Friday, July 15, 2011

Learning the Other Side of Writing

This venture into e-publishing has already been an adventure, and it's only getting started.  I'm starting to see the business side of things.  You know, the parts that aren't just you and the story, sitting there together in total solitude, hammering out how it's going to end.  The parts where you interact with others who have an impact on the story too.  The parts that make it more than just your own personal baby.

It's all a little scary, but like a roller coaster, it's also a lot of fun.  It's scary because at this point, there's no backing out.  I've already committed to doing this, and I know I need to get it right.  I need to get it right at least for my own sense of accomplishment, according to my own standards, no matter how well it sells.  Selling it of course it the ultimate goal here, but I understand how the business works.  I realize that it's a tricky one, often influenced by factors outside anyone's ability to control.  There are things that can be done to increase its chances, but there are also a lot of intangibles.

Although I'm experimenting with e-publishing Separate Worlds on my own, I can see where certain aspects of the business would be the same, no matter how it was published.  I'm starting to see the interaction between all the people necessary for it to be released to the public, and I know this is only the beginning.  I can see once this is finished and available for sale, I'll have a lot of experience to share in the area.  I won't be an expert, not by a long shot, but at least I'll be able to talk coherently on the subject.

I just signed off on the final design of the cover. My cover artist and graphic design genius, Todd Bréda, was wonderful to work with.  He took my ideas and crafted them into a great looking cover that really displays all the concepts I was looking for in a very professional way.

I wanted to start out with a background portraying space travel, other galaxies and planets, and especially the other world where the story takes place.  Setting it against a backdrop of space would automatically give it the feel of a science fiction story.  I also wanted the concept of space travel and a rift between galaxies on it.  That's a lot to ask, but after a little work tossing ideas back and forth, Todd came up with something that very subtly did both.  And it worked within the constraints of the area we had to work with on the cover.

I also wanted the title, subtitle and author byline font to let the reader know this book was science fiction, so I sent a half dozen images of some of the pure science fiction covers out there for him to use as inspiration.  What he came up with melds classic science fiction with a more modern touch, and it does so very nicely.  Together, the elements work perfectly.  The cover cannot be mistaken for anything other than that of a science fiction tale, and it very accurately portrays the story I've written.

Ironically, while I was in the middle of this, fellow author David Gaughran blogged about his own experience coming up with a book cover.  And although we didn't do things in quite the same way, there have been definite similarities.  It was very interesting to read his experiences, especially as someone who was doing the exact same thing at the time.

One of the differences between David's experience and mine was the input from others he got during the process.  So far, the only others who have seen the work aside from Todd and me are my immediate family.  I've gotten some good critical advice from them, and they approve of the final copy, whether they needed to or not.  I could have sent it to more people and gotten advice along the way from potential readers, but I chose not to.  I don't think I needed to.  I felt that between Todd's abilities and input, and my own artistic sense, we could come up with something that would work beautifully.  And we did.  The cover will be up on the blog before too long, and you'll be able to see for yourself.

It may seem like I've put the cart before the horse in finishing the cover before I get the story professionally edited, and indeed I've thought that a time or two.  But I don't think so.  For one thing, it allows me a longer lead time to promote the story with a beautiful piece of cover art before it's finally out for consumption.  Another thing it's allowed me to do is tweak the story just slightly as I'm doing my final edit to more closely mirror the picture the cover puts into the reader's mind.  Doing it this way allows far more artistic license to meld the story better with the cover art.  I wouldn't have nearly the ability to do this otherwise.

I'm now in the final stages of perfecting the story.  It's polished and edited a number of times - I've kind of lost track by now - and it's ready for one final, professional edit.  I've chosen a couple of editors I feel I'd be comfortable working with, and I'm confident that whichever one I end up working with will do a marvelous job.

I still have to work out the technical aspects of the story, but I'm not as worried about that.  That is simply a matter of formatting files correctly and uploading them as required.  That's just a bit of research and some careful attention to detail on my part.  I think I can handle that part.

All in all, it's been incredibly interesting and educational to say the least.  It's a gamble.  I'm not only investing monetarily in doing this, I'm also putting my work out as published, risking myself as an author in the hopes it will be successful.  Like I said, it's a gamble, but it's less about that than it is about the educational experience of it.  It's already taught me more about authorship and the publication business than ever before, and that has to be worth something in the end.


  1. You've hit the nail on the head!
    Indie publishing is going to create an entirely new generation of writers - people who have to understand the world of business as well as the art of story telling.
    I'm fortunate to have two e-publishers working with me. BUT, it's still going to require that I learn how to market my works - something traditional publishers and agents did before.
    Social Media. News Releases. Press conferences. Public speaking. Book signings. All things WE have to learn to do now.
    Sigh. Where on earth am I going to find time for simple writing?

  2. You touched on a key point in this dynamic - the shift in demographics of indie publishing. Always before, it was the writers who were too horrible to make it, or those too impatient to do things "the right way" who self published.

    Now it is different, and it will likely continue in this vein. Those who understand the world of business and the art of storytelling will be able to blend those talents together in the indie market and meet with success.

    With technology and social media paradigms changing, it's brought abilities and opportunities to the everyday writer previously only available to those firmly entrenched in the business.

    It still takes a lot of luck, savvy, and skill, but it closes the gap as opportunity is there for those willing to put out the effort.