Last week I finished proofing the third and final draft of If Dreams Can Die.
Which brings me to a whole new beginning.
Because I’m an indie publisher, the end of a manuscript just means it’s time to take off my author hat and try on a few others for the production and marketing phases.
With a handful of other books under my belt, I’ve learned how to streamline the process for publishing paperbacks and e-books. Some of it requires a creativity all its own, while other tasks are more tedious than tricky.
In case you’ve ever wondered how a story gets from my laptop to your hands, here’s an overview of what happens after “The End.”
Front and back matter
While the story itself makes up most of the pages, there is plenty of other text needed to transform a manuscript into professional-looking book. Here are a few examples of what I typically include before the prologue and after the epilogue:
- Copyright page: Largely comprised of legalese and other details average readers don’t care about, the copyright page is nevertheless required for books sold at Amazon.com and other online retailers.
- Other works by the authors: It would be a wasted opportunity if I didn’t list my other books, both ones that are from the same series as well as earlier works.
- Epigraph: Although this is by no means mandatory, all three of The Soul Sleep Cycle installments include a relevant definition and quote prior to the prologue.
- Title page: This is by far the easiest page to write, since it displays the book title, author name, and publisher only.
- Dedication page: The dedication is a short page that calls attention to a person or group who helped with the creation of the book. Minimal though the content may be, I nevertheless put a lot of thought into this each time.
- Acknowledgements: This section near the back goes into more details than the dedication page, listing individual thankyous. In The Renegade Chronicles, I published the same acknowledgements in all three volumes. For The Soul Sleep Cycle, I included this section in Book One only.
- About the author: Although the length and format of these mini bios vary from author to author and publisher to publisher, they are nonetheless an expected back-matter element. I always use the same portrait and few paragraphs, making minor alterations as needed.
- Teaser: If there is to be another book in a series, I always put the prologue or first chapter of what comes next. The hope, of course, is that the reader will get hooked and buy the book to keep reading.
- Everything else: There are no hard and fast rules about what other sections should be included. Largely, it depends on the book. For example, I included a map of Capricon in The Renegade Chronicles as well as an appendix that serves as a quick-reference glossary of important people, places, and magical items. I’m toying with the idea of creating a timeline and an afterword for If Dreams Can Die. We’ll see.
And then there’s the back-cover blurb, which has to be some of the most agonizing text an author ever has to write. I dedicated a lot of time to this for If Sin Dwells Deep (as described here), and I expect the experience for If Dreams Can Die will prove equally challenging.
A book’s cover is arguably the most important marketing tool an author has. If the cover misses the mark, well, that’s a really difficult obstacle to overcome.
Fortunately, I’ve known and worked with a lot of talented graphic designers for my day job as a marketing specialist. I’m absolutely in love with all of my book covers. The process has been different for each endeavor, but for The Soul Sleep Cycle, I’ve starting using a planning document that conveys the following information to the designer:
- Ideas for tone
- Thoughts on the color palette
- Possible concepts for main art
- Ideas for background imagery
- Suggested typefaces
- Specifications for paperback cover (e.g. dimensions, resolution, file type, file size)
- Specifications for e-book cover (e.g. dimensions, resolution, file type, file size)
- Production timeline
Even though my contributors tend to be friends, I nevertheless insist on keeping the acquisition of cover art as professional as possible, using work agreements/contracts to keep ownership and rights clear. I also compensate them for their excellent work.
I recently met with Mary Christopherson, the graphic artist who kicked butt on the covers for If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep. I shared my thoughts on If Dreams Can Die’s cover, and—because it is a true collaboration—she shared hers. Together, we came up with a plan and will touch base often throughout the project in order to come up with a final product we can both be proud of.
As an indie publisher, I try to keep as much of a project in-house (read: DIY) as possible. The cover is one exception to this, and proofing is another.
Don’t get me wrong. I always proof my work. In fact, I create a style guide for each series so that I am consistent in how I represent things like dates, titles, song names, and so forth.
But even if I think my text is pretty clean after proofing it, I will never be able to catch all of my mistakes. Common culprits are missing words, extra words, and homophones. Again, I’m blessed to know someone who combs through the entire book, including front and back matter, to mark up what I miss. (Thanks, Dusty!)
Once I get the edits back, it takes me a couple of hours to update the paperback and e-book files.
So many corrections…
Professionals who excel in graphic design might use programs like Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Publisher. Since I’m more frugal—both with my money and the time it would take to master such software—I use Microsoft Word.
Suffice it so say this is not ideal. I’ve waged many a battle with Word to ensure page breaks behave and spacing remains consistent throughout the book. This step once took weeks to complete. Even though I still have the occasional skirmish with Word’s obtuse interface, I’m much faster these days.
Worse comes to worse, I just look at the files from my past books and reverse engineer the result.
Odds and ends
Then there are the mundane tasks scattered throughout every phase:
- Assigning ISBNs (the unique identifying number) for paperback and e-book editions
- Buying the barcode for the paperback
- Ordering and reviewing a proof copy of the paperback
- Registering for copyright
- Following the many, many steps needed so that the book is ready to print on demand
- Getting everything in order with Kindle Digital Publishing to make the e-book available
I won’t go into too much detail here, since book marketing is a big topic all on its own. What I will say, however, is that there are myriad marketing channels—from big, expensive tactics to quick but important touchpoints—and I learn something new with every book I publish.
With If Dreams Can Die, my marketing plan will have to be modified since it’s the third book in a series. For instance, it probably doesn’t make sense to create an advanced reader copy (ARC) and pay to appear in NetGalley, since reviewers who didn’t read the first two books won’t gravitate to Book Three. I’m better of reaching out directly to reviewers who are already acquainted with the series.
Likewise, a Goodreads Giveaway might not be worth the investment.
Determining the best way to promote The Soul Sleep Cycle’s conclusion is just another to-do on a long list that will keep me busy from now until If Dreams Can Die launches in early May.
Then it really will be “The End”—at least until I decide to release the entire series as an e-book collection.