Friday, August 22, 2014

The Writing Process with Gregory Slomba...

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.

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28 comments:

  1. Traditional publication isn't much different. You're just assigned a professional editing team to refine the book, which is nice, and the cover is handled by them. But the promotion is still largely done with the author. The publishing house has the power to get you into Barnes & Noble on shelves...that's the big difference...and they place it on Amazon and other websites. But I had to work personally with my local independent bookstores to get them to carry it and getting the word out about it is largely the author's responsibility, since so much of it is done through social media these days.

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  2. Interesting reading, its fascinating to hear of Greg's experiences.

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    1. Stephanie- For some reason we couldn't comment under your comment, so we are commenting here.

      What a thoughtful response you gave! Thanks so much for sharing your experience with traditional publishing. Lots for authors to think about and take part in!

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  3. Congrats! I can see the benefits of trad publishing with them paying for editing, formatting, and cover art, but I must admit I love the control I have when I self-publish. I get to decide on the final product in the end. Of course, marketing is the hard part whether someone is self-published or traditionally published.

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    1. Cherie- Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Marketing is a lot of work on any side of the publishing path. Always interesting to hear from people who are in the middle of it all. :)

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  4. Great to read about this experience. Marketing is always the challenge. With the volume of books coming out, it's hard to stand out in the crowd.

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  5. I can only imagine the challenges of not only writing the book but then having to deal with all the marketing. Thanks for sharing this informative post.

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    1. Heidi- Authors are definitely busy people these days! :)

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  6. Thanks for the informative post, Gregory!

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    1. Armchair Squid- Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  7. There's definitely something to be said about following your gut. Congrats to Gregory. I've seen his books all over online.

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    1. Kelly- Our gut usually points us in the right direction. :)

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  8. It's good that self-publishing has been used more and more through the years. I'm sure we wouldn't have had as many good books out without that option around. I've heard of authors asking questions while their writing not only to decide what they are going to write but make sure they have every detail of the character down. Thanks for writing such an interesting post!

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    1. Adriana- So glad you enjoyed hearing from Greg! It is always interesting to hear authors' stories about their path to publication. With self-publishing there are definitely a whole lot more books out there to read. :)

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  9. Thanks for sharing, the process is extensive, but I imagine the end result is rewarding.

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  10. Great outline of the process - there is so much to self pubbing and I think marketing must be the most difficult

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  11. Self publishing works if you have a good marketing plan. Otherwise you may never recoup the amount of money you spend on it.

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    1. Sherry- A good marketing plan makes sense and without a plan it will be very hard to get the word out there. :)

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  12. Thanks for all the information.

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  13. I can't comment on your new post, but just wanted to say...

    Oh goody, I love secret doorways to magical lands. I can’t wait for your posts this week.

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    1. Barbara- Sorry you couldn't post on the other post. We appreciate you commenting here. :)

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  14. I was unable to comment on Monday's post...

    Congrats to Gregory. I always want to read about other people's experiences in publishing.

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    1. Medeia- Sorry that blog was being a problem on Monday. Thanks for commenting here.

      We also love hearing everyone's varied experiences with publishing. :)

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