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! 

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