Monday, March 16, 2009

A Blast from the Past

Today I found myself thinking back to when I self-published my first book Faith Awakened.

Now a first book will always be a first book, that is, there will always be things I could have done better. However, all things considered, I'm still pretty happy with the result - especially since, as the book of my heart that had been chasing me for 14 years, it was told in a somewhat eclectic manner: alternating first-person narrative from two different characters who initially have nothing to do with each other.

I reckon I only just pulled it off, and I wouldn't do it like that again in a hurry, but it did work for most readers. For many it did more than "just work" - I felt that it connected with people in precisely the way that I had hoped. So it was a very positive experience. My only regret is the one typo I missed.

That book is still in print and available at all the usual online locations - and do check out the Amazon reviews while you're there! The PDF e-book is downloadable for free on my Author/Reader forum, which you can sign up for here.

Anyway, I recalled making a list of actual tasks involved in the process of publishing. Some of these tasks are not immediately obvious, but I believe this list covers most everything that is necessary for publishing a book. So I want to remind myself of these things to make sure they're all included in the Splashdown Books process. They range from the very basic building blocks to the top level of marketing strategy - so here goes:

  • As a young child, I often wondered if people in Heaven could return to an Earth-like life.
  • As a teenager, I played with the idea of making this into a story, but didn't get all that far.
  • At 22 I began to write, first plotting out the chapters.
  • The plot changed a fair bit in the course of writing.
  • I finished the manuscript about five years after beginning. Most of it was completed in the fifth year.
  • After doing my own preliminary edits, I submitted the manuscript to critique groups - one major secular website for sci-fi and fantasy ( and one smallish Christian fantasy group known as Dan's Killer Crit Group, which later morphed into the Lost Genre Guild. I also sent the file to individual writer friends who'd agreed to look at it.
  • I received around ten complete critiques, where people inserted their comments in the manuscript file. The folk from the secular group were less merciful, but they did help me find some plot holes and fix them, which was very significant to the end result.
  • I printed out the original and all the critiques in very small print and took them to North Africa for a week, where I read them all and scribbled changes into the margins of the original where they needed to be made. I also proofread for spelling errors, went swimming and sightseeing, and read nine books at the beach. One of them was "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Browne and King, and I applied its principles immediately.
  • I made a movie of the whole process
  • I did not accept all the advice I was given. Half is probably realistic. [Definite mark of a newbie, in my now-hopefully-wiser opinion!]
  • I came home and made the changes to the file.
  • I met a graphic designer from Spain on Shoutlife. She offered to do my cover image. It was brilliant, and after a little tweaking, we got the proportions and placement right.
  • Using the image, I created front and back covers to the measurements stated by Lulu, and added text using a graphic program - title and author on the front, and a blurb on the back.
  • I used the new image to create a book website at and included a place for reviewers to sign up. I made noise about the new site at Shoutlife, Myspace and various other places.
  • I printed the current manuscript and proofread it again. Sent it to one or two friends who did the same.
  • I formatted the manuscript to 6x9" page size with 1" margins and added page numbers. The text is Garamond 12pt with a line width of 16pt to loosen it up. Each chapter began on the 10th line of a new page.
  • I created 24 chapter head images with the text "Chapter 1" etc, because I wanted to use the same font as on the front cover and Lulu doesn't recognise it (would have changed it to Courier!)
  • I uploaded the cover graphics and the manuscript to Lulu.
  • I ordered around 40 copies and had them sent directly from Lulu to the people who'd agreed to review my book. Most were beginning authors like me, but a few had a larger claim to fame. Being an adoring fan got me a couple of good contacts. A large number of people also received an e-book copy on request.
  • I took a break for a month or two and watched review comments come in. It felt real good. I collected thousands of friends at Shoutlife and tried out all kinds of Internet social networks to meet potential fans. I read POD People by Jeremy Robinson and tightened up some of my strategies as a result.
  • I began to do film book trailers. Not just one. Ten. One serious, nine funny. Look for them at my youtube page.
  • I added 3 pages of the best short comments, an author bio, a title page and a copyright page to the beginning of my manuscript file. At the end I put in a thanks page, website info, and ads received from swap partners who will also put my ads in their books. And of course an ad for my amazing graphic designer!
  • I stuck a great comment from my most famous bestselling reviewer on my front cover, and a handful of others on the back. I changed the author photo to a better one and formatted the back cover to leave room for the barcode Lulu then added.
  • I ordered a copy for me and one for a friend in another country, and we both searched again for typos. We found two or three.
  • I purchased Global Distribution on Lulu. [sigh! If only it were that easy now!]
  • I made final changes, uploaded new files, and approved the book to appear on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and a few other places.
Of course, some things will be different now, since there will be other authors involved, and I'm using a different printer. Does anyone have anything to add to this?

1 comment:

  1. I am finally caught up again after spending two weeks in Texas while my husband and his sister helped move and settle the in-laws into assisted living. It was a big move from Austin to Denton,Texas and then we had to go back to Austin to help care for their home which had hail damage and the yard was badly beat up.
    We are plumb worn out.

    I have read all the blogs here now and want to comment on this one Grace.

    I loved this book and appreciate all the processes you went through. One doesn't really a know until they do the work and understand why writers earn about .001 an hour! :) Just kidding but really the satisfaction comes when we have accomplished our goals and if it touches a reader, is truly the frosting on the cake.
    I can hear the Holy Spirit saying to you, "Job well done Grace."

    Hugs in Jesus,
    Paulette Harris