(or How I Did It, a “.doc”-umentary)
Part 2 of ?
January 2022 (so far)
So much has happened since my last post that I don’t know where to start. But I’ll give it a try. (Grab a cup of something…this post is long.)
I continued (for a while) the “From First Draft to Bestseller” class with Jon LaPoma on Udemy. Lots of really good, helpful stuff here. Though the class is several years old, and self-publishing is changing almost daily sometimes (okay, I may exaggerate), I still feel like I know way more about self-publishing now than I did before. Jon covers everything from getting your manuscript publish-ready to some of the various publishing platforms (whether Amazon only or “going wide”) to marketing plans and newsletter promotions, and more. The only reason I stopped was—well, I’ll get into that below. But I am going back to it. Soon. And Udemy has lots of other classes on various aspects of this journey, many of which go on sale from time to time on the Udemy site. If you haven’t checked them out, you should.
I learned about DRM (digital rights management) encryption. I’m still not an expert. Far from it. But I understand better what it is, and why many indies choose to not use it. Here’s the thing. DRM encryption was intended to make your ebook impossible to pirate. But—surprise!—pirates break the encryption anyway to bootleg your book and meanwhile, buyers who purchased your book through legitimate venues can’t read the ebook on their tablet because it’s already on their Kindle, and they can’t use it on both. There are numerous other reasons why DRM encryption might not be the best option for every writer. I’ve even seen notes in the front matter of ebooks I’ve bought or borrowed through Kindle Unlimited that specifically say they chose not to enable this DRM encryption so that readers can enjoy their purchased content in whatever way they want. It’s worth mentioning that once you choose between enabling it or not enabling it, you cannot change your mind later. Here’s a link for more info, but I urge you indie writers out there to do your homework. Know the ins and outs of this before you publish.
I mentioned in my last post that I’d joined the Alliance of Independent Authors (see the link on the sidebar, top right), and thus far they’ve been great. At the moment I’m an associate member, but once I’m ready to publish, I’ll upgrade to an author membership, a level where there are added benefits. One thing all ALLi members get is the opportunity to participate in the ALLi Facebook group. I know not everyone is a FB fan, but if you’re on that social media platform, you should take advantage of this resource goldmine. Lots of great questions are asked and answered here, as well as some awesome information shared between members. Don’t miss out. Another FB group that offers excellent information, especially for new indies, is 20Booksto50K. So many helpful discussions go on here that I can’t even begin to list them all. I just sit back and read through this excellent information and file it away in the growing pile in my head. Both of these groups offer the ability to search the archives for topics that might have already been discussed. Best of all, members are super willing to offer guidance, answers, or moral support.
Since I posted last, I looked around at editors offering their services, but thought to ask a friend who I know has some experience in the literary world if she offered editing services. As it turns out, she does. Not only do I know her and respect her, I know she is a writer of integrity. I know she’ll be honest, even if her words are hard to hear, and I know she won’t overcharge me by padding her time. She is, even now, working the manuscript for the first book I plan to publish, in order to be sure every page is as error-free, grammar-accurate, and shiny as it can be.
When I first started this journey, I was of the mind that I would get a decent cover for a couple hundred dollars. And that is entirely possible. There are some really good designers out there, but do beware; there are also some who will take your money and give you something that looks homemade. Since your book’s cover is the first impression readers will have of your work, you probably don’t want that. I firmly believe you get what you pay for; I don’t mind paying well for a professional, eye-catching cover, as long as I can afford it. I did a lot of looking around, and finally asked a friend of mine who has been in graphic design for decades. She gave me a couple of artists names, which was wonderful (thanks, Jerrie!). I checked them all out, keeping in mind the kind of cover I want on this first book, then picked the one I liked best and really investigated every tab on his website. Turns out he and his partner have a cover design business, Corvid Design, which offers various packages at different price levels, and all of them (even the lowest priced ones) are superb. So I touched base with one of the designers, Duncan Eagleson, and have put a deposit down on my first ever custom-designed cover. I’m so excited I could bust!
There is a lot to keep in mind when considering a cover artist; Corvid’s page even has a blog post from a few years back about what to consider (and they aren’t using that post as a means to drive business to their own company). Good stuff there, but something important to remember (and something I hadn’t thought of before I started talking to designers) is that when you pay for that cover art, there are rights and licensing issues to consider. A professional artist isn’t likely to sell you all the rights to something they created, painted, and designed, whether or not they did it specifically for you, and doing so is sometimes frowned upon in the profession. Some will grant you indefinite rights to use their art on your book’s cover; others may sell that use for a limited time, after which you will need to negotiate a long-term use contract. Even if the artist uses photo or image manipulation of pre-existing art to create something specifically for you, they themselves are using images designed or crafted by others, and thus do not own the copyright or licenses for them. Thus, it may be rare that you will be able to commission a cover design for which you own all copyrights, all rights, and all licensing. Read the fine print and know what you’re getting before you lay down that first dollar.
Then, there’s the design of the interior. Bobby is taking Udemy classes in Scrivener (because I’m so slammed with other stuff right now), so he can help me figure out the Mysteries of Compiling in that awesome software. If we can figure out how to do it ourselves one day, so much the better. But meanwhile, until we can understand that process, I plan to hire someone. I can’t say who it is at this point, because they aren’t yet advertising this service, but I have faith it will be worth it.
Bobby is also taking a class on WordPress so as to help me redesign my website. That’s in the plan too, I just don’t know where to put it yet (in the plan; I already have a site, obviously, but it needs more appeal, I think, as well as a more professional look).
I finished the read-through and revisions on all three books in my trilogy (the next books I’ll publish), and just this evening sent off the latest draft of book 3 to my readers for feedback. (This was the only reason I stopped Jon’s Udemy class: I’d promised my readers I would have the 3rd book to them within 10 days, so everything else went on hold. I’ll start Jon’s class back up tomorrow.)
Last night, I finally decided on an LLC name, and today I spent part of the day filing with the State Corporation Commission in Virginia to register my new indie entity name: Niveym Arts LLC. I’ve sent out the first feelers to a friend about help with designing a logo. I’ve applied with the IRS for an employer identification number (which is necessary to get a business license and a business bank account), and already have my number. And I sent in an application with the zoning board for my city to start the process of obtaining a business license. That step may not be necessary elsewhere, but here in Norfolk it is.
I’ve signed up for additional marketing courses through Udemy and will get to them as soon as I can. I also need to peruse and take advantage of the free resources through ALLi and Kindlepreneur (I’m pretty sure there is a book launch timeline on there, though you may have to sign up for the newsletter to get access–can’t remember, it’s all a blur), as well as pursue the next steps in my business license process and set up a business bank account. Maybe I’ll have a report on those steps in my next post.
Please note that I am not a professional indie publisher. Outside the writing part—for which I have taken numerous classes and workshops, and in which I’ve seen enormous improvement over the years, but which I am still learning—I mostly have no idea what I’m doing. I’m reading everything I can get my hands on, looking at how others who have been successful have done it, and learning this process as I go. I don’t want any reader of these posts to think I’m teaching THE way to self-publish; there are as many ways to do this as there are writers on the path. I am only sharing how I have done it. Your mileage may vary.
That said, I want to point out that none of this has been easy. Hell, a lot of it scares the stuffing out of me. Why? I couldn’t tell you any valid reason other than
- I’m spending money and what if I don’t make it back?
- What if I go through all this and nobody likes my books? and
- How am I going to keep up this pace while working a day job, too?
There are other assorted doubts and fears that get into my head, that imposter syndrome stuff we all deal with. Bobby keeps reminding me to do all of it one step at a time. One obstacle or hurdle at a time. One scary thing at a time. And it seems to be working because I’m inching along through it all.
When I decided to self-publish, I knew it would be a lot of work. That I would have to tackle an overwhelming number of New Things to make that dream happen. So I signed up for a ropes course at the Virginia Beach Adventure Park, and went with my niece (who is many years younger and far more fit than I) to Do A Scary Thing. It was fun, no doubt. But I won’t lie. In a couple of places, it was damn hard for me. Even so, I did it. Without help (other than shouted encouragement). And I learned a very important lesson: I can do things I didn’t think I could.
You can too.
See ya next time.