Guest Post: Lena Horn, Author of Forgotten Fox
So today I bring you a guest post from fellow self-published author, Lena Horn! Lena and I went to college together (and actually met in creative writing class, fittingly) and she wrote and self-published her first novel, Forgotten Fox, while Terra was still deep in craptastic first draft status, hahaha. Lena graciously gave me a lot of guidance (and a general place to vent about the frustrations of eBook coding and whatnot) while I was going through the publishing process, and now has written up a post for you all about her own experiences. This is actually a great overview of the entire self-publishing process, and has inspired me to write up something similar based on my own experiences (including a cost comparison of how much self-pubbing really costs). So keep an eye out for that soon!
And now, without further adieu…
Lena’s Recipe for a Self-Published Book
1 Editing Processor
A Pinch of Punctuation
1. Arrange the Words neatly on the Paper, adding bits of Punctuation where necessary.
2. Find the Editor and allow him/her to thoroughly process your Paper and Words.
3. While the Editor is working, decorate the cover with pictures, a title, and your name.
4. Once the Editor is finished, put the newly processed words, with the Paper, inside the cover.
Well, actually… I take that back, my recipe was actually a bit different. The ingredients you really need:
A little bit of money
And a bunch of slightly more technical things I will list for you below
There is a great stigma against self-published authors and I did not want that title at first, but I realized there’s much more to it. Self-publishing was not my last ditch effort to get published, it was my choice. And I knew that choice had to come with a commitment to make a book worthy of publishing.
As such, I spent a lot of time perfecting my story and my writing. Like… this many drafts –>
And I got myself an editor afterwards since, well, even professional authors have one! This was probably my only large expense. It took 6 weeks and when I got my manuscript back… I almost fainted. My editor had cut about 30,000 words and the pages were just red. I went through it, making changes, and when I finished, I read it and let my mom (she’s a harsh critic…) read it. We both realized, to my dismay, that something had been lost, and after a depressing slump, I went back to work on it. It took extra time, but the book came out stronger for it. Having had an editor, I did learn a lot about writing, more than… dare I say… I learned in college.
Lessons I learned about having an editor:
You want an editor you can have a conversation with about your book.
The editor should LOVE your book.
The editor (and you) should strive for perfection.
Next, I put a copyright on my work. Also highly recommended and the process is quite easy and pretty cheap (like $35). You worked hard on it. It’s your idea and your story. Protect it!
Ingredient: Publishing Company
I opened up Turtle House LLC, my own publishing company. Why? Well, for one, legal protection. And two, it makes taxes and keeping things organized much easier. Plus I plan on publishing more than just one book. I do recommend doing some heavy research into what it means to have your own company. You want to know what rights and responsibilities you have and the legalese can get quite confusing.
I used Bowker’s Identifier Services to grab my own ISBNs. I knew I could do it cheaper by getting ones from Amazon for free, but those come with restrictions. I still wanted to be able to distribute my book wherever I want, like Barnes & Noble or other bookstores. This gives me more rights.
I also learned that each format of the book (paperback, ePub, mobi, hardback) will need its own ISBN. So I just bought a pack of 10 ISBNs since that’s cheaper than buying 3. Yep.
Ingredient: Printer and Distributer
I think I did some pretty good research into every potential (at least the big ones, and a few smaller ones) places that would print my book. CreateSpace, Lulu, and Lightning Source came out at the top, but since CreateSpace is an Amazon company, it made sense that they would take less of the royalties away if I used them to distribute to Amazon (which is pretty much a must nowadays!) Lulu had nice prints, but they ended up being far too expensive.
For a 300 page book, B&W Interior, 5.5” x 8.5” trim size.
That’s just the printing cost. Now remember that you want to distribute it elsewhere so you’ll have to bump up the price just to make a little money. Use Lulu to distribute to Amazon, and they’ll BOTH want their cuts, same with CS + Amazon combo, but with Lulu you’ll have to put a greater retail price just to get the same royalties.
Lowest printing cost, highest royalties, and good quality books: CreateSpace.
Ingredient: eBook Code
If you have a Nook or Kindle you’ve probably come across a book where the formatting was screwy. The sentence stopped halfway and started on another line is one I’ve seen a lot. Too much. When I started coding my book, I didn’t want those hiccups. I wanted to be more professional than the professionals! It can get tedious, and downright frustrating. This is one area you could consider outsourcing, especially if you don’t get along too well with computers.
But I love computers. I hug computers for fun, I’ve built my own since I was… um… well, like 9 I think? So this, to me, was a moment where I said, “Challenge accepted.” You know, before realizing what I was up against and whining about it and then sitting down and spending a week Googling what I was actually doing.
Ingredient: Book Cover
I was really really really lucky to have a family friend who is an awesome photographer/videographer give me a fox photo he took. For free! He’s awesome. I used this photo as the basis for my cover. If I had a spare $500-1000 around, I would have loved to hire an illustrator, but I’m on a tiny budget, and I used most of it on that editor.
Most people judge books by their cover, at least to get the first impression, and I wanted to make a good, professional impression. It took a lot of tinkering but I’m quite proud of the result (especially considering my poor Photoshop skills). The first reactions I got from people were that they didn’t realize it was a self-published book. Yay me!
Ingredient: Friends and Family
It’s really important to get feedback, especially on things like editing and cover design. So ask your friends, your family, a total stranger on the street what they think. Okay, careful with those strangers. But really, if you have friends, acquaintances that know how to use Photoshop or Illustrator? Ask! It can’t hurt to ask and self-publishing is a huge undertaking. Yes, you can do it alone, but you will come out with a better result if you utilize people with the skills that you may not have fully optimized yet.
Then there’s marketing! But that’s a whole nother post.
So, just remember these things:
If you’ve written the book, you’re already a lot further than most people!
You CAN do it, no matter your proficiency with a computer or your knowledge of the process.
Google (or another search engine of your choice) is your best friend
Use your friends, and also say thank you!
Stay foxy my friends!