So, you’ve flipped the lid of your laptop, typed a few words and before you know if you’re writing a novel hey? Yeah that’s pretty much how it went for me too. I was broke, on maternity leave and found a hobby while my baby slept, what’s your reason?
Anyway, whatever has forced your hand, you’re here now! It’s time to either bail out before you get in over your head or commit and go the distance. If you decide on the latter, then here’s basically how it works:
THE WRITING PROCESS 1-0-1 (Some things that you need to know to make that crazy pipedream of yours a reality).
1. Write the story… deah that’s a no brainer. Some people plan it first, that’s your prerogative.
2. Once you’ve typed The End and a trusted few have had a read, it’s time to get your story professionally edited. Ask for recommendations or look for someone who has actual qualifications. Any Joe Blow can say, ‘I’m an editor,’ but since this is the most important stage of your novel’s development, try to find someone who is half decent.
Editing is bloody expensive, especially comprehensive editing. You may be disheartened (and pushed to your financial limit) to find out that your piece requires two or three rounds of editing. Each round of editing incurs new costs, but thankfully gets cheaper each time, (as the work load lessens). Be prepared though, the costs may be in the thousands. Now might be a good time to consider changing your career from poor struggling author to rolling in the dough, not so struggling editor? I’m joking, keep going- You can do it!
3. You will now become involved in a lot of of two-ing and fro-ing with your editor, amending bits and pieces, as per your editor’s suggestions. You might want to allow your bank account to recover a little bit before moving on to step 4.
4. Now that you have gone through multiple rounds of editing, you will be ready for a final proof-read. You can get someone different to do this for you if you like; a new set of eyes is always valuable, especially at this stage in the process. There shouldn’t be any major content changes though; the proofreading process picks up on minor errors.
5. This is where s**t gets real! The creative writing side is now complete – tick! Now it’s time to make a decision about publishing your book, (making it a physical OR electronic thing that people can read). There are a lot of options.
If you approach a publishing house, ie) Macmillan, and they read your manuscript and agree to take it on, then they will pay for the majority of the publishing costs, which is helpful, because again… it’s bloody expensive. Publishing houses won’t take your manuscript on out of the goodness of their hearts though, they will want a cut of the future sales profit, (grrr times two).
If you self publish, then you incur all of the costs, (grrr times three) but reap all of the future profit…boo-yeah! Unless you eventually stock your book in a book store, in which case, they will take their cut as well – (grr times four).
The only problem with self publishing is, that the average first time author (Joe Blow), doesn’t tend to know what he’s doing, and is susceptible to being ripped off and doing things unprofessionally, if left to his own devices.
I chose to get The Lies That Got Us Here published through a company called InHouse Publishing, located at Brisbane. Their services are tailored towards first time authors who need guidance, and people who are too time poor to publish themselves. Basically, InHouse (and companies similar) offer all of the services necessary for knocking a book into existence. You, (the author) can choose to pay for some, or all of their services, depending on your personal situation, budget and what you are capable of doing yourself through self publishing.
6. Apply for a barcode (ISBN number) for your work, decide on a title (if you haven’t done so already) and register your book with the National Library of Australia.
7. You need to work on designing a front cover. I found it relatively cost effective to get a designer to do this for me. I had a lot of input into colour schemes, selecting images and fonts. You can be very involved OR very un-involved, depending on your level of crazy. If you have any other graphics, i.e.) maps or appendices, then your cover designer can help to digitalise them, or the designers can create them from scratch.
8. Format Editing – This was a huge and un-anticipated expense. How hard can it be to add a header and footer and make sure that each page aligns and looks the same? The answer to that question must be- bloody hard! My novel, which I will admit, is quite long, cost nearly $1000 for Format Editing. Well that’s a nice little kick in the pants that no-one needs. The thrilling part of this process is that you get to choose a font type that you like… whoopty doo!
9. Check and read-over your work. Even though it is crazy dear, format editing can cause some disturbances to the text lay-out, i.e.) spaces where there shouldn’t be spaces etc. So, it’s advisable to take the time to read over your novel (for what may seem like the hundredth time) to check for any unwanted errors before printing. Funnily enough, every time you read your text, you may pick things up. I found content errors which crept in, (even after multiple rounds of editing and proofreading), little details, which are tricky to pick up. For example, if you wrote- He walked over to the fireplace, you may not mention the character standing up. He might go from sitting down to walking, which is impossible. You will be asked to fill out an Amendments Form with any errors that you find listed on it.
10. Amendments are made and a proof-copy is printed off and sent to your house. Hallelujah! I remember feeling the novel in my hands. It was physical proof that my pipedream had become a real identifiable product. It felt a-may-zing! It is recommended that you read over your story for the hundred and first time. I found more small errors when reading a physical copy, as opposed to a screen version. I don’t know if that was just me being pedantic, or if reading a physical copy promoted more attention to detail? A further Amendments Form is filled out, if necessary.
11. The Amendments are made and your novel is ready to print. Now here’s the tricky part… A first time author is always in doubt of their ability and potential to reach buyers, (unless if they’re delusional or overly confident). So, first time authors may not want to commit to printing off too many copies of their work, for fear of their life project sitting in the corner of their garage in boxes, gathering dust for the next millennia. I concur, this was me.
But here’s the thing… the more books that you print, the cheaper it is. So, if you print 100 books for example, it might cost you approximately $13 per copy to print- eek, as opposed to $8 per copy if you print 500 books. Of course you are going to make more profit off $8 copies, selling at say $25 a pop, then you will off the $13 copies. But the question remains…will you sell 500 copies? Or will they become doorstops in your guest bedroom? Decisions …Decisions…
E-books are another avenue that you could consider, if the cost of printing is getting you down. It incurs a cost to produce your work as an e-book, but you save on little nasties like postage and handling. The convenience of the e-book aside, most writers see sentimental value in owning a paperback and want to hold their story in their hands.
12. The books are delivered. Yay, your job is over right? Wrong! Oh, so very wrong! Now is what some people believe to be the most important stage in your book’s success or failure. Marketing your book via your writer’s platform. What is that fancy term? Well, a writer’s platform is you, (the author) getting your name ‘out there’ in the world. You might choose to do this prior to your novel being released, to create hype and establish a name for yourself as an author. This could include – talking to a book club, blogging, liking and commenting on other people’s blogs and getting your name/face out there on the internet, setting up an author Facebook Page, setting up a website, making an online shop, ie) Shopify, promoting on the radio etc. All of these things will build up your writer’s platform, anticipate the release of your book and keep you in the public eye.
13. Host a book launch. This is a big deal, especially if you‘re an introvert. Just imagine… hosting a celebration where all eyes are on you. You may choose to read your work, which until now has been kept relatively private and personal, in front of a crowd. You may be the subject of question time and have to speak about your journey. The good news is that you can take control. If you want things to be low key than keep them that way! Alternately, if you want to invite cousin Billy’s band and your brother the magician to perform, than that’s fine too, the ball is in your court. You can print off bookmarks, flyers, banners and the like, if you choose to. You can also give out thematic gift bags, champagne and food. Some launches are best done at a book shop, others at a cafe or tavern in the evening and others in your backyard- it is completely up to you. One thing needs to be a priority at your launch– generating a crowd! This may be the only time that you can sell your book to the public face to face, without factoring in the dreaded postage and handling costs that come with online purchasing.
14. Once you have launched the book then it is up to you to maintain the hype associated with releasing your novel into the world. Try to post online, (blogs, memes, information, podcasts etc) every couple of days and keep the public eye fixed on you and your product. It is said that a follow up book or the mention of working on a sequel while the hype is generated is a positive action in making a name for yourself. I’m sure that nobody wants to be a one-hit wonder.
I hope that this has shed some light on the realities that you may face when writing, publishing, printing and marketing a novel. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is the overwhelming sense of accomplishment that you will feel once you have seen this project through to completion. Whether you sell one book or one million, you can feel a sense of pride in knowing that you have become a published author.
Happy writing 😉