My publishing journey: Part 2 - The evolution of a book and it's cover

I know that my husband thought I was crazy for leaving my agent. I know this because he said things like:

“You realize you were praying for someone to represent you, like, not that long ago.”

“Remember the time you cried when you got your 15th agent rejection email? You sure you want to do this?

Yes, I remembered all of it, but once I set my mind on anything self-publishing, there’s no talking me out of it. So, it’s now August of 2011, and I’m free of my agent, and a free agent! Without boring you on how I picked my self-publishing partner, I will just say that I chose Createspace (CS) because a few other authors recommended them, they are a subsidiary of Amazon (always a good thing), and they have actual human beings that answer my calls.

If you are thinking of self-publishing, you will hear this more often than you want to, but never often enough: edit, edit, edit, hire an editor, edit some more, and even when you think you’ve caught every last weed typo and grammatical error…four more will appear. Createspace offers editing services, and so do many other companies for a fee. I hired a local editor, who did not find nearly the number of mistakes she should have, and I also asked a few friends who I trust (and who are avid readers) to act as beta readers on both my manuscripts. Even when I thought the manuscripts were close to perfect, I’d have one more person read it and they’d find inconsistencies with dates and so on. One other tip, if it’s available to you (and genre appropriate), try reaching out to a local high-school. I have a girlfriend, who teaches English to HS seniors, and she had 10 of her students read a late-stage manuscript of Kat Fight for me, and then I went and chatted with all of them afterwards and got their feedback on the story, characters, etc. It was such a great experience for all of us.

In early September 2011, I sent my manuscript to CS and began the process of publishing my book. I chose to have it formatted for print (paperback) as well as ebook, b/c it was important to me, and I believe that having a paperback option available to readers gives you a little more respect as an author. I don’t sell NEARLY as many paperbacks as I do ebooks…and it’s not entirely necessary to offer one, but it was the right move for me. While CS began formatting my WORD doc into a nice pretty book, I worked with a designer at CS on my cover art. I had initially designed one myself (see below):

and then sent my design to the designer as a starting point, instructing her to design something similar to mine as one option, and also something completely different. My only directives were that I wanted the cover to be very clean and contemporary, with san serif fonts. Here are the two options that were initially presented to me:

 If you don’t already know, I chose a version of #2. My first thought was that a white cover was not going to show up online very well on Amazon or anywhere else, especially when it shrinks down to the size of a postage stamp. Also, I simply loved what the designer had done when given the freedom, and I fell in love with the hot pink color immediately. I had her make a few tweaks, and here is the final creation, which recently won the 2012 Eric Hoffer da Vinci Eye Award for outstanding cover art. How cool is that?

I fear today’s post is getting long, and I may be losing you, so I will wrap it up by saying that the entire process with CS took about 6-8 weeks. Once they sent me the first digital PDF proof of the book, I had to read it again (gag me), have them make some new edits (takes a week each time), and then review a 2nd digital proof. Once I approved the 2nd PDF proof, they printed a physical copy of the book, sent it to me, and asked me to proof that as well. I have to admit, receiving that first physical book via UPS was really exciting.

Once read and approved the physical proof (which is done online), the paperback goes live for sale on the Createspace website in an instant…and live on Amazon a few hours later. Amazing. CS takes another 2 weeks to format the Kindle file, but once it’s complete, it goes live the same day you upload it through KDP.

Stay tuned tomorrow when I’ll chat about launching the book and praying waiting for sales ;)

My Publishing Journey - Part 1

 Ahhhh. My first blog post.

My initial hope in starting this blog is to tell my publishing journey. Once I’ve done that, I will focus on much more random musings. Over the years, I have truly enjoyed (and benefited) from reading other author blogs, and learning about their trials and tribulations (does anyone use that phrase anymore?) along the way. Now that I have self-published two novels, I feel the time is right to bore inspire others with my story.

I completed the first draft of Kat Fight in December of 2009, and immediately started looking for an agent. Like many other hopeful writers with stars in their eyes, I researched ‘how to write’ a query letter, researched agents in my genre, and began to flood the market with pleas for them to represent me. Many, many rejections ensued, until I got a bite in June 2010, from a smart and lovely intern at an agency in Boston (they’re no longer my agent, so I will spare them the mention). I sent this intern a copy of the manuscript, she read it, then had the owner of the agency read it, and soon after that they expressed interest in representing me. Woohoo! I won the lottery, right? Eh, not so much. I spoke to the agent on the phone one day, who had me at “Your writing reminds me of Nora Ephron,” and she said she would send me a contract in the mail. Break out the cheap champagne! That was the best news I ever heard…that week! I had just accomplished step one of becoming the next best thing in the world of women’s fiction. Find an agent, everyone said. You need an agent, I was told. You will not achieve any success in your lifetime without an agent. You will literally implode if you don’t have representation. Okay, I’ll stop…but that’s how I felt at the time.

So, I had my agent, and about a month later she sent me a contract. As soon as I got my contract, I contacted an old classmate of mine, Rich Cohen. The reason I mention him by name is because he is a mega-super-famous-accomplished author, and hopefully my weak association with him will make me look cool and important. He was gracious enough to chat with me on the phone for about 45 minutes, and at the end of the phone call he advised me not to sign with this agent. I honestly can’t remember the specific reasons why, I think b/c this agent said it was her practice not to divulge where and to whom she’d be sending my manuscript. I was pretty crushed when he said that b/c I had ZERO other agent options. I was not a mega-super-famous-accomplished author. Far from it, and it wasn’t like I had four agent offers to choose from, I had one. So to no one’s surprise, I signed the contract. And so began my year (Aug 2010 – Aug 2011) of representation. I signed a one-year contract, and by March of 2011, was eager to get out of it.

Sometime that spring - pause to contain your jealousy - I was doing some freelance work, writing product descriptions for a housewares catalog, when I came upon an article about Amanda Hocking. No introductions necessary I’m sure. I read the article, and then promptly went and read every word on her blog. Next, at Amanda’s blog’s insistence, I went and read every word on Joe Konrath’s blog. After that, I was a changed woman. Everything I learned about it told me that it was the ideal situation for a control freak, like myself.

All my agent was ever telling me (since she wasn’t telling me where my manuscript was being sent), was that the industry was changing (true, Borders did close that year), and it was very difficult for a new writer with no platform to break into the business, especially in my genre of contemporary romance. WTF, Snooki did it! So I decided that I would not renew my contract with my agent in August, and I would self-publish. Now during that time, I had also begun writing my second novel, One Pink Line. I completed edits on OPL by the time August rolled around, and decided that that would be the first book I would publish. Why? Because OPL (in my opinion) is more of a poignant, tug-at-your-heartstrings type of story, whereas Kat Fight is true romantic comedy. At some point I deemed that OPL was my best foot forward into an ocean of readers who knew nothing about me and my non-existent platform.

I would like to say that, despite the fact that she unfriended me on FB, I parted ways amicably with my agent. And besides what I’ve just posted, I really don’t go around saying bad things about her. She took a chance on me, gave me amazing feedback on OPL, compared me to my favorite screenwriter of all time…and for that I will be ever grateful.

So, if you’re still awake, join me for part two of this fascinating journey. I’m proud to say that to date, One Pink Line, has been holding strong in the Amazon top 100 bestsellers in Contemporary Women’s fiction since April 2012. Not too bad for a girl who’s only platform is on her shoes.

Why I started a blog, when I hate blogging

Blogging has been something I've been avoiding like venues that only offer porta-a-potties. But since I've started writing books, about three years now, I've learned so much from other fabulous authors and bloggers, that I thought I should throw my hat into the ring of random thoughts. Not that this blog promises to be fabulous in any way, but I'm eager to share some of the great advice, and things I've learned along the way. So thanks for stopping by, and please 'join this site' on the right so I can get a lot of followers and look super cool and popular. More to come!