Monday, April 25, 2011

THE TRAZ: Learning to epublish

The cover for THE TRAZ
I'm just a few weeks shy of publishing THE TRAZ, the first novel in my BackTracker series.  I'll be offering it for sale as an ebook.  Wow! What I've learned over the past few months.  Let me tell you of the journey.

Firstly, I had to arrive at the decision to self-publish my novel--as an ebook.   I had negative feelings about both self-publishing and about the ebook format.  This feeling was reinforced by negative publicity about both those things.  Top reviewers wouldn't review self-published books, libraries wouldn't buy them, and anyone, good writers or terrible ones, could publish them.  And ebooks?  How many people had ebook readers?  How many could afford them?  How many wanted them?  How good were the e-readers themselves?

Although I'd read a few self-published ebooks that I liked, I'd read many more with which I was totally unimpressed.  I wasn't sure I wanted to associate my name and my novel with the low-grade writing that was out there.

There were positives, though.  In 2011, ebooks began  outselling print books. Some top notch best selling authors were choosing to bypass both agents and publishing houses and self-publish.  These facts began garnering some positive press for both self-publishing and for ebooks.

I hoped that if I were to be able to attract readers to THE TRAZ, I might also attract the interest of a top agent or a big publishing house and that could lead to impressive sales for the rest of my series.  Most enticing of all, perhaps, was that I'd finally be able to share my favourite characters with the world.

The first task for me was to pick which book I wanted to e-publish.  THE TRAZ wasn't an automatic choice.  It was written as a prequel to the BackTracker series after several BackTracker books had been written.  I never intended THE TRAZ to be published prior to the first 3 books.  Plus, it was written for a juvenile readership and I wasn't sure how many youngsters had access to ebook readers, or the ability to purchase ebooks.

I eventually opted for it, though, as my main objective was to interest top agents and publishers in the entire series and what better way to do it  than to publish the first book in the series?

After deciding on which book to go with, the next step was to have it edited.  One of the major downsides of self-publishing is that the author doesn't have automatic and free access to editors and proof readers.  THE TRAZ went through two editors, aside from my own multiple re-reads.

When both editors raised questions about the age of the protagonist versus the target readership, I had to reconsider the target age of my readers and decide if I was willing to adjust my characters and plot to accommodate that age group.

Accompanied by tears and wails of frustrations, I outlined my feelings, goals, and objectives for the book.  For whom did I write this book?  Would those for whom I wrote it, like it?  I finally confirmed, yes it was a book for young teens and pre-teens.

I put a call out on my social networks for young teens and 'tweens to read the novel and provide feedback.  In the industry, these are called 'beta readers'.  I also forwarded it to some adult readers, because after all, I also wanted to attract the attention of adult agents and publishers.

I registered with CISS and got ISBN numbers for the book.  The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.  I needed a publisher's name to get an ISBN.  As a self-publisher, I could use my author name, or make up a name.  I called myself Kastle Harbour Publications--making use of a pen name I'd chosen years ago.

I began to design my marketing strategy.  This started with hiring experts to design my book cover and create a book trailer (a video snippet to advertise the book).

Simultaneously, I wrote my dedication page, my forward, my acknowledgements, the promotional copy for the back page, and my author bio.

To address my editors' concerns that the situations in the novel might be too advanced for my target readership, I wrote a discussion/teaching guide to help young readers and the adults in their lives understand the social and emotional issues raised by the story.  I  included a list of resources such as the phone number for the kids' help line and a link to RCMP reports on gangs and the illicit drug trade.

This coming week, I will receive feedback from my beta readers and barring any major concerns, I will do one more read through to hopefully catch any final spelling or grammar errors.  I will then forward the manuscript and associated text to Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author, publisher, book marketing coach, and ebook expert  to format so that it will correctly upload to Amazon and Smashwords.

I expect to have my promotional trailer done in early May.

Other promotional opportunities I will pursue include press releases, announcements on my social network, guest blogs, interviews...

It's going to be fun, and a lot of work.  And I'm loving it!

Eileen Schuh, Canadian writer


Jan Markley said...

Love the cover! Keep us posted on your journey!

PJ said...

That's a great overview of your self publishing journey. I love how you outline the steps and place an emphasis on beta readers and editors. If I go the self luv route that will be my path as well. Good luck on your launch!

Eileen Schuh: said...

Thank you, PJ and Jan. I appreciate your visits and comments. I'm getting pretty excited.

Lisette Brodey said...

Great blog, Eileen. Interesting to hear about your various perceptions and subsequent decisions. I wish you much luck with the book. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this inside info. I'm asking some of these questions myself so I appreciate the road you've described to self publishing. I too love the cover!

Eileen Schuh: said...

The cover was designed by Jenn Johnson of
It's great, isn't it?

Cheryl Tardif said...

You go, girl! :-) This is a great description of your journey, one I hope will inspire other authors to take the plunge into self-publishing.

And if they're not ready for that adventure, they can always pitch to ImajinBooks.

I thank you for the mention.

All the best in success,

Eileen Schuh: said...

Cheryl has been holding my hand throughout this process, guidiing and encouraging me. If the process seems overwhelming to you, Cheryl's traditional publishing company ImajinBooks is accepting submissions. In exchange for a percentage of royalities, Cheryl takes care of all those upfront expenses and preparations and also shares with her authors, her extensive marketing expertise.