28 August 2021

The Self-Publishing Journey...How It's Going So Far

Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash
I thought maybe it would be interesting to chronicle my journey into self-publishing Son of the Siren just in case it could help people out who are also considering self-publishing their work. Also, it's a good space to vent, because there have been hits and misses so far. 

The Cover


So far, so good. I decided to make the portrait of Lirien by Juhaihai the cover art and I was able to get permission and the commercial license to do so. I am also allowed to use it for all promotional materials, so I'm going to have fun thinking of what to do with the art (I was thinking along the lines of postcards and bookmarks, for example). 

Then I joined Book Brush in order to take advantage of its Cover Creator, which makes both eBook covers and paperback covers. I chose my fonts and pretty much designed everything the way I want it to look. The only thing I'm not sure about is the readability of the font. There's a drop shadow feature in Book Brush, but the shadow isn't very defined, and against the dark background of the cover, it doesn't show up very well, so it doesn't really help the text stand out. I am debating whether or not to keep this as my official cover design (it does look good) or if I should bite the bullet and commission a cover artist to make all of the written content stand out more. We'll see. It all depends on what I can afford. 

In other news, I practiced writing the back cover copy. This is quite the challenge for me, trying to decide how much information is too much. Presently I am debating whether or not to include a paragraph describing the fairy tales the book is inspired by. I modeled my back cover copy after descriptions I saw on Amazon, and some of them do list the book's inspirations. And I did let my author friends take a look at it, too....but then I got a variety of opinions, all of them different, that threw me off. So at the moment, I'm struggling. I hope the answers about this come to me soon. 

The Editing


I've mentioned before that books need to go through several rounds of editing. Here's the standard:
  • Developmental editing - goes over the meat of storytelling (characters, plot, etc.)
  • Line Editing - covers grammar and syntax and the language of the story
  • Proofreading - final check for typos and other niggly bits
There are additional kinds of editing that you can add in here and there, depending on what your needs are for the book, but these three are the minimum edits you should have for a decent product. I was worried because this collectively costs hundreds to thousands of dollars, but so far I have found an affordable developmental editor in Katie Kenyhercz, a romance author and fellow Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction graduate who's been vouched for by other writers. She offered her services to me for a beautiful price and on top of that, I selected her because I need someone with an eye for romance, because there is a romance in the book that's integral to the plot and its resolution. She's got the manuscript in her hands now (I have already completed the second draft and decided to send it off) and I eagerly await feedback!

I also have two more people taking a look at the manuscript, another fellow SHU author and then a family member who has quite the critical eye. It feels like I'm back at Seton Hill with critique partners and a mentor giving me feedback on my work. What I'll do is look for consistencies among their criticism and address those issues if I feel they are warranted, and hone in especially on spots that I know were giving me trouble (like the romance). 

The Formatting


I bought a beautiful template from Book Design Templates, who I used before when I formatted The Name and the Key to be bound and printed for family and friends to easily read my thesis. The book looked gorgeous and it was easy to format, so I figured I could use them again. The templates are designed to work for both print and eBook, which is what I wanted. 

But then I ran into some problems. I formatted chapter one of the book and saved it as a sample pdf, and then uploaded it to my Kindle to read. I did this because some people like digital ARCs as a pdf file instead of an eBook file, and Kindle allows you to read pdfs. It ended up being a disaster. The fonts were pixelated and difficult to read. On the PC, the pdf was fine, but on the Kindle, it was such a mess. 

I was thinking that maybe the template I bought wasn't going to work out. I bought another one and tried it again and the same issue happened. 

However, when I uploaded Book Design Templates' own pdf sample manuscripts with the same templates, their lettering showed up on my Kindle just fine.

I took screenshots of everything and emailed customer service a while ago and have never heard anything back from them. I figure I just wasted my money. 

The good news is that Katie also formats books, and she offered to format mine. I believe I will take advantage of her services and cut my losses with Book Design Templates, which is too bad, because it would have been a beautiful book. However I'm sure Katie will be able to work her magic!

The Imprint


This is probably the biggest problem I've run into so far. I decided to publish my book under my own imprint, which means when the book is listed on Amazon and other places, instead of being listed as Independently Published, it will actually have a publishing company name listed instead. This is a common practice for indie publishers who want to set themselves apart and look more professional.

I made a list of about twenty different names for an imprint and found that they were all taken. Then I found the name "Lailoken," which is one of Merlin's early names (as in King Arthur's Merlin), and it was the first name I found that didn't have a publishing company listed under it. I ran it against the state of Ohio's business listings and trademarks, and it wasn't there either. It seemed good to go. 

There is a personal connection to the name Merlin, and thus "Lailoken." I used to live in Carmarthen, Wales, when I studied abroad as an undergrad. In Welsh, it comes from Caer Myrddin, meaning "Merlin's fort." When I was selecting names I tried to think of things that meant something to me personally in some way, and "Merlin" and "Myrddin" were already taken, so I settled on "Lailoken." 

I snatched up the domain name because it was encouraged to do so before someone else took it. And then I created a business email through Google Workspace, and a website through Wix (unpublished). My goal was to have the Lailoken Press website up and running in 2022 for when I published the book, but purchased all of these things immediately to make sure it wasn't taken. 

I also hired an artist to make a simple, modern logo for the business (which will be a sole proprietorship) and stuck the logo on the site design as well as the book cover of the novel.

And then the other day, while I was trying to come up with my "About Us" business statement to add to the site, I found a new search result that showed indeed a Lailoken Press exists out there in the world. It was listed inside a Google Books preview, the only search result to bring something like that up. 

Reader, I was both pissed and devastated. 

The good news is that I was able to cancel the domain and close the business email account. The better news is I had the foresight to leave my website unpublished so nobody knows about the existence of a duplicate Lailoken Press. 

The hardest thing on my plate now is going back to the whole issue with finding a name. I continue to come up with names that are taken and it's getting discouraging, so I figure that's a sign to take a little break from the name search for now. 

There's still a lot to do!


I'm waiting on the developmental edits to come back to me, and once I get them, I'll be diving into making a third draft of the novel. Once that is completed and polished, I'll give it to a line editor for grammar checks. 

I'm anticipating some work needed on the book, so I think the third draft might take up more time. I don't want to do too much rewriting, but it's very possible that it might be needed depending on the feedback I get. 

I have decided to release the book December 1st, 2022. This is largely because there are things I need to do once I get back to America (like setting up the imprint) that I just can't do while I'm here, and I don't know how long it's going to take. I want to give myself plenty of time to get things right. I also plan on releasing it wide instead of giving Amazon exclusivity (so you should be able to read the book on Nook, Kobo, etc.). 

I have to buy ISBNs, work out the distribution angle, register copyright, and many more things. And I need to save my money while I'm here in Japan because there's no guarantee of a job waiting for me once I get back to the States, and all of this costs money. 

Despite how scary and overwhelming this endeavor seems, it also has me very, very excited. I love being in control of all of this and it's so fascinating finding everything that makes a book come together. 

Please wish me luck! 

25 August 2021

The Fantasy Tropes Book Tag

Photo by Laura Ollier on Unsplash

Greetings, readers! 

I found this fun book tag post from And On She Reads and thought since I've been reading lots of fantasy lately (though limiting it to YA), I could do one of these, too! 

Rules

  • Mention the creator ( one’s peculiar )
  • Answer the questions
  • Tag as many people as you like
  • HAVE FUN!

1 – The Lost Princess 

A book/series you lost interest in halfway through.


Sisters of Shadow and Light by Sara B. Larson was a book I DNF'd at almost the exact halfway point. I thought it took far too long for characters to be introduced and for the main plot point to occur--where the sister gets pulled into another world and the main character has to travel through it to save her. Exactly half of the book was setup and I completely lost the will to continue. Arguably I abandoned it at the best part but the rest of my TBR pile was screaming for attention so I gave up and picked out another book instead. 

2 – The Knight in Shining Armour 

A hyped book/series you were swept up by.

Holly Black's Folk of the Air series is rightfully hyped. I have a love-hate relationship with the books (The Cruel Prince, The Wicked Queen, The Queen of Nothing, and How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories). There were so many things I loved in them, and then so many things that bothered me, too. But I found the series enthralling and I couldn't put it down. I wouldn't give it five stars because of the objections I have to it, but I'd solidly give it 4 stars for readability and the emotional experience I had while reading it. 


3 – The Wise Old Wizard 

An author who amazes you with his/her writing.

Margaret Rogerson. I loved An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns. Her prose is effortless and immediately throws me into the story and I've adored her plots and characters, so much that there were moments reading where I thought, "this is so cool. I wish I could write this." I'm looking forward to her forthcoming book Vespertine to see how she'll surprise me. 

4 – The Maiden in Distress 

 An undervalued character you wished had a bigger storyline.

In What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo, the whole family is a bit dysfunctional and mysterious, but out of everyone I wanted to know more about her werewolf grandfather. I just thought he was interesting and I wanted to know more. Actually, reading that book, which I would give three stars to because it was interesting but frustrating, most of the characters were a mystery to me the whole way through. Out of all of them, though, I wanted to know more about the grandfather. 

5 – The Magical Sword

A magical item/ability you wish authors used less.

Surprisingly enough I haven't run into a power that I felt was overused yet. 


6 – The Mindless Villain

A phrase you cannot help but roll your eyes at.

"Scrambled for purchase." I've seen this phrase or variations of it in a lot of YA fantasy. 

7 – The Untamed Dragon 

A magical creature you wish you had as a pet.

Does a demon count? I'd like to take care of Silas from Sorcery of Thorns. He is a cat from time to time, so I think it's ok. 

8 – The Chosen One 

A book/series you will always root for.

I really enjoyed Brigid Kemmerer's Cursebreakers series (A Curse So Dark and Lonely, A Heart So Fierce and Broken, and A Vow So Bold and Deadly). I love Beauty and the Beast adaptations of all kinds, but this series went far beyond that into something I found totally unique. The books are told from multiple first-person POVs which I think authors don't often pull off successfully, but Kemmerer did. Though I enjoyed all the characters, I've got a soft spot for Grey. 

Tagging...

I hate tagging people, to be honest. So I hope that YOU can participate in this, either in the comments or on your own blog. Let me know what books make your heart beat faster! 


13 August 2021

I finished the book!

Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash
Thanks to a series of back-to-back holidays, one vacation day, and two sets of weekends, I have nine days off from work. 

What did I do during this time so far? I essentially locked myself in my apartment and wrote, wrote, wrote. And that's how I finished the book! Huzzah!

282 pages.

79,032 words. 

Is the book really finished? 

HECK NO. 

I have to revise it, and to be honest, I finished the book with sections missing. I wrote little placeholder notes and highlighted them in yellow for me to come back to, then just pressed on without fixing those scenes. 

So the book is complete in that I made it all the way to "the end" of the story, but the story itself has some plot holes and unresolved issues that need to be hammered out in the second draft. 

I feel like a huge chunk of the middle is still missing. There's a romantic relationship that just comes out of nowhere, and I have to go back and lay a proper foundation for that. And I have an ending, but the ending leaves out some information that I think readers will want to know, so I might end up totally redoing that, too. 

The last time I had drafted a book in full was my thesis, and when I finished it, it felt finished. This is the first time I've experienced a finished draft that still feels like it has a lot of work. And it's a bit on the short side for me--I was expecting at least 80,000 words. 

I was advised to sit on the draft for a month before hopping back into it again. Honestly, I don't know if I can last that long. I have a tendency to forget things if I don't address them right away, and I'm worried that's going to happen. I will take a week break at least, but I don't think I can stop thinking about what to do with the novel while I don't touch it. 

I'm also working on all the things I need to do to self-publish it. I went ahead and got the cover art licensed; made cover mockups through Book Brush; paid for interior formatting from Book Design Templates (I used them before for my thesis and was pleased with their work), and downloaded some art for advertising. All of this was relatively inexpensive for me, so that's why I nabbed this stuff so quickly. 

Now I'm trying to save my money for proofreading and copy editing. They are going to be the largest expenses, and I'm legitimately scared about it, because what I need to be saving my money for is the return to America (my work contract in Japan ends July 31, 2022). I'm not sure how to do both at the same time, but I'm going to try it. Honestly, I'm still waiting on two of my economic stimulus checks and that would probably pay for copy editing at least. 

Again, it seems like I'm jumping the gun, but knowing how awful I am with money, I feel like I need to start saving ASAP for these things. 

In the meantime, I'm going to sit on my hands to try not to touch the book while I stress about the future! Whee! 



04 August 2021

I Bit the Bullet...I'm Gonna Self-Pub!

Photo by James Tarbotton on Unsplash
My, what an emotional journey I've been on trying to decide what to do while writing Son of the Siren.  And as you know, I don't really hide my thought processes or how I make decisions on this blog, so you've seen articles like Why I'm Trying to Go Traditional and On Second Thought...Maybe I Spoke Too Soon...where I hem and haw back and forth on how to bring my baby into the world. 

It seems like I shouldn't put the horse before the cart. Why should I think about publishing when the book isn't finished yet? But I've been talking to people, and they've confirmed this isn't something I should really be putting on the backburner. I need to have some kind of plan of action, and I'm coming up on the home stretch of writing anyway, so I need to start thinking about the next step. 

There's lots of work to be done before a book goes to print. I'm in the drafting stage but then there's rewriting based on developmental edits, then rewriting based on copy edits, then proofreading...a manuscript goes through several stages before it's ready for the world to see. So even though I've decided right now the way I want to go for Son of the Siren, there's still many things I have to work on. 

But I'm mostly thinking about it now because I need to save my money while I still have a job.

I mentioned that the primary reason I originally wanted to go traditional was because the author doesn't have to invest or be financially responsible for the things that publishing entails. They write the book, then they get paid for that book (although the way authors are getting paid keeps changing). But for self-publishing, you assume the costs and risks yourself. 

There is technically a way to publish for free, and ways to design your book yourself for free. So...affordable self-publishing is out there. But usually it's a risk doing things on the cheap side. There are services that I want for my book and there's a certain look and feel that I want for it, too...and it costs money. Like, lots of money. I'm trying to find cheaper alternatives to these things, but so far, here's what I've come up with from doing lots of research (all quotes are based off of an 80,000 word novel):

  • Editorial letter - $650 - $1200
  • Developmental editing - $1450 - $6,000
  • Copy editing - $1600 - $3,000
  • Proofreading - $900 - $1200
This is just for everything that goes into the manuscript before it's ready for publication. I have been pricing book formatting, ISBNs, promotion, book reviews, etc. Self-publishing is a huge investment. 

What sparked my interest in self-publishing Son of the Siren (or rather, what changed my mind) was some good conversations with experienced writers, some blog articles that kind of freaked me out, some first-person accounts from Book Twitter, and then really sitting down and thinking about how much control I want to relinquish over a book. 

That's the question, isn't it? 

I thought about my experience writing in my life. I've always done it my own way. It's what I'm used to. When I wrote for the stage, I had other people helping me, but I always had the final word on how things looked, how they felt, and how they went...I am used to being in control of my product. If I've done it this way for years, how would self-pubbing be any different (aside from more expensive and a bigger undertaking)?  

And I'm a bit of a control freak, to be honest. 

I've heard stories about all sorts of changes requested to do to someone's work creatively in order for it to be considered acceptable for an agent's or publisher's eyes...and some of those suggestions went against an author's core beliefs about their own work. If someone told me to change the title to my book, I'd bristle. If someone wanted me to rename characters or cut the love subplot I'd explode. There's got to be some flexibility and trust when you hand your work off to someone else to sell and promote it, and as terrible as that sounds, I am finding out I'm not that flexible. 

Just the other day I was looking at artwork different artists had made for me and there was one piece, by Juhaihai, that really spoke to me. It hit me hard: this is going to be the cover to my book. And I realized I didn't want anything else for it, I felt so strongly about it. I realized I wanted to be more in control of my work than I thought I did. 

And I also realized something else, just from working directly with an artist -- things might not be as expensive as I thought. I was given a great deal on the commercial licensing of the image, and it didn't break my wallet. Maybe, if I did even more research, I could find more affordable ways to pull off the publication of Son of the Siren. Maybe things weren't, and aren't, as insurmountable as I think them to be. 

But the most important thing is that no matter what, this book is going to be out there, in some way, in your hands. And the fact that I don't have to worry about that anymore has taken a huge weight off of my shoulders, and I'm already feeling less anxiety as I work on completing the book. The fact that I've finally made a decision on what to do feels so good!

Please wish me luck on this endeavor! And right now, it's back to writing! Go, go, go!