January 28, 2014

Chris's Publishing Diary

Chris's Publishing Diary:

"How Book Four of Adrian's Undead Diary Got to Print"


 January 28th, 2014

So Jule came at me screaming like a banshee one day.   

She said, "Chris, you should write about your publishing experience.  Tell the world what it's like to publish your books.  How do you do it?  Tell them about all the work that goes into it!"

And lo, I said, "Nay Jule.  Nay.  That sounds like work, and I've already got too much going on."

And then she was all like, "But it'll be fun, and folks might enjoy it."

"Nay Jule.  There are far too many cute animal videos on YouTube for me to watch."

Then she slipped me her home phone number, and I started writing this. 

In all seriousness, when Jule asked me to write this series of articles, I thought it was a badasssed idea, and I was on board immediately, with or without her number. 

This will be a fun exercise for my AUD readers to see how we go from the website version to the print (ebook) versions, and for all the new people who've never read AUD to get a taste of what it means to be a part of the AUD world.

First, we need history.  I'll keep it brief.

Adrian's Undead Diary started out on a dare as a web serial.  I posted Adrian Ring's diary entries online in a blog format, in real time, as he attempted to survive the end of the world via zombie apocalypse.  Intermingled with his diary, I wrote coinciding short stories that filled out his world, foreshadowed coming events, and overall made the picture bigger and more authentic.  So when the 840,000 word behemoth was finished, and all the publishers were done toying with my baby and my heart, I decided to self publish.

I've got three of the eight AUD books out, and book four, A Failed Coward drops in February of 2014.  I'm glad I self published.

The first 'meta' step of publishing AUD is to chunk it up into book form.  I need coherent beginnings and endings that are book length.  Books one and two are about 90k words, book three was a fatty at 149k, and book four is clocking in at 113k.  That's a good novel size, and I'm happy with where the start and finish is.  Once each book was chunked, and I had an estimated working time for getting each book to print, I set an estimated release date.  I wanted the first three out by Christmas (going insane in the process), and after that, another book would follow every 6-8 weeks, with no absolute date required for any.

Every AUD book has been edited by me three times.  I edited it all when it was written.  Then it was all edited before each entry was posted.  Now, as I chunk the files up, I edit it once more.  This edit is for book sense and grammar/word efficiency.  Adrian can be repetitive in the web version, but in the book, he needs to be more focused, so some of his language style is getting changed.  Further, I'm changing line spacing and his use of italics, bolding, and underlining.  What flew on the website, doesn’t fly on the Kindle, or in the paperback.

Each book takes a minimum of 24 to 40 hours for the third copy edit.  A Failed Coward took me right at 30 hours, and I was very happy with that.  Once I get the book edited to my satisfaction, I write a short synopsis of the plot as a guideline for myself and Alan MacRaffen, my cover artist, interior layout guy, and specialized editor.  The synopsis feeds into what I call the back cover blurb.  The blurb is the little tidbit that teases the content of the book, and is what chiefly Amazon and Barnes and Noble readers will read to entice them to buy.  It needs to be interesting enough to make you want the buy the book, yet not give it all away.  It also has to fit and be readable on the back of a paperback.  At that point, and while I'm editing, I work up a cover concept.

Alan gets the final working file for book four along with the synopsis, and any special instructions for how I want parts of the book to be laid out.  We then brainstorm on the cover idea, make sure it's feasible, and I hand it all off to him.

Alan has the project for about a month.  While I wait, I move on to my other projects.  I've finished writing book one of Tesser: A Dragon Among Us, so I focus on book two of The Kinless Trilogy: The Motive for Massacre, and editing book five.  You've probably figured out by now that I'm one of those nutbags that likes to be real busy.

He updates me far too infrequently for my tastes, so I heckle him on a near constant basis for how things are progressing.  The formatting is easy peasy for him.  We've got a great template for the entire series now, and he knows what I will want before I ask for it.  It helps that I've known him for like, twenty years too.  The tough part is the cover.  For book three we struggled for a solid week on getting the night sky and contrast right to read on print.  As it turned out our final decision didn't work and we had to change it again after we ordered our physical proof, but hey, mistakes happen, and that's a small one.

For The Failed Coward we do the same.  The cover isn't quite right, and we go through a round or two of editing.  At that point, Alan gets me the final .pdf version of the print book, and the .mobi file for the Kindle.  At this point, the bulk of the workload transitions back to me.

Like the vast majority of folks who self publish, I use Amazon's Createspace platform.  I won't go into why, save that it's terrific.  Createspace has a digital process where you decide everything.  You load all your files, do an online verifier to make sure it all translated properly, and if it passes that initial sniff test, you submit it.  At this point, they generate a sexy ISBN for you, as well as a UPC-EAN code for the barcode scanners at the retail level.

Worst period of time ever.  You can do nothing while their team of experts goes over your book submission and ensures it's ready to print.  After 24 hours, they send you an email, and you're either good to go, or you went tits up and you need to make changes.  Either way, you fix it, and then order a physical proof.  Depending on how long it took for me to get everything in, and when I need to go live, I might get rushed shipping.  It's been different for each book.  While I wait the four or five days, I go back to working on my other projects, and future AUD books.

When the physical proof arrives, I'm in seventh heaven.  Holding a brand new book that I made is a transcendent experience.  I can only equate it to winning a tournament or a medal.  I've got no children of my own, but I suspect it's sort of along that line.  New book in hand, I sit down with no distractions, and go over it with a fine tooth comb.  I check all the headers and page numbers to ensure that they are correct to the table of contents.  I scour for typos.  I smell it.  Sometimes I rub it on my face to experience the glossy smooth awesomeness.  If it's good, we're good.  If it needs changes, I go back to Alan, and we work it out.

Thus far, any last second changes we've needed to make haven't required any secondary physical proofs, just alterations in a file that'll keep everything more or less the same.  Once the physical proof is good (and mind you, if we make any changes again, we need to wait the damned 24 hours while Createspace okays it again) we submit the book to Amazon.  Within 24 hours typically, the paperback will appear on Amazon, fresh and brand new.  At this point, I order my own physical copies to stock some small retailers locally with, and to give away to reviewers, friends and family, and for Goodreads giveaways.

Now within a minute or two of getting the paperback in the pipeline, I head directly over to the Kindle division of Amazon.  Conveniently, they link it all together.  The same process, albeit incredibly shorter ensues.  The files are submitted, decisions are made, a digital proofer is examined, and you send it off.  Within 24 hours, your Kindle version appears on Amazon, right near the print version.  Initially Amazon has these two pages separate, but they combine them after a day or two like a champion.

So the book is out.  The work is done.

Wrong.  Now the marketing work begins.

I've never considered myself a social butterfly, but now that I'm an author, I'm a clear social media WHORE.  I post everywhere.  I run a hundred contests.  I beg my existing AUD readers to start leaving feedback for the new book to show new readers my shit is, well, the shit.  I go to forums for preppers, survivalists, car repair, handgun ownership, ebook readers, horror movies, horror novels, and  far more.  No publicity is bad publicity, I assure you.  I get more hits when folks trash my writing, and that's okay.  I can't please everyone.

Did I mention I then need to post links to my various websites, update my Goodreads author profile, then my Amazon author profile?

Then, I post some more.  And I write articles like this, because once new folks see what goes into making a book, never mind WRITING the book, they might give my novels a chance.

I guess I can always dream, right?

I'm going to write a few more of these as time goes on.  I think you'll enjoy the process in real time as I work on subsequent books, and I think I'll enjoy writing them.  Or maybe not.  This is the risk we authors take I suppose.

See you soon.  Here or there.


1 comment:

  1. Very inspiring. Thanks for the insight into what it takes to get started.
    I am hoping I get there one day, but the idea of editing properly is so daunting.