Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Melissa Leong’s self- publishing (Part 1)

This is on my www.badcb.blogspot.ca:

Nov. 5 Melissa Leong’s self- publishing (Part 1): I cut out this National Post article “How and why I self-published” by Melissa Leong on Dec. 8, 2012.  She writes movie reviews and business articles for this newspaper.  I have even seen her on The Social where she talks about when is a good time to buy what things during the year.  For example: Buy jewelry during the middle of the summer when it’s really cheap.

I cut out this article, because it was really interesting about self-publishing.  I like the first part: “It used to bug me when people said, “Oh, when I retire, I’ll become a writer, maybe publish a book or two.”

Really? Because when I retire I’m going to become an engineer —was my imagined reply, and presumably that of many writers before me.

They made it sound as if publishing a book was something easy, something anyone could do with the click of a button.”

My opinion: That reminds me of some film e-newsletter I got.  It said something like: “And when I retire, I’m going to be a surgeon.”

Here’s the whole article:

How Melissa Leong became Wynne Channing to sell her teen vampire novel

It used to bug me when people said, “Oh, when I retire, I’ll become a writer, maybe publish a book or two.”

Really? Because when I retire I’m going to become an engineer —was my imagined reply, and presumably that of many writers before me.

They made it sound as if publishing a book was something easy, something anyone could do with the click of a button.

Now, of course, it is.

A litany of services are available to writers who want to self-publish — from Amazon’s CreateSpace to Kobo’s Writing Life — but I never considered using one for my first novel, What Kills Me, a young adult vampire adventure that I wrote in six months in 2010. I wanted to do it the traditional way.
I pitched about 20 literary agents and received either no response or form letters. In a post-Twilight world, vampire queries made agents recoil in horror. One agent wrote on Twitter that she’d die if she got any more vampire pitches. (I immediately felt embarrassed for sending her my novel. At least the headlines, I thought, would be fun: What Kills Me Kills Agent.)

“I just don’t think I could sell a vampire YA novel in this saturated market,” one Toronto agent explained. That was the most gentle injury of all. But by mid-2011, it was like death by 1,000 paper cuts. I tucked my vampire book away and started to write a dystopian thriller set in a high school.
But my forward-thinking friends never let me forget it.

They sent me articles about Amazon’s top sellers. (About a quarter of the Top 100 bestselling Kindle books on Amazon.com are self-published.) They relayed stories about Fifty Shades of Grey and wunderkind Amanda Hocking and her million-plus book sales.

On May 2, the National Post’s books editor, Mark Medley, showed me how to submit my book to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing site. Publishing looked easier than setting up a Facebook profile. (It’s not, but more on that later.)

Why would you self-publish? people asked. Is it for vanity?

Well, if it’s vain to be proud of my story and to want to share it with readers, then yes. But more than that, the publishing industry is changing. The Kindle is Amazon’s bestselling product. Established authors were leaving traditional publishers to set out on their own or signing print deals while maintaining digital rights. Last year, Amazon’s print-on-demand service, CreateSpace, published more than 57,000 new titles, according to Bowker, the U.S. agency that issues ISBNs to books.

I wanted to be a part of it.

“The worst that can happen is that it gets no attention. Twenty people buy it and they’re all your friends and family,” said my friend Vicki So, a published author with Harlequin. “The best that can happen is that everyone loves it, you sell tons of copies, you become the next what’s-her-face.”

Everyone talked about the “after” — the book signings, becoming the next what’s-her-face — but no one talked about getting there. They touted the destination, not the journey.

The journey, let me tell you, was tough and expensive.

A 62,500-word manuscript would take between 50-60 hours to edit, at a cost of $1,500 to $2,000, according to a few editors I approached through the Editors’ Association of Canada.
“What is your dream worth?” a friend asked. Good point, I said, but with that attitude, I’d soon be in debt, selling sentences on the street. (“Will write for food. Give me your two cents and I’ll throw in a free pun.”)

That being said, I refused to forgo the expertise of an editor. I needed Rumpelstiltskin to spin my straw into gold.

I could only afford one stage of editing and there are at least three: substantive editing (big picture stuff like plot and tone), copy editing (sentence structure, grammar, spelling, etc.) and proofreading (the final stage). Emptying my piggy bank, I hired Marie-Lynn Hammond, who had copy-edited Esi Edugyan’s Giller Prize-winning novel, Half-Blood Blues. I told her that I was a stumbling newborn fawn and she walked me carefully through the process. She taught me about serial commas. She caught my overuse of “growled” and knew when a flower in my novel wouldn’t be in season.

Meanwhile, I found Lisbon-based designer Liliana Sanches on DeviantArt, an online community of artists, who said she would design my cover, my book jacket and the look of my website for about $400. She sent me a draft cover, depicting a girl sitting by calm waters. It was beautiful, but it wrongly suggested: “Hey, an army of vampires are trying to chop my head off, but let me relax here and enjoy this sunset.”

I’d heard of designers becoming belligerent upon hearing criticism, but this is why I loved working with Sanches. We exchanged more than 100 emails about her art and every time I imagined finding a tweet by her that said: “I’m going to die if I get anymore emails about this vampire book.” But she was gracious and professional and I felt in control over the look of my cover.

That’s a big plus for self-publishing: full control. No waiting for someone else to say “yes.” No settling for a cover you dislike.

On the debit side, I had to format my book for publication. Many guides exist on how to convert your document into an appropriate file for Kindle, etc. If you’re not a techno twit like me, you can figure it out. But after three days of grunting and hitting my computer like a caveman, I had an e-book with no working hyperlinks and strange spacing and slightly smoother teeth from excess grinding. Finally, I gladly gave Michael Mandarano, a copy editor and e-book formatter, $150 to rescue me from the agony.

I chose a pen name (in case I ever want to write a non-fiction title about public-private partnerships, being a business reporter and all): Wynne Channing, a nom de plume inspired by my so-called stripper name (your first pet’s name and the street you grew up on).

On June 6, almost a month after I made the decision to self-publish a book (or two, I hope), I uploaded my manuscript and cover to Kindle Direct Publishing. I set the price at $2.99 (you receive 70% of royalties at $2.99 and up, 35% for anything under).

And with the click of a button, I became a published author.

My opinion: I didn’t know it was going to be expensive.  She gave some good sources to go to.


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