Step by Painful Step

I recently shared with you how and where The Wheel Mages was born. Now, I want to share with you the more technical aspects of how 238 handwritten pages became an eBook and a print. This is only a skeleton of what went into the launch of The Wheel Mages and some things were not successful or how other authors would do them. I learned from the launch of my first book as most authors do and hopefully you’ll find some help in those failures.

Step One (May, 2016): Beta Readers

In May, 2016, I started soliciting beta readers for The Wheel Mages. I’ve read recently that some authors don’t use beta readers, but for me, this was a crucial step. Beta readers will help you save money on editing costs and will immensely improve the quality of your work. When you send your manuscript to your editor, you want to send the best possible version. You want to hand your editor something that you feel confident you could publish tomorrow. That way, when the editor gets it, he or she will be able to dig deep into the work and help guide you to the next level, beyond even your own expectations.

I found my beta readers by putting out a call on Facebook. I posted a brief synopsis of my manuscript and asked if anyone was interested in reading it for me to tell me what he or she thought. I was fortunate to get a lot of great feedback and interest. Not only did this call help me find beta readers, it also helped me gauge interest and potential target market. The people who responded to my call were the people who were most likely to become future readers.

I intend to write an entire post on beta readers in the future, so I’ll leave you with this: don’t expect your beta readers to blow smoke up your ass. If you’re looking for someone to tell you your work is perfect and not to change a thing, you’re not ready to publish yet.

Step Two (May, 2016): Cover Art

I did this a little bit out of order. For the second book in my series, I intend to send my book to the content editor (see Step Three) before I hook back up with my designer for cover art. The reason I did the cover art for The Wheel Mages before I did anything else was to give myself a little bit of encouragement. Once I paid that invoice, there was no going back. As soon as there was a book cover with my name on the front, I was committed. It helped give me a little bit of bravery I needed.

My cover art and all the graphics for my website, Facebook page, Twitter, etc. were done by Fiona Jayde Media. I found Fiona through Google research. I viewed the portfolios of dozens of artists before I settled on her. It’s important to note that finding a cover artist who works in your genre is important. People do judge your book by its cover. Make sure you pick an artist who not only creates a breathtaking cover but also understands your market and target audience. Remember: I write because I have to, I publish to make money. To make money, you have to create something appealing to your audience, not you. If you find the right designer, you’ll hopefully end up with both, but if your designer tells you that your idea for a cover isn’t right for the market—listen. They know what they’re doing, that’s why you’re paying them.

Step Three (July, 2016): Content Editor

In July, after I’d overhauled my manuscript based on the great insights provided to me by my beta readers, I decided it was ready for a content editor. This step is important. I cannot stress enough how crucial it is for your manuscript to be reviewed by an editor before it’s published. A book coming out of a publishing house would never be sent to print without being reviewed by editors (plural). In order to compete with the publishing houses, your book has to be a professional product, which means it has to be handled by editors. My editor, Katie McCoach, has a great blog on this explaining it from an editor’s perspective which you can read here.

If you’re serious about writing, you’re also serious about the process. Editors are arguably the biggest part of the process (perhaps even bigger than writing the dang thing). A good editor will better not only the manuscript in front of them, but your future writing as well. They’ll help you evolve as an artist. They’re expensive, there’s really no way around that, but they’re worth every penny.

I found my editor on a list provided by the fabulously successful indie author and fierce advocate for self-publishing, Joanna Penn. Joanna’s insights are incredibly helpful and I highly recommend reading her blog, following her on Facebook, and listening to her podcasts. She is a wealth of FREE knowledge.

Step Four (August, 2016): Re-Read 

After I received my manuscript back from Katie, my content editor, I spent a few days mulling over her critique. I think as artists our gut instinct is to go on the defensive when receiving critique, even when it’s handled well. The reason I find Katie to be such a fantastic editor is because she tells me what I’m doing right as often as she tells me what I’m doing wrong. Both are important.

Still, receiving feedback is never easy. It feels like a gut punch to the soul. Let me be completely honest with you here. When I received Katie’s first critique of The Wheel Mages, I was an angry, snarling beast. I was like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. She didn’t GET it. She didn’t UNDERSTAND. She was blind to MY VISION. I couldn’t believe I’d paid her so much money.

I received her report on Friday, August 5th. On Monday, August 8th, after I’d had time to settle down and think, I re-read the critique and realized she did, in fact, get it. She wasn’t blind. She had her eyes wide open. I was the blind one. I was the one who didn’t understand she was trying to make my vision more accessible to the reader. She’d done everything I’d asked her to do and more. It was time to suck it up and stop being a petulant child because there was work to be done. I sent her an email on August 8th and fibbed a little (Katie: If you happen to read this, sorry!). I didn’t feel the need to share my gut reaction because the gut reaction wasn’t helpful to anyone. Instead, I told her my new truth—her critique was insightful, well thought out, professionally presented and, most importantly, helpful.

Then, I got to work making revisions. Shortly thereafter, I sent her a revised version of the manuscript for a re-read.

Step Five (October, 2016): Copy Edit

After the re-read and more revisions, I felt like I was ready for a copy edit. I chose to work with a copy editor that works with Katie. By that point, I knew Katie well, I was pleased with her work, and wanted to stick with people she recommended. A side note, it’s pretty important to trust your editor. If you feel like you’re being taken advantage of, you probably need to find a new editor. The copy editor Katie suggested was a little bit more expensive than I had originally budgeted, but when I saw a sample of her work, I decided it was worth it.

Step Six (November, 2016): Publishing

In November, after my book came back from the copy editor, and I’d reviewed and made decisions on her changes, I started to shore up the last pieces of the puzzle. I worked on formatting (formatting for print is the absolute worst, by the way), I launched my website, started an author Facebook page, got myself a Twitter and an Instagram, filled out tax information on the platforms I’d decided on, purchased ISBNs, and spent an incredible amount of time floundering around like a fish out of water. Here’s a brief overview of what services I used and how I’d fix errors I made:

ISBN Numbers: There’s only one place you can purchase ISBN numbers in the United States and that’s from Bowker. It’s really important to know that you need a different ISBN number for every single version of your book so if you’re going to sell a print version and an eBook, you’ll need at least two ISBN numbers. Smashwords, which is a distributor for indie authors, says you need a separate ISBN number for every online retailer as well, so if you distribute your eBook to Amazon and Apple, you need two distinct ISBN numbers. This advice seems to be somewhat different depending on who you talk to and Smashwords appears to be taking the most cautious approach. Regardless, it makes the most sense to purchase 10 ISBN numbers at the very least.

Website: WordPress. I actually started working on my website in the late summer. This was a great idea and for those who aren’t technologically savvy like me, I recommend it. Working with websites is hard on me. I get frustrated easily when it comes to technology, so having lots of time where I’m not pressed up against a deadline worked in my favor. Website designers are super expensive, so if you don’t have a limitless amount of money in your budget, this is probably something you’ll do on your own. Be patient with yourself.

Social Media: I have a Twitter, a Facebook and an Instagram. I briefly dabbled with the idea of launching a Snapchat but I don’t understand Snapchat and running a blog and three social media accounts while working full time, editing my second and third books, working on a fourth, taking care of three animals, and trying to maintain a home is already probably too much.

eBook Formatting: To format my eBook, I used Vellum. Vellum is an Apple-only product (sorry PC users) and it was a Godsend. All I had to do was plug in my Microsoft Word file, choose a format I liked, and Vellum created all the file formats I’d need for publishing. It. Was. Awesome. And all for the low, low price of $29.99.

eBook Platforms: My book is currently directly uploaded on Amazon and iBooks. It’s also registered with Smashwords where it’s distributed to a bunch of other smaller retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Printer: To create a print on demand version of my book, I used CreateSpace. For me, preparing the book for print was the most painful part of the process and the one I made the most mistakes with. First of all, in hindsight, this would be the very first part I prepare. If I could do it all over again, I would’ve set the print up weeks in advance. This was by far and away my biggest failure with the book launch, so I’m not about to give you any advice on it except to tell you CreateSpace is the way most indie authors do it and warn you to learn about the process in advance. Way in advance.

Whew. Okay, this blog is already 2,000(ish) words, so I’m going to cut it off there. Keep your eyes peeled for a future blog containing more detailed information regarding the above and some things I didn’t do and why.

❤ Aimee