Plymouth Rock is bleeding. Day has turned to night. Hundred-pound hailstones level buildings. The small town of Clement seems cursed, and the residents know who's to blame: the new kid, Tony Marino.
After losing his family and his home, 14-year-old Tony is forced to move from Florida to Massachusetts to attend Kalos Academy, an unconventional school for gifted children. Strange things begin to happen the day he arrives, and soon stories of plagues, monsters, and mystical objects surround him. Refusing to believe superstitions, Tony struggles to explain the occurrences logically, until he comes face to face with a satanic cult determined to bring about the end of the world.
Guest Post: How Many Hats Can You Wear? by Dave Becker
A career in writing involves wearing many different hats. It's not enough to be a disciplined and talented writer. Authors must also be accountants, managers, and marketers like every other self-employed business person. And as if that isn't already enough, many of us choose to publish our own titles, which adds even more hats.
Prior to publishing my first novel, my experience was in marketing - specifically graphic design, web design, animation, and copywriting. In many ways, that skill set is ideal for self-publishing. It certainly made the process easier, and there are a few tips I can share.
Self-published authors need an editor just like every other author. Most people can't edit their own work, especially lengthy novels. After decades of writing advertising copy, I'm still astonished by the number of errors I can make in a few paragraphs. Multiply that by 1000, and you begin to realize the potential for mistakes, shallow characters, clunky plots, and poor story development. If you choose to edit your own work, just try to remove yourself as much as possible from the story and study each paragraph objectively. I edited THE FAUSTIAN HOST by converting it to a 130-page screenplay. That forced me to reshuffle events, delete some, combine some, and rework the entire story. Some of those changes were incorporated back into the novel because they made the book better. In the end, it gave me a completely different way to view the story.
Next is cover design. Nothing sells a book more than the cover; it's just basic marketing. With decreased prices in graphic software, everyone fancies themselves a Photoshop wizard. It's not impossible for an amateur to design effective covers, but it's not as simple as many sites would have you believe, and there are a few things to consider. Selling a commercial product means you must abide by all copyright laws (unlike simply grabbing any image from a Google search and using it personally for your desktop background, which is completely different). If you're using someone else's image, odds are you don't have permission to do so. Stock photos have become relatively inexpensive, but they're not exhaustive or eternal. Check the agreement to make sure you're covered for usage - not just now but in the future. Many standard licenses allow for half a million impressions. If you ever sell more than half a million books, you may find yourself dealing with a lawsuit if you don't purchase an accommodating license for the images on your cover. And even if you find the perfect image and typography, you need to understand the differences in end usage. At the very minimum, you should have the tools necessary to create high-resolution RGB (for ebooks) and CMYK (for printed books) images and software designed to create professional graphic materials (I use Adobe products - so does 95% of the graphic design world).
The most economical and financially rewarding method to publish is electronically. With the advent of Kindle, Nook, iPad, and numerous other readers, ebooks are becoming the new paperbacks. Conversion software exists for manuscripts, but I can't recommend any of them because I never used them. As a web programmer, and already knew XML, the language used to create ebooks, and like graphic design, I always think it's better to create something the way professionals create it. With a clean, validated XML package, I created an EPUB file, which I then modified according to the various standards for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks. Previewing THE FAUSTIAN HOST on all those devices, the book looked and navigated just like other mainstream novels for those platforms. You can download the requirements for each device from the company websites, and I'd recommend doing so. Some outlets (like Apple) won't even make your title available if just one character is out of place in the programming.
Lastly, if you plan to sell printed versions of your book, you'll need to design that. Since the margin is so small on paper books, I only made THE FAUSTIAN HOST available for purchase as an ebook, but I did design it in paperback for a few reasons. One, it's what I do so it wasn't too taxing; two, my wife wanted a copy and she doesn't own an e-reader; and three, I ordered ten copies and used them as exclusive giveaways. I used Illustrator to create the cover and InDesign to lay out the interior pages. Even choosing a custom trim size on CreateSpace (I wanted the smaller, mass-market paperback size), the files were accepted, processed, printed, and delivered without a hitch, all in less than a week. I know that's not the experience of many self-publishing authors. You can play with the formatting in Microsoft Word, export a PDF document, and get that printed online, but it won't look the same as a professional file formatted with trim sizes, bleed areas, gutters, and all required printer's marks.
If any of these steps seem daunting, or any of my tips seem confusing, don't feel bad. I've spent over 20 years writing, designing, programming, and marketing for companies all over the country. I'm just lucky those same skills are what's needed to publish a book. Currently, I'm typing this while sitting in front of a French patio door which needs to be replaced. I haven't received an estimate under $3000, which seems outrageous to me, but I know I don't have the skills to do it myself. Frankly, it's not a hat I'm prepared to try to wear. We can't be awesome at everything.
Self-publishing has long carried a stigma of poor quality. The tools to circumvent that are now accessible to everyone. The knowledge to circumvent that is another matter. As publishers (not just authors) we should present the same level of quality our competitors (professional publishing houses) create and our customers (readers) expect. Readers aren't simply buying our writing or our ideas; they're buying a product, a book, and they deserve the best we can possibly give them. And if that means investing in some additional help, maybe in the long run that's a better decision. Who wants to see their favorite author wearing eight hats anyway?
Author Bio: Dave Becker is the author of The Faustian Host, a new young adult, paranormal thriller. After losing his family and his home, 14-year-old Tony Marino is forced to move from Florida to Massachusetts to attend Kalos Academy, an unconventional school for gifted children. Strange things begin to happen the day he arrives, and soon stories of plagues, monsters, and mystical objects surround him. Refusing to believe superstitions, Tony struggles to explain the occurrences logically, until he comes face to face with a satanic cult determined to bring about the end of the world.