazon *insert a big sigh of frustration here* oh Amazon. I don’t know why they make it so hard! They offer a program called KDP where you can publish your ebook to their kindle store. Months before I even reached this stage I did a lot of research and found that Amazon also liked to make you exclusive. Meaning that once you publish with them you can’t publish with anyone else. Amazon’s great for people who own a Kindle but what about people who have an ipad or other ereader? Being exclusive to Amazon would mean other people couldn’t read my books. I knew authors who were published on both Amazon and Smashwords so I knew it was possible. I spent many frustrated hours searching for the loop hole, in the end I have to thank my Goodreads author buddies for pointing me in the right direction. It turns out when you sign up for Amazon’s KDP program there is a little box waiting to be checked. If you tick it you’re exclusive, if you ignore it you can publish wherever you want. It’s so simple but Amazon made it very difficult to find that information.
So I thought I was good to go but when I tried to sign up for their program I discovered you can’t sell on Amazon with an Australian bank account, you need an account in an Amazon supported country. I had a traumatic couple of days trying to figure out how I was going to manage that. I was then thrilled to learn I already had a UK bank account set up by my grandad when I was child. Still that wasn’t good enough, the account had to be credit not savings. My sister currently lives in Ireland and she suggested I use her Irish account as she’ll be moving to Australia in a couple of months. Even trying to enter her details involved converted account numbers to internationally recognised numbers. And that’s not it. Selling a product in the US means you need a US tax number. But I’m Australian and I’ll be taxed by my own country for my earnings. In that case I need a tax exemption. I had a pretty amusing phone conversation with an American guy working for the IRS, I could barely understand what he was telling me but in the end I found out what I needed to do. I filled out their forms and sent my proof of ID to Texas, now I wait 10 weeks for a tax number, then apply to Amazon and Smashwords for my tax exemption.
All of it is achievable but I felt like every time I solved one problem there was another waiting for me, when I finally got to the point of uploading my books to Amazon I was literally skipping around the house in celebration. I made it!
As I am now a small business owner there is also the book keeping and tax details to get through but all of that will come, my website is up and running, the books are in stock and waiting to go. Now I just have to focus on book promotion and doing as much as I possibly can to get my books out in the public. So many people have helped me on this great adventure, I want to thank every single person who has played a part. All the people already mentioned in this blog series, a huge thank you to my brother in law for his hard work on my website, my family and friends for their ongoing support, my amazing boyfriend for showing me the ropes when it comes to marketing and receiving feedback on an artistic creation. For many years I kept my writing life separate from the rest of life but merging the two has made me feel complete and I’m stunned by the new opportunities crossing my path. Tomorrow is the big day, a quadruple book launch, I’m ready!