Being able to claim “published author” feels great. I’m over the moon about having my book up on Kindle and in a “real” paperback version. I keep going into Amazon and staring at the page they’re on. I even bought a copy to put on my own Kindle and am burbly (yes I know that isn’t a word, but it describes exactly what it feels like: half bubbly, half incomprehensible babbling) when flipping to it and reading my very own words in justified Garamond font flowing along.
Choosing to self-publish came with the understanding that there’s a certain amount of accompanying tarnish. That perhaps it’s a lesser form of publishing. After all, there was no querying or submitting to agents and publishing houses involved. Amazon is happy to publish anything you want to write, as long as you meet their guidelines. They even give you a sixteen-page manual about how to format your book so it can become a paperback as well as an eBook. More about that terrifying manual in a bit.
I thought long and hard about how I wanted to publish my book. The rule-follower part of me wanted to go the old-fashioned traditional way of being rejected 47 times and use up three years of my life to perhaps find a publisher willing to take a chance on an unconventional author starting their authoring career at the ripe (some might even say stinky) old age of nearly-58. I even imagined boxing up manuscripts with string and brown wrappers the really old-fashioned way. No one does it like that anymore. You could make the case that I was making this choice even harder to justify my eventual course of action.
Truth is, I just wanted to have the book out there in the world. Since I’m donating half my proceeds to animal rescue and no-kill shelters, the hope is that it sells jillions of copies. I also hope to get to go do a book signing tour and hug people and let them know they too can get through the thing they are going through and no you don’t have to be graceful or smart to do it, you just have to keep trying and after a while the tries end up looking something like forward movement. So hey, book me. (Ha, no pun intended.)
There are some things I recommend you do if you’re thinking about self-publishing. First is that yes, you need an editor who can point out not only grammar errors and where commas don’t belong, but will also ask you things like, “Will your readers want to keep going after they read this part?” Pam my wonderful editor asked me that one, and my initial toad-like response was to puff out my cheeks and think, “well of course they will, don’t you know who I am?” Not out loud of course, I kept my snarky to myself. Irritated, I put the manuscript with the offending question in a drawer and stewed about it for a month. My excuse was that it was the holidays and I had to focus on baking and having my kids home. Pam was right – your editor is nearly always going to be right. In January I did a re-write specifically with the reader in mind. That was great advice. The other great thing about booking Pam was she had only a narrow editing slot she could fit me into, so it gave me deadlines. I recommend deadlines too.
Once you’ve written “The End,” the fun part begins for a self-publisher. You go to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and stare at their exuberant “how to” content for a week or so. Uploading the manuscript for the eBook was simple, even though I had lots of photos to insert. The paperback version was much harder. Lots of steps and requirements. If you’ve ever put together a serious piece of Ikea furniture with lots of fiddly bits and instructions that seem simple until you try to do them, you’ll know what prepping a manuscript for paperback publication is like. It took me 7 hours. I did it wrong three and a half times and nearly erased my whole document once. Word backups are key. You can’t fix a PDF, so be sure you have your trusty malleable Word .doc version so you can go back and try again. And again.
During the process, I learned that my Word program does all sorts of things besides be a glorified typewriter. That Styles scroll does a lot and ends up giving you a TOC (Table of Contents) automatically. That was cool. Layout and Inserting are very handy. Still, making sure my ‘front material” was correctly formatted was tough, as was figuring out page mirroring and how big my gutter should be. (I know, I’m chucking around all these terms, it may be just a teeny bit of showing off. I’ll stop now.) I wanted to get fancy and put in “drop caps” where the first letter of each chapter is bigger than the rest of them, but it eluded me. At 2am I pushed the glorious “Publish” button. And so, just shy of two years post-trauma, “On Rescue Dogs and Losing Everything” became a real book.
The other fun thing I’ve been doing on the sly besides finishing the book is gigging on Fiverr. I love that word, gigging. Makes me feel all Millennial with aspirations of hip-ness. What’s Fiverr, you ask? It’s an online clearing house for getting things done by freelancers. You can find people to do graphic design, build your website, do illustrations, edit your paper, heck even do research for you. The term “Fiverr” comes from the idea that most of these gigs are offered at prices starting as low as $5. The site is the safe connector between buyer and seller. I have a seller “gig.” I will read and do coverage and/or coverage and notes for your screenplay. It’s been up since November, and it’s fun. The writers I’ve helped have been creative and passionate. I love being of service, and consider the gig to be a way to give back. No, I don’t make anywhere near the $$ I made doing the same work in Hollywood, but I get to help people develop their dreams, and that feels really good. Part of my healing process.
I had my book cover done by another seller on Fiverr. I’m happy with the result that arrived about 48 hours after I asked for it, and made sure to give the designer full credit in my “thank you” section. Now to be fair, there is a valid “Fiverr is bad” argument. That people on there are usually undervaluing their work (true). That there is a cut-throat atmosphere of low-balling offers to get people to buy (not that I’ve noticed, but then I’m doing an odd service). The site does take 20% as its cut, which is steep. Up side is that if you want to make a little extra money, don’t mind waiting a couple of weeks to get paid, and are good at something, you can earn a bit of cash and maybe help someone too. And you get to sound hip because you are gigging.