There’s no need for a trad-pub vs. self-pub debate when publishing.

A few months ago, after reading some feedback on posts I had written in my blog about different trips I had made to Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, I decided to find out how to go about giving all these posts some sort of form and publishing them.

Several questions got asked as a result of this decision to go public, not least the “Dare I?” question. The “Dare I?” question got ruthlessly trampled on when I realized I might actually earn some money from my writings and replaced by a more pragmatic one: “How to go about getting the essays correctly edited, formatted and published?”

My dilemma was that I had almost thirty thousand words, written with a standard Microsoft Office type font, covering some 80 pages of standard A4 format paper. Now being a professional from the marketing communications sector, and knowing enough about Desktop Publishing, it occurred to me that this possibly might not be the right formatting for hard copy and electronic publication so what were my options? 

Fortunately, while looking for information on font type and line spacing, I stumbled upon a forum where one writer was explaining the font type and line spacing she had used (respectively Palatino Linotype and 1.2) for the three books she had “Self-Published” on CS… “Three books?”, “Self-Published?”, “CS?” , excuse me? What was the writer talking about?
And so I discovered the world of “Self-Publishing”, version CreateSpace, and set about finalizing, reviewing, spell-checking, editing, reformatting, aligning, correcting, re-reviewing and re-finalizing what turned out to be my first publication, a travelogue and a collection of essays called “The trails and adventures of an Englishman in Kyrgyzstan, or how Schoro changed my life.” What had taken me, on and off, essentially five years to write took me another three months to edit and bring to a level of quality sufficiently presentable that it could be seriously considered “Publishable” and even then, and still today, I was, I am on the lookout for the slightest spelling mistake and typo, misplaced comma, erroneous capitalization, exaggerated use of punctuations, out of synch’ page numbering, etc, etc.
nb. Was it fun reviewing and editing the file prior to publishing? No it definitely wasn’t but if you don’t do it, do it correctly and in depth, it won’t get done. Moral? If you don’t like doing it or don’t feel qualified then get someone else to do it but get it done!

Deciding a) enough was enough and b) I had other projects in the pipeline I went ahead and published the first book and drawing on the still fresh experience I starting collecting the material for my second book, “Twelve journeys, one adventure” also published via CreateSpace.

Again this particular book was based on travel but instead of covering five years of journeys to one destination it covers twelve journeys, to a variety of destinations and spans a period of approximately fourteen years. Also, instead of originating from my blog the material came from a website I have, called “Albatross133“, and that made the job all the more difficult. Contrary my first book, that, because the initial style, tense and expression of the writings was almost identical in content and took relatively little time to bring to print, this second book, another travelogue, was more disparate in style and because written at different periods the content, frankly, wasn’t very mature in expression or syntax and certainly had no follow on structure to it, which needed a lot of time to remedy.

Furthermore, where as the first book only has about thirty thousand words this second book has more than the double so an enormous amount of time was spent, but never lost, in putting the text into, chronologically and grammatically, the right order and syntax, in other words assuring continuity and readability without losing the “originality” of the story.

It was also an enormous experience learning how to keep the relevance and the context of remarks made years ago when hindsight tries to get you to change the wording, as well as the language, from the way it was written, at a precise point in time to reflect a situation to something possibly more “politically correct” but definitely more bland and meaningless.
But I managed to get the second book finished and published and drawing on experience from the first publication I managed to do so without spending as much time reviewing and reworking the book after submitting the manuscript for publication.

Satisfied with the result I decided to have a couple of copies of both books printed and once again I learnt a major lesson in Self-Publishing: Always print out a draft of your book before actually considering hard copy printing. No sooner had I received my hard print copies than I saw (and corrected) some minor errors in both works.
Nb. In the first book I randomly chose a sentence and read it out loud, realizing in the process that a badly placed comma not only left me short of breath after reading but radically changed the sense of the phrase.
Nb. In the second book the captions under the images weren’t consistent, sometimes in “Bold” type and sometimes in “Plain” type. So? So if you’re expecting people to pay 20+$ for a book at least make sure that one of the book’s major assets and principal attraction, the photos, presents correctly.

Strangely enough after finishing with the second book there was no post natal depression and certainly no sense of finality. On the contrary convinced that there’s more in there somewhere I started thinking about a third book* but in the meantime I started to understand that the books weren’t going to sell themselves so after publishing the books I started to think about marketing them.
*If the first two books rolled off the press back to back and in a very short space of time it was because the material was there and almost print ready. The third book will need a lot more thought.

I want to go back a step or two and talk about the packaging of the books I published. I’ve read quite a bit since publishing about the actual physical aspect of “Self-Published” books and a fair amount of criticism about the amateurism of certain “Self-Published” books. To do it credit, and I certainly have no reason to trash CreateSpace (that said the final royalties paid by Amazon could be a little higher) they do offer, free of charge, a fairly good package: ISBN, document templates (a great help for the novice), covers, advice, etc. They also allow you to use your own resources and material. CreateSpace also offers Sales Channels options and a link up to Amazon’s Kindle publication service. On top of that CreateSpace also offers a community forum for tips and ideas, which, although I was unaware of this at the time, is actually where I got the information on what sort of font and line spacing to use in my books!

Back to Marketing. Although I wouldn’t mind changing my car with the proceeds from the sales of my books I know this isn’t going to happen unless a certain number of factors are reunited. Now while I’m in no particular hurry I am seeing that I can’t rely solely on family and close friends to get there. I’m also seeing that marketing via Social Media, to strengthen my sales channels, also has its limits so what else is there?
There is at least one further option (and I am still learning), as provided by CreateSpace, that I haven’t tapped into yet and that’s obtaining an access to the literary retailers and professionals, educational institutions and libraries.

CreateSpace offers (as may do others), via its “Extended Distribution” channel, such an access and at 25$ it’s an interesting option and this leads me to ask one, no, two fundamentals questions: “Am I ready?” and “Do I need to?”

Quite clearly while there may be a doubt about the first, there’s still a need for testing (personalized cover creations, etc) and improvement, there’s no doubt about the second. Of course I need to! Not only am I money driven I also have an ego and while nobody likes rejection I think that tapping into such resources is a good yard stick for measuring progress and it’s certainly a great opportunity for getting out and getting known. Now the question is, is it enough to incite the interest of traditional publishers? In a day and age when Amazon et Co are cashing in on the “Self-Publishing” bonanza traditional publishers may feel inclined to open their doors a bit wider to aspiring authors and if they do they know where to find me, I’m listed in Amazon!


About nickrichards38
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