What Does It Take To Make A Book?

[dcv]The events of the last few days has me in the fervor of a new writer--specifically since my friend Drew Briney finally decided to publish his works. I'm so excited for him, I can't begin to express--and it got me thinking.   How many talented people are holding back because of the unknown?   If you've ever tried to write a book of any kind, you know there's a great deal of labor that goes into a finished product. Though sitting down and writing is part of the process, it's not that simple. There's a great deal involved in the process of making a book--especially when you self-publish (no, there aren't any short cuts, folks).  

My Background

I didn't start out as a YA Author.   As far as I can remember, I always wanted to be a cartoonist--specifically a comic book creator.   That dream was realized in 2005 when Wanted Hero was put online for readers to buy and download. It was affectionately called an eComic (oh, how clever I thought I was at the time).   This was before we had Nooks, Kindles, Sony Readers or iPads.   For just under a buck, these traditionally made comic books could be downloaded and read on your computer...or print off of your home printer. By the end of the year, there were kids in 60 countries who knew Wendell, Dax and Chuck.   What readers didn't know, was how much work was involved in that process.   I was a one man show.   All alone and trying to do the best I knew how. The comics weren't perfect, by any means,...and I made mistakes. However, I did the best I could and improved my efforts.   I plotted, wrote, scripted, penciled, inked, scanned, typesetting/dialogue, and made ready for distribution...2 pages a day (on average).   If that doesn't sound like a lot, it should. Even the industry standards of a brilliant company like Marvel, only expects a single page drawn in pencil each day.   That's right...just one.   Then I still had to make sure the covers were done, copyrights and ISBN#'s in place and coding done for distribution. Websites made, SEO done, and marketing dutifully attended to. Then add phone calls, relationships built, interviews, podcasts and any other non-traditional avenue I could squeeze myself into, I got involved.   Also, at the end of the year, the collection of comics were combined and made into a printed Graphic Novel.   Again, this was all done by myself. If I was lucky, it was only a 12-14 hour day, six days a week.    

Writing Wanted Hero Novels Today

It was doing comic books that gave me a little taste of what I would experience with writing and completing YA Novels.   The process is much the same, though a little less artwork and a bit more writing. Each day, I wake up, go to the office and start writing at 3:00am...and stop at 6pm to have dinner and spend time with Kathilynn and the children.   So what does it take to create an actual book? Here's my short list:  

Write the book.

This can be a short story, novella, novel, etc. Just write a complete story from beginning to end. Think it's easy? Try it. You'll be plotting, world creation, developing characters that have their own lives, their own opinions, histories, expectations and passions, animals, plants, conflicts, events, growth opportunities, loves and betrayals. Essentially, you need to create another set of lives and make it entertaining.  

Edit the book.

This can be done in many ways, but the best is to have professional do it for you. If you can't do that, learn the process yourself...but make sure to set the manuscript aside for a rest. If you're too close to the creative process stage, you'll make more mistakes. At least that's my experience, anyway. Editors can be found all over the place, from pro's to college students. Prices vary, but you can expect to pay 1-2 cents per word.  

Create your art.

You might not need this, but in Wanted Hero, I liked the thought of a few illustrations to liven up the pages. Who knows, maybe that's more of an emotional need than a practical one. However, you might be writing a book for youth and illustrations are important. Get those done.  

Format the book.

This process takes time and a good eye. I use InDesign myself, at least for the print versions. For eBooks, you'll need a whole different form of formatting. Nothing irks me more than paying money--even a buck--for a book and find that there are formatting errors that bring up cruddy little symbols on my Nook!   When publishing to Nook, Kindle and other reading platforms, you'll have to use specific processes for the big three: .epub (Barnes & Noble), .mobi (Amazon), the "grinder" (Smashwords). Each have their own rules and process.  

Design a cover.

This isn't as easy as it sounds and it's also where you can usually tell if a book is self- published or not. I don't think my covers are perfect, but I do think they're getting better. Yes, you just read of an author knocking himself. But, hey, I don't claim to be anyone great--I just want to share my stories.   Anyway, cover art is important...but your fonts used for the title are even more so. You can have a great piece of art and blow it with cheesy fonts. You can also have bad art and still do well if your fonts are clean and professional. Best tip: if you can't do a decent job yourself (and you know it)--hire out.   Awesome writers like J.A. Konrath (who have fantastic covers) share their sources right on their website, so Google him.  

Get your ISBN's.

Here's where many new people fumble. You need an ISBN number for each version for your book. That means if you intend to publish in print, in .epub, in .mobi, in multi- format (Smashwords), and in audiobook form...you need five ISBN numbers.   That's right, five.   To be considered in premium distribution channels, they require an exclusive ISBN number. Make sure when you go to Bowker, you buy them in bulk. One ISBN is $120, but if you buy a thousand at a time, they're $1 each. If you don't know yet, you can buy a 10 pack for about $250. Use these sparingly and make sure to register them correctly as you do so.  

Publish your book.

Amazon KDP for print is the best POD (print on demand) service available if you want paperbacks. Used to use Lulu but they’re WAY too pricey. No money for you.   You can cover all your bases with eBooks if you distribute through Amazon and Draft2Digital. Make sure to look into 'Universal Links'--you'll sell a lot more books.  

Market your book.

Now comes the not-so-fun part.   You've published your own book...but very few will read your works.   Why?   Two things: First, they don’t know you exist. Secondly, stigma—created by others who don't take pride in their work.   It's unfortunate, but there are some who are willing to sift through the manure to find the pony.   Book bloggers are a vastly underused resource, and the key is to find the blog list of your particular genre and then start visiting sites. Each site has their own policies. Follow them. It's that simple. You either qualify or you don't--if you do, submit your book as they request and hope for a response.   Be prepared to be ignored some of the time. It's not because these bloggers are rude...but because they have so many books given to them.   It's unfortunate for us, but that's life.   The rest is creating relationships....while you make your next book.   Oh, didn't I tell you? People are less likely to read your works, unless you have more than one.   Preferably three or more.   If you have at least three books in the hands of readers, you have an official start.   I love it.   I love every moment of the process...even when it becomes overwhelming.   Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe I love the challenge.   What I do know is--I love writing for you.   There simply isn't any other labor I have engaged in that fulfills my emotional, mental and spiritual needs than building a world to share with others.  

- Jaime

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