Saturday, August 20, 2011

Self pub week one

I've decided to blog about my self-publishing experience. I went through all this ten years ago so I know the process, but others might get some use out of my steps, mis-steps and findings. I'll try and keep you up to date along the way, until we arrive at the destination together.

This particular post is a bit of a retrospective, because in the scheme of things I'm already into week three.

(Before I start, a little background: I self-published three novels about 7 or 8 years ago, wound up with a publishing contract, saw four novels trade published across Australia and New Zealand between 2004 and 2008, then got the rights back. When I say I'm self publishing, I'm actually re-releasing those four trade-published novels to new markets. But wait, there's more... as a bonus I will also be self-publishing an entirely new middle-grade science fiction series. As a double bonus, I'm also going to be releasing POD editions using Lightning Source (LSI) so you'll get those gory details too. Now, back to the plot ...)

Week one on the SPJA (self-pub-journey-acronym) was nice and organised, with all my effort going into the huge spidery freemind diagram which will guide me through the entire process.

I created nodes for each book, then sub-nodes for the ebook and print releases, and then really went to town. This is just a tiny fragment:

I felt like Rimmer preparing for an exam, only I trust the outcome will be slightly better. The great thing is that I can tick the nodes I've completed, collapse whole trees and easily shift things about.

During week one I registered ISBNs for Hal 1-4 in ebook and print (the latter excluding Aus & NZ), and also for Hal Junior ebook and print. I still have a block of ISBNs from 2001, which gave me a head start. If you're beginning with a blank slate you'll need to organise this.

A brief aside: Should you go for your own ISBNs, or just publish to Kindle and Smashwords without bothering? Answer: Are you publishing a book or sharing your work? If you're publishing a book - really publishing it - get the ISBNs. On the other hand, if you're on a tight budget and you're not planning a print release, skip the ISBNs.

You'll need one for Kindle, one for Smashwords Epub, and another for the print edition if you're going to issue one. (The latter can be reused across printers, e.g. LSI and/or Createspace, as long as the edition is identical. You do need different ones for the Kindle and Epub editions.)

Once you get the ISBNs you have to register them with Bowker. This involves filling out a form with the book details, thus linking them to the ISBN. These details go into a universal catalogue (which is why you need distinct numbers.)

Paperwork complete, the next item on the agenda was cover art and design. Everyone, and I mean everyone, recommends hiring a professional, but I went ahead and did this step myself. My focus was on getting the ebooks up quickly, and I just wanted a cover where you could read the title and subtitle from the other side of the room. Unlike print editions, with ebooks you have this great 'redo' button where you can easily upload a replacement cover.

I know it's stark and very black, but it'll do as a placeholder. Because the books have already been released and reviewed I have a huge file of blurbs and snips to pick from, and I reckon a blurb is worth a thousand images. (More on covers later - we're still on week one.)

The final step in week one was to go over the ideas I had for Hal Junior cover art. I wanted a thumbnail or a pic embedded in each chapter, and I'd already gone through the book marking sections. I didn't want grand sweeping vistas, just line art of items mentioned in the text, or visual gags, or diagrams explaining things more fully. (E.g. the closed loop food recycling system on board ships & space stations.) Having a picture meant I didn't have to info-dump every couple of paras.

Hey, maybe adult spec fic authors should learn to draw!

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


LoganBruin said...

Rimmer studying for an exam? Should I call the medics? ;o)

Simon Haynes said...

I waaay beyond professional help at this stage ;-)