First off, I’d like to give a big thank you to Fairday and Lizzy for allowing me to write a post on their blog. It’s really exciting! I’ve been asked to talk a little bit about the process I follow as a self-published author. I’ve been writing all my life—back when there were no computers, just typewriters! When my wife finally convinced me to write a novel, I knew it had to be for children.
What followed was six years of writing, rewriting, editing and feedback from friends, family and a writing workshop. When I finally ‘finished’ (let’s face it, you never feel like your book is ever totally done/perfect) in 2011, I looked around at publishing options. As an author, you basically have two routes to go, traditionally published or self-published.
I went with self-publishing because there were a lot of good options available that enabled me to turn out a professional looking book for little or no money reasonably quickly. Self-publishing also gives me full creative control so that I can write what I want the way I want. I have to say going in that my goal was never to make a boatload of money but to entertain children by writing books with good values that demonstrate teamwork and finding strength from within. Thankfully, I've managed to stay true to that.
So what’s it like being self-published? When I began this journey, I thought I had a pretty good idea. Turns out, I had a lot to learn and three years later, there is still a lot I don’t know.
If you have a desire to write, the first thing you need is a story idea. This leads to the question ‘where do ideas come from?’ Everyone has to come up with their own answer to that question, but I’ve found that the best generator for me is asking ‘What if?’ For example, when I was kicking around ideas for that first book I asked myself a lot of what if questions. The one that really resonated with me was, ‘What if a boy found a doorway to another world?’ That led to Eric meeting Stig the owl who took him on a wonderful adventure in the first Deliverers book, Sharky & the Jewel.
Once I have an idea that I’m excited about, I like to map things out. I don’t go so far as to outline the book from start to finish, but I begin writing with a concrete problem that needs to be solved, a good idea of how the characters are going to do it and most of the resolution. Everyone is different in this, I think. Some map out everything, others let things develop as they write. For me, the characters tend to take over and lead. I know what they have to do, but oftentimes they get it done in ways that I don’t expect. That’s the best part about the writing process.
Once your first draft is complete, it’s time to start rewriting and editing. I usually go through it all once and identify areas that just don’t work for me. Then, it’s time to figure out the best way to rewrite those portions. After rewriting, I go through and edit. This includes word usage, spelling, punctuation, typos, etc. Once that’s done, if the budget allows I hand it off to an editor. I was an editor for four years, so if the money’s not there I can get away with not having it edited, but it’s always better if someone else does it. They’ll be more objective and spot areas of needed improvement that you never will.
After it’s been edited, I make any needed changes, then proofread once more for word usage and punctuation. No matter how careful I am, there are always be a few things that slip through. It drives me nuts.
|Artist Daniel Vogel on a visit to Stephanie Robinson's class|
While all this is going on, you need to work on the cover and any interior illustrations and maps with your illustrator. This is the part that could run into a little bit of money, but it’s vital that you have art that is engaging and professional looking. For me, I need to be involved in the process start to finish. I meet with my illustrator, Daniel Vogel, to go over the initial concept and vision. We pick a scene out of the book that resonates with both of us and then he runs with it. He gives me an initial sketch and we meet to refine that. I usually meet with him once a month during production until the cover, map and interior chapter illustration is set. For maps I sketch out a rough copy to show him where everything is and he takes it from there.
Once the manuscript is complete, I hand it off to layout artist Ana Vogel (Daniel’s mother) so that she can lay it out. CreateSpace has a template that you can use to lay out your book yourself, but if you can, give this to a pro to do. Thanks to Ana’s skill my books look professional.
I use CreateSpace to publish the paperback versions of my books. They’re great because they print on demand, have decent distribution and offer better than average royalties. I also have Kindle versions of my books that I publish through Kindle Direct Publishing. They’ve really improved the ease of formatting over the years and I’ve been able to format my books myself—pictures, maps and all—easily.
The final hat you need to wear as a self-published author is marketing. I have to admit that this is where the learning curve has been steepest for me. Some things like book trailers, banner design, bookmarks, etc. have been easy. I have a creative flair and like fiddling around with stuff like that. What I struggle with, though, is self promotion. That's a nice way of saying I have trouble talking about myself.
To top it off, I just can’t devote the time to marketing that it needs. Between a full-time job, a family and writing, there’s very little time left. If you can devote part of your budget to partnering with a social media marketing firm, then I say do it. Just be sure to do your homework before going with anyone.
Self-publishing has been a challenging but rewarding journey for me. With two more books still to come in the Deliverers series, it’s a path that I’ll continue to travel for at least the next two years. Beyond that, who knows? I may try my hand at getting the next series—whatever that winds up being—traditionally published. I’ll follow whatever my gut tells me to do. You should, too. Thanks for reading.