Saturday, February 21, 2015
Busy is the word of the year. From the short story book to book one and two, there were so many activities punched into January and February, it's a little dizzying. March - September are looking crazy too!
First things first - I did get signed by the publishing company (Chart House Press). What does that mean exactly? Here are the nuts and bolts:
1. Small publishing house means no advance. I'm actually very okay with that since my initial intention in summer 2014 was to pay for an editor. Well, I still get to do that. The extra umph in the relationship comes from the marketing connections, expertise and some other services surrounding the publishing of the book. From a financial standpoint, it's a very real investment of time and some money on my part, but there's additional investment from the publishing company in other aspects of this (some of which I'll point out later). In other words, I did NOT get a big advance and can now retire to a South Pacific island and enjoy the fruits of my labors. OK, I was never going to do that anyway, but you get the point.
2. What exactly am I responsible for in this relationship? Web site (www.artemuswithers.com) is one. I'm responsible for setting it up, running it, paying for it, etc. That also means I own it, so there will be no struggle to disengage it from some parent corporation that wants to keep it. I like that as well. Of course, that also means getting my own web designer, handling technical problems, working on content, etc. It's a bit more work than, say, an author page off the publisher's website - but it's completely under my control and I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to my image and content being out there.
Editing - I pay for editing fees, which I was already going to do. I'm very happy with the editor they selected (they have a stable of contracted editors they farm work out to). How is this a burden off my shoulders? I didn't have to search for an editor that would not just be good, but would also understand and maybe even appreciation a science fiction humor novel. That experience and connection with editing talent is huge! There was no two or three month long search for just the right editor - my publisher nailed it with their expertise and contacts. Believe me, when I got through with the editing process on the first book, I was so happy with the editor and the results.
Marketing - materials, knick knacks, swag, posters, table runners, and banners - all that stuff is on me. Again, I'm very okay with this. It's all under my control - I select what I want and how I want it. I have gotten suggestions from my publisher on what type of things I should be bringing to book signing, conventions, etc. There have been no directives on what I have to bring. I can spend as little or as much as I want on the process. In this aspect, I'm still very much in touch with the independent author feel, but not hanging out there without a safety net.
Cover art - This is actually a bit of a mixed bag. I've privately contracted my own cover artist to provide the art ( hats off to my Reztap cover artist Jerrica Law, a hard working recent college grad!). That gives me ownership of the images and ability to use them freely for my marketing materials, web site, whatever. My publisher does handle the lettering on the covers - title, author name, other info including the back cover blurb, info, etc. The in-house cover artist, Ida, does a fantastic job with not just the creation of the words on the cover, but also blending the front cover art to seamlessly flow to the back, picking out elements from the front to include on the back, etc. She's really a maestro at that. I've seen some of her other covers that involve the whole package, and she's a truly excellent cover artist in her own right. In the end, there's a lot of artistry going on for the covers, and I'm just responsible for paying for a single cover artist.
Production - The writing (and integration of editing notes). The initial writing of a book is a fun thing. I've found even the subsequent second and third drafts are fun in discovering new and better ways of getting my meaning across. As I'm a new author, my publisher (Chart House Press) wanted a small sample f my writing to send to the booksellers they have relationships with to let them know what kind of book they'd be getting if they pre-ordered book one (which isn't quite available yet). I was tasked to write a book of short stories from the Reztap universe. I found myself pressed up against my deadline with only 6,000 words done and I had to deliver 25,000. I managed to push out what I thought was okay work in about the space of a week. I literally wrote over 5,000 words one of those days. It was really impressive, in my humble opinion. But that is that heart of what I do - I'm the writer. No one else will be performing that task for me. Now I have several quality short stories to expand my readers' understanding of the universe I've created. Reviewing the marked up transcripts from the editor was actually refreshing. Instead of hunting through the pages trying to find out what I'd done wrong, a very knowledgeable editor (thank you Erika Wisdom!) painstakingly went through everything and delivered a word document highlighting all my writing sins along with some recommendations on how to repair the damage. Post editor, it's up to me to make changes, incorporate their suggestions and/or correct them as I see fit. My writing has improved tenfold from the experience.
Social media - that's pretty much on me, but the publisher does their share as well. My Twitter feed, Facebook posts and blog content right here are all my responsibility and under my control. Obviously, while I'm busy writing, the social media content gets neglected, so there's an interesting balance going on just with my media foot print.
Personal appearances - well, it's pretty obvious no one else can or should appear as me. Book signings, convention appearances and blog tours are all on me. The appearance part anyway.
3. What does the publisher bring to the table?
A lot more than you might think at first. I did mention some of what they do above (cover art layout, lettering, and selecting an appropriate editor), but there is much more on their plate. Things I really didn't think about before.
Publication - copy editor, book formatting, and all the technical details that go into registering books, listing books, and submitting books to booksellers. With my self-published books I did most of this myself, but not as well as I've seen my publisher do it.
Marketing - identifying marketing opportunities and listing on their own social media. This is all stuff I don't have to do (some of the marketing I should be doing to expand that arm, though). An add for The Adventures of Reztap will be appearing in the Spring edition of Publishers Weekly catalog - you know, that silly little thing all the booksellers look through to decide what they're going to stock on their shelves. Do you know how to get an add in there? Did you even think about the catalog before you read this?
Events - this is really a big one that I simple don't have the expertise, or time, to setup. I'm attending a small convention here in Katy with about one hundred fellow authors called the Houston Author Bash. It's not the first one, but I'd never heard of it before. That brings to mind how many other chances to press the flesh, so to speak, I haven't been doing as a self-published author? Don't get me wrong, there are self-published authors at this event as well, but I simply had no idea about the event or how to register. All taken care of by my publisher.
That's just one of many events being setup by my publisher. There's a book launch party next week, blog tours and book signings in the upcoming months, all of which my publisher is handling for me. I just have to show up and put in my time, sell books and meet some wonderful readers. Not having to set all of this up frees me up to actually write/edit. I can't even imagine the time it would take for me to figure out what and where to appear, set it up, and pay fees where appropriate. I don't have to do any of that (although, I will be discussing some upcoming conventions that may not be on my publisher's radar and I might indeed have to setup myself).
Social media - My name is on the Chart House Press web site. When they mention their authors and what the authors are doing, what books are coming out and what events they will appear at. This also flows to their Facebook site and Twitter feed.
Reach - this is kind of all encompassing, but it's a true measure of the value of a publisher over self-publishing. They know people (booksellers, fellow writers, other industry people, readers, reviewers, etc.) that I simply don't. Through those connections, my work is spread out across a much broader spectrum than I could initially manage on my own. I don't want to knock self-publishing - there are a great many authors who are very successful at it, but just as many who aren't because they don't know how to expand that reach beyond a small circle of friends and acquaintances.
Validation - someone in the writing business read my book, evaluated it, and decided it was worthwhile to publish. They're not just publishing my book - they're putting their name on it too. I'm humbled, honored and thrilled all at the same time. I get to call myself a published author. That's a gateway not many writers get to pass through.
Mechanics and know-how - there are so many things going on behind the scenes. There are things I haven't even contemplated that are going on in pursuit of my book being a success.
4. The last two months have been a whirlwind of activity. I written a short story book (Mishaps and Mayhem), incorporated edits for book one (The Adventures of Reztap), worked with my web designer on clearing technical hurdles to get my web site up and running, and juggled social media and event planning duties (planning my attendance and all the marketing pieces that go with that). I just got done approving the proof for Mishaps and Mayhem and ordered a bunch of them to have for next week's Houston Authors Bash (please come if you can - Mishaps and Mayhem only available at in-person events, you can't order it online or buy it from a bookstore).
The next four months will be incredibly busy too. Book one comes out March 9th, 2015 (I still have to approve the proof for that). Book two (Reztap and the Quest for the Insane Moth) will come out in early May 2015. I'll have to incorporate the edits, approve the cover art, and then approve the proof of book two. I have to WRITE book three. It is convention season - there are so many conventions to attend, Book signings, blog book tours, etc. I anticipate being busy each weekend through the end of September!
So, the real crazy time begins. I will do my best to keep things updated on the blog, but visiting my web site once it's fully operational will be the best way to keep up on events and appearances.
Keep writing and reading!