Fictional Work is Hard Work

I just found the easy part of self publishing. I headed over to Amazon to scope things out for the big release next week. I figured, as with everything thus far, that the process of officially publishing (digitally distributing?) would include much decision making and uploading and back and forth, etc. etc.

Not so much.

A few clicks, some cut and paste, and you can be done. There is even a “Cover Creator” button (which, thankfully, would not work. As a designer, I was urged to press the button much like staring at a car wreck on the interstate.)

Apparently, I’ve finally found the source of everyone’s vexation about self publishing. Figured out why a good number of the reviewers I have contacted refuse to even look at self published work. Why readers and writers alike are skeptical about anything coming from outside a traditional publishing house.

The reality is that self publishing done right is hard.

I’d love to know how many books are out there on virtual shelves buried in pixelated dust with nothing but a five star review from a doting parent or guilt-ridden significant other. Books posted with a slapdash cover and left to rot while the writer prays someone will stumble across it and share it with the world for them.

I don’t mean to criticize shoestring budget publishing. You can make that happen if you need to, but the dream that you are done once you’ve typed those magical words “The End” is delusional; the work has only just started.

Crimson Son is the product of two and a half years of work. It started as a short story for my critique group. A depressed and trapped son of a superhero wandered out into the snow in a suicidal attempt to reach civilization. They encouraged me to flesh out the story and for weeks I brought new scenes to each meeting until, about a year and a half later, I was looking at a full-blown manuscript.

It was horrible. Probably “Cover Creator” bad with a disjointed ending that revolved around a character I discovered on a writing binge in a Las Vegas hotel room. But I roped a few of my critique friends into reading the full manuscript and they helped set me straight.

I spent the next six months tearing the book apart and building it back up again. The entire last half of the novel was re-written. Spencer was aged. Character arcs were solidified. Scenes rearranged. Twenty feet of wallpaper sacrificed in the name of editing. I then found some friends who were dedicated readers (and one great critiquer who hadn’t seen the work yet). I let them have at it and made even more changes.

Then, about six months ago, I started production of the eBook and print book along with expanding my meager platform. While the editor toiled away, I surfed the web and contacted friends and industry experts to pick their brain on how to make sure my book didn’t sit idle on the shelves.

A graphic artist myself, I sought out a respected cover designer – why? A new industry. Different demands. Colors have genre specific meanings and what looks good to me may not always be the thing my target audience is searching for as they skim through tiny covers online.

Finally, when the editor was done with both a line edit and copy edit, I went through it again. I read it out loud for the umpteenth time and carefully tweaked words and phrases. After a copy edit, this is a terrible idea, but I had a compulsion to make sure every word was in place, every plot point clear. Even then I had lingering doubts but being past my self-imposed deadline, I had to let it go.  It was onto the formatter next, a process which also took much longer than I had scheduled and anticipated.

I’ve learned a lot. I’ve gone through the motions in some cases, but these are habits I need to develop for the rest of my writing career. I now have processes set in place for each new book I will write. I have a better feel for the costs in money and time and, I have the beginnings of the mysterious thing called a platform.

With all of that, I still accept the possibility that Crimson Son may end up one of those digital dust bunnies. Because not only is this hard work, it’s a risk. Any business venture is. But succeed or not, I’ll know I put forth every effort to make this dream a reality. If you are planning on self-publishing, please consider all the details. I don’t want to see anymore self pub works that were half-baked and placed on the shelf all gooey and inedible, nor do I want to see sumptuous masterpieces stale and moldering. You owe it to yourself and your readers to do the best job possible.

Now get to work. Fictional Work, but work. Make it happen.

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6 replies

  1. I have this as well. It is in fact the hardest thing I have ever done.

    Good luck and you seem to be on the right track.

    I’m counting down the days.

      • I won’t grammar nazi you on the comments, heh. Thanks so much for your support! – I saw you published your novel / novella on your blog? Man, I’m so behind on my “to read” list but I’ve got it bookmarked. Congrats!

      • Thanks. Yeah I’ve had it out for awhile and fell into that trap. It hasn’t done much in the way of sells and I really just wanted people to read it. Get some feedback if possible. I’ve gotten some advice and that’s all I wanted. It’s a tough business and I just want to tell stories that people will read.
        In the self publishing game you have to be a writer, a promoter, an ad executive, and an agent

  2. I 100% agree, self-pub is HARD. You have to do all the work, and if you don’t do it well, then it comes across to the reader as a novice manuscript instead of finished book. Any book, traditional, small press, or self-pub MUST go through the rigors of editing and re-working, because our first drafts are always crap. Always.

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