When I decided to self-publish my own book I knew it was time to put a stake in the ground, to ‘just do it’. I felt that ignoring excuses and setting a deadline would focus my energies and attention, forcing me to make compromises and get to ‘curtain up’ just like you have to with an opening night or a live event. Percolation had gone on long enough. Perfection is a status reserved for those who never publish. If I really am going to be a writer and take myself seriously it is time to put out there one of the four manuscripts I have written since making a solid commitment to my writing in 2008.
I’m facing that deadline now, on the 22nd July, with the soft launch of my light-hearted book of short stories, To Kiss or not To Kiss. That means getting printed copies of the new work to potential reviewers as close as possible to the 22nd June; as one month is a standard lead time for newspapers. In an ideal world I’d be operating three months ahead, as that’s the average lead for magazine publicity, but I decided not to let that deter my commitment to moving forward. Magazine coverage, if/when I am lucky enough to get it, will just have to wait until after my book is up for sale on Amazon; after which I hope to organise a broader distribution schedule and a more comprehensive PR/Media launch. Sometimes you just can’t do everything at once.
That brings me to the different hats I’m currently wearing: author, co-editor, brand/design manager, publisher, event co-ordinator, marketing manager, and general dog’s body. I have hired professionals into key roles (you’d be mad not to) but still I’ve been close to drowning under the pressure this week. The writing of a book is one thing – the most obvious job – and then there’s an intense but enjoyable process with editor and designers. While still completing those discussions, I am now turning my head to things which I’d generally understood would need attention... but which I hadn’t quite been prepared to encounter all at once in such a challenging timeframe.
It is, to be frank, like an avalanche, which no amount of planning on a whiteboard can avoid. The last few days I have felt that my brain might explode - as I read (at speed) endless online articles, specification documents, and digested arguments for the pros and cons of a myriad of details pertaining to the business of book production and print on demand service agreements. And that’s before a single step in the direction of marketing and publicity, both of which must kick-off the second I have a finished cover image to use on social media.
No wonder I had three glasses of wine last night in quick succession after 10 hours on the computer. How else was I going to stop my head exploding? I did run 11kms before I sat down to dinner, which definitely helped to clear my head, but it also meant I absorbed the wine faster into my bloodstream!
Thankfully I am not a complete novice when it comes to marketing or print materials. I have managed staff and agencies who have delivered marketing strategies and marketing collateral for arts and events businesses over many years. I knew the kinds of questions which needed to be asked and I’ve been reading about self-publishing for an extended period. But until you are actually in the HOT SEAT, you don’t really realize how much of this ‘new industry’ you are yet to assimilate and how much you still have to learn. It’s a little like taking up a new sport, where you may be fit, flexible and well informed... but your muscles aren’t going to operate as if it’s all natural and easy until you’ve clocked up the necessary hours on the turf.
So in my crash course about publishing in the last week, I have had to work out how to apply for ISBN numbers. I have had to estimate the number of pages in my book, something difficult to do when the manuscript is not quite finished being edited, nor has it been formatted for print. I’ve had to decide: how large (or small) I want my book to be, while respecting industry standards for genre; the colour and thickness of the paper; the gloss or matt finish of the cover; the type of binding; the estimated thickness of the spine; the font to be used for the interiors; dozens of tiny manuscript formatting and type-setting questions; submission guidelines for each platform; unit cost per book; recommended retail prices (for the US, UK, Australia and Europe); the purchasing of websites and business names; longer-term distribution strategies after my 90 day exclusive agreement with Amazon finishes; American IRS tax exemption forms (definitely the most tedious); and whether or not I need permissions for musical quotes when every document I read about the legal status of copyright suggests something different and is ultimately rather confusing.
Just writing that list makes me tired. No doubt you too. So imagine what actually doing it is like?!
Ah, but nothing good happens in life without a bit of effort... so I just have to pace myself, take one hurdle at a time, and ensure I stay focused on the ultimate goal. And I am very happy to say – on the blog I’ve been sadly neglecting lately - that I will soon be able to hold my new book in my hand, knowing that years of life, years of artistic percolation and writing practise, and some dedicated months of study and practical effort has made a long held dream a reality. Then it’s in the world, like a new baby, my baby, and it can make its own way.
22nd July 2015 – To Kiss or Not to Kiss – live on Amazon and Kindle.
Watch this space.