Publishing 101

Years ago I wrote three books in a mystery series. Book One was finished, polished and ready for print, Book Two was finished and Book Three was in detailed outline. My mistake was to stop writing and try to sell Book One. I would have a drawer full of rejection letters if I’d kept the responses I got from agents and publishers. My favorite was one sentence long: I don’t consider any fiction manuscript written in first person. That was the day I realized that not all of those agents were smarter than I was – but they all had something I wanted: a foot in the door. Still, my writing rhythm was broken, life intervened and twenty years went by.

The whole time I was writing Squatter’s Rights, I procrastinated. I had an outline and an end game but the route from writing in the rocking chair to holding my book in my hand was vague at best. Help arrived in the form of a podcast. A couple of years ago, I discovered Joanna Penn, who writes fiction as J.F. Penn, but more importantly to me, she has a podcast and a wonderful website called The Creative Penn. Joanna is a fantastic role model and teacher for struggling writers. Her crisp British accent makes me want to straighten up and forge ahead. Nothing is impossible if you are willing to learn and to work. And if you listen to two years of instructions, you eventually forget that you’re not supposed to be able to do whatever it is you’re set on doing and you just get on with it. I got on with it.

Publishing a book can be expensive. You need professional editors, proofreaders, cover designers, formatting specialists and someone to make frequent runs to the wine aisle at Acme. Some of these expenses can’t be avoided. Acme won’t give the Chardonnay away, even to the most deserving of writers. Skimping on editors and proofreaders is foolish. I should know, I misspelled my own mother’s middle name in the dedication for SR. (In my own defense, no one ever called Mama ‘Janice’ and I’m a huge Janis Joplin fan, but still.) Which leads me to another, little known trick of the trade – have your sister proofread the book in addition to using a professional to do the final review. Just sayin’.

Joanna Penn warns against designing your own book covers and trying to format your own manuscript for the publication process. I really enjoyed learning how to do both. Ron may argue that point since he’s had to listen to my wailing and worse over the last month as I finalized the cover design and jumped into the frustrating world of Kindle and Createspace formatting. But I have emerged at the other end of those traumas with a wealth of knowledge I didn’t have before. I know the difference between a PDF, a PDF-print quality, PNG and JPEG. I know your JPEG cover needs to be 300DPI and I know how to get it there from a 92DPI. I know fonts can be licensed and how to get free ones. I know your iPhone camera is good and a 35mm is still better for portraits. I know I don’t have a single author photo I want the world to see and never will, so I got over it and learned how to crop a picture of myself having a good time with the kids. It’s a little fuzzy for a headshot and that’s a good thing, folks.

As I write this, Squatter’s Rights is on Amazon for Kindle and the paperback will be out in another ten days or so. The Createspace wizards are giving it the final once-over and then it will finally be put out into the world in tangible form. I’ve started book two in the Eastern Shore Mystery series. I plan to have Commission on Murder out before the end of the year. I’ve just jinxed myself and I know it, but you have to have a goal to work toward and that’s mine.

So, Squatter’s Rights was born, raised up and published. Let me say right here that while the writing part may be solitary, the rest of the birthing process is a village affair. So many wonderful people helped me, I will be trying, with pleasure, to pay it backwards and forward for the rest of my life. Thank you all.Doodle at work

Hard at work on Commission on Murder!

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