Adventures in Indie Publishing


I must admit, I totally missed how many people still want to read print books. Apparently, I made the move to ebooks so decisively that I hadn’t realized I’d made it! So when I went to publish my first book, based on cost (to me) and cost (to the reader), I expected that making an ebook available would be the best approach and reach the most readers.

I was quickly disabused of that notion. Not just from my parents or that generation, for whom iPads and Kindle devices may still seem something of a new-fangled novelty. No, I heard from a wide range of folks that still prefer printed books to the electronic kind. “I like books,” a friend told me (ironically enough, using electronic messaging). “Real books.”

Well, okay then.

So I got to work creating a print version of the book. There are a number of steps needed to create a book that’s ready for the public. If I had managed to catch the eye of an agent, then other folks would have done the work of editing, cover design, interior design, registration, etc. In order to pay all of those people, my portion out of the cost of the book would have been less (far less) but my time to do other things — like more writing — would have been far greater.

I knew I needed to treat this part of the process like the business project it was. First thing I did was go in search of information that delineated for me the steps of the process. I found and rejoiced. It was exactly what I was looking for. It provides a project management focus to the work needed to publish and gave great information supporting each step of that process.

The downside to BookPlanner is that it is single focus. But I’m not doing only one thing, not even from a writing standpoint. At the same time I moved one book towards publication, I had another book in the initial writing stage (now in first rewrite) and another book in the research phase. This doesn’t even take into account my study of French as well as, you know, the rest of my life. I needed something bigger than a single-project tool.

I’ve been using ZenDone for awhile now. It using the “Get Things Done” (GTD) methodology and — best of all! — it integrates with Evernote. So now the work I’m doing on, say, writing an author bio, is checked off the list in ZenDone while the information itself is captured in Evernote for reference later.

That digression is just by way of getting to the fact that I learned that interior book design is a thing and it’s a thing I needed help on. There are professional book designers and I’ve heard of a good program for the Mac, but I don’t use a Mac. I found (most likely through BookPlanner as I think they are sibling companies) a company called Book Design Templates where they sell — you guessed it — templates to use towards interior design. They have created a large number of designs for a wide range of book types/moods/genres. When you purchase a design, you get Word, Pages, and InDesign templates with the guarantee that the style will work for both ebook and print. Port your text into one of those and start applying the styles provided.

I’m very familiar with Word styles and it wasn’t difficult (only tedious) to port from Scrivener to a Word file and then go through and clean it up, using the styles provided in the template. Even though I only planned on doing ebook now, print if called for, once I started hearing the calls for print I was half way there. I created a copy of my Word document so that I could modify things for the print edition, such as the new ISBN1 that goes with this different edition of the book.

In addition to the ISBN I needed an expanded cover, because the one I’d purchased originally was only the “front” of the ebook and I needed a full wrap cover. That and the purchase of an ISBN barcode so that it could be sold in actual, real bookstores.
The best part of this process is that, in working with CreateSpace to get the book ready to print, I’ll be able to review it in a different format and have an actual physical proof in hand to check over, playing the role of copy editor as well as author. Any issues I find I can correct for both physical and ebook format if necessary.

What this means is that I plan on having both an ebook and a print book ready for publication on May 15th.

  1. You can allow KDP or CreateSpace to provide you with an ISBN but I decided to purchase and manage my own. You get them from Bowker Identifier Services and the cost is significantly cheaper when you buy in bulk. They will happily sell you everything (and more) that you could need for self-publishing your book. 

The Irons in the Fire


I have a number of writing projects on going right now and it is a learning process to discover just how to keep them all moving forward. These projects are in various stages and I’m trying to learn how it will work for me to keep moving back and forth between them, to keep work up on all of them.

The most noticeable one so far is the one I’m about to publish. Self-publish (he says, self-consciously). I think it is a great story, I think I have some really interesting characters and concepts, and I’m glad it is getting out into the world. I wish it would have been through the traditional process for one very big reason.

There is a lot of work that goes into putting a novel into print!

Cover design. Interior design. Editing and proofing. Getting the paperwork done so that I can sell it. Creating the site on Amazon and then uploading the book to it (there is so much that I don’t know about that process that I should add “Learn about Amazon” to the list). But by May, the bulk of work on that one is done and it is all over but the shouting. 1

Then I have the book Harmony that is in the first re-write. The bulk of the writing work has been done, now it is editing and revising. I need to make sure there is a story there that is worth reading. 2 I haven’t opened it in nearly 3 months and so will do a re-read starting next week. Then read it again, this time with notes. Then chopping, hacking, squeezing, and the blood, dear god all the blood! 3

Finally, I’m continuing with the research of the “Book Hunters” historical mystery. The things that I don’t know about Provence in the early 15th century could fill several books. Do fill. And I’m trying to find them, and read them, now. Information, thoughts, notes, copies are being collected and at some point the real work of the outline will happen. [^4] I’m hoping that I’ll have that first draft created during NaNoWriMo this year.

I’m actually doing pretty good at keeping all of these moving. Harmony is about to come out of cold storage at the time that Moonhart as about to be completed. I’m not sure if I have three novels at a time in me. I have my day job and my paid writing job of my Union’s newsletter. Oh, and a social life. It should be an interesting summer.

  1. And by “shouting” I mean social media promotion, or as I like to think of it, “shouting in to the void.” 
  2. It was totally worth writing, even if I don’t ever offer it for sale. But it may be of no interest to anyone but myself. This next stage is going to be about me deciding if as anything but a very long writing exercise. 
  3. Figuratively speaking. I’ve rarely actually bled during a rewrite. 

Cover Design Contest for A Call of Moonhart


Let the games begin! A cover design contest is now open for the cover of my novel A Call of Moonhart. I first heard about the company 99Designs from Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn podcast. It sounded like a great approach for getting a number of design options for the cover. I may use them again for designing the Sylphan Media Group logo and my next couple of novels that I have in the self-pub pipeline.

Did I really need to read that?


 I re-read Jacklyn Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart last week and wanted to take a moment to react to the sex scenes. As one might imagine in a story that centers on a pair of prostitutes (I’m simplifying a 900 page story drastically) the sex scenes are important. And yet, the way she handles them is remarkably well done. Carey spends just as much time on each sex scene as needed. When the scene has to do with love between characters who love each other, the scene rapidly fades to black because the actions aren’t the point of the story. But when the courtesan who is trained as a spy engages in spy-craft as much as her sex-work, the scene stays well-lit, giving the readers the information at the same time as our point o view character gets it.

As I’ve worked on my novel Harmony in Three Voices I originally wrote out the sex scenes in exquisite detail. At that stage of the process, no one else was reading the story and I for one, wanted to know how the characters acted together in those naked moments!

But when I took those three disparate but overlapping storylines and wove them into one novel, I realized that the purposes of the novel were not served with the inclusion of details in those scenes. That they happened was important and was related to the point of view narrator. But what went on? Not important, even though I’d written out every scene. The blow-by-blow (if you will) ended up amongst those 100k of words that I cut from the final story.

How a writer deals with sex scenes is an important consideration. What kind of story is it? Carey handled her sex scenes really well because she seems to be very conscious of the way in which the sex scene is just another scene and should do the work of any other scene: it should broaden our understanding of the character, move the story forward, enhance our perception of the world theses characters inhabit. The language used has to be accurate to the character using it and the situation has to be described in just enough detail to match what the characeter would say and why they would say it.

I’m still working on Harmony but I think I got the mix right. My novel A Call of Moonhart doesn’t leave the characters much time for sex, but even then the fact of the sexual liaison moves the story forward in a way that the details of the liaison would not add anything. Brittany is dealing with those questions as she finishes a much more sexual piece called Middle Ground. I only hope that we are able to pull it off as well as the Kushiel books do.

Je lirai


At my French class last week, I was asked why I’m studying the language. I used to have a good answer: a short version, a long version, a self-deprecating one. But when I was asked the question last week, I realized that my answer had changed.

I had begun my language learning journey mostly because it’s something that I’ve tried several times before and had not succeeded at. It’s not the only thing I’ve failed at in my life (poker was an especially humbling and costly lesson) but this one seemed like something that would be challenging while being both interesting and intellectually satisfying.

It’s been all of those things, but now it might be useful as well. My past interests suggested that I set my current novel-in-progress in the Medieval era. My current language studies suggested I set the novel in France. As I do more and more research it will surprise no one that much of the research that I want is not available in English.

It seems that I’ll need to focuse more of my language studies on reading, and academic reading at that!

Update on my NaNoWriMo 2014 post


More than two years ago, I wrote about the project that I was going to write for the 2014 NaNoWriMo. I sincerely stated that my goal with the project was to answer some questions I had for the characters but would not be more than 30,000 words.

Ha! It’s like I’ve never met me.

I completed the first draft of that project on 2 January 2017, more than two years after starting it. Now called Harmony in Three Voices this first complete draft clocks in at over 150,000 words.

It is the most complicated narrative I’ve ever attempted.

Taking three POV characters written in first person past and wrapping them in a second person present frame tale, I recount about 20 years of history of each of those three characters, tying those past events to their current conflicts. I wrote all three first person POV narratives completely, meaning some scenes were written down three different times, three different POVs, three different long chunks of text. Then came the frame tale, picking and choosing which parts of which narratives to keep, which ones to subsume into the frame tale, and which to discard outright as unnecessary. While I have over 150k in the parts I kept, I’ve discarded more than 100k.

Yep. I wrote two complete novels just to get one story.

I’m still not sure if it is “saleable” or of interest to anyone but myself. And yet? The “win” I mentioned in that old post certainly happened: I’m much more comfortable using Scrivener and discovered that I really could not have written the story I did with any other tool. But the bigger win was the risk I took in writing that story. I’ve never been as pressed, pushed as hard, as I was when I tried to figure out how to get it all to work. In truth, it might not work, but that’s almost less important than the attempt.

About the end of March I plan to begin editing that draft and I’ll know better then if it is something that I’ll try to sell, either self-pub or traditionally. By November of 2017 I hope to again do NaNoWriMo, getting a draft of a historical mystery down.

NaNoWriMo 2014


Back in 2007, I joined and “won” NaNoWriMo with what eventually (like 5 years after that one month) my novel A Call of Moonhart. That time, I knew I had a novel-length idea, I had the world building in hand, and the timing was right to get a jump start on all of it. Eventually, that 50k words formed the basis of two novels (one still more-or-less in draft form) totally nearly 250k words. NaNo was a good way to get all that started.

This time around, I’m in a totally different place. I have two, no THREE totally different projects that I’m thinking about at the same time. One of them, which seems the most commercial, is going to take a whole lot of research that I’ve only just begun. An entire time and place that I’m only passing familiar with. Don’t get me wrong, the research is half of what I like about my writing. Maybe even two thirds. But the story idea is strong for that and I’m excited about the project.

I’m not writing on that for NaNoWriMo this year.

Another project, taking least as much research as the first but with extra added world building required, is a really powerful concept. I LOOOOOVVVVVEEEE the concept, and it includes an expansion of one of the worlds I first began writing in about 20 years ago. But I have a concept, not a story (although I may finally have an inkling of one now) and it takes a story before I can write. Even me, a “pantser” by NaNo terminology. If there isn’t a story, then what I have are research notes, and no one wants to read that.

I’m not writing on that for NaNoWriMo this year, either.

What I’m working on isn’t even a novel. Unless I’ve badly underestimated how long the frame tale is, or I come up with another entirely new idea for a set piece, this is novella length at about 30,000 words. Even so, I won’t know until I get there if this is even a story with a defined arc, or a series of character sketches. You see, these are some of my favorite, most familiar characters. I’ve been writing them, or versions of them, or their friends, or people who hung out in the same area at one point, for at least 30 years. They are comfortable old friends to hang around with. They are all too pretty, too smart, too good to hang contemporary fiction on. To borrow from Ellen Kushner, I love to write about these fine people all hanging around, drinking, and having sex. Fun to write but boring to read and it isn’t commercial. In my case, my NaNo project this year is going to be some very self-indulgent crap that I’m taking the month of November to churn out. But, you see, (and I have the time lines if you’re silly enough to ask for them) there’s this gap where I have my male character making his way alone in the world, nursing a hurt from ten years before when his best friend/sometime lover left without a word. I have a later period where he is reunited with this woman, but not as lovers, for he is with a third woman. What I don’t have is: what happened in those ten years? How did they reunite? Just how awkward was it when the love-of-his-youth comes back into his life just as he’s beginning a very adult relationship with an amazing woman? What happened to make them all friends? More than friends?

I have been doing very little writing while I shopped for an agent for my last novel. At the end of that period, I have no agent and no new writing. Pulling out these old, friendly, comfortable, well-loved characters is a great place to find my writing flow again. I wrote an extended character study in early October, but now I want to know what happened in those ten years, and how it all resolves.

I won’t “win” NaNoWriMo this time around, but that’s not my goal. I want to write. I want to answer these questions. And I want to try out a new set of writing tools. Instead of OneNote and WordPerfect and a laptop and desktop, I’m now using Evernote, and Scrivener, and a tablet and the desktop. Getting to know Scrivener and developing a new toolset seems like it would be a “win” to me.