When I was younger, I heard someone say that an artist is never satisfied with their work. They know what was in their mind when they began, and they see the final project, and it always falls flat in one aspect or another. It’s just something that all artists feel.
That saying has been on my mind as I’m working through the final stages of Book 2. As publishing gets closer and closer, I find myself battling anxiety about what is in the book and what is not. Have I stressed this point enough? Does this relationship get enough space? Will the reader take away what I want them to, or am I too vague?
There’s no way to get rid of these anxieties. They can even be helpful. The anxiety forces me as a writer to keep working, to pay attention to what is bothering me. Rewrite, research, revise, and continue.
Accepting the imperfection of my work is a part of the process. I really like Book 2. There are plenty of things I wish I could put in, but size constraints and the flow of the story keep me from doing so, and that’s okay. No story tells everything.
And when the anxiety and worry starts to grow, I remind myself that I’ve had six people read through the various drafts. All of them said they liked the book. If I trust them to advise me on editorial matters, I should trust them to tell me the truth on the quality of the book. An outside viewpoint carries weight against an inside doubt.
Ultimately, I will always feel that anything I’ve written is imperfect, and I’m okay with that. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be good enough that I feel comfortable with other people reading it. The stories I tell are of imperfect people in an imperfect world. Imperfection is part of the game.
With Renaissance Calling published, I wanted to take a moment to write down a lesson or four, to help anyone reading this who is thinking of publishing, and to remind myself down the line of mistakes I made. Renaissance Calling is my first book, so I’m not surprised I made some errors. With Book 2, I’m going to get these right.
Proofreading versus Editing
My editor was a huge help in prepping Renaissance Calling for publishing. She helped me refine my writing voice, clarify my story, and improve the general quality of the writing flow. I’m thankful she’s agreed to stick around for Book 2. But as it turns out, neither of us are proofreaders; we get into the flow of the story without looking at the details. So when several people who backer Renaissance Calling came to me with issues, I cringed.
Despite our best efforts, a number of small errors made it through to the first printing. Some of them were simple things (example: ‘while he attached’, instead of ‘attacked’). Others were a bit ‘how did I miss that’ (example: Horace spelled Horus on several occasions). One was downright ‘I didn’t know that was a thing’ (the single quotation marks would switch between straight and curly, sometimes on the same page).
A bit embarrassing, but a lot of books, even best sellers, have small errors. I’ve still gotten overwhelmingly positive responses to the story, even from people who handed me lists of corrections. So I’ve made the changes and I’m replacing the documents for future printings and eBooks. I’d like to say no one will find anymore, but I’m only human.
Lesson Learned: I need to spend more time and effort on proofreading.
How: A couple of things I can do.
I found a few mistakes when I was practicing reading out loud for my launch party, so I have made reading out loud part of my revision process.
A number of the detail-oriented people who handed me lists are willing to proofread future books, which will also help.
I’ve made some notes about common errors I made, and will endeavor to account for them in future projects.
The Kickstarter campaign finished in early November, and I had a tentative publishing date of February 10th (the main character’s birthday). All I had to do was write a Backer Book, finish editing Renaissance Calling, get ISBN’s and Barcodes, get final covers from my cover artist, and load all the documents to the printers. I could do all that in three months, right?
Well, not so fast. The Backer Book turned into a bigger endeavor than I thought it would, finishing at twice as long as I planned. The cover was some back and forth due to differences in RBG and CMYK formats. And it took a lot more time and money to proof test prints of my book than I thought it would (details in No. 4 below).
The date was pushed back to March 8th, then April 8th. As I wrote about before, I got accidentally published on Amazon when I forgot to change the publishing date on one of the publishing sites. This was a bit of a relief, as I no longer had to feel rushed about getting my stuff done and out there.
Lesson Learned: I need to set a publishing date far enough out that I can get everything done.
How: As I’m scheduling my next book, I’m considering how long it took me to get Renaissance Calling into print and adjusting for differences in the book size (I’m anticipating Book 2 to be noticeably longer). My goal is to have everything done, proofed and printed two weeks before publishing.
Figure out prices before committing
A minor error that I should have foreseen, but I assumed the costs of my books were going to be $12 for paperback and $16 for hardcover. I don’t know how I came to those numbers, but I was pretty certain of that going in. So much so that I had the original barcode for the paperback made with $12 on it.
Turns out, however, that after printing and distribution costs (particularly for the hardcover), sticking with those princes was not feasible. If I had, I’d be making less than a dollar on the paperback, and I’d be losing money on the hard cover. I had to raise the price for both formats.
Not a huge deal, except the first round of paperbacks got printed with the price still listed at $12. That’s been fixed and the correct price will displayed on future printings.
LessonLearned: Do all the math before you set something in stone.
How: Not difficult; most printers and distributors have calculators to help you figure out the math. Take advantage of the tools. Work it out before you commit.
Proofing and Printing
(Note: Proofing in this section was not for content or spelling, but for formatting errors when converting from Word to PDF and PDF to print.)
Proofing printed copies of Renaissance Calling turned out to take longer, and be more expensive, than I anticipated. A lot of this was due to this being my first book, and not being experienced enough to understand what I was doing.
With Createspace, the process is pretty easy. Once a PDF of the internal documents is loaded (and their website can convert Word docs to PDF), it can be proofed through an online viewer that organizes it as if it was a book. I should have spent more time reviewing it online, instead of ordering a proof copy and finding formatting errors in that.
Ingram Spark is much more complex. The files being uploaded have to be corrected by you, the author, which can result in some issues when the formatting is off. Issues that are a pain in the ass to correct, since Spark is so particular. Luckily there is an option to ignore the issues and continue, so when you’re black and white PDF is being kicked back as having color (Yeah, I never figured out what this was), you can tell it to continue with a little waiver. They do provide a PDF to proof, but not the snazzy online program Createspace does.
In both cases, it took a bit longer to get physical proofs than I expected. It also cost a bit more, since I had missed that Ingram Spark requires $50 to set up a file and $25 to correct. With two books set up at Ingram (hardcover and backer book), one correction each, and two proof copies of all three books, I spent well over $200 just proofing. If I had been on the ball, I could have saved about $100.
LessonLearned: Give enough time to proof and print thoroughly, and be careful before you print off a copy.
How: There are a number of things I can do for this one.
Both: Convert the document to PDF and check thoroughly. A lot of errors come from this step, so checking the PDF should catch most of them. Check it several times.
Createspace: Proof the online program several times before confirming.
Ingram Spark: Proof the provided PDF several times before confirming.
As this was my first novel, I’m not surprised I made a few errors. But the point of an error is to learn a lesson. By writing these down now, I am going to remember them when I get back into the publishing process, which should be sometime next year.
If you’ve got any of your own tips, feel free to share. Thanks!
This last Saturday I had the launch party for Renaissance Calling. It was not a huge shindig, with about thirty guests in attendance. There was food and drink, and good times. I gave a short speech about how I came up with the story (that I’m hoping to get online at some point), and read from the book. I sold a few more copies. It was a good time.
Speaking in public is something I’ve had to work on. I’m part of a writing group that involves reading out loud, which has given me quite a bit of confidence in both what I write and what I sound like. The videos I recorded for the Kickstarter campaign were also helpful. But I thought it went well. I want to keep practicing, but I didn’t panic in front of the crowd.
Into the future
As of this posting, Renaissance Calling has four 5-star reviews on Amazon, and everyone I’ve spoken to has enjoyed the book. Work on Book 2 is already underway, as are several other writing projects.
Later on this month I’ll have a booth at Manti-Con, a sci-fi convention in Bloomington. It will be my first completely public outing as an author. I’m excited, and a bit nervous. If you know anything about having a booth at a similar event, please let me know.
And if you haven’t gotten Renaissance Calling yet, head on over to Amazon. It’s worth your read.
I had hoped to be ready for a February 10th release, that being the main character’s birthday. But I’m not going to make that date. End of February or early March is now the goal.
But work is being done. Three of the five Backer Booklet sections are awaiting revisions. Renaissance Calling will be ready for the publishers later this week. And, I’m proud to announce, I have cover art.
Hard to believe the year is almost over, and a new one about to being. As I’m closing up 2016, and looking forward into 2017, I take a moment to consider both.
In terms of writing, I didn’t get a whole lot done. Sure, I finished the rough draft of a fantasy novel, which is great, I’m glad to have another one under my belt, but I did little other writing.
I spent most of this year working towards publishing; I went through a number of artists trying to get artwork done; I worked with an editor to get Renaissance Calling finalized.
I spent a lot of time getting a plan in place for when the project is done and Renaissance Calling gets published. Learning the who to go to for what seemed daunting, but you cut through enough advertising you can find what you’re looking for.
I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign. That was a bit nerve wracking, but I got it done.
I commissioned and artist for cover artwork. A few rounds of back and forth later, I’ve got a cover (which I will be releasing soon).
And now I’m close to being done with my first book.
I have a number of goals for 2017.
For starters, I plan to finish the publishing process and get Renaissance Calling to print.
Second, I plan to finish the rough draft for Templar Scholar, Book 2 of the Renaissance Army Series. A decent start is already underway, awaiting the arrival of characters created by the backers.
Third, I want to finish the rough draft of the fantasy trilogy. Book one is done, and the other two are outlined. I want to get the three books done so I can make sure all three line up before I get the first one ready for publication.
I don’t want to set too many goals for 2017, but I want to stay focused. Ideally, I’ll publish two books in 2018. Now, I know that’s a large amount of work (now more than ever) but I think I can do it. I’m already writing more efficiently: now that I know how much changes between rough and final drafts, I’m not so focused on getting the rough draft ‘just right’.
So as I close up 2016 and look into 2017, I want to thank you for reading this and supporting me, and I hope you have a great new years.
Running a Kickstarter campaign was an odd experience. 37 days of watching the backer numbers go up, punctuated by the occasional busy day of emails, postings and tweets.
There’s no reason to go through every aspect of my campaign, since many campaigns are so similar in many of their aspects. So instead, I will go through 5 things I learned that I think people should keep in mind for their own campaigns.
1 – START THE PAGE RIGHT AWAY
As soon as you know you want to run the campaign, start the campaign page. No one can see it until you publish, but you can start building it right away.
Once you have it started, you can preview the page, and really begin getting into what you need to make it better. From the text you will re-write sixteen times to how many picture you’ll want to flesh it out, having it there to check and revise is invaluable.
2 – MAKE SURE YOU HAVE GOOD ARTWORK
Imagery is really important in a Kickstarter campaign. One of my turn-offs for campaigns I look at is having only a few or poor quality images.
This is one area where some campaigns have a natural advantage: movies, games and graphic novelists have lots of artwork lying around, while novelists and musicians usually don’t.
Get some good artwork. Pictures of yourself working could work, but don’t be afraid to commission some artwork. I did that through fiverr, and ended up with three great pieces of art that really helped the campaign.
3 – WATCH YOUR REWARD LEVELS
4 – IS THAT REWARD ACTUALLY A REWARD?
For a while I had 12 reward levels. $1/$5/$10/$15/$20/$25/$30/$50/$75/$100/$250/$500. The idea was to try to get the maximum amount I could from any one backer.
The problem was making rewards that actually sounded like rewards. For a while, my reward levels included things like mugs, t-shirts and posters. Things that a lot of people might toss into a bin somewhere and later donate to Goodwill. Stuff that I would have to pay for if the campaign funded. And if I was going to pay for them, I didn’t want them to be stuffed into the Goodwill box six weeks after delivery.
The point is, having a $75 reward level that doesn’t offer anything of value is a useless level. You need to find a balance between rewards and levels.
At some point I reset my rewards and worked out exactly what I could do that would be a real reward, I came up with eight levels worth of rewards. I cut four levels out by shifting my view from Quantity to Quality.
Like No. 2, this is something that novel campaign might have some issues with, since artists can offer sketches and movies can offer clips, but I think it still stands regardless of what your campaign is about. Avoid the garage sale fodder. Focus on the item. Let that draw people to the reward level.
5 – CONSIDER A COLD START
My official launch was a Thursday, but I actually launched two days earlier. This was for two reasons:
I wanted to focus on the personal emails to family and friends without the loud launch releases a lot of people recommended, and
I wanted to have a quiet time to get used to how the campaign ran, to deal with any hiccups that might occur.
After two days I was more comfortable with the Kickstarter system, and when I did the loud launch, it already had a sizable number of pledges to give it some inertia. I think it helped get a few pledges in to see someone was already backing it.
I don’t know if I will run another campaign in the future. For now, I’m just working on wrapping up this one. But it’s always an option.
If any of you have any thoughts on Kickstarter campaigns, let me know.
A lot happening this month, and all of it leads to publishing.
Started my publishing company, Impending Imagination. Took me a lot of time (and many searched on thesaurus.com) to find a name that I liked.
Made my Facebook Author Page, so my personal and professional pages are now separate.
And moving into the final steps of beginning my Kickstarter campaign. A little behind schedule, but I’m working towards it.
What does all this mean? PUBLISHING!
These steps are not just ‘the next ones’. They signify a shift into my publishing years, from an enthusiastic hobby to an active business. Every day, I have to do something, otherwise I’m letting myself down.
This is the starting line of what comes next.
As part of this, I’ve added message boards on the website, and loaded up wallpapers for download.
Probably some kinks to work out, but I’m eager to get going.
I recently had a bit of a crisis of confidence in regards to my work. While a large chunk of my 3rd draft is new and in need of extensive revisions, the first thirteen chapters have been written, revised, rewritten and revised again. They’re pretty solid chapters. But I still found things to change.
I’ve been working to publish for years, and I’m close enough I can almost taste it. I would love to be able to finish this and move on to the next project, but I don’t want to wrap this up just for the sake of moving on. This needs to be a good attempt, not just throwing it at the wall and hoping it sticks.
The question is: how will I know it’s ready?
I expect that every author has this crisis at some point, so I can’t believe I’m unique in this feeling. But it’s hard to imagine Hemingway sitting at a typewriter and not knowing exactly what he was going to say. That King or Clancy didn’t just write out a book and say ‘Done, what’s next,’ that they had to revise and consider and research. I’m so used to the final product I have to remind myself each book starts with a simple idea.
In response to my own question, I don’t believe I will know it’s ready. I could spend years revising and always find something wrong, something I want to work on, something to defer the next step again. Maybe that’s why an editor is such an important part of the process, so that an author can take a step back and say ‘this is it.’