Monday, February 27, 2012

What I Learned from My Debut Novel

My first published novel started with notes about a man learning about a woman who lived a world in-between reality and fantasy. Before I knew it, I had names, places, a plotline and subplots. I never intended to write a series. Yet, I had.

My initial draft was penned on unlined printer paper. When I finally sat to type it, I needed to learn how to format a manuscript. Title page, slug lines, double spaced true type font all stuffed into a tidy package.

The easy part was over. I had to write query letters to agents who I thought might want to represent my baby. The hook was written and re-written. My author bio drove me crazy. The synopsis haunted me. Still, I wrote them. And out they went.

I waited and I waited. Some had the courtesy of sending a reply, even if it was a canned one. Many did not. The noes poured in. The most heart wrenching replies were the ones who said that they enjoyed my work but, it wasn’t a good fit for them.

Onwards I pressed. I believed in my work. Finally, I decided to self publish. I started with one e-book only publishing platform in which I could publish my book myself.

The hardest work then began. I had to take my book from my neat manuscript format and transform it into an e-book format. The book needed a cover. I had to write a blurb and have an about the author page.

Honestly, from the beginning, I had dreamt about what my cover would look like. But, the question remained of how I would achieve it. Fortunately for me, I know someone who can make art with a push of a button. My brother has an incredible artistic eye. When I take a picture it is merely a picture. When my brother takes a picture he creates art. We put our heads together to get a rough idea. An early morning outing into the surrounding mountains with a digital camera started it all.

He, then, worked his magic turning the outing into my book cover. With butterflies in my stomach, I uploaded the cover and the painstakingly formatted insides. Once it hit live, excitement could not begin to describe my state.

Later, I found that I could broaden my e-book market. Off I went reformatting my original manuscript document for these new venues. Then, I decided to put my words into print.

That daunting task took much more time. Formatting is nuanced and tested my knowledge and skill with Word. I needed a cover that wrapped around a real book. My brother magically added trees to the spine and the back. Once the full cover was added, I ordered my proof. The proof wasn’t a complete disaster. The page numbers were off and not every chapter had a drop case at the start. But it looked good. I ran around town showing everyone I knew.

Writing and publishing were only half the battle. Promotion is the other half – an uphill battle of the steepest sheer cliff. How do I let people know that my work is out there and it is worth reading? My brother created a book trailer and placed it on YouTube. There is a learning curve. And the learning does not end.

With my next book on its way out into the world, there is much I would do differently. For a start, I will bypass the query letters to agents and publishers. Then, I am going to format for e-books in Word and leave it there. The print version will be my first priority. When I get my proof, I will not be afraid to go through it with a pencil and write in it. Then, if there are any changes to be made, do so. Only after I approve the proof will I upload it to the various e-book venues. It will take a few days before the new book to be live everywhere, but so be it.

For every book hereafter, I will first ink on unlined printer paper. I will continue to type it into a double spaced Word document. Each book has its own folder, physical and electronic. After each paper manuscript gets eaten by the keyboard, the large pile of paper gets stacked neatly into a sturdy box for safe keeping. My brother, who has since started his own graphic design business (more about that in another blog post), will continue to create my book covers and book trailers. All finished products will be promoted in both new and tried and true ways.

Sure, some of this may change with each new creation. But I promise to cherish every one.


  1. Great post. I've had so much fun self publishing.

    1. Thanks. Me too. Now that I have done it, I would not go back.

  2. Keep us all informed, and welcome to the world of Rambling 50

    1. I will indeed. And thank you for the kind welcome.