My Opinion? I’m Just Trying to Walk
A friend and great up-and-coming best-selling author, John Ling (he has a thriller out right now called The Blasphemer, available at Amazon), once asked me to write a piece about my experiences self-publishing. At the time I was a little daunted, and not a little bit perplexed: I had no successful experience as a self-published author. Sure, I had put something on Kindle (an early error-ridden and first draft version of Vanguard Newborn) but my efforts had been dilittante-ish at best.
Since that belittling realisation, which both embarrassed me and motivated me to clean-up VN and make it a darker, more interesting story, things have progressed in leaps and bounds. Vanguard Newborn was finally ready for publishing (without going to an editor!) at which time I decided that the title was not ideal and promptly renamed the book Rhesus A. Actually, the full title is Rhesus A – a Vanguard Newborn.
I’ll explain this: if you read back through my blog you may discover that the second book was to be named Vanguard Coven. With the change in title of VN the title of VC will change too, probably to something along the lines of O Positive – a Vanguard Coven, or just O Positive, for short. The title will probably not be O Positive – that is just an example.
The fundamental reason for the last-minute change in title from the Vanguard Newborn, Vanguard Coven theme to that of blood types was two-fold. First I had long been feeling that the title had to both sell the book (attract attention) and secondly, it had to resonate with a core theme of the book. In the case of VN Ashley develops somewhat of a fixation on a certain blood type – A rhesus positive. What else would a vampire heroine love? Hence a suitable name.
So having settled upon a name for the book I had to decide on the cover. That was, and still is (which I will shortly explain) a big issue for me. What I was after was a cover image that is beautiful, mysterious, yet scary. Surfing the internet I came across a copyright free image by Michelle Black. I was delighted with my monochrome discovery. Royalty free and stunning! Here I can urge a deep breath of caution. Not everything you see without copyright information on the item or posted with it is actually copyright free. But at the time of publishing, this did not even strike me as an issue.
Recently, I discovered that the lovely photographer who took the photograph, Michelle Black, earns her income from photography. The image I had used is her photo (which I already knew and had given credit to on the back cover). In fact it is a self-portrait. To be honest, this has shaken me. Have I stolen an image from her? Should I have tried harder to locate and contact her? At the time (it’s beginning to sound like a stuck record, isn’t it…). So that is a serious lesson learnt. The lesson being, no more using what looks at first glance to be copyright free images for covers. Get my own.
The natural flow-on effect of this is that all the covers and image themes I have devised for the future are now firmly in the trash. Yup, those great flower-themed covers are no more. Big self-taught lesson.
The practical difficulties associated with getting Rhesus A published came in two phases: ebook and later, hardcopy. With my previous calamitous experience with VN on Kindle I started there by deciding book details like format. Kindle is great for guiding the self-publisher, but it is pretty much certain that the beginner will make a royal mess of things. I did and it took many tries at getting the cover design and inside format (i.e. the actual layout of the text you have written) right, until I was satisfied. Using the downloadable Kindle reader you can preview your book before sending it ‘live’.
The Kindle edition that is currently published on Amazon is certainly not my best work – in hindsight. When I decided that yes, things are okay to publish I was comparing Rhesus A with VN, and the FUBAR edition that was. Maybe I am a perfectionist, but I doubt it. It is just that with every step you take as a self-published author, the further along the road of developing key skills you are. Thus, with every improvement in those abilities you see your accomplishments in a sort of grey, tinted light. You can do better, I told myself. And by hecky-bobs, I have.
That next evolutionary step came with discovering Smashwords. Wanting to widen the formats Rhesus A was available in (such as Epubs and Palm Docs) I read-up on what was required. Again the repeated attempts to format correctly, and getting rejected for publishing by the Smashwords approval people… whoever they are. Some refer to the process as the ‘meatgrinder’. Whatever, eventually I discovered the correct way to format my text and presto, Rhesus A is now available in multiple formats for many differrent readers.
Getting my book into print was done via CreateSpace (another Amazon-owned company). The problems were many-fold, consisting of internal formatting, trim size, font type and size, page size, paper type. What I did was come-up with two versions of the book – each with exactly the same content. One had Times New Roman (TNR) font-size 11; the other had TNR font-size 12. The font really does effect layout style and the number of pages in the book – i.e. it effects your costs. I decided upon TNR font-size 12, which I figured would give the book the psychologically stimulating 400+ page status. Duh! We live and learn all the time. Now, I would not only go with the TNR font-size 11 (I think it formats better than the size 12) but I would also chop a huge preview section at the end of the internal content. That preview is of Lilith and is poorly written and filled with mistakes. Plus, those extra pages push the production costs up… and every bit counts.
The day I received the proofs of each version of Rhesus A was a thrilling event. I have promised to give my mom one of them.
John hasn’t mentioned his request for my experiences since he first asked. To be honest, I am still a little inexperienced to give my opinions to other people, presenting things as if I am some wunder-writer. I’ve made so many mistakes that who on earth would want to take my thoughts seriously? I take those mess-ups seriously… and that’s pushing me all the way to the Mount Everest of self-improvement…. It’s there and it is surmountable. All I gotta do is put one foot in front of the other.