Why I Self Publish and an Overview of My Process
I didn’t do any of the things I had planned for my weekend. Instead, I revised, redesigned, and re-posted my first novel, Darklaw, in both eBook and print. I thought I’d put up this post to give an overview of the process for those of you curious or planning to try self-publishing. Companies are making it easy these days. The more money you’re willing to spend, the easier it is.
But why? The process itself has a great deal of creativity involved. As a storyteller, I see producing the story as a part of my “job,” too. My kids are creative and think up fantasy worlds all the time, but they don’t produce it so they can’t share it. You have to give your story physical form, and our digital world makes that so much easier than ever before.
What I Publish
Darklaw is an epic fantasy novel, the foundation of my fictional world, and the beginning of the Darklaw Saga. I wrote the novel and created the world during 20 years of a busy life. I began publishing it 7 years ago (many years after I had been traditionally publishing short stories). I began with the novel, adding illustrations and short stories, and finally a webcomic, a web serial, and comic strip. (All these will eventually find their way to the Darklaw Publication here on Medium. I posted these things on various websites but I’m so happy to have Medium to collect it all together.)
I self-publish exclusively these days. I prefer it. I mean, I really enjoy it. I’m not a control freak at all, but producing a book just hits all my buttons.
Why Publish At All?
I’m not really sure what agents and publishers do for authors anymore.
I hear laments from authors often — those who go it alone and those who have a team behind them — about the time required to promote, the things they have to do and don’t want to, and how their sales aren’t where they wish. I don’t spend too much time in that zone these days. I learned decades ago that I’m a small potato, and I’m pretty happy to be one after experiencing a little taste of fame once.
I get so excited with each new project. It’s the creating that absorbs me. Even now, I have a terrible craving to start a new project I can’t get out of my head.
I started storytelling back when I couldn’t find the kinds of stories I wanted to read. That included writing, drawing, and comics. In this online niche world of ours, we can always find someone we connect with. So, I write for myself, but of course I want to share, to find kindred spirits. The worst part of creating — maybe the only bad part — is how lonely it is. Hours and hours alone in my head, whole days and weekends vanish in a fugue while I’m in another world. I’m an ENFP! Talk to me!
Making the eBook File
I used to use Calibre when I was publishing short stories many years ago. It was decent, but you had to know some code. This year, I was curious to try Kindle Create. Download it free from Amazon.
Kindle Create has some nice features, like a bleed image on the chapter pages and drop caps on the first paragraph (see the image below). It’s not so friendly for pasting or moving content and offers no captions for images. When I import my Word file, I have to strip out the front and back matter and rebuild it. (That’s things like title, copyright, foreword, dedication, table of contents, author bio, epilogue.) Kindle Create isn’t friendly for reformatting, either. I made all my style edits in Word and reimported a few times. When I had the content looking the way I liked, I exported it and then uploaded it to KDP. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Making the Print File
Digital readers flow your content however the reader chooses, but for print, the author has the control. I like working with images in print better than digital readers because the images will be where I put them and stay the size I made them. But they will be in grayscale because I can’t see paying to color a few images among 500 pages. (In the eBook, they are in color because digital color is free!)
I used my Word file for the print version. Everything must be in styles — no tabs or spaces or formatting texts. It creates a mess on the other side (once a publisher gets ahold of it.)
Making the Covers
I created the covers in Adobe Photoshop with templates from KDP at Amazon for both eBook and print — two very different processes.
The eBook cover is much lower resolution and simply a front cover. It’s a digital asset. The print cover will be a physical thing, printed on a single sheet folded with a spine that needs to account for the number and thickness of your pages. A 500-page book with white stock for black and white gave me a spine width of 1.126 inches. My Photoshop file had like 200 layers and was 180M by the time I got done with it. In case you don’t know, that’s really not necessary LOL.
The print cover has the added complexity of being printed. Ink on stock is much darker than ink on screen. I’ll probably have to make adjustments after I receive my print proof. To get ahead of that, I made the titles lighter on the print version.
The worst part of producing a print cover is that it has to be saved as a PDF file to the exact size. If you work with PDFs, you know they are standard paper sizes. If you want a custom size, you need to pay for Adobe Acrobat (25$/month) because Microsoft PDF maker doesn’t support custom. Unless you have a partner who can fiddle around with regedit. Boom! I mean sex is great but did you ever have a partner who could edit your .ini?
Getting the Details Right
Over the years, I spent a lot of time investigating. Beyond the sheer time, creative decisions, and best practices for design, there are publication decisions about SEO tags, book categories, doing-business-as or yourself as publisher, pricing, buying ISBNs, knowing when to change the edition, whether to jump into a promo, etc. These things are my least favorite part, but I’ve learned a lot about them over the years, giving me a broad view of how the book world works.
Go Get It
If you like to dabble in both art and writing, tinker with tech, and have an eye for details, self-publishing will be fun for you. If you dread any of those things, you can find freelancers and companies.
It truly is a great age to be a storyteller.