Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"The Final Page" Tip of the Week: Plan way ahead. I mean waaay ahead.

"The Final Page" column provides a weekly tip for avoiding common self-publishing mistakes. A professional final product makes the difference between being reviewed on The New Podler, or being one of the millions of books that sink through Amazon's sales rankings to languish below the 4-million mark.

Give yourself three months, and then add two more.
Have you ever tried to thaw a frozen chicken breast 30 minutes before dinner? Or fix the plumbing in the guest bathroom the Friday before your in-laws arrive? Then you know that rushing is a bad idea. If you are going to publish your own manuscript in a professional way, you need t-i-m-e, and lots of it.

Here's a 20-week schedule that will guarantee your book launches successfully. I will assume you have an edited manuscript in hand when you begin.

Weeks 1 and 2
Contact your short-list of freelance cover designers, typesetters, indexers, proofreaders, and printers. Get price and time estimates. Anyone who can't get back to you within two weeks with a proposal should be struck from the list, as they're likely to delay production later on.

Weeks 3 to 5
Your freelance cover designer and/or typesetter should be able to deliver draft cover designs and interior layouts to you in fewer than three weeks. Solicit opinions from a few trusted colleagues. Then give your prompt response to the designer and/or typesetter with a clear list of revisions.

Week 6
You should receive your next-to-final draft of your cover design and interior layout. Send both files to your proofreader for a final typo search, and then submit the list of changes to the typesetter and/or cover designer.

Weeks 7 and 8
Submit the final interior layout file to the indexer (if your book is nonfiction). When the indexer delivers the index, send that file to the typesetter for inclusion in the final layout. Most typesetters will deliver all press-ready files to your printer, unless you prefer to do so yourself.

Week 9
Receive galley copies from the printer. Check for errors in trim size, bleeds, color, page orientation, and the like. Work with the printer and designer to make any final changes. Now is also the time to submit some uncorrected proofs to newspapers and magazine book review departments that have long lead times. (Don't worry, "uncorrected proofs" are the norm.)

Week 10
Check the final galley for errors, and order your first 100 books. Even if you use a print-on-demand publisher, you will want many copies on hand to sell directly to your network, send as gifts, and send to review outlets with shorter lead times.

Weeks 11 to 20
Congratulations! The hard work is done. Craft a press release for your book, search for other review sites, plan a book launch event, and communicate with your network. Submit two copies to the U.S. Copyright Office.

When the official publication date arrives, you can be confident that your book is as error-free as possible, and prepared for a well-orchestrated launch.

Sarah Cypher is the author of "The Editor's Lexicon: Essential Writing Terms for Novelists" (Glyd-Evans Press, 2010) and runs a two-woman editing and book design shop, The Threepenny Editor.


DED said...

"rushing is a bad idea"

I don't think that advice is stressed often enough. Too many self-pub writers seem obsessed with cranking out as many stories as possible within a year. End result: bad editing (if any at all) and lousy covers that they made themselves in about half an hour (tops).

Libby Cone said...

Beta-testing on blogs like this one is another way of seeing if your work is ready for prime time. I'm glad that CreateSpace ruined my cover image; negative reviews of the ebook told me it wasn't ready yet, and I'm completely revising it, along with the help of two editors, before continuing with the paperback. It's so hard to be objective about your own book; we all forget about what Annie Lamott calls the "shitty first draft" stage.

DED said...

I'm not really interested in being a beta tester in this blog. We're not editors. We're reviewers. The editors are the ones who are supposed to wade through the "shitty first draft" stage. We're supposed to receive the finished product, all polished for the public. Granted, a polished turd will still be a turd.

Rushing the story out into publication only reinforces the stereotype that self-pub books are unprofessional and not ready for prime time. I don't want to reinforce that notion.

Think of it this way: if you pay money for a book and it's poorly written, are you going to buy another book from that author anytime soon? Granted, this is a review site where people send their books to us for free to review, but it's going to turn me off to wanting to read anything by that author in the future. As a reader, I'm not inclined to give authors a chance if they get a negative review where the technical aspects of their writing outweigh the merits of the story. Sifting through poor grammar doesn't make for an enjoyable reading experience.

A negative review in a public space is going to be a major handicap for that self-pub writer going down the road. Beta test with an editor, not the public.

Libby Cone said...

Dave, I agree; there's beta-testing and beta-testing. I don't consider relying on bloggers like us to correct spelling errors or historical inaccuracies to be beta-testing. What I consider beta-testing is submitting an ms wondering, "Will readers like a book written in 17th-century English with irregular spelling?" or "Can I write in the first person of someone with a borderline personality disorder or am I deluding myself?"

DED said...

Now that I can agree with. :)