Eight years of writing The Series. Then a full year of rewriting the initial instalment. And now—eight years and eight months after the story first came to me—Book I of the Talisman, The Magic Cloak, is finally done and dusted.
Many, many changes to the manuscript occurred over those years, and I wavered between trying to have it published, publishing it myself, or not publishing it at all, time and time again. The conclusion, for better or worse, was to publish it myself. So, I did.
For all the time I spent on the book, I can’t say it’s a narrative that is going to set the world on fire. The prose is lean, the plot simplistic, and the research sketchy and almost entirely Wikipedia-based. This isn’t false humility; I’m simply not self-deluded. What I can—with satisfaction—say about the book is that it contains very few unnecessary words and a minimum of errors. It is, in short, the best I can do. And, of course, I do believe it is worth the price: $1.00 for the eBook, and the paperback is as cheap as I am able to make it.
So, why self-publishing?
Mainly, it was about control. If I was able to find a small-to-mid-sized publisher willing to take it on (and, I must admit, the odds of that were vanishingly small) the series—if it didn’t sell as well as the publisher envisioned—would be dropped after two or three books. As my goal is to publish the entire series as a coherent set, the only way I could be certain of accomplishing this was if I did it myself.
Secondly, and just as important, is the lack of advantage I would realize with an actual publisher. Having had other books published by small presses, I know that they would expect me to do the bulk of the editing and be responsible for the proof-reading. They would also leave the marketing to me. What they would do is make the cover (which I would have no say over) and format the manuscript for publication, and I can do both of those things.
My cover isn’t as flashy as a multi-national conglomerate with a huge graphics department could make, but I did all right.
Editing is another story. That is hard, and the painstaking task was gruelling and tiresome and left me feeling like I had PTSD (I didn’t).
I want to note a few things here for would-be self-publishers:
The best way to do a final edit of your book is to have MS Word read it back to you. The robotic voice is perfect for ferreting out misspellings, misplaced words and awkward sentence structure. Because the voice pauses briefly at commas, and for a bit longer at periods (or full stops), it is also—as a bonus—a good way to double-check your punctuation.
Also, some time ago, I purchased an editing program (mine was ProWriter, but there are many of the same ilk). At the appropriate time, I imported the manuscript into the program and ran the processes. And the program flagged up an error, saying my manuscript was too large a chunk of text for it to handle. It’s a program for editing book-length manuscripts! And my book isn’t even that long. I ignored the error and waited for the process to finish, made use of the suggestions it offered and then turned to MS Word for the final, robotic, read-through. What I found, when I entered the Editor, was that MS Word runs the same checks a lot more efficiently, and for free, which makes self-publishing even more economical.
I could, of course, have had a cover professionally made, and the manuscript professionally edited and proof-read. This would cost between £500 and £1,000. Not totally unreasonable, except there are eight books in the series, and I’m not ready to fork over eight grand for a vanity project. I do have a huge ego, but I have my limits.
But, for a single book (I’m still talking to you hopeful self-publishers) putting a bit of money into your project may be a wise investment. However, these are one-off payments for services. If you contact a publisher and they expect you to pay them any amount of money for any reason, they are—despite whatever fancy name they give themselves—vanity presses. Money goes from publisher to author, never, never, never the other way around. This is not to say you shouldn’t use a vanity press, I’m just saying, don’t kid yourself: their business model is making money from gullible writers, not publishing books.
With that out of the way, let’s discuss marketing. Like a lot of writers, I suck at it. I’m not good at it, and I hate doing it. And for self-published authors, it is an uphill struggle as you don’t even have an actual publisher behind you that—even if they are doing nothing—at least gives you a bit of validation.
I managed to overcome that by the simple fact that I don’t care if the books sell. My goal, as I mentioned earlier, is simply to publish the series. If anyone buys any of the books, great. If not, no bother. At least that will minimize the number of bad reviews.
I do, of course, hope the stories find a home, but there is little I can do about that beyond writing the best stories I can, and eradicating as many spelling errors from the final manuscripts as possible.
So, on to the second book.