Okay. So it’s been an even two weeks since I hit the publish button on my book. I gently placed my anonymous, digital book into the Kindle virtual world, armed it with some vague keywords for SEO purposes, stretched a pretty cover over it to make it more desirable, and donned it with a descriptive introduction that should touch the fancy of like minds, warped that is, who might find the courage and the $3.99 to click the ‘Buy’ button on Amazon. Then I blogged about it to my immense number of followers (11). Then I went to Bookdailey.com and set up a first-chapter free read. Then I used Facebook and word of mouth to elucidate the masses as to the location, at the end of the Amazon rainbow, of their waiting treasure.
I now have 4 sales.
This is tantamount to bedding your dream woman and then, right before the Big Bang, having her thump the shit out of your balls. It’s like Paul Harvey never telling you the rest of the story. It’s like the series finale of Lost. It’s like December 22, 2012. It’s very anticlimactic, you see.
The thing is, I understand that none of this is an overnight thing. I know that it takes time and that readers and publishers want more than one little novella from an author. I am also aware that the Internet is a big place and I really know nothing about how to properly market anything. I am standing at the edge of the Atlantic, no boat, and casting my cane pole into the oncoming waves, a tiny sliver of soft Muenster cheese pressed on a barbless hook. Not to mention the fact that the book isn’t exactly an award winning novel. But then again, it wasn’t supposed to be. It was initially a 40 page scribble in my notebook. Something emergent and ephemeral that began to coalesce and demand a clarity of its own. So I obliged. But if I know this, then why does an average of two sales a week bother me?
If you’re a writer, you don’t need me to answer that. If you’re not a writer, I can tell you it’s because idealism will always trump reality. You might say though, hey, Dude, you published a book and not many people have done that. Traditionally, this might have been true, but with the advent of self-publishing becoming one-click-easy, it’s not. Anyone can scribble anything down and hit the ‘Publish’ button. There are millions of books out there, but only a small percentage worth reading. Is Sorry, Charlie one of those books? Who knows?
For every song, story, or play, there will always be someone that experiences it and thinks it was wonderful. That may be one person, or 10,000,000. And I think that is the one thing that is hanging like a grey cloud over my literary ego – lack of feedback.
If I only had 30 sells this year, but 25 of those gave positive feedback, that would in some way validate the process. Of course, even if I got 25 negative feedback, I know I would continue to write without pause. But with no feedback at all, I know nothing. It’s very dentist’s office. I am waiting in the lobby of my own tortured mind and listening to shrill screams against the background of metal grinding raw on teeth. Somewhere out there, someone is reading my attempt at dime store horror – and judging it with every word.
So, I have been working feverishly on getting out a more accessible printed version of the book. More availability, quicker feedback. That’s my reasoning. And I had no idea about some of the things that would come into play. I will share a few of them with you.
One was page size. Would the reader want a smaller 8×5 or a larger 9×6. I ended up going with 9×6 because it was standard, which I understand opens doors to more markets, and gave the book a little bit of mass for its smaller page count. Go larger and your book may not fit on some shelves. Most of what I read relayed that 9×6 was a good choice.
Another was font. I know that it makes a huge difference on readability. Ever opened a book and put it down because of the font? Or maybe you didn’t even consciously make the decision, you just knew something wasn’t right when you started reading it. If the words are too close to each other, your reading voice runs everything together. Too far apart and the line starts to stretch and pull at your attention span and the connections and meaningful associations between the words attenuates with each sentence. And then there’s leading and kerning. How far away from each other should the letters be? And the line spacing? Turns out that you can, and may need to, set the line spacing in points and not use the basic Microsoft line spacing. For mine, I chose the font the best way I knew how. I researched online to find out the most common and easy-to-read fonts, and then I picked out four to choose from. Then I set the font different on each page. I also set each individual font to a different size for each page. I printed the pages out and let my family number the ones they liked the best. They picked Mongolian Baiti at 11 point, so that’s what I went with.
There were common, first-time publishing mistakes of which sites warned. Starting a chapter on the left side of a page, for instance. Or having a line by itself at the end of a page. Or not justifying the text. There was header numbering that wasn’t supposed to be on blank pages or chapter pages. A lot of little things that you see and never think about. Unless they’re off. Then your mind realizes that something is not right, and even if you don’t know what it is, you may shy away from the book.
And there’s the cover. I only needed a front cover for the web. Now I needed to do things like multiply the number of pages by a constant that’s based on the type of paper I’m using to get the spine width. And there’s making sure the pictures bleed off the page and don’t have some weird border around them. This is all DIY I might mention, just time consuming. You figure things out like – If you set your page numbering in the header and then create your section breaks immediately following your page breaks before chapters, and you’ve got the checkbox marked for allowing a different first page header, then the header will not show on the chapter pages. It’s all very trial and error, even with the help of the Internet. Picture someone changing a car tire with nothing but a small hammer and you’ve got the idea.
And let’s not forget what needs to go on the cover. There’s more than the title, subtitle, and author’s name. There’s the description, illustrator and publisher information, pricing, the barcode, back matter, and blurbs, of which I have none. Nor will newspapers even consider reading self-published materials, because again, there’s too many of us and they would be inundated.
So I think I avoided most of the bad mistakes, but we’ll see. And if I didn’t, it’s okay. I’m climbing the learning curve. I’m figuring out things that I never would have if I had a publisher doing all the work for me. It’s a more fulfilling and personal experience. And kind of fun. Kind of.
So while I wait for my extremely underpaid (underpaid meaning no pay at all) but very skilled illustrator to send the updated book cover, I cross my fingers and wait for that first set of five stars to show up underneath my book. Hopefully they will all be yellow.