Okay, granted, I’m not the most computer savvy person in the world but I can read for comprehension. So I thought (silly me) the most difficult part of getting NO RETURNS up or sale was going to be writing the darned thing. No spoiler alert, but NO RETURNS is all about Finley and her evil mother Cassidy. Why? Well with Mother’s Day approaching I thought it would be interesting to feature their mother-daughter dysfunction. And I get more snail mail, email, posts and reviews about Cassidy than any other sub-character in the books – save for Liam, of course.
Most people take me to task for making Cassidy so over-the-top. Impossible, they tell me. No mother would behave that way. I beg to differ. One of the perks of being a writer is the cathartic release you get when you get to have a character say what’s on your mind. We once had a construction team adding a screened porch to our house in Maryland. He and his crew worked slowly (because I stupidly was paying by the hour instead of the project); but not being a shrinking violet, I haunted them mercilessly. I also killed off 3 or 4 of them in the book I was writing at the time. Very satisfying if I do say so myself.
So back to Cassidy . . . For those who think she was a pure figment of my imagination, rest assured, she wasn’t. Cassidy is only about 50% of my own mother. The insulting digs, the unsolicited opinions; the general need to point out every flaw – all those character traits I learned at home. So Cassidy isn’t an exaggeration of my own mother, she’s more like a toned down version. It actually became a joke amongst my friends – they all recognized that hint of my mother in several books. But the only person who didn’t seem to see the similarities was my mother.
Then there’s that other benefit of slipping a character based on a real person into a story – dialogue. When my mother would fire a zinger over my head, I didn’t always have a quick oral volley back. But when the words are Finley’s, I have all the time in the world to answer with a pithy quip of my own.
Enough about the Cassidy/Mother thing . . . the really difficult part of this whole indie endeavor has had me running the full gamut from sheer elation at finding the correct way to do something to tears of utter frustration. But I thought I’d share a little bit of the journey:
Step 1: designing a cover. If you can do this yourself, more power to you. However, if you’re like me, you need a professional. I searched and searched and asked for recommendations from friends and finally settled on 99Designs. So long as you have some idea off what you want – and they don’t need much to start the process. Then they do a ‘contest’ and you get messages to your inbox letting you know something is there for you to consider. At this point, you can email one or more of the contestants with feedback – change the color, the font, no pearls in a wine glass – whatever you don’t like. Then they make the changes and you review it and the process continues like that for 10 days. And don’t forget, you’re working with more than one contestant, so stay on it until you get what you really want. I ended up with 3 I really liked and to be honest, I polled some friends and I paid for the cover. That was $299.00.
Step 2: This should actually be going on simultaneously with step 1. Beg, borrow, steal or pay someone to do a full edit. No matter how cleanly you happen to write, it’s a proven fact that our eyes often see what we thought it mean and not what is actually on the page. This is one of your ‘know your weaknesses’ issues. And I understand Amazon is starting to crack down on unedited materials. Maybe you can trade for the edit. I.e. if you’re a strong plotter, offer to help a computer savvy friend with their pacing in exchange for a content edit. But you need more than that – a line edit is just as important.
Step 3: buy an ISBN or 2. You can buy an ebook ISBN and be done with it for $125.00. Or, as I learned after I’d already purchased my ISBN – you can use a company called Books2Digital for this. Just remember each format requires a separate ISBN. So if you’re doing an ebook and a POD version, you need 2 ISBNs.
Step 4: The formatting. You have many options here. You will need to get several different formatted files because each vendor has a different preferred formatting. You will need to send the squeaky clean manuscript and cover to the formatter. The average price for a 40,000+ manuscript is roughly $100.00 to $125.00. OR you can go to Draft2Digital and they will take care of formatting and assigning an ISBN. (Side note) even if you use Draft2Digital you retain copyright even though they are assigning the ISBN. OR you can buy your ISBN separately and then still use Draft2Digital to fill in the pieces.
Step 5: As soon as you have your formatted stuff ready – time for the upload. You have 2 options. 1 – do it yourself, though each vendor is different and this can take some time and some calls to the vendors to get it done right. If you have a MAC, you can use Vellum and that program can get you past the gatekeepers at iBooks (I’m told the hardest upload to do). Or, you can use Draft2Digital and they do all the uploading to all of the big vendors (check out their website). You will need your bank routing number to set up these accounts because they pay via direct deposit. There is also an option to use Amazon only and you get a few perks with that as well (see the webpage).
Side Note: As soon as you have your back cover copy written and the formatted cover you can set-up a pre-order option on Amazon. I did not see that option on any of the other vendors.
Step 6: RELEASE DAY! Scream from your blog, twitter, Instagram, Facebook, your website – whatever. Time to go from production mode into publicity mode. And that is entirely dependent upon your personal budget. I’m told by many that the best promo is a FaceBook ad. But I’m not endorsing that or any other form of promotion.
So that, in a nutshell, is one way to navigate your way through the indie publishing world.