My Accidental First Date with Self-Publishing

Winners of the 2013 Nanowrimo, like me, were given a small promotional code to use on Createspace. (One of Amazon’s self-publishing setups for hard copies.) The code entitled the user to two free printed copies of their Nanowrimo book. I opted to avail myself of that option. I usually at least consider free stuff.

But I knew that even for free, publishing a first draft would be a bit of a waste. So I made it one of my goals for 2014 to clean up my Nano novel in a single revision, and have two free copies made of that. I could pass them around to friends and family to read throughout the year. Then I can decide if I’m going any further with it next year. And if not, I have two copies of it.

I finished the revision earlier than I thought I would, so I began the process of redeeming my two free copies. That’s when this minor, accidental adventure began.

You see by two free copies, I thought it would be an Office Depot kind of deal. I send them to .doc file, they print up what was there and bind it in some nice thick plastic rings or something. Saves me a trip and the 40 dollars. But no, as I got started I quickly realized that this code was for the whole deal; I was going to be flat out self-publishing my Nano book.

How did I get into all of this? I was in no way ready for it when I sat down a few evenings ago, thinking it would be one of my final things to do before shutting off my computer for the night. They weren’t kidding around here, and I thought I should perhaps abandon the whole idea, and make time this week to go to Office Depot. Maybe I could look at new computers while I was there. I’ve been putting that off, after all.

But free copies awaited me. So, I kept going, careful to choose only the most minimal, and free options.

I included no cover photo. I never thought It would have a cover, so I didn’t think about this. I chose a simple solid color. A nice earthy green.

Nor did I include an author photo for the back cover, another option. Once I saw how in depth this was, I opted to use a pen name, if only in case a copy of this book-like product should become lost. I’m happy with this novel but it’s in no condition to have my real name on it yet. I didn’t want it to be the first impression people would have of me as an author. So I thought of a pseudonym. A good one, I might add. Sounds like someone who would write this kind of book.

Then we got to ISBN numbers, and I almost gave up. Sounded like the deep end of the pond to me. But, there was a free option, wherein Createspace could assign me one. I took this, even though it means that in the unlikely event someone should look up the ISBN number, it will take them back to Createspace, and not my own imprint. I may pay the 300 dollars for my own ISBN if I self publish any “official” work of mine. But for these two free copies of a second draft of a Nano novel under a pen name, I figured an assigned ISBN would suffice.

Which means I had no publishing house logo to upload to the back of the book, so I skipped that, though it got me thinking what sort of logo I would use when the time came in the future.

Then it asked me for a quotation “about” my book, for the back cover. I was never sure if they meant a third party description, or literally a line from the book. So, I opted for one of the protagonist’s lines, and attributed it to him. Seemed like a good choice. Attention-getting and such.

Then the back-cover blurb. At first I’m thinking, “no big deal.” Just a sentence or two to let whichever family member who picks it up know what it’s about when they come by the house. Plus, even a minimalist cover design would look kind of silly with just a single quotation on the back. Something had to go back there.

Twenty minutes and seven drafts later I had a reasonable summary of the plot and tone of the piece. If I may be allowed to say so myself, I think what I came up with would work in a full publishing and marketing campaign, if ever I were to pursue one with this tiny book.

Then, to upload the file. Easy enough. But it takes a while for the site to “check” it for major problems. (I wonder if this is when Amazon also makes sure it isn’t erotica, which they have been cracking down upon lately.) Half hour or so later, I get an email. There are five problems with my file. Oh no. Time to break up?

Numbers and margins and gutters were mentioned. Believe it or not, not all writers are good typists, and I am one of the worst typists. The explanations might as well have been algebra, for what little I understood of them. All I knew was, my file’s words would not fit on the pages of the size of paperback they printed.

Now, I’m thinking, “why can’t you just make it smaller?” But in my mind I know that for many reasons surpassing my understanding, it isn’t that simple. I considered if I want to try to look up what all of this means, and reformat my file, or once again, just let it go and head on over to Office Depot.

But then, a golden option; I don’t remember the exact wording on the button, but the gist of it was, “We’ll see if we can resize it for you, if you want.”

Of course I want. This is for two free copies, after all. So I pushed it. A few minutes later, a new, reconfigured copy of my file emerged for download on the website’s dashboard. I was advised to check it out for any major mistakes. I downloaded it and did so. Other than having to fix a few stray carriage returns, it looked good to me. But would Createspeace accept its own reconfigured file?

A few minutes later, it did. After trying to get me to buy a hardcopy proof to have sent to me so I could double check, (nice try) it allowed me to review an electronic proof. All the words were on the page. All the chapter numbers in place. Looked good to me. I hit approve.

Then the snag. In order for me to continue, I had to set prices for the book, as well as choose distribution channels. Now I’m enjoying this date for the most part, but it’s a little early to be meeting her parents at home, you see what I mean?

I tried everything to move on without doing this, to no avail. I’d already spent about 90 minutes on something I thought I could whip up in 15, just to get two free copies of something. I hated the idea of shutting it all down now. Yet even with a pen name, this book is not ready to be advertised and sold and reviewed and such. And here I am giving my tax number and everything so I can report royalties.

Well, after not one, but two emails to customer service and a few days of waiting, the way was paved for me to just order my two copies, and not have to introduce an unpolished manuscript. And that’s exactly what I did.

And the code worked! How’s that for satisfaction? It’s right there on my receipt. They are in fact free. Five bucks for shipping, but that’s to be expected.

They are projected to arrive in just under two weeks. You can expect a sequel to this post so I can describe what the copies are like.

So, I’ve had my first date with self-publishing. There is no way the current edition is being sold to the public, in e-form or hard copy. Only two copies exist.(2). If I decide later on to do more with this title, I don’t have the slightest damn clue about how to change it or update it. I may in fact have made some severe mistakes for the future in that regard, I don’t know. But for all intents and purposes, and way before I thought I would, I have entered the world of self-publishing. To think I merely thought I was printing something for free.

The point of this silly story is that some of the mystique has been removed from the process. Now, I am well aware that when I put my real name on titles, (which I plan to do with some short stories this year), it will require more time, more effort, a bit of money and a steeper learning curve. I will have to be more picky and scientific when I “officially” try it. I know that when that time comes I will be driven somewhat insane with all of the details I have to tend to.

But after this experience, I don’t think I’ll be a deer caught in the headlights about it anymore. Perhaps a cat caught in the headlights; it will still stare up at you for a while and impede your progress. But it has enough sense to eventually decide it’s time to move on and let you pass without a whole lot of fanfare.

So, the whole accidental debut was a learning experience. Even if I don’t go with Createspace again, I’ll have an idea what it feels like on the most basic level. All because I was greedy for two free copies of something.

Another reason to finish Nanowrimo. It pays off, kids.

 

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    1. Upcoming Project: Thank You for Ten | Ty Unglebower
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