Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why This is Taking So Long: The Process

I'm learning more about the process of self-publishing than I had ever expected,or wanted, to know. Unfortunately, the individual steps toward accomplishing this take at least as long as the editing, but are less satisfying.

As I mentioned, "Creating a Blog" was one of the first activities strongly recommend by the Self-Publishing Conference I attended last summer. Creating it wasn't hard; maintaining it - - that takes time. And I still need to work on promoting the blog, which includes Search Engine Optimization activities, though I don't intend to become an expert at that! There's a free service I subscribe to that sends me a weekly report on how many people have viewed my blog in the past week, how many are new vs. continuing readers, etc., but I can't get the count at the bottom of each 'page' of my blog to agree with theirs, and can't afford to spend the time figuring that out. At the moment, it's only off by a little more than 100 (that is, there have been 100 more views than what my counter shows).

But as I am now approaching the end of the first round of editing (which includes making certain that the tenses are consistent between chapters; translating or defining unfamiliar words in Yiddish, Russian, Polish and Hebrew; cutting out asides that don't further the action or contribute to our understanding of the characters, time or place; and substituting more familiar or recognizable words for obscure ones), I am starting to focus on some of the technical aspects of creating this book. I will periodically discuss individual elements of this process in individual blogs (so that I can spend more time working on the book and less time blogging about it).

Some of the elements are:
1) Identifying "thought leaders" and soliciting quotes from them for the back jacket of the book
2) Recruiting and selecting a book jacket designer who will provide 3 "test" covers, each using one of 3 "test" titles, to see which is most effective in drawing people, visually. (Once I have the test covers, I will post them on my blog and solicit votes/reactions to help me make a decision).
3) Determine the physical size of the book. It must be consistent with its competition in the narrative non-fiction category so that it doesn't stand out (in a negative way) on a bookstore shelf.
4) Determine how it will be printed/distributed: Should I identify a small press that can do the job to my specifications, such as Or go the print-on-demand (POD) route using an Amazon service called CreateSpace? Perhaps I should contact a University press.
5) Develop a marketing plan: There's pre-publication marketing and post-publication marketing. Pre-publication marketing includes getting involved in user forums discussing the same or similar subjects; identifying organizations whose members would be interested in the content of the blog (and eventually the book), participating in book review forums and contributing reviews of others books in the hopes that, when this book is finished that the individual sites to which I contribute will return the favor.
On the post-publication (or really 'peri'-publication) side: Do I hire a book shepherd (more on this role later)? A publicist? (While I can write and send out press releases, it never looks good to have the subject of the press release be the contact person, too). Is it timely relative to something that's going on either in the publishing industry or the world? What's my platform - - What's unique about the book and why am I uniquely qualified to represent it? This has to do with obtaining speaking engagements and publicity (which is necessary only if I want to sell the book).
6) Try to sell the movie rights. (This has never been a goal, though readers of selections of the book have suggested it. I'll think about this once I've completed everything else).

Many of these categories are circular, and someone with a more linear mind that mine could probably draw out a flow chart, but in order to determine the physical size of the book, I need to both look at the competition as well as have a final word count, which I won't have until I finish editing. If the competition, for example, is "Angela's Ashes," (which is a memoir rather than narrative non-fiction), then I need to consider that that was a 364-page book when it came out in hardcover, and a 500-page book of the same physical dimensions might appear too daunting to readers, no matter how enjoyable it is to read. And in order to determine whom or what to use as a publisher (the conference I attended recommended setting ones self up as a publisher and subcontracting out the individuals services ), I will need to know the size of the book, how I plan to distribute it, how I plan to market it, and how many copies to print. While the process appears to have a logical sequence to follow, unless I start on some downstream activities early, I will finish the book and then have to wait 6-9 months or more before I complete the other relevant tasks. All of which can, sometimes, give me a headache.

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