I self published a novel

I just self-published a novel through https://www.draft2digital.com/. (ebook only.)

The process, which in and of itself was a piece of cake, took me a half-dozen tries to get the format right (downloaded from GDocs as a .docx) to make the title and copyright and all that work out correctly. D2D then gave me a 6×9 (or any other size) PDF that I took over to https://www.thebookpatch.com/ (A POD service.)

There I fetched the cover template and built my own cover in Photoshop. With the JPG and PDF in hand, I uploaded both, proofed both and voila’, I was done. I ordered 5 copies at $8.50 apiece, and I had them delivered within about 10 days.

Bing, bang, boom – done. I never thought this was gonna be easy.

But it was.

BATS_BooksArray

What I learned:
  1. So, yeah, it IS easy. Mostly. The writing and editing were by far the hardest part.
  2. Your Microsoft Word version of your manuscript is the key to a good looking eBook and PDF for print version. Perfecting this takes time and effort and, well, you just have to beat it with a big stick until it complies with your wishes.
  3. Draft2Digital will create a POD (print on demand) version of your book — all ready-made for you to take over to a POD site like TheBookPatch.
  4. Now, D2D’s PDF is not “perfect.” It’s good, mind you, but you can’t control the leading, or font size. So, you get what you get. However, you can republish (within minutes) again and again and, until they DO provide better control of the POD PDFs, well, you’re stuck.
  5. TheBookPatch didn’t quite represent the page count accurately. What I thought was X pages turned out be be X-60 pages which changes the dynamics of the book spine width. This is important because your homemade image MUST fit your book’s final dimensions. (I’ve subsequently fixed this…) Note: I was able to upload new text and new cover images — without a hick-up. Easy-peasy.
  6. The cover image was ME, ME, ME.
    1. I drew and colored the crappy sailboat and sailor (20×30 drafting paper).
    2. I took it out back and put boards and some odd cable around it and took a picture with my phone (ayup, an old android phone).
    3. Then I drew a frickin’ map — took a picture of that and Photoshopped the hell out of that puppy.
    4. I also took a selfie with the same phone and used that as my “I’m special — look at me” image on the back.
    5. Here’s the final cover… Nice huh?!

BATSBookCoverSmall

 

Will I do this again? You betcha!

Should you? You bet you! Write something, anything. Get it edited (as best you can) and publish that gorgeous work of narrative art!

Draft2Digital’s link:
https://www.books2read.com/u/3L9ABD

The BookPatch link:
http://thebp.site/144960

Here’s some miscellaneous videos that I found to help, in general. (Nothing to do with the above process…)

Self publishing tips ‘n tricks:

Ray Bradbury on Madmen:

The first page tells all

I’ve got a new novel acquisition rule: I must be able to read the first few pages.

Think about it. Where will an author put their best effort, their greatest focus, their highest level of refinement?

Page One.

For all books I consider reading, I expect to be able to read the first 500-1000 words (2-4 pages). If I can’t read the first few words — off my list it drops. Plop, ‘the shuffling murmur of book covers sliding together as they cascade down the head-high pile fills my tiny cell.’

For unknown authors, most of them these days, I’ll skip any attempt of a prologue — straight to “Chapter One” I go. For known authors I may give their prologue a glance. Ten seconds, maybe.

If the first few pages of a story, which should be the author’s best effort, suck. What chance does the rest of the writing have of getting better, maturing or teasing at my sensibilities? None. None at all.

When it comes to novels, first impressions are EVERYTHING.

Writer’s Log: 1523 To all new authors

To all new authors out there, (here’s a shaker of salt, spread that around first, won’t you…)

Now, to all authors who are starting out on their first novel. STOP! I mean, don’t like, STOP completely. Only stop and listen to this short public service announcement:

DO NOT WRITE A COMPLETE NOVEL WITHOUT PROOFING IT IN STAGES.

That will be all. Goodnight and good luck.

What? You want more than that? Explanation maybe? Well, alright. Here you go.

  • Write your first 5000 words and then get those beat to a bloody pulp.
    Don’t write another word until those first words are crushed and shredded and torn asunder. You need to know that your so called ‘style’, your knowledge of prose construction, may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. Mine wasn’t. Mine was abysmal. Anyway, stop, do not proceed until you have gotten your writing, the actual mechanics of writing compelling fiction, down much better than you think you do.
  • Now, write your next 5000 words, and yes, STOP there too.
    So, now that you think you’ve gotten the shop-floor process under your belt, that you think you can start rearranging the work flow. Nuh-uh. No way. Your next task is to take your 10,000 words and, hey, look at that, you’ve got 1/8th of a novel completed. Does it have the plot firmly established? Does your MC, your main character have a dark unknown past? Have you established the stakes? Do you have an antagonist? Do you have an ending in sight? Have you figured out the big ‘change’ your MC will undergo? Yes? Well alright then.
  • Write your next 10,000 words and then STOP. (Getting tired of stopping yet?)
    Here you need to step back, way back, and consider your theme, your story’s arc. Does it warrant finishing? Have you created a sub-par plot, a cliche’ meme? Are you nosing along the same worn path as tropes of your genre have blazed a thousand times before? Are you writing something unique and compelling — so much so that you, YOU, will feel compelled to finish it? Yes? Well, moving on then.
  • Finish the damn story.
  • Did you have a climax? Did you build up the tension and character development the whole time? Did you leave a trail of inference, crumbs your readers can follow and extrapolate on their own? Did you fulfill your MC’s goal? Did she/he change? Did you leave some questions in the end so that your reader doesn’t feel all wrapped up like a burrito? Yes? Good.
  • Now put it away for at least TWO MONTHS.
  • Write something else.
  • Now, with your original story is the story, as you remember it, still compelling? Still worthy? Have you learned additional skills, more stylistic treatment of dialog, of tension, of character development that you can now apply to this story? Good.
  • Now rewrite it, line by line, word by word, as if you’ve never read it before.
  • Put it away for another TWO MONTHS.
  • Write something else.
  • Reread it as if you’re completely unaware of the story. Does it ring true? Does it speak to you? Your soul, your heart of hearts? Do you find yourself just reading it — not judging it, as if you’ve fallen into the story and can’t help but continue?
  • OK, here you go. Now you can start to consider querying it or self-publishing it. You have of course already submitted parts of it during your learning process to friends and literary types for evaluation — right? RIGHT? Good.
  • OK, publish this bad-boy.
  • Begin editing your next story.
  • Repeat.

[Postscript: Why would you write this way? Well, If you think you can sit down and bang out a novel, without any mind to the writing — you’re dead wrong. What you’ll have in the end is this thing. This godforsaken, putrid thing that will take so much work — fixing the actual writing — that you’ll feel defeated, right out of the gate.

So don’t. Don’t think you can just write a novel without first getting at least WAY better at the CRAFT of WRITING. Work the craft as if you were Wax On and Wax Off — right? OK then, carry on.]

Ranking vs rating

This is a reoccurring theme with me.

When we have a choice, we don’t want some numeric number to help us choose, we want binary options. All choices, even from an array of options can be reduced to a series of binary choices.

When it comes to reading a book, you have one choice of two options: Read it, or not.

However, there is the issue of precedence. Given two books you would like to read, which do you read first? What if there are 100? 1000? You need to be able to prioritize your choices so as to optimize your pleasure within your time allotted.

Therefore you must rank your choices. And in order to do this you must have some scale against which you can compare — in binary fashion — each choice. We all have our own spectrum, our own ranking of quality. Here I present my fiction novel ranking.

Alpha  : The Hobbit
Beta   : Harry Potter
Gamma  : Old Man and the Sea
Delta  : The Martian
Zeta   : Charlotte's Web
Theta  : Ringworld
Kapa   : The Road
Lambda : The Shining
Sigma  : Dune
Omega  : The Hunger Games

To use such a list, one first needs to determine “Do I want to read this book or not?” Once again — that was a binary choice: Yes or No.

Now, with that out of the way, one would then find some trusted fellow reader on which this current book is ranked. Say you wanted to read a story I’ve recommended, The Girl with All the Gifts — M.R. Carey.

Given the list above I, Anonymole, would place The Girl with All the Gifts here:

Delta  : The Martian
>>> The Girl with All the Gifts
Zeta   : Charlotte's Web

So, if you’ve read any of the books below the zeta level, (Charlotte’s web, Ringworld, The Road, etc.) then you can safely tell yourself, self, I’ll read THIS book before I read any of the others at or below zeta.

You’ve found the spot for maximum reading enjoyment in which to place this novel.

It might sound overly complicated, but it’s really just a simple, “what have I read that compares?” concept. Of course, this is my list, you would have your own list, and I would suspect some of my comparison ranking choices would be on your list, too. Which means, I could find out where my own preferences fit on your pleasure spectrum.

I used a set of Greek letters to identify where any one book might fall. Omega is that lowest level at which I’d recommend a “to read” selection. Below that, it’s off the list. All the books I recommend reading will fall within those 10 levels. If I indicate that Year One — Nora Roberts (which I’m reading now) is a lambda level story. Well, there you have it. It’s on the list, but pretty low.

Binary choices + ranking = better than the Five Stars system.

A sister article to “My Five Stars”:
https://anonymole.com/2017/10/02/my-five-stars/

Why buy a story?

Have you ever bought a novel? Paid money to see a movie? Bought a DVD? Rented a netflix, redbox or, gasp, a Blockbuster video cassette? Have you ever watched TV?

Of course you have. We all have. But why?

Because we love to be entertained. Our brains are so big, so complex that they crave constant interaction. But our lives are so small, so trivial and filled with such mundane jobs and workaday tasks that we are compelled to entertain them. We need entertainment to, well, complete our lives.

Would we ever just go back to telling stories around a tribal campfire? Oh, we might and would, if that’s all we could get. And what stories we could tell then too. Stories of financial conquest and ruin, trips to foreign lands, amazing things we’d eaten, drunk, and seen. But we don’t need to do that do we?

No. We just need to whip our our credit card and buy another hour or ten’s worth of entertainment. There. Done. Now we can settle back and watch or read and live another’s life — as if it were our own; fiction or not; reality, fantasy or fantastical science. As long as we can get away from our own mundane lives.

How often to you seek entertainment escape? Every week? Everyday? More often? Is that not odd? Humanity sponsors a trillion dollar enterprise dedicated to allow people to abandon their lives, for a time, in order to remain sane in this banal world we’ve created. What’s even more odd — we’re just getting started. Our entertainment menu is set to grow exponentially.

When that day comes, whose stories will be the ones told, read, projected, injected? Yours? One can only hope.