Conquering the world may be easier than publishing a book these days.
The Publishing Dance: The Muse/music starts and and an idea/premise - obsession begins, directing a fair amount of one’s thoughts and energies for who knows how long(roughly a year in my case). Writing a book proceeds(or not) with its excitement, creativity and frustrations and hopefully leads at some point to a satisfying conclusion. The inevitable editing and revision process follows but hopefully eventually leads to an actual digital format or sheaf of papers representing a book. The sense of accomplishment at this point can be short lived when one looks at the daunting task of actually publishing one’s book.
My journey through the quagmire of the publishing world took me another year. As with most novices, I began reading other author’s tales of woe. The Bible of these is Stephen King’s On Writing. If the Lord of horror tales could endure years of rejection and survive to rule that genre, maybe I did have a chance to succeed.
I next read several books on publishing and attended 2 literary conferences. The conferences (Madison, Wisconsin and New York City) were invaluable. Meeting other authors is exciting and a lot of practical information is provided. Early on one learns that the publisher's want nothing to do with first time authors unless they are celebrities or mass murderers. The gold standard is finding a literary agent. A plethora of books and internet articles expound on how to capture one of these elusive creatures. The literary conferences do provide actual living, breathing agents who are willing to interact with writers and subject themselves to being “pitched” on each writer’s “gem.” The agents I pitched to were generally very receptive and supportive. All required the next hurdle in agent hunting - the query letter. They often requested15 to 50 pages of manuscript to be included.
I am told the art of writing a good query letter is more important than writing a good book. Agents may receive 5000 or more letters a year. I have been told by one past agent that the average time he spent reviewing each query letter was less than 20 seconds. They give a positive response for new authors less than 1% of the time. By the math, unless one sends out at least 100 query letters ,the chance of a positive response is minuscule. Though I did try to write engaging query letters and target them to appropriate agents I confess that after 25 rejections (all essentially the same response) I ran out of steam. (They all said “Thank you very much for your submission. Unfortunately it is not right for this office or I am not the right agent to represent this book, etc, etc, etc.”
I guess I don’t have the cajones of Stephen King but I began to think more about self publishing. There are clearly some benefits to self publishing as well. It is much faster to self publish - likely more than a year faster. The end product is more in control of the author - which can be a good or bad thing. The price of the book is set by the author and generally the income per book is higher in self publishing. The flip side of this means there is no bonus to the author and all the marketing of the book is squarely on the shoulders of the author. The publishing process, though remarkably easier than in the past still requires a good deal of effort as I will detail. There are many options these days for authors but I saw the elephant in the room and headed to Amazon Create space and their Kindle platform.
I will readily admit, I am not a computer whiz. Though most of the self publishing programs, including Amazon, profess to be quite simple and straight forward I quickly realized I was no match for this task on my own. Happily I was able to hire a willing assistant,Breeann, to help in this chore. I would still be likely cussing and hurling objects at my computer without her help. Together we were able to navigate through this process in roughly a month. Formatting the book to achieve the look I wanted as well as size and page count took most of the time. I am a decent photographer but no artist and hired a friend to do the cover art work - also a good idea. We navigated through the hard copy book in Amazon’s Create space and then sailed through the Kindle platform. I was surprised that the Kindle product of the book using a PDF file was poorly formatted, but looked great when we used a Word file. Breeann thought nothing of this but I was in awe of the computer gods for this little wrinkle.
I now have the Kindle edition of my book on Amazon and am awaiting 5 hard copy proofs of my book today to review. I am excited and ready to celebrate the next phase of this book writing adventure. I do know that the marketing process looms on the horizon but I think a few of my Brews are well deserved to share with family and friends at a book signing party this summer.