The Book Publishing Process
- Freelance Writing: It Really Is A Job!
Freelance writing take a ton of work but with passion and determination it is possible to make a living.
It began with a dare of sorts; after reading a book by Tom Robbins I challenged myself to write something truly bizarre, something that would stretch me as a writer. Those who know me well would probably say that bizarre is not much of a stretch for me, but when it comes to writing I am usually mired in a particular genre and rarely venture outside of my safety zone. So I accepted the challenge and began writing.
Thus was the genesis of my first novel, “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday To Today.” I finished what I thought was the writing exercise in an afternoon but then a strange thing happened: the story took on a life of its own, and before I knew it pages upon pages had been written. What was once nothing more than an exercise became a short story, and then a novella, until eventually it had reached the length where it could no longer be considered anything other than a novel…..and then….nothing!
I had reached a point I was all-too familiar with, the point where I had to either put up or shut up with regards to my writing. During my lifetime I have always toyed with the idea of being a writer. Ever since Mr. Jahner in high school told me I had a talent for writing I have dreamed of one day writing a novel that the world would swoon over, a novel so rich and deep in meaning that fame would be mine and the literary world would bow at my feet. Unfortunately there is a rather wide gap between dreaming and making a dream reality, and that gap never grows smaller if the courage to make it happen is lacking. Judging from my other failed attempts to write a novel there was only one conclusion I could make: the courage was evidently missing from this fledgling writer-wannabe.
SO WHAT HAPPENED BILLYBUC?
What happened was I was lucky enough to be dating a woman who believed more in my writing than I did, and her persistence and unflappable support of my novel finally transformed me from the writing coward I had become to someone willing to take a risk by putting the novel out there for the world to see.
What followed was a seemingly endless barrage of rejection slips from publishers and agents essentially saying the same thing: “We don’t believe your work fits into our plans at this time but we wish you well in your endeavors.” In other words don’t call us, we’ll call you, and please don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.
So what was I to do? I have spent the better part of my teaching career telling my students that the world is filled with unlimited possibilities and that often we are the only serious obstruction to success. Was I now going to tuck tail and hide within the safety of my writing studio, never again to take a risk? Had I lied to my students when I told them that they were capable of damn near anything if they were willing to work hard? I’m not sure if I shamed myself during my retrospections or if the continual support of Bev wouldn’t let me quit, but eventually the decision to throw caution to the wind was made and I ventured forth into the world of self-publishing.
SO WHAT DOES SELF-PUBLISHING MEAN EXACTLY?
When you know nothing about this subject, as I did when I first set out, it can be a bit overwhelming. After about two hours of online research it became even more overwhelming. There are so many packages offered by so many self-publishing companies that I was hopelessly lost and in need of a tranquilizer within a short period of time. Luckily I had friends who were willing to take over the research so that I could hold onto what sanity I had.
In a nutshell, there are companies who offer just about any service you could want. One of the more reputable is Lulu and they offer the basic package of printing and ISBN number for around $700. The packages increase from there depending on the number of sites they include i.e. Amazon and the amount of media blitz they undertake, so that you could end up paying over $7,000 for the biggest package.
Okay, scratch that, I was scraping by for cash having just quit my job, so I went in search of a local printer and found one thirty miles away called Gorham Printing that would print me 100 copies for a little over $600 provided I gave them the cover art and changed my Word doc into a PDF that would fit their files. Since I had no clue what that even meant I turned to a former student of mine, Mark Mauer, who was able to do all of that for me and in so doing we had just finished Step One in the process.
NOT SO FAST BILLY BOY, THERE WAS MORE TO DO
Well, yes, there was! I was now six weeks away from having my novel delivered to me but how do I sell it? I mean, it’s nice to have a published novel but it would also be nice if I actually sold one or two to offset the rising list of expenses. Enter Mark again who designed a website for the book and then Bev had a brainstorm. She thought it would be a good idea to make and sell lavender products like the ones mentioned in the novel, so that the products would help advertise the book.
Sounded like a good idea to me so that’s what we did; those same products can be seen on the website mentioned above. However, that still left us with how to sell it all.
YOU MEAN THERE IS MORE?
Oh yes, there is more. We then turned to the social media, namely Facebook, for some free advertising. We each took a character from the book and we opened a Facebook account under that character’s name. Then each character would drop hints daily that there was this great book about to be released, and the fictional characters started a daily banter all the while adding Facebook friends. By the end of that onslaught we each had close to 700 friends and the word was spreading. I also had a blast being my character, Tweetie, as he is an aging hippie who is just plain weird.
We also had car magnets made that had the book logo and website on them so anywhere we went we were carrying free advertising. Business cards were of course printed, as was a banner, and press releases sent out as well as articles for the local newspapers to pick up.
AND YET MORE!
Finally the day arrived: My book was printed and ready for the world to see! I am not a very demonstrative person but I have to admit to a certain amount of pride the first time I held my finished novel, all shiny and new. My baby was born and now it was time for it to take its first steps.
We went around to the local bookstore owners who were more than happy to take a novel written by a local author, on consignment of course. It was a thrill to see my work sitting on their shelves, and if that sounds silly so be it. Of course I then contacted all of my friends and family and shamelessly hawked my book and made big plans for continuing the advertising blitz. YouTube videos were made and posted and I am quite certain that my friends were so tired of hearing about this book that they just bought it to shut me up.
AND THEN REALITY HIT
Self-publishing is work, and to do it properly it takes a lot of time. I simply did not have that time. Bills had to be paid, jobs had to be worked, reality had to faced on a daily basis. The time and resources to adequately market the book just were not available and so here we sit, six months after the fact, with the book a not-so-distant memory, waiting for the effort it deserves. Such is life! The good news is that the book will always be there when the time and resources are available. The bad news is that moment is not now.
So, was this endeavor a success? I guess it depends on your definition of success. For me the goal was always to just publish the book, so from that standpoint it was a huge success. If, however, my goal had been to write a bestseller and be known worldwide, then this book failed on all accounts. Only you can answer that question should you decide to go the self-publishing route.
If you have the money and the time then I wholeheartedly recommend self-publishing. There are so many avenues to take that just might net you some income and notoriety, but it requires hard work and determination….and a little luck of course! For this writer it was all about the journey and I am more enriched because I was willing to take the journey. In the end I was able and willing to walk the talk and to back up the lessons I had taught my students in so many classrooms over the years. Knowing that I did that was reward enough for me.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
If you would like to purchase my novel in Kindle format go to: