I’ve finally managed it! I’ve got a book out. I can go to Amazon (or Kobo, or a few other places) and see it, and it feels fantastic!
It’s taken over a year and a half, and it’s been a lot more work than I initially thought.
Back in January 2015, when I decided to get serious about writing, I didn’t think I was being naive. I knew I couldn’t type out a first draft and expect it to be good enough to publish. I knew there would be rewrites and edits.
But there was so much more. I learnt about it gradually, and started to see just how much was involved in creating a book.
The first draft of this novel (Dark Glass) came pretty quickly. I’d had the ideas fermenting in my mind for some time, so the story itself wasn’t a problem, and I was working on it enthusiastically. Things were progressing well, and I thought I’d get the first draft finished in a month, take another couple of months to polish it up, and have it for sale by early spring.
I started editing. There were big chunks that needed changing, and the edits were more in-depth than I initially thought. I started reading more and more books on the craft of writing, and spotted more areas where I could improve my story. By the summer, I still wasn’t happy with it.
I also learnt about the business side of publishing. I wanted to go the self-published route rather than looking for an agent and a traditional deal. I knew it would be hard, and I started to listen to various podcasts and read books and blog posts about self-publishing. They talked about external editors, and covers, and all kinds of stuff I hadn’t even considered (like funnels, lists and CTAs).
I found an editor and nervously sent off my manuscript (by this time it was as good as I felt I could get it). I wondered how it would come back, almost dreading the amount of errors that were sure to be uncovered. It felt like being at school, waiting for the paper to be returned with streams of red ink.
There was not as much as I feared, though. There were mistakes — some I hadn’t even considered, and others that I was mentally kicking myself for not spotting. And I learnt through this. I found I enjoyed the process, and I felt my writing improve with what I learnt. Maybe it was my attitude, or maybe I simply lucked out and found a good editor to work with.
But good text does not make a good book. If there was one clear thing from all I was learning about marketing, it was the importance of a good cover. You know that stuff about never judging a book by its cover? Turns out this is exactly what everyone does. If I wanted this book to be good, I needed a well-designed cover.
This was something I knew I couldn’t do myself. I did some research on-line, and came to understand that a cover was not about the story itself, but acted as an advert for the book. I found a design company, told them what I wanted, and they gave me some professional-looking covers — exactly what I was wanting.
I got more than one cover, though. I’d already started working on other books, all part of the same series, and I knew that the covers needed to work together, branding the series. It made sense to get all the covers done at the same time.
See, I was already starting to think beyond writing. I was already treating this as a business.
So, where was I now? I had the text of the book ready, I had a cover. Now for the e-book.
I’ve read a lot of e-books, and I know what I like to see in them. I like chapter headings to stand out. I like justified text, like I see in physical books. I like an e-book to look like some care and attention has gone into its creation.
I knew there were people out there who could format the book for me, but I started reading up on the whole area and realised I might be able to do this myself. E-books can be formatted using HTML, and I’ve got some prior experience of this (one of the ‘useless’ parts of my degree course that has come in handy a few times since).
So I learnt. And I managed to format the book myself. I created an epub and a mobi, and both looked fine.
But there was still more to do.
I needed to write a product description, something that would entice potential readers.
No problem, I thought. Just say what the book’s about, maybe hint at a few of the interesting bits, and that’s it. Half an hour, an hour tops.
There are people who get paid for writing things like product descriptions, and I soon understood why. In many ways, it’s harder writing a few short paragraphs of product description than writing the novel itself. Every word has to count. It has to be trimmed back to the bare minimum. It needs to excite and interest a reader, telling them what to expect without giving everything away.
I went over my product description I don’t know how many times. It’s still not great, but it’s the best I can do. I’m proud in a kind of ‘it’s the first time I’ve tried this, and I think it stands up with loads of others out there’ way.
The book’s formatted. Now all I had to do was put it out there.
Only I still wasn’t ready. I needed to let people know about it. I needed to get my name out there — or at least the name I’d chosen, TW Iain. I knew this would be hard. I’m not good at talking to people. Put me in a group of even a few, and I’ll slide into the background, listening but rarely making a noise. I’m happier on my own. So telling others about this book would be outside my comfort zone.
Even worse, I’d need to convince people to buy it. I’m fairly introverted, and I’m British (so I have the whole ‘ keeping quiet and not blowing my own trumpet’ thing). I can always spot flaws in what I’m doing, and see where others are better than me.
It’s something I’m still struggling with, but I realised I needed to do something. I needed a space where I could be myself, but where people who might like my books and my writing (and me?) could come.
I sorted out a website. I know it’s not great, but it’s fine for the moment (see what I mean about not blowing my own trumpet?). I’m blogging, and also putting up short stories. The stories are fun — not only are they something I can offer visitors to the site, but by limiting myself to 1000 words I’m also forcing myself to concentrate on my writing.
There is so much more I need to do here, though. I’m not great on social media. I’ll get into this, but not yet. I can’t do everything at once. There will be time later.
So, I’m ready to publish.
I already have an Amazon account, but I don’t want to limit myself. I’ve read all the Kindle Select pros and cons, and I’ve gone back and forth in my mind. But I’m looking long-term. I don’t want to be tied to one vendor. I want as many people to have the chance to discover this book as possible. So I need to go wide.
I sign up with Kobo and Draft2Digital (I’m in the UK, so using an aggregator like D2D is the only way to get into Barnes & Noble, and I don’t have a Mac so I can’t go direct with iBooks). And, over a couple of evenings, I get this book out into the world. Kobo’s a breeze (it almost feels too easy), D2D’s pretty simple, and Amazon’s more involved, but I get it done.
Then I wait for the e-mails telling me the book’s live. I click on the links.
There it is — my book, for sale in the biggest bookstores in the world. I’ve done it.
I started writing this book in January 2015 and now, at the start of September 2016, it’s a real thing.
And it feels great.
Of course, I’m not going to get complacent. I know this is only the beginning. Now the real work starts. Now I have to market and promote, and all those other scary words that make me realise this is a business, and I’m not even good at talking to people, so how the hell can I do this?
I know how I can do it. I can do it the same way I got the book out there — by learning from others, and by working at it. I’ll make mistakes, but that’s part of learning. I’ll only fail if I give up.
And I don’t want to do give up, because I’ve had so much fun bringing this book from idea to finished product. I want to keep on doing this.
When I think of that, I feel like a writer.
And now for a shameless plug: click here for more information on Dark Glass (Dominions I)