(post from 2013)
When I decided to get serious, to stop planning and start doing this year, my first goal was a writing one. I decided to self-publish three books in the next year — crazy? Yes. But who wants to do anything halfway?
How did I chose these three books? Well, A Caged Heart Still Beats is my second novel and the one that I was sending out to agents since before the Earth’s crust had fully cooled. I’d sent out probably a hundred queries and hadn’t gotten even one request to read it, so either my query was horrible, the industry is just really tough right now, or they didn’t like the idea of a love story with a man trapped in a cage. All I knew for sure was that none of them had turned it down after reading the whole thing — because no one had read the whole thing. It’s a book I believe in and can’t wait to get into readers’ hands. So that’s coming out in November. Fall Street is my third novel; I recently completed the first draft and it will be out next spring.
But my debut release is a bit of an odd duck. It’s a little self-help book about living your dreams. I’d had the idea for a while and then I was looking back at the best self-help book ever The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, and he told a story about a young man named Jason Dorsey who ‘didn’t know what couldn’t be done’ and so wrote a book Graduate to Your Perfect Job in less than three weeks. So I decided to write my little book and share it with the world. Easier said than done.
All went well in the beginning. I picked 25 ideas (divided into five categories) that I thought had most contributed to my happiness. Over the next month I wrote out each idea, added intros, and felt pretty good. Then my first reader (my sister Sarah) called out some weaknesses. That’s cool, that’s okay (sniff!). I rearranged the whole book, cut some stuff, added so new sections, and it became much better. Now I just needed to finalize and copy-edit (again) the manuscript.
Now, my sister is an artist and she’s designed covers for my friend Rob White’s book. I knew I wanted her help on my novels but I (naively) thought I could handle the self-help cover on my own. And I’m sure I could have eventually come up with something decent but, just look —
I think we can all agree the one at the top of the page is better. I’d struggled through six different covers (all using my ancient MS Publisher’s 80s-rific styles) and then one day while I was out, Sarah surprised me with the blue sky cover. Thank the gods.
What I learned from this is that it’s very hard to make a cover that looks professional and good enough to sit alongside traditionally published books. And even if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you have to keep working and looking ’til you find a high quality look. I’d suggest at least finding a local artist or graphic designer to help you, and going for a true cover designer if you can. It’s your book’s intro to the world and I didn’t feel ‘right’ about any of my designs but now I can feel proud of my book.
The Advertising, Formatting, Etc
I’m now hoping to format my book, both to become an e-book and a POD paperback, in the next weeks. The cover needed a few last adjustments (the size of my paperback is a little narrower than the design above and I wanted the title a little bigger). Everything I’m doing is out of Catherine Ryan Howard‘s wonderful book Self-Printed. I’m still pretty lost about advertising, but I figure that is the next great adventure.
I’m proud of my book. I’m (pretty) proud of my Amazon page. And I’m proud of myself for taking my future into my own hands. Because the secret, as Austin Kleon says, is —