Book 4’s Cover Design

Creating the fourth novel cover

So, here we go again!  After releasing two novelettes in 2015 which extended the D’mok literary universe, it’s time to tackle the next novels. These days, you don’t really “do” one book anymore. The expectations is TRILOGIES. Yes, this means there will be two more in the D’mok Revival series coming. 😉

I promise to write about the process of taking my fourth manuscript and evolving it into its final form in a future blog. This post is specifically about the new cover.

For some quick background, I am very proud of the five covers done to date. I’ve had the distinct honor of privilege of working with Glenn Clovis, an amazing 3D artist. He’s brilliant, incredibly talented, and PATIENT!  This is important, as working with “a client with a vision” (like myself) is NEVER EASY. Not to say I’m a high maintenance person per se, but I’m trying to create a specific look and with that comes some creative direction.

Here’s the first three novels:

book 1 coverbook 2 coverbook 3 cover

 

Here’s the first two novelettes:

mindwalk coveraloan conspiracy

 

I deeply respect and appreciate Glenn’s creative genius. I believe we iterate and evolve designs very well together. Sometimes it’s a suggestion on lighting, or transformation of a small part of something he’s already created. However, having “creative vision” is NOTHING without a creative master to make it manifest.

I’ve mentioned before the pressure that builds to have an impressive and more memorable cover book-over-book. I always want to push it and create something more amazing in the next round.

And so, here we are, “the next round.”  D’mok Revival: New Eden!

Novel number four represents a pivot in the D’mok literary universe. Many important things have changed since original trilogy, with ripple effects of how the Nukari Invasion came to an end.

So what should be on the cover?

I set forth a goal, what I wanted the cover to communicate:

  • It had to be familiar
  • It needed to focus on what New Eden looks like as it’s important the plot (starting in book 4 and moving forward)
  • I wanted to show the influence and adaptions being made based on exposure to Nukari technology
  • I wanted to represent the changing of the guard (leadership), in a way
  • I wanted the station to look capable, like someone wouldn’t mess with it, and would be able to destroy it if they tried

 

There’s a few things I knew already that would influence the visuals:

  • New Eden is not where Eden was, so the red nebula is out. A new location visual would be required
  • New Eden is the same “class” space station as Eden, just much larger, and enhanced
  • Examples of the Nukari technology are clearly illustrated on the third cover (the overlapping armor scales, and creature-esk look)
  • Books one and two featured a ship used by Mencari, so showing it again would create great consistency

 

The most important thing to “get right” was the station. There were many comments from the first book’s cover that I recalled.  For instance: “I’m not sure what I’m looking at? Is that a satellite or a weapon?” “It looks evil.” I didn’t want history to repeat. This time, I want to make sure people know what it is.

We looked at the source material.  First, the original space station:

original-stationoriginal-reference-for-email

Second, the Nukari ship (The Leviathan):

Dmok-CapitalShip

Third, the Nukari space gateway:

ring

 

So, here was the an early approach to the design of the New Eden station:

first station version

You have to start somewhere!  I loved the dome. The arms had segments, but they were very understated. The body looked still under construction to me, and I was looking for something more finished.

 

second version

That’s a leap! Loved the direction it was headed. The upper struts that connected the arms didn’t feel organic enough (something my test group also mentioned). I liked the reshaped arms, but wanted them even bigger!

 

third version

Another leap. I also loved the flairs put on the ends of the arms.  Those will come in handy later…  Though, my test group still didn’t get the direct connection to the Nukari technology with the overlapping tiles and such. There was a suggestion to change the light from blue to red like the Nukari, saying that would help create a stronger connection.

Interesting!  I LOVE feedback. Now, a quick aside, RED is usually used to represent bad things. This seems to be common across cultures in the world too. Even our own beloved scifi tend to follow this.  For instance, red blaster fire or Light Saber colors are used in Star Wars to represent the Empire or Dark Side. Hell is typically pictured as fire and red. Red auras are seen as people that have a “devil-may-care” attitude, are willing to try anything, and quick to anger. People with blue auras are seen as rare, bold, and charismatic, peacemakers with the ability to smooth out angry situations.

Based on this, I provided the feedback to Glenn, and this was the result.

 

fourth version

Amazing!

I reviewed this with my review team. They felt it was a HUGE leap in connections to the first and third books.

I placed it into my cover blocking and played with how to display the station with respect to position and size.  Placement actually was pretty easy.  I needed to follow the “Z” eye scanning pattern people unconsciously use to read in the Western culture.

perhaps-something-like-this

I also considered putting the original ship in the lower left, following the first book. I then added a small stream of ships headed to dock into the left-arm, and one slightly larger ship coming toward the viewer’s perspective.

However, when shown to my review group they felt it was a bit TOO similar to the first book.  Then I had an idea.  Going back to my “changing of the guard” display goal, what if a slightly larger ship heading at the viewer’s perspective was the original ship from books one and two? What if I had a new ship in the lower left heading toward the station?  I’d create the Z pattern, trigger the concept of being familiar, and present the changing of the guard all at one time.  It would be EPIC!

Of course, this meant I needed a new ship. It would need to be New Eden tech, with a similar Nukari influence.  We’d never designed New Eden tech before. Oh, the design challenges are endless (and awesome)!  So I mocked up a very crude concept for Glenn.

I’ll hold off on this ship for the reason that after coming up with an awesome design, the final cover composition worked best WITHOUT IT!  I know!  We spent so much time coming up with something so awesome. I’ll use it, just not for this cover. It’s the “Lexor Class” ship that gets mentioned starting in book 4, so there should be lots of opportunity to use it.

On to working on the final book 4 cover.  Together we mocked up a few different ideas (locations, angles, position of elements).

I wanted to go with a green and blue nebula. This would be distinct from the other major novel covers, and contrast with the orange-red glow from the station.

early rough

But one design really popped past the others. I loved (and so did my review team) loved the station on an angle, in a more ominous presentation.

Of course, this was just the beginning of the refinement.  Here’s a list of things we tweaked through numerous designs:

  • Presentation of the city under the dome (Rinow city)
  • Window placement on the station
  • Red glowing light from other places than the arm

Here’s the final version of the cover:

final cover

There’s so many fine details about this station and the surrounding area of space. For instance, the gleam off the dome, the trail of ships going into the arms, the windows on the station… I think it’s amazing and beautiful.

In the end, I believe I accomplished all my main goals for this with exception to a changing of the guard. However, one could argue that so much obvious Nukari technology shows something is up at New Eden…  Exactly what I want people (that are familiar with the series) to wonder about.

So, that’s the story about book 4’s cover development!

Inspiration from life

It’s hard to believe it’s the beginning of October already. I thought I’d post a quick update about progress on book 4, D’mok Revival: New Eden.  I’m just past the half-way point in the editing of the manuscript. My original goal was to be done editing before this point, but creativity ebbs and flows, and I’m a firm believer in not forcing my work if it’s not flowing on its own.

When an ebb happens, it’s a signal to me that life wants me to replenish a bit. For me, new inspiration comes from living life, having new experiences, meeting interesting people, soaking in the world around you.

I’ve spent a great deal of time with the Milwaukee Castaways Motorcycle Club. In fact, I’m currently a pledge, and will hopefully become a full member at the end of this month (October 2015). It’s an amazing group of guys who love being not just a social organization, but an entity that believes in community building, and raising money for philanthropies such as Camp Heartland (A place dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth and families facing significant health challenges or social isolation) and other well deserving local organizations.  It makes me feel proud to be a part of such a group. The experiences I’ve had getting to know the guys, going on “runs,” and the pledging process to become one of them, has been amazing and inspiring.

My son has also started third grade at a new school. It’s interesting to watch him step into a completely new environment. The initial social awkwardness, understanding the social positioning, getting locations and timeframes down, and integrating into the new environment has been equally insightful and fascinating.

At work I’ve also been moved from a centralized user-experience team into a decentralized model where I’m the lead UX person for all software “tools” (utility programs) for Johnson Controls B.E. division. Here too, there’s the awkwardness of getting to know an entirely new group, understanding how they work, not wanting to be too aggressive or suggestive in “how to do things better” until I understand how the team works today, and how things get done.

So how does all this help my writing? The heart of D’mok Revival is about the interpersonal dynamics of the D’mok Warriors, led by Rhysus and Osuto. There’s new members joining all the time, there’s new places and situations, in short, everything I’m going through in life can inspire what happens in the book based on an authentic real-world model.

While I’m focused on the fourth book, but I also am taking notes and writing short segments for the first book in Weun Academy series (that features Eisah, “the boy with the green eyes” starting at the academy). Here too, all of the things I mentioned about the Milwaukee Castaways M.C., my son starting at school, and the shift to a new team at work directly create a platform for me to authentically develop Eisah’s experience starting at Weun Academy.

As a result of “living life,” I’m finding a refreshed stream of inspiration flowing. I’m very happy with the continued evolution of the fourth manuscript.  My revised goal is to have it ready to edit by the end of the year. I’m also already working with Glenn Clovis on the new cover design.

No one likes delays, me included. But the resulting quality will be worth the wait.  I guarantee it.

As a final side note, it’s becoming clear to me that there needs to be another novelette to present the side mission Nikko, Dane, and Kiyanna went on to track down Tal. So, it appears that may be another project added into my queue. Perhaps I’ll wait to hear from fans about whether they are interested in experiencing that through a novelette.

Thank you again for your amazing love and support.  I greatly appreciate it.

From the heart… Revising the 4th manuscript.

I’m currently in the revising phase of the fourth manuscript in the D’mok Revival series.  This involves thinking about the first three books with the changes to characters, places, abilities, etc. and allowing myself to “rewatch” the scenes in this latest manuscript. I then update the manuscript with those new visions.

The entire manuscript is around 270 unformatted (not typeset for publishing) page in Microsoft Word. The current word count is around 92,000, which is on-par with the other three books. In the end, it will easily be 400+ typeset pages when published.

I’m very happy with the recent progress, and the direction of the manuscript. I originally wrote it back in 2010. I was in a very different place in my life then, and clearly the story was heavily influenced by my own personal struggles at the time. Five years down the road, I’m such a different person, and have a dramatically different perspective on things. Not to mention my writing style has evolved. This has led to a great deal of refactoring large chunks of the story.

That isn’t the only reason, of course. I’d received feedback starting with the release of the first book stating I needed to keep a strong focus of the story action on Rhysus Mencari, the main character.

I think it’s fine to present sections from the perspective of other characters as it allows the reader to become deeply connected with the inner workings of the other characters. But the main story is about Rhysus Mencari. Keeping this in mind, I’m rewriting entire segments to be from Rhysus Mencari’s perspective.

What’s interesting is rather than inflicting the reader with my raw emotion through characters in the original version, readers are now treated to a more mature view from Rhysus Mencari’s perspective. In essence, I’ve traded off the pain of the experience, for the wisdom of a path already traveled.

To be honest, some of the dynamics written about back in 2010 were incredibly raw and real. They contained direct conversations I had with someone formerly close to me—things which hurt me deeply—and I immortalized it in the dialogue between characters going through the same ordeal in my story.

I thought, at the time, it was a very good idea.  After all, one of the strengths of the D’mok Revival series was the ability to present very real and relatable characters and situations. Reviewing the manuscript now, I certainly captured the exactness of what happened back in 2010. However, it now feels better left private. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly cathartic to write it out at the time. It’s still somewhat like looking at a scar revisiting those lines and phrases. But the original emotional need I had to expunge the experience and externalize it on paper has served its purpose.

The Michael Zummo of 2015 would rather provide my series fans with what I learned from the experience, rather than tiresome drama. The rewritten segments are still real, while returning it to a realm I feel more appropriate (and mature).

Anyway, I’m very excited in the transformation happening in the fourth manuscript. My goal is to still have the book ready by the holiday season.  It is August, and I know many editors (including my wonderful editor Arlene Robinson) are getting slayed right now. So, we’ll see when the final release date is.  I also need to start working with Glenn Clovis on the cover too (oooh, yeah, I really need to get moving on that too).

The Next Two Novels (?!)

Where to begin? I’ll start at the very beginning. I hear it’s a very good place to start.

My second novelette, D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy, is officially released!  Can you believe I had it mostly done back in January. However, my third novel and first novelette had released, and a lot was happening in my life. To be honest, I was a bit burned out. Three full novels of authoring, editing, marketing, promotions, etc. in about a year and half was a lot of work. I loved it, but it really taxed me.  Remember, this is my hobby. I have a fulltime job and son, and somewhat of a life too. Thank God for great friends and family that keep me mostly sane.

Honestly, I wanted to release the second novelette earlier than July! But a few things were happening.

  1. I started editing the fourth manuscript in the D’mok Revival series
  2. I started seeing all kinds of visions in the first spin-off series (that was already a documented part of my literary universe’s book plans), which led to starting to write the first volume in that series
  3. I wanted a life

Okay, and being honest:

4. I started taking some new medications for my arthritis which actually impacted my creative flow

Okay, okay…

5. The board game for D’mok Revival

I’m an over achiever, sorry.

The good news is now that the second novelette is out, I can really focus on the next big things. Sometimes you have to get rid of one of the balls being juggled in the air.

So, given I’m only one person, what’s the next main opportunities here? I have focused my work on one major effort, the next book in the D’mok Revival series (technically book 4, but it can also stand alone as the start of a new trilogy). It’s called D’mok Revival: New Eden (Note: the name changed from D’mok Revival: Reunification as noted in the Final Note section of book 3. It just didn’t feel right. New Eden sets the tone for things moving forward too.)

Back in 2010, at another major turning point in my life, I wrote a fourth book for the D’mok Revival Series. It picked up about a year after book 3, D’mok Revival: Descension. There were many things unanswered coming out of the Nukari Invasion Trilogy. This book not only answered them, but showed the impacts of a redistributed power base in the galaxy. The tone had been set for thing to come (namely the next two books in the D’mok Revival main series). Yes, this means there’s a new trilogy. ;p

The manuscript was around 80,000 words. After ripping out sections (The Aloan Conspiracy was actually the first few chapters of book 4), and making early revisions to the content, it’s already heading up towards 85,000 words. My guess is it will be as large as book 3 was in the end (around 94,000 words).

Remember the fourth manuscript was written before any of the editing changes happened in the first three books. My writing style has also evolved dramatically, so this rewriting process take time. The new medication I’m on for arthritis has also impacted my speed. I originally had two computers going in my brain full tilt with visions of scenes all the time. Now, I feel like an old Commodore 64 computer… lol.  Geek humor. I’m just not working with the same power and speed as before.  The good news is the content is better and more focused.

Then what is this about the “next two” novels?  Well, before I refined my focus, I started writing the first book in the first spin-off series called Weun Academy. Long story short, for those that have followed the main series, this new trilogy (yes trilogy) is named after Seigie Weun and follows the rise of prominence of “the boy with the green eyes.” I’ve mentioned a few more details in past blog posts, so I don’t want to be redundant with content. I have the outline for the entire trilogy, detailed notes for each chapter in this first book, and am about 60 written MS Word pages in. As soon as book 4 in the main series is done, I’ll move directly into this one and finish it.

It’s important to know that the prologues for both of these novels have been professionally edited by Arlene Robinson already. Why?  Good question!  I have include BOTH of them as sneak peaks at the end of the D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy novelette!  How cool is that?  You can get a look directly into the action of the next two FULL NOVELS right now!

I’m so excited to share these with you. Sometimes people don’t believe me when I talk about the full scope of the series. For the record, I’ve only told a few, because I don’t want people to think I’m just bluffing or puffing myself up. This story is very big. There’s so much to talk about. There’s also a reason I specifically said “the first spin-off…” But before I say more, I think I rather write the stories and then talk about it.

Keep sending me your feedback. What do you love?  What do you want to know more about? What things are slow, boring, not as interesting? Don’t worry, I don’t dramatically swing because of one person’s comments. I trend them and observe what the fans are saying overall. Regardless, your thoughts are precious to me, and they help me grow as an author and creator of this literary universe.

Thank you again for your ongoing support and thoughts!

D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy Novelette Cover Design

Readers always ask where the ideas come from for book covers. I’ve posted a number of times about the process I’ve used and the evolution of the various covers in the D’mok Revival series. I guess it’s important to keep that tradition alive.

For those that are current in the D’mok Revival series, you’ll remember Speru Chew’s world of Alo. It’s the first major adventure in book 3, D’mok Revival: Descension. Without spoilers, politics abound on that world. One of the pinnacle moments there involved the moon set ablaze with energy, and the resulting power burst that streaked away from it.  It’s certainly one of the moments that comes to mind when I think about Rhysus Mencari’s experience there. It seemed fitting to evoke the memory of that event, and provide a picture of what Mencari saw there.

This is a space opera series, so I went to the traditional presentations from books and television. Picturesque images are common place. So I created an initial sketch.

Crude mock-up for the second novelette

Crude mock-up for the second novelette

The blazing moon was peaking over the horizon of Alo. I sent it, along with some example photos (thank you Google Images) to my amazing illustrator Glenn Clovis. As a sidebar, I could never say enough about Glenn. He’s amazingly talented, a dream to work with, and makes manifest your dreams!

He sent back this amazing image.

First version of the cover based on my crude sketch.

First version of the cover based on my crude sketch.

Beautiful, isn’t it? It felt very Star Trek the Next Generation or Star Trek Voyager (which is great). Though, it felt very still. That wasn’t Glenn’s fault, it’s exactly what I asked for from him. It needed some type of action, something that would pull people in. Good covers make people go “oooh,” and also makes them ask questions—makes them want to be there.

Then I remembered “the streak” from the end of the chapter. I created a quick sketch and shot it over to Glen. The following is my original with Glenn’s response.

cover-thoughts untitled

You’ll notice the dramatic shift in design. How incredible. It really punched things up.  As always, I took it to my Facebook page to get feedback from my incredible fans and followers. It was received very well, though some people mentioned it looked like a highway of light more so than a streak. Fair enough!

I put another tweaked version out there, that was better received.

My "comet effect" version

My “comet effect” version

Glenn made a few adjustments, and BAM!  The final cover was ready.

Glenn's final version with the series branding applied.

Glenn’s final version with the series branding applied.

So there you have it!  D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy will be available on Amazon within a day!  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Don’t forget to post your review on Amazon.com as well.  🙂

The growing lore of D’mok Revival

Book number 4, along with the first book in the Weun Academy spin-off series are both moving forward. The second novelette, Aloan Conspiracy, is going through final editing and visual design. I’m hoping to get the board game design moving again too.  It’s very exciting!

What’s so amazing is now that I’m out of the first trilogy, book number four can do “new” things. At the same time, I’m building on the existing lore of the D’mok literary universe. This means I have to catch people that may not have read the first trilogy up. I need to provide some context for what’s happened since. There’s set up baggage that needs to be addressed. I’ve also found, on occasion, that I’ve had holes in my own information.  Sometimes it may have been from edits done that didn’t make it back to my catalog of characters, places, and things. Other times I’ve found I never gave a character a last name. Whoops. The good news is I’ve caught a number of things and have cleaned them up.

It’s been a lot of fun looking at how existing characters have evolved since the end of book 3.  For instance (no real spoiler here), what role is Eyani playing now? Has her title changed? How about Rhysus Mencari?

I also find it interesting working on both Weun Academy’s first book AND book 4 at the same time.  “Technically,” Weun Academy happens after book 4. Now, remember that I have an original manuscript for book 4 that I wrote back in 2010. I’m reworking it with updates based on edits done to the first three books, in addition to updating it with my current writing style.  What I’ve found is Weun Academy relies HEAVILY on what’s happening in book 4.  I’ve been literally writing them at the same time, striping back and forth with chapters and events. They both currently sit at 40 pages each. Something that happens in book 4 impacts Weun Academy, and visions of things that happen in Weun Academy feed back into set ups that are woven back into book 4. It’s all very fascinating (and convenient).

I’m having a great time with it. There’s new characters, new races, new places. The lore of the D’mok literary universe continues to grow! I’m glad to keep updated notes about the characters, races, worlds, etc. I need them!

When they’re released, I think you’ll be very pleased with the action focus and core drama presented.

As a side note, people have also been asking for an omnibus version of the Nukari Invasion Trilogy. I really need to get that out there. Perhaps by late summer I’ll have the time (with everything else I’m doing for the D’mok universe) to get it out.  I don’t want to simply slap together the original files and re-release it.  I’d like to add more insights, commentary, notes, etc. into it so it’s more of value (to both new readers and current fans).

The best laid plans of mice and men…

There’s so many things going on right now.  It’s an exciting time!  The official D’mok Revival board game is moving forward.  The second novelette is being edited by Arlene and Glenn Clovis is working on yet another amazing cover.

I’ve been making slow progress on restructuring the fourth manuscript. It’s always an interesting challenge to update an existing work based on all the edits and changes that happened to the manuscripts before it.

I wasn’t going to announce this just yet, but I alluded to how the series is going to continue to go strong well after the first trilogy.

The fact is, while trying (note: TRYING) to stay focused on book #4 in D’mok Revival’s main lineage, the first book in the first spin-off has been talking to me.  By talking to me I mean daily, thoughts, little movie sequences playing in my head.  It’s great stuff, and very existing.  I continue to write notes and file it away for later.  Yet something keeps drawing me back that book instead of #4…

I’m a firm believer in listening to your creativity. It ebbs and flows as it wants to–never as you want or when you want.  So if it’s doing its thing–LET IT–GO WITH IT!

So, I sat down and wrote 14 pages this morning… the entire first chapter.  This builds on the prolog I wrote earlier in the week.

The series is called Weun Academy. The working subtitle, for the moment is: Boy with the green eyes.  For those that have followed the series, you know exactly who this is…  😉

If there’s a clear high-concept model I’d say it’s a hybrid of Starship Troopers, X-Men, and Harry Potter.  Clearly there’s still Japanese Anime inspirations, and it’s within the D’mok Revival literary universe.

This side trilogy isn’t just a “nice to know” aspect, it actually reveals a very important dimension about how the abilities are impacting the alien community…  And sets the stage for D’abar…

Okay, that’s all I’m saying for now…  Teaser?  Yes.  It’s fun to share.  I get excited about these things…  And inspired!!!

Taxes Fun

There’s a benefit to running your own publishing company (mine is Zummo Books, LLC).  I’m able to identify the production costs and things along with the income from sales on Amazon, ACX, iTunes, etc.

If you have your own company, you may need to file 1099 MISC forms for each contractor you paid over $600.  There can also be penalties for not filing (YIKE).  It was the case for me here in Wisconsin anyway.

My awesome accountant pointed me to some great online resources that might be useful for you:

  • http://www.komisarbrady.com/resources/self-serve-1099s-and-w-2s.html
  • http://www.komisarbrady.com/resources/filing-1099s.html

Personally, I went with http://www.filetaxes.com.

Before you can put one together you’re going to have to have:

Your Company information (including EIN or tax reporting SSN number, address, phone, etc.)

Your Contractor information (individual name, company name if available, EIN or SSN for them, address, phone number, email).

You want your total amount paid for the year to them.

What I found great about filetaxes.com is it also told me of additional information or requirements needed for the 1099 MISC based on the state of the contractor.  Sometimes you have to fill out additional fields on the 1099 form.  They helped me through all that.

I followed their directions, paid my $4.99 per form (very affordable), then received my email notification the form had been sent to my contractors and filed with the IRS. So simple and worry free!  🙂

Anyway, as I continue work on my books and board game, thought I’d share this little insight with you!

Working with Amazon’s CreateSpace for D’mok Revival: Mindwalk

Amazon as a company continues to surprise me.  Not only do they have an amazing ecommerce platform, powerful ebook publishing system, and well designed audio-book development studio, but their print-on-demand book publishing wing has proven to be equally as intuitive, powerful, and effective!

When I first ventured into self-publishing I wanted to establish credibility as both a legitimate author and producer of a professional product. To do this I contracted with editors, visual designers, and a smaller traditional printer. I certainly made my mistakes and learned a great deal.  In the end, the euphoric feeling of holding my first book rocked me to my core and cemented my dedication to being an author and publisher.

There’s much to be weary of in the print industry and when conducting your own business. While not insurmountable, there are many mines in the path for those venturing down publisher lane.  Read some of my older blog entries about those issues.

After publishing my third book, I wanted to bring a segment removed from the third manuscript to market as a novelette (between 10-17k words).  Unlike my main books, I didn’t want to carry inventory (translation, keep boxes of books at home waiting to be sold) for the novelette. In truth, I thought it would have a limited appeal given it builds off the third book of my first trilogy versus standing alone as a short story. But, I have some amazing fans that may be interested in it, and the story is interesting!

Enter Amazon’s CreateSpace!

A friend and fellow author Tim Clausen recently released his own book, Love Together, using CreateSpace. He briefly talked about his positive experience using the platform. It made me reconsider leveraging the offering.

Originally I stayed away from the platform because it didn’t offer the book size I wanted. After all, I had done a great deal of research about popular and contemporary science fiction book sizes and wanted to do what the market wanted and expected.

However, since this was expected to be a low-distribution product, if there was ever a good time to test CreateSpace, this was it!

To be blunt, CreateSpace is amazingly intuitive to use. Keep in mind, I’m used to working directly with the printer. This includes specifying every last detail from paper, bleeds, trims, cover gloss type, placement of the UPC, creating detailed cover files, desktop publishing and formatting of the internal content–everything.

Upon entering CreateSpace, I checked the book sizes offered. As before, my preferred size was not there. However, one size was pretty close.  Once I knew the size, I could work on my cover and back cover images. Luckily I had three books of templates to work with now. Sure, I had to adjust the size in Photoshop, but I feel like an old pro making covers now.

The tricky part is always the spine. Based on the number of pages, the spine size changes, which means there’s ALWAYS an adjustment needed for your book cover templates (unless they’re always the same page count).  Turns out, for the Mindwalk novelette, it was under 100 pages so they couldn’t even provide a size estimate for the spine!  Translation: they couldn’t tell me how big to make the spine.

Okay, that was clear a snag.  But they gave me an approximate overall size I needed for the full front, spine, back cover file.  I adjusted to those dimensions.  I saved out the required JPEG format.  Done.

Next, I used Microsoft Word–I know it’s not a desktop publisher–to do the simple text formatting for the inside of the book.  It honestly can held the type of design I need for a book, including inserting of images as needed. So, I don’t really need more power than that for the inside contents. After a final review, the Word document was all squared away.  Done.

Back into CreateSpace I went.

It allows you to create an ISBN number through Amazon. That just means you don’t have to pay for a seperate ISBN book sales and distrubion number (you need a unique one for each book and delivery format–including ebooks). You could use your own if you have them. However, if you use Amazon’s free ISBN number, it becomes exclusive to their system.  Again, this was for Mindwalk, not one of the core novels, so this was fine.  I selected the radio button specifying to use theirs.  Done.

I selected the book size.  Done

I uploaded the cover JPEG image.  Done

I uploaded the Word document. Done

I was able to instantly do an on-line preview. Great! Saw a warning the dots per inch (DPI) resolution on my bio picture was too low. It’s just there for reference and I don’t mind if my picture is not higer quality in a novelette. Clicked OK. Done.

It asked about cover details like do you want it to be glossy (shiny) or matte (dull, more paper-like).  Done.

The next step was a final online review or have them send a printed proof at the cost of production plus shipping. For Mindwalk the cost was a little over $2.15 to print, plus shipping.  Perfect.

*ALWAYS get a printed proof so you can review it.*  I learned this from going the traditional route. Avoid rushing a product to market because you want it out there faster.  Quality is more important than speed with traditional novels and novelettes.  Remember one mad person turns into a review that stunts any future sales potential. And that review lives forever, especially on Amazon.

I set the final price ($.50 above what Amazon said I had to sell it for based on using their platform and their expected profit). I also flagged for them to go ahead and do distribution and promotion of the book across their international sites, etc.

A week later I received the printed proof and found tweaks I wanted to make. I popped back into the system, clicked on the Mindwalk book, and easily re-uploaded the cover and inner content Word document. I ordered a second printed proof.  You can get expedited shipping if you want. I didn’t need that, so I was not willing to pay the additional cost for it. I found a few tweaks again, but did not order a third proof.  I felt confident enough to approve it from a final online review.

One button click and it went into the system for people to order.  It says it could take up to a few hours to show up publicly.  Regardless, it was painless the entire time.

WAIT!  That’s not totally true!  Use Chrome not Internet Explorer.  Their online preview tool works better with Chrome, and glitches a bit with Internet Explorer.

Okay, other than that, it was great.  The cost to print is so low.  You don’t have to carry any inventory! Honestly, it’s difficult to consider going back to the traditional printers.  However, I do want to maintain the style and format I’ve established from the first three novels.

We’ll see what I chose for the fourth novel in the D’mok Revival series, which has already entered my “rewrite” process.  I can confirm there’s another novelette coming, and it will use CreateSpace.

I highly recommend it!  Email me with questions about the experience!

D’mok Revival series continues!

While I wanted to give myself a little time from writing, my other related side project (which I’ll talk about at my book launch party on January 31st) hasn’t kept me busy enough.  Yes, I’ve been getting bored, and book 4 has been calling.

Since mid-December, I’ve actually been working on editing the fourth manuscript for D’mok Revival. I’m thankful for the many lessons I’ve learned to date. It clearly has impacted my approach.

Most notably, I’m not going to positon this as the fourth book in the series.  What I’ve found is a great resistance to people reading books 2 and 3 if they didn’t read book 1.  Or, if they have read the first book didn’t like it, they wouldn’t continue forward. Again, I understand why. If the first one wasn’t something people liked, why would they continue?  However, my writing style dramatically shifted as I revised the manuscript for book 2. I feel like there’s literally thousands of people (since book one has sold thousands of copies) that have not experienced this new style, and would like it more.

Therefore, the new book will come next with respect to the timeline (“the fourth book”) but it will be positioned as a new entry in the D’mok literary universe, perhaps as a new trilogy, but not just as “book 4.”  It may seem subtle, but if people read it as book 4, they’ll assume they have to read the first three to understand it.  That will not be the case. This new book will cover what a reader needs to know without going back and experiencing the first three in sequence. 😉

My other observation diving back into the fourth manuscript is how painful it can be to look at “old work.”  Sure, this manuscript was written back in 2010 and was the best writing I did to date, but… Yiesh…  I’m very proud of how far my style has come, which I can attribute to an amazing editor / mentor, and great feedback from an equally amazing fan base!  Honestly, I’m very grateful for the honesty and support I’ve been given. It drives me forward, and pushes myself to evolve and become a stronger writer!

Pulling the proverbial curtain back a moment, one of the more embarrassing aspects was the four unique story threads that fired off at the beginning of the book. This wasn’t just a parallel storyline (which I’m told is difficult to do effective), no I had four.  As if the reader was going to be able to keep any of it straight!  Perhaps George Martin can handle that (Game of Thrones anyone), but I should probably avoid it.  😉

Instantly, entire sections of the manuscript began shifting around. I’m also going to take one of the early threads and push it into a separate novelette, much like I did with the Mindwalk story. There are other candidates within the book 4 manuscript that may join it as well.

One of the biggest challenges is how evolved the D’mok universe, its locations and characters have become.  For instance, the contemporary version of Kiyanna would literally not do a number of the things presented in book 4.  By the end of book 3 she’s doing exactly what she’s always wanted–always planned–to do.  She’s not just going to up and abandon that for a side mission.  However, in the right circumstances, while not having to give up the momentum she gained at the end of book 3, she would do the majority of what I originally wrote in 2010.

I get really excited when most of my original content holds up. It’s a great feeling! While still a bit painful, it’s fun to go back and upgrade these original manuscripts and see what happens.  It’s funny; I still remember the original story and approach.  I’ll have to do a post sometime about viewing rewrites as “quantum-realities” or “retconning.” But I honestly enjoy this final version.

The characters constantly surprise me, and I can’t wait to see how book 4 transforms.  It’s not due out until holiday 2015 (sorry).  But, maybe I can publish some of the book 4 short stories… maybe the prolog too. Maybe. 😉