Getting from There to Here
By: 8475 Rem Westland
The “here” is the moment in time when a box containing 30 copies of Badly Hidden, my first novel, showed up on our doorstep. Getting to this point was a journey that repeated the steps taken to publish the non-fiction account of my run for public office in 2011, Running for the People? Self-publishing is a convoluted and expensive undertaking. To use the old cliché: it is not for the faint of heart. Also, to purchase a “full meal deal” akin to the services a traditional publisher provides is prohibitive for indie-authors without a trust fund or, as in my case, a good pension.
As most indie-authors know those services can be purchased a la carte. My choice was to go the deluxe route, partly for the ease of it and also to learn how it all works.
The first step is to write the book. At some point in the course of the work a writer knows that the developing manuscript is destined for completion. In the case of Running for the People? I knew this in the days after the 2011 election when I put the finishing touches to a 500 page diary. I knew I would go the distance with Badly Hidden when I had written 100 pages of text to book-end the story of what happened at Crater Lake. The Crater Lake story had been rolling around in my mind for years and is now central to the novel.
With a manuscript in hand that the writer believes is worthy of further development, the time has come to engage a partner(s) who has the expertise to help refine it. At a cost of about $1200.00 for a 100,000 word book, private sector service providers offer substance editing. This round of editing involves a give-and-take between the writer and an assigned editor to reorganize the story so that its flow improves. The casting of a professional eye on the work of an indie-author makes a tremendous difference.
For Badly Hidden I went to a substance editor on three separate occasions, using a different firm (BookMagic) on one of these rounds, because of how significantly the flow of the book was affected from one round of editing to the other. The novel, because my writing of it began in the middle and then moved backwards and forwards from there, was quite a challenge.
For a similar cost, substance editing is followed by copy editing. This is the round where the story no longer changes but the accuracy – especially of grammar, names, and calendar time – improves remarkably. Even within the pages of the most expensively produced publications there are occasions when a “Tom” becomes “Harry” for a few pages, a he becomes a she, or something that will happen tomorrow is known by a character who is reflecting upon yesterday. I used Page Two Strategies because the quality of their editors is equal to that of the best in their profession.
The cost of regrouping 300 pages of edited text in a Word program into the 320 or so printed pages in a book falls again into the range of $1000. The job on this round is to ensure that sections and paragraphs are properly and consistently spaced, that chapters begin on odd-numbered pages throughout, and that sentences run consistently from the left to the right margins on every page. The work is done by an interior designer. Along the way there are suggestions on what can be done to enhance the look of the printed text. I found it a great deal of fun to consider and debate the suggestions which came to me.
In parallel, and again for a cost in the same order of magnitude, Page Two linked me up to a front cover designer. This, too, was an enjoyable experience. The cover designer, if he or she is really good, will engage the writer in an extended discussion about the book and will then read most of it. A really good book cover, such as I have for Badly Hidden, will communicate what lies at the core of the story. Check out the cover of my novel. If you look closely you will see what the main character, Scott Weatherhill, looked like when he haunted the woods of Crater Lake.
A completed book – fully written, edited, and designed for interior text and cover – now becomes ready for uploading by distributers like Indigo, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. This includes a technical round during which ISBN numbers and other administrative details are sorted out. Within a couple of weeks the uploaded book becomes ready for ordering.
The entire journey costs approximately $10,000 if an indie-author engages with a firm like Page Two Strategies for full service support. If the writer has an income against which to expense this amount, the net cost will be determined by the writer’s income bracket. As I pointed out in a previous blog post, the Canada Revenue Agency considers writing to be a small business if the purpose is to market the product.
A dozen of the 30 copies of Badly Hidden that landed on our doorstep will be sent to members of the reading circle who helped me pull the story together. The remaining number will be stacked along with copies of Running for the People? on the table I have rented at the Ottawa Independent Writers book fair that comes up in June. There will be other opportunities to sell the book, such as a book signing at one of the Ottawa Indigo outlets that is supportive of indie-authors. My wife, Marie, has “agreed” to handle distribution of the novel through social media by creating a presence on the internet.
So all that’s left for me to do now is wait for the money to start rolling in.
Fortunately, for most of us, the writing itself provides meaning. If money were the measure that justified the time we spend in researching and creating our stories the indie-author business would be considerably smaller than it is.
Here are the links to ‘Badly Hidden’ on Amazon, indigo and Barnes and Noble.
Barnes and Noble
Or contact Rem Westland: [email protected]