Labors of Love and the Indie Book Launch

Book Launch

Launching Indie Books Takes Effort.

To paraphrase the movie “Anchorman,” this escalated quickly.

I wrote a book. Great. So what? It’s been done millions of times. But I’ve only done it twice, so it’s still exciting for me. And I never published the first one. It was too rough, too dark, not ready for prime time. This new one, though, it’s dark but also funny, and I think it has elements that cynics and comedians–maybe even regular humans–could connect with.

So I decided to publish.

It was late summer of 2012. A few family members had helped me to proof the 2nd draft, pointing out typos or inconsistencies, or suggesting that I tone down the wordiness because sometimes I am wordy and cannot seem to pare down the words even though I tend to admire efficiency of language and this sentence seems to just keep going and going without adding much. Like that.

I decided it would be prudent to invest in having it professionally edited. I solicited several samples, and honed in on the editor whose work and feedback I found most helpful. I can absolutely recommend Valerie Valentine, who is thorough, helpful, and insightful.

While my editor was doing her thing, I began to focus on publishing options. I have never had the patience for hardcore research, but I did a fair bit of digging about the traditional publishing model. The big publishing houses are still around, but the ease and availability of self-publishing was hard to ignore. I knew I would have to do my own marketing (the weak link in my chain of skills), but the other positives of indie publishing convinced me: better royalties per unit, speed of getting the work to market, total control over the distribution channels.

And endless, nonstop pu$$y. Just kidding.

I got to working on a cover, since I’m a PhotoShop geek. You can still find this original, very RED cover out there in Google cache, but I’ve since grown to dislike it, especially in light of the new cover (but we’ll get to that).

So with the cover done, I was just about ready to get the thing to a distributor.

My dad, also a novelist, recommended BookBaby, having used it for one of his publications. I liked their royalty scheme and flat rate for conversion and distribution. So I uploaded everything and then worked out the kinks in a couple of digital proofs, testing it on my phone and my wife’s Kindle. At some point, it was go time, and I submitted it for release–my first novel published exclusively as an eBook. Cool.

Meanwhile, because I’m a self-referential navel-gazer, I recorded seven songs using the absurd song titles mentioned throughout “Hyperbole.” Movie soundtracks are a dime a dozen, but I had never heard of a book soundtrack, so I thought it might be a … [wait for it] … novel idea.

Sometimes I can’t even look myself in the mirror.

So while “Hyperbole” the eBook was being processed by BookBaby, I recorded and uploaded “Hyperbole: Original Novel Sountrack” to CDBaby (yes, sister company to BookBaby). For the morbidly curious, it’s on CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon, everywhere you’d expect. It is filthy and not for children, but I think it’s funny and sometimes catchy.

So then: the original eBook of “Hyperbole” launches around the beginning of November 2012. Friends and family snatch it up, which is cool. But I don’t heavily promote it, thinking, “I’ll wait until the audiobook and paperback are ready.”

Who knew it would take a whole year?

Well, it did. I had no patience for the audiobook process. I found both recording and editing to be extremely tedious. Getting good soundproofed recordings in a house with 16 scampering pet feet is a challenge I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. But I forced myself to spend at least a few hours a week on it, not rushing, trying to plod through. I finally wrapped the editing around Labor Day 2013.

Great, audiobook in the can. Now, paperback.

I investigated the paperback print-on-demand services. BookBaby offers them, and for a while I thought I would stick with them. However, after finding out more about Amazon’s CreateSpace, I realized that was the way to go for me. First of all, I found that their printing costs were almost HALF of what BookBaby was charging for comparable media. And CreateSpace being an Amazon company, the distribution options are quite robust. I also realized I had missed the boat by not making the eBook Amazon-exclusive, which allows your eBook to be promoted as a free download for a short window of time. So, I wrote BookBaby and arranged for the original eBook to be pulled from all distribution channels. I was going Amazon/CreateSpace exclusive, so I could finally take advantage of those types of promotion and hopefully reach a wider audience. Meanwhile, I uploaded and verified the audiobook on ACX (also an Amazon subsidiary). Sounded good. I was happy, and submitted it.

Having decided upon CreateSpace, I used their templates to format the interior of the book. And I created a completely new cover specifically for the paperback. I knew I wanted the cover to be the bathroom of Skizzers (the bar in the book), and specifically to feature all of the graffiti on the wall. So I went out to several local bars and took a bunch of photos of elements that I liked. I then pieced the elements and textures together in PhotoShop and created all of the graffiti, most of which comes from the list found on pages 33-35 in the paperback. Swear words were blurred as if they had been rubbed by Old Fuck’s snot. You know, to keep the kids from learning exactly what part of Steffi’s anatomy caused 7/11. I hope beyond hope that is a NYT Crossword clue someday.

Anyway, finished the cover. Uploaded everything to CreateSpace, used the rather convenient online digital proofer tool, which gives a fully-functional view of the formatted interior within about 10 minutes after uploading the source files. Caught a few formatting issues, fixed them, and re-uploaded a few times until I was satisfied enough to do a printed proof.

This is where it starts getting exciting.

So, the elite team of mercenaries spilled from the helicopter…

Not that exciting.

Submitted my files for review, CreateSpace approved, and I was able to order a print. I of course opted for express shipping, because express shipping was invented for situations like this, and I pretend I have money to burn. Two days later, I was holding the first decent hard copy of my book. It was pretty cool. It looked great. And I found about 5 typos right away.

I should note at this point that the typos I found were not due to errant editing by my editor–they were due to issues caused when I was moving type around to get it into the right format in the CreateSpace template. So, mainly things like unwanted or nonexistent line breaks, missing italics, smart quotes facing the wrong way (which makes them stupid quotes). I was red-lining the only existing book and I had really mixed feelings about it. But there’s no evil like a necessary evil.

I had solicited bookworm friends to help me test-drive the proof, and three very generous readers helped me considerably by reading the book cover to cover and identifying potential issues.

By Thanksgiving, I had fixed the identified issues and ordered my second proof.

Between the time I ordered the second proof and the time I received it, I had already found a couple more issues. How did I find these? By formatting the new eBook. That’s how. Using the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) eBook reviewer, some of those line- and page-break issues jumped right out. So next time, I’ll know to “port” the book over to the pre-Kindle version to help me proof earlier in the process. Anyway, got the eBook in shape, and then fixed the issues present in the 2nd physical proof.

By this time, I was drinking heavily.

December, 2013. The month in which I’m writing this. Got the third and, I’m happy to say, final physical proof of “Hyperbole.” All was well. It looked good.

So all three versions of the book were being shoved out into the world. Now came the hard part: Marketing and Promotion.

Social media are the best bet for someone like me with virtually no budget. I am throwing some money at some social media aggregation and press release distribution services, but it requires active engagement with potential fans. I am having to stay on my toes, keep active, and try to find the balance between whoring myself and being generally entertaining. The idea is to keep people wanting to read what I write.

Twitter is the bread and butter so far. I am following a lot of cool people, and I’m being followed back with a decent success rate. It takes a lot of mental energy to keep coming up with decent things to share, but I think it’s good exercise for my brain. And I’m starting to connect with some new friends. I dig it.

The first press release about “Hyperbole” is scheduled to go out on Tuesday, which makes me nervous and excited. I’m very curious to see whether there is A) Any response B) Uptick in Sales C) Interest in interviews / reviews / additional publicity. I’ll be happy with any of the above, and I’m trying to keep the energy positive.

I’m just beginning the long journey of independently marketing my indie book. It’s scary and daunting in some ways, but having taken the first few steps, I realize that it’s like anything else: Put a lot of yourself into something, and you’re likely to get something back. It may not be immediate or obvious, but I think it’s coming. I’m going to keep giving, and keep leading people to my work without beating them over the head, and I think I will realize the level of success that I want. Meaning: I want to make money on a creative project for the first time in my life.

If any other writers or creators have anecdotes about their journey to getting work out into the world, I’d love to hear it.

OK, it’s Friday. Can I go drink now?

Thanks for reading.

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