Going into January of 2013 I fully intended to only release an ebook. The idea was I would attempt to build an online following, and then go after a literary agent after I had established sales. I was told that since I didn’t have lots of writing credits or awards to my name I had to do this to get the engine turning.
I did my research, figured out how to launch an ebook on Amazon (THE place to be by the way), and then something unexpected happened. I had recently purchased my ISBN numbers, and it somehow put my contact information out into the wild. My guess is the ISBN place sells access to their new customer listings.
I received an email from Mira Smart publishing in St. Louis. Allison and I talked about my project and my intentions. She warned me that reviewers avoid ebooks like the plague. I already knew this from the exploration and research I conducted when trying to queue up reviews for my story. It’s true, ebooks are of little interest to “real reviewers.”
She said I could use the physical copies (and advanced review copies) to more convincingly approach professional reviewers, I could also submit to contents, and gain valuable insights from book stores and consumers.
She quoted me a great price and, before I knew it, my entire focus changed from being an ebook to a printed edition. Suddenly I wanted nothing more. However, an ebook is a glorified PDF (or Microsoft Word document). It was going to fairly easy to convert.
But a PRINTED book, now there’s an entirely different beast. There was typesetting, cover, spine, and back design, book size and format, paper stock selection, and the list goes on and on.
Then they gave me the price. It was totally affordable. It became an instant “no-brainer.” It took about two months to adjust and have everything ready for a physical book. I worked with Mira to pick the book font, but I personally worked on the series branding and visual design. I wrote the back cover description, directed the development of the cover (which I’ll talk more about in another post as that experience alone needs to be talked about), did the desktop publishing for the complete outer shell of the book.
When it came to formatting the inside of the book I took around ten fantasy and science fiction titles and looked at their structure. Some of the things I examined were:
1) The title page
2) The copywrite page
3) The table of contents
4) The author notes/thank you
5) How the prolog was positioned
6) How the epilog was positioned
7) Chapter divider presentation
8) Blank page usage (e.g. all chapters began on the right-hand page)
9) Inner-chapter topic breaks (the permutations of “***”)
10) Page number size, font, and placement
11) Author name usage and placement
12) Book title or chapter use at the top of pages
13) Where and how an author bio was used
14) Book gutter margins and outer margins
It was interesting looking at additional books from a particular publisher or author, spotting the trends in how “that brand” presented their content. In the end I created what I felt was the best hybrid across the various styles. I felt the result was very professional. After all, I referenced the biggest and best authors out there—it should be!
I sent over the Microsoft Word document, along with a PDF output of the cover from Photoshop. I have to say; when the box arrived with my printed proof I was elated and terrified. My book was REAL! My hands shook carefully opening the box, worrying I’d cut it as I sliced through the packaging tape.
Holding the book in my hand, my eyes madly looking over the vivid cover, was a surreal experience. I thought it looked great—good enough to be side-by-side with any other book at Barnes and Nobel.
In the end 75 copies were printed, ten of which were Advanced Review Copies. We’ll talk about why ARCs are important in another post (so many topics to discuss).
Not only was this an incredible personal boon, but it allowed me to all the things I had hoped: the ability to send “real” versions to reviewers, to enter contents, to show potential book store owners, and get buzz going.