Saturday, March 15, 2014

How Is Self-Publishing Like Sex?

Well, that got your attention. And I’ll explain that title in a minute.

A lot of writers have jumped onto the self-publishing—or indie publishing—wagon lately. (I recently read a discussion where the term ‘indie publishing’ is replacing ‘self publishing’. The term indie presses used to refer to small independent publishers but, according to the discussion, these are now referred to as small presses. Just a point of clarity.) I’ll use the terms self-publishing and independent publishing interchangeably here. Some authors are previously published or simultaneously published with small presses, while others venture directly into self-publishing their works. I recently joined the fray by independently publishing my new romantic suspense novel, Protection. Call me Miss Independence!

For those who view the independent publishing process as being a, “I did it all myself” process—don’t be mistaken. I could never have done this all myself. I should say, I couldn’t have done it well and, in the end, still had a hair on my head. And I do not recommend publishing a book without having it go through an editing process with a separate pair of eyes that belong to a skilled author/editor. Some of you might have the talent to create your own cover art. Those of us who don’t, have to rely on those who do. An attractive cover is important for any book. As for the process as a whole, I have a friend who says, “Anyone who can read a recipe can cook.” That’s true. And so, it would make sense that anyone who can read instructions can publish their own book to Amazon/Kindle and even put it in print on a site like CreateSpace.

I’ve been published for over seven years with three small presses. And, don’t get me wrong—I love my publishers. Wings ePress gave me my start. Champagne Books welcomed me to my Canadian publishing family. And, most recently, Turquoise Morning Press opened their arms to my writing. And they’ve all done justice to my work. I’m not venturing off into independent publishing and turning away from my publishers. Rather, I’m expanding my publishing market.

It was a daunting venture at first. But I can’t stand it when I let fear stop me from doing something. When I first thought about publishing a book myself, the negative messages rolled through my brain like a freight train: “You don’t have a clue how to do that.” “You’ll screw it up.” “You don’t know the first thing about formatting.”

Then I took a deep breath and examined those messages. No, I did not have a clue. There was the potential to screw up and do it badly. And I knew a little, but very little, about formatting for publication. I talked to a few fellow authors who are published both by small presses and independently. Most of them said the same thing, “If I can do it, you can do it.” I wasn’t sure if this was a vote of confidence in my abilities or a critical assessment of their own.

I sat down one Saturday and wrote out my fears or concerns about this venture and, much like experimenting with a new recipe, made a list of ingredients—the things I needed to have in place before I could proceed. Writing the book was the easiest part. Cover art! I needed someone who had the ability to create an attractive cover. Photoshop and I have a very adversarial relationship. I turned to Trisha FitzGerald, a fantastic cover artist who won an award for the cover she created for one of my Champagne books, Next Time I’m Gonna Dance. I knew I could trust her work and her fees are very reasonable. Editing! As much as we authors would like to believe we know enough to edit our own work—we don’t. Fortunately, my pal and fellow author, Kimberley Koz, graciously offered to critique and edit the manuscript for me. And she did a smash-up job, catching big plot issues and smaller copyediting issues.

I decided to publish through Amazon for Kindle and use CreateSpace for trade paperbacks.

My first point of technical advice if you are going this route is: #1. Download Building Your Book for Kindle and read it. This became my holy grail for formatting the manuscript for upload to Kindle. Save yourself a lot of grief and follow the directions. Point #2. Don’t be afraid to ask other authors who have already gone this route for their assistance. Authors Elaine Meece, Dee Julian and Kim Smith talked me down from the ledge more than once, assured me I could do this, and Dee even took my manuscript and formatted for my paperback according to CreateSpace guidelines. Once I saw what she had done, it made sense. When I first looked at the options for trade paperback, I balked. What if I messed up and formatted my book all wrong and it printed all wrong and my readers saw what an idiot I really am? Okay, take a breath and step away from the laptop. The online guides for CreateSpace will actually guide you through the process. But—this is IMPORTANT—you have to know your page count according to the print book size you choose (5x8, 6x9, etc.) in order to calculate the size of the spine where your title and name will go. Once you upload your formatted manuscript to CreateSpace into their template, you will be able to review it page-by-page and you will get the page count. The guide tells you exactly how to calculate the spine size. I gave this to my cover artist and she did the rest, then sent me the full cover (front, back and spine) for upload for the paperback and a jpeg of the front cover for Kindle. I did supply her with their specifications on pixels, etc. (the things that make my brain shut down—numbers.) But she understood and that was all that mattered.

Now, I formatted the manuscript separately for Kindle and for CreateSpace. However, there is an option on CreateSpace to publish your completed manuscript to Kindle. That may simplify the process but I, of course, did the harder way, so I can’t tell you how that works. I assume they convert the file for Kindle and upload it. And CreateSpace runs its own check of your manuscript and tells you if there are any glitches before you publish. They won’t let you make a complete fool of yourself. After all, their reputation is riding on how your work looks, too. If you’re considering going this route, simply go to, scroll down the page to the very bottom and choose the option Independently publish with us.

I heard another author recently comment, “Publishing is going to hell in a hand basket. Any fool with a computer and an idea can publish a book, and most of those self-published books are poorly edited garbage.” Harsh? Yes. Somewhat true? Yes. The downside of independent publishing is just as he described. I urge you not to be foolish and publish that book you are so sure is ready for consumption without the benefit of proper editing. Please do yourself and the rest of us that favor.

Okay, here’s where sex comes in. How is self-publishing like sex? Once you get the first time out of the way, it’s enjoyable! I’m looking forward to a few more projects I have in mind to independently publish. After all the doubt, the angst, the anticipation, the frustration, the worry about ‘doing it right’, it was fun and I want to do it again.

And, now, here's my finished product--PROTECTION

Available now in eBook and Trade Paperback at

Back cover blurb:

Jake Garber is a new man after being placed in the witness protection program pending a Federal child-trafficking case in which he’s a witness. Shannon Chase is the identity stolen by a young woman escaping her past to protect her child. A foggy night, a hairpin turn, and a car crash throw Jake and Shannon into one another’s lives where each struggle to protect a secret.



Carol McPhee said...

Linda, your interpretation of the process is very interesting and very scary. Guess I'm not into going through such travails even once, but I enjoyed reading about the possibilities

Linda Rettstatt said...

It's really not that difficult, Carol. There are guidelines that make it easy. And there are people out there (a-hem) who will help you.

Linda Rettstatt said...

It's actually not as bad as I anticipated. Getting to the other side of the process and looking back, I saw that my fears were unwarranted. It's really not a difficult process. But you do need some of the things in place that publishers typically provide--editor, cover artist.

linda_rettstatt said...

Not scary at all. At least not once I got into the process. Amazon makes so easy.