I chose to publish the paperback version of my book with CreateSpace, and it’s gone well. I described the first stages in an earlier entry, and now we’re moving forward. There are many articles and material on the technical specs of CreateSpace, and almost all of them will be more informative than mine, so I’m just going to give you the highlights of my learning curve.
Here are some tips that can save you time and money:
1) Be sure to match the paper size to your trim before creating the pdf of the manuscript that you plan to upload to CreateSpace. If you’re new to self-publishing, this sentence probably just raised a lot of questions and you’re probably wondering what the hell it means.
Let’s start with “trim” which simply means the dimensions of the front of your book. Look here:
I learned this part the hard way and it ate up a lot of time. Match the paper size with your trim before uploading the pdf file. If you don’t, the CreateSpace cyber-elves with adapt and re-scale it for you, and it can get a little wanky. Basically, if the trim of your book is 5 x 8, be sure you make that’s what you choose for the paper size of your file before you creating the pdf of your manuscript.
2) Be sure that your book cover fits your book properly. Every time you change something in your manuscript; font, font size, anything…it will change the page count of your book. This, in turn, changes the size that the spine of your book cover needs to be. Once the spine shifts, the front and back of your book cover shift as well.
If the page count changes by a large enough margin, your cover will need to be adjusted because the images and text on your cover will move, and this is annoying as hell. So every time I made adjustments that changed the page count by a noticeable degree, I needed young Huntley the graphic designer to adjust the spine size to conform to the new book length. My page count varied from 20 to 50 pages as we evolved from version to improved version, so each time, Huntley needed to work his magic, which slows down the process of getting your book on the market. It’s time well spent to get it right, but still, it can be frustrating. Huntley explained to me that it’s not a straightforward maneuver. While re-sizing the spine, the proportions of the book cover get weird due to inches being a random measurement without a basis in ten, so there were issues to figure out on his end too. I don’t understand the equation precisely, which is why I found an art director to handle it.
3) Don’t forget your copyright page. Assuming you have a copyright, which you should because your book needs a copyright, you need to create a copyright page. (If you don’t have a copyright, email me and I’ll explain, because that is an entirely separate matter.) At first, I made the mistake of assuming that the CreateSpace software automatically adds a copyright page and you simply fill in the pertinent details, but this is not the case. You need to manually create a copyright page in your manuscript.
There are many things that CreateSpace does for you, but this is not one of them. As I navigated the CreateSpace maze, I was expecting to find some template for the copyright page, but that never happened, and I forgot about it, until I looked at my digital proofs and realized that there was no copyright page, which also contains your ISBN number. Basically, you need to manually type the copyright page onto your manuscript before saving as a pdf because the CreateSpace pixies don’t do it for you. Lesson learned.
Okay, so…now your trim size and paper size are in sync. Your copyright page is in place, with your imprint listed on it. Soon, you’ll create a pdf of your manuscript, and you’re that much closer to holding your paperback in your hand and gazing upon it admiringly.
NEXT UP: ISBNs and uploading your cover and getting this bad boy all together…
These are the radio shows I’ve recently done to promote my book. And there are more coming up! (Doing one this afternoon, even…)
Keep hustling your book! Contact radio shows and talk your way on. It helps book sales immensely! Some shows help sales more than others, but the overall impact is pretty major. Look up radio shows, find their contact emails, and make as long a list as you can. Then write an email pitch that’s catchy and brief, and start emailing them like crazy!
Many of these shows put up a podcast online after the show has aired, which helps you reach an even wider audience. And almost everyone I’ve dealt with from these radio shows has been super-nice. I’ve met some really great people along the way.
12.17.13 – Overnight America with Jon Grayson – Nationally Syndicated
12.15.13 – Bob Salter – WFAN 66AM/101.9FM – New York
12.8.13 – Jim Brown’s Common Sense Radio Program – Clear Channel Radio
12.6.13 – Sergio Sanchez – 710 KURV – Dallas, TX
12.5.13 – The Schilling Show with Rob Schilling – 1070 WINA – Charlottesville, VA
12.5.13 – The Frankie Boyer Show – Syndicated
12.4.13 – The Ed Tyll Show – New York – online
12.3.13 – The Bev Smith Show – American Urban Radio Networks – Nationally Syndicated
11.27.13 – America Now with Andy Dean – Nationally Syndicated
11.26.13 – America Tonight w/ Kate Delaney – Nationally Syndicated
11.25.13 – The Brett Winterble Show – SiriusXM Satellite
11.24.13 – Peter Solomon – WIP 94FM/610AM – Philadelphia, PA
10.17.13 – Adam Montiel “Up and Adam in the Morning – Q104.5 FM – Central Coast, CA
10.8.13 – Warren Lawrence – WKNY 1490 AM – Kingston, NY
9.30.13 – 98.1FM The Rude Awakening Show with Bulldog – Ocean City, MD
9.26.13 – 1380 The Woman – St. Louis, MO
9.23.13 – The Thom Hartmann Program – Nationally Syndicated
8.26.13 – The Rusty Humphries Show – Nationally Syndicated
8.12.13 – LifeBites with Nina Boski – Los Angeles/Podcast
There are several tasks that you must tackle before you can self-publish your book. One of these things is creating your BOOK COVER. This part can get expensive if you need to pay CreateSpace or some other cover-creating service to do this for you. I don’t usually trust anonymous strangers or web applications to oversee design elements like that for me, so I decided to commandeer the creation of the book cover myself.
I have a neighbor here in Venice Beach named Randall, who’s a very cool guy and an extremely talented painter. Randall moved in around the time our baby was born. He likes to restore the local wall murals that have been defaced by graffiti, which I think is awesome. Randall’s pad, in an old Venice house, is far too small for his easel, so he sets up his big canvas out on our corner, and that is where he paints. Randall is very tall and thin, so this dude hanging out on the corner with an 8-foot canvas, painting away, could only go unnoticed by me for so long. We chatted every time I walked past, and he’d always say hi to the baby. Randall invited me and the baby to his first art show here in the neighborhood, and his work was very impressive. Now Randall and I are pals, and I move his car for him on street cleaning days when he’s out of town with his other art shows and endeavors.
I told Randall a little about the story of my book, and gave him a very bad stick drawing of what I was imagining for the cover. A week later, Randall had created something incredible for the cover of my book. I handed him some cash and excitedly went to digitize the artwork for my cover. I’m not very good at Photoshop, so I soon was right back at Randall’s place and he digitized the art for me.
And we’re off!
Now, I need to find someone to take the artwork and design the cover. This person will also hopefully handle the technical specifications of the cover. And I think I know just the person. He’s a young fella named Huntley Woods. We’re related but I’m not sure exactly how. He’s my sister’s husband’s sister’s son, so he’s my sister’s nephew and I’m not sure what that makes him to me. But he’s a great guy and when he moved to L.A. a few years ago, I advised him a little on what to do and where to hang out. Now he works at a marketing firm as a junior designer, helping to create movie posters and billboards. I ask Huntley if he’ll design my book cover and he’s thrilled…but he’s swamped with work. This isn’t a huge problem. I give him a few weeks. Fortunately, I’m not shy with this kid since I taught him how to correctly pronounce “Sepulveda” and “La Cienega” and I after a few weeks, I start bugging him.
So Huntley finally gets to designing the cover. I had sent him the text for the back cover and the page count so he’ll know how wide to make the spine. There’s a specific formula for calculating the spine width of your book. People who design book covers know it. I don’t, but that’s just another reason why God made the Internet, so I could look it up.
Eventually, I get the book cover from Huntley. I suddenly seize up. I’m really nervous to even open the file and look at it. 1) Because this is my book cover…THE ACTUAL COVER FOR MY BOOK!!! (Well, hopefully, anyway.) 2) Because if I don’t like it, I’m in a bit of a situation. Because I’ll have to tell Huntley that I’m not using it, or tell him how to change it. I told him in my emails to try anything and be as creative and crazy as he wanted. But now, standing on the threshold of discovering what I’m stuck with…yeesh.
Well, “distant family” is a street that runs both ways. Just like I’m not shy about pestering him to do it, if I don’t like it, I still might have to use it, because the kid is my second-cousin-in-law or something. So, cringing with awkward anticipation, I open the pdf…and jump to the ceiling…
It’s EXCELLENT!!! It’s not at all what I expected, and I love that! Thank god.
(Quick sidebar – If someone is designing your cover for you, make sure they leave room on the back cover for your ISBN and barcode – more on this later…)
Ah, progress! So…when first setting out to get published, I met “Simon” who is a pretty high-ranking executive at a major publishing house. Simon is hilarious and cool as hell. We’ve become very good friends, and we get drunk together whenever we’re in the same city. He has been my secret informant all along as I’ve clawed my way up this mountain. (See the previous posts about that – the tags with “Simon”…)
Within minutes of seeing the cover, I send it to Simon to find out what he thinks. Simon and I haven’t spoken in a month or so, and we’re way overdue to discuss things we hate. Simon call back that night, and he loves the cover! And then we talk about things we hate this week, which for Simon is one bunch of his annoying Hamptons friends. And we discuss things we oddly love this week, which for me is the TV show Enlightened, which is brilliant if you give it time to get under your skin, and which all of you should watch.
Simon has some suggestions regarding the cover. He says they’re based entirely on his own strange “cover issues,” but he’s a pro and he knows what he’s talking about. Simon thinks my bright cover should be more somber, because he likes depressing colors. “But that’s just me,” he says, “You know me…” And Simon does like depressing colors. It seems that almost the entire, self-serious, publishing industry does. I think that’s because it makes the book seem smarter and more serious…and hence, more important. I talk to Randall the painter and Huntley, along with my wife. They all like Huntley’s mega-fiery cover. I sleep on it, and then decide that Simon is right, but only partly so.
Huntley and I come up with a compromise, incorporating more somber, gloomy colors toward the center and keeping a fiery sunset behind the title. Huntley spends a week playing with it and then shows it to me. I love it. Everybody, even Simon, loves this new cover.
Now that my cover is done, and it’s damn good…Here’s how I think you should approach creating a cover for your book. I recommend taking control of this process yourself. As always, the best approach is to ask around and keep asking until you find people who know how to do each separate task that you need done. If you’re persistent, you can probably find someone who knows every skill that is required along the way. This way, you’ll keep control of the look, receive lots of input along the way, and keep costs to a minimum. It is entirely possible to accomplish all of this yourself, if you keep at it.
And now, with the cover finished, we’re moving even further forward! YEE-HA!!!
Amazon’s self-publishing service is called CreateSpace. CreateSpace achieves the somewhat miraculous feat of taking your digital manuscript and turning it into a genuine, 3-dimensional trade paperback. Most of how this is accomplished is a complete mystery to me. But that’s okay. I don’t know how the TV works, but I do know how to operate it. And that’s all you need to bring your book to life.
There are fees for this magic, but I somehow managed to avoid almost all of the CreateSpace charges in my bumbling, novice ways. So even now, after having completed it, I have no firm handle on how much money this process can cost. I only know how much it cost me, and how you can dodge most of the costs. Basically, there are the parts of this process that are reasonably expensive and other parts that are free.
I was very surprised when I realized that I had unwittingly handled all of the costly parts on my own. In the end, the only costs I incurred were to buy my own physical proofs, which I recommend doing (and most of that money actually went to shipping, which seems to be the most unavoidable expense here.) But we’ll get to that part later.
Before you even get there, you need an “imprint” for your book. Unless you want CreateSpace to be the publisher of record for your book (which I did not), you need to create your own imprint, or publishing entity. This isn’t very hard or expensive. You have to file some paperwork with the state or county, and then post your DBA announcement in a newspaper. I chose the local Venice Beach paper The Argonaut, and met some very cool people who work there. (Actually “worked” – I recently heard from one of these folks about a mass exodus due to layoffs. I fear for the future of the Argonaut, because it’s been a cool little local paper for decades.)
Okay, digressing, sorry…Back on track, the aforementioned “DBA” is a “Doing Business As” announcement. You run an announcement 4 times in the classified section of a newspaper and then you are official. Filing with the county costs $27.75 and the announcements cost $75.00 total. That $75 is how much it costs to do it at the Argonaut. If you do this same thing at the L.A. Times, it costs a few hundred dollars, so I suggest finding a smaller local paper to do this for you, because it will probably cost less. Joy, the super-nice person who works at the Argonaut, even offered to file my paperwork with the county when she made her weekly trip there to do it. However, I wanted to do it myself, mostly for the experience, and I’m glad I did. I always love doing things for the first time, and usually I love trips to civic buildings. (Someday I’ll tell you about my field trip to the City Morgue with my pal Liz, but I’ve digressed enough.) Joy gave me tips about the best times to go to the appropriate County Building in a strange industrial region near the airport, where I once had to go for jury duty (a funny story, especially if you know what my book is about, but I’ll tell you how to get an entire jury pool dismissed some other time. Again, digression…)
Another quick thing you must do before publishing your book is get a copyright. If you haven’t copyrighted your manuscript, do it now. Go to: http://www.copyright.gov/
And there you have it. You’ve got all the initial proto-publishing stuff out of the way. Any questions about the copyright, the DBA, or the imprint, email me.
Now you’re ready to start putting your book together, so that the world can read it…
In an effort to spread the word about my book, I’ve been contacting radio shows, and it’s been going surprisingly well. I’ve been interviewed on LifeBites with Nina Boski. Then I was interviewed by the popular right-wing host Rusty Humphries, which was more fun than I was expecting. Rusty and I don’t agree on everything politically, but it turns out he’s a very cool guy and I’m glad he had me on his show.
This afternoon at 2pm PST, I’m going to be on the mondo-liberal Thom Hartmann Program, and I’m very excited about this. Later this week, I’ll be on the St. Louis morning show,1380 The Woman.
These radio appearances seem to be helping book sales. My appearance on Rusty’s show definitely spiked book sales (and thanks for that, bud!) I’ll know more about how these radio appearances are helping sales once the dust settles, but in the meantime…check me out on the radio!!!
You can find all of these radio interviews, along with other promotional stuff, on my book’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KAFKAattheBEACH
I’m back from the breach with lots of things to share about getting published the hard way. I learned many lessons about book agents that have yet to make it to this blog, along with queries, submissions, hustling, and the like…
We’ll get to them, because they could actually be somewhat useful, and save you time and aggravation as you try to bring your manuscript to the world. But today, let’s stay in the present, because a lot has been happening lately. As we kick this jalopy back into gear, we’ll jump in here and get to all that other stuff as we move along…
My book is now available in paperback and on Kindle. But how, you may ask, did it get here?
Well, let’s see…Starting completely cold, and knowing no one in publishing, I set out to claw my way in. I managed to talk my way through the doors of some major book agents and publishing bigwigs. On the way, I met some very cool people, who are still good friends…and I met some colossal pricks.
I finally got a book agent, who was enthusiastic as hell about my book. It was a very long process, and it finally came down to choosing between a big agent who was only mildly enthusiastic about my book, and a tiny agent who was hugely enthusiastic about it. Instead of looking further, I decided that this agent-search process had gone on long enough. It had been over a year and it was time to plow forward.
I chose the small agent who was a huge fan. Was this the right choice? Who knows? You decide. I’m pretty sure the big agent would simply send it out to a couple people and, if no one bought it right away, he would lose interest and blow me off. This had been my experience with some screenplay agents in the past, so I went with the one who loved the project. And this is how it went down with “Lewis” my chosen book agent…
I met with “Lewis” a few times when in New York, and Lewis would actually quote bits of my book in casual conversation. He knew it almost by heart, which impressed me. Lewis then set about submitting my book to publishers in the time-honored, traditional way. And as he was doing this, the ways of the publishing world started changing. And changing. And changing. In fact, it’s still changing every day. It doesn’t look like the dust will be settling on the new publishing paradigm for a while. In the meantime, my book made its journey through these new, deep, dark, frustrating woods.
The weird thing about my experiences with publishers is that most of them loved the book. They all just seemed to think that no one but they would like it. I have a pile of extremely flattering rejection letters, which I’ll dig out and share at some point. And it’s frustrating as hell to be killed with kindness that way.
I’ll give Lewis this, he didn’t give up after the first couple passes. He stayed enthusiastic as hell. He also shared with me the pass emails from publishers, which I thought was cool. Frustrating, but cool.
Meanwhile, I also had some publishing insiders tell me off the record, that I should just publish the book myself. In the last few years, self-publishing has evolved in huge leaps and bounds. A friend from the publishing world explained to me that writers can make a lot more money by publishing themselves. Being a first-time author who’s not a celebrity and lacking any authorial credentials whatsoever, I’m not getting crap for an advance and the royalties will be meager. When a publishing house sells your book in trade paperback format, the author’s royalty is generally around 6-8% of the retail price. So if a book sells for 14.99, the writer makes around a buck. In self publishing, the royalty is around 30%. However, with self-publishing, the actual dollar figure of your royalty is affected by the length of your book. The way their equation works, books with more pages make less money per book for the author. But the self-publishing royalties are still far more substantial than the ones from traditional publishing. That is, if the book sells…
I’ve also learned that, these days, major houses are picking up self-published titles if they’re selling well and gaining some traction. When this happens, they pay a lot more than a standard small advance for a new author. This was explained to me by “Simon,” my secret contact at one of the biggest imprints in the world. (Simon is a cool but long story that was told in this blog a long time ago – check the tags, click on “Simon”)
Ultimately, the real challenge with a self-published book is getting the word out and promoting it. But before you can even begin that, you need to create the paperback and digital versions of your book so you can start selling it, which is where we’ll take this up next time.