Guest post by Samantha Memi
I met Samantha over the internet and we kept in touch. she was ahead of me on the self publishing curve, having already published an ebook. She has just brought out another beauty – I just love the mesmerizing cover – full of her quirky, humorous stories and I asked her to share her self publishing story.
Check out her book here.
My Self Publishing Journey
My experience of self-publishing is probably different from most other writers because I decided to publish a print book rather than an ebook. But the process of putting the text together is pretty much the same.
The first difficulty for me was choosing the stories I wanted to include in the collection. I suppose we all tend to think that the stories we like best must be our best stories, but this ain’t necessarily so. That’s why the stories we like often receive the most rejections from magazines, and the stories we don’t like get picked up pretty quick.
Readers often have a different view of your stories than you do, and readers have to be taken into account. After all, what’s the point of writing stories if you don’t have readers. So it’s useful to get some help from friends. It’s important to have a varied collection, to have some stories which are more immediate, and others which have greater depth and take more time to grow on the reader. Having friends select stories can help in this.
The idea of including stories I didn’t like felt weird to me, but if I’d only included the stories I like I wouldn’t have had enough for a collection.
The next problem is editing. Do you make any changes in stories that have already been published? Elizabeth Berridge said a story belonged to its time and should be left as it was originally published. I agree with that, however, my natural inclination to edit everything to death meant that most of my stories got changed in some way.
The next big problem is proofreading. Proof readers, like editors, are expensive and not always very good. And the author is not the best proof reader. You can read the same text over and over again and still miss a glaring typo someone else will notice on a first reading so, once again, it’s important to ask friends to help.
Then it’s formatting time. The part that everyone dreads. Although my story collection was designed to be printed, I would be giving away a Mobi or epub file with the printed book, so I had to go through all the tedious formatting on Word to prepare the text for conversion. I didn’t find this too bad or too difficult, but it is so boring your mind drifts away so you make mistakes and have to keep checking you have done it right. I used ‘Building your book for Mobi PDF’ as a guide for how to format, but there are lots on Kindle and other places.
The worst part for me was page numbering, particularly section breaks. Always leave the numbering of pages till the very last. If you don’t and you want to create a section break all the page numbers could go out of sequence.
Once the Word formatting is done, you can put it through a conversion program, and put it on Kindle or Smashwords. I used http://ebook.online-convert.com/convert-to-mobi which seemed to do the job okay.
So that’s about it really. If you have any questions you can email me, and I’ll do my best to work out what you’re talking about. I don’t know anything about marketing. And that’s the next step that’s very important. Good luck!
Everyone wants to write a book.
It constantly amazes me how many people want to write a book and how many are now looking at the ebook option.
Some are writers who want control and want to do it themselves. Some have never tried publishing and, based on what their writer friends tell them, they never want to. Others are not writers but experts in their fields who could find no crack in the high forbidding wall of traditional publishing.
It’s a sad thing if everyone who has mastered an art or craft and wants to write about it for the benefit of others – can’t even get to do so. They don’t have to be good writers. They just have to know their field, which most of them really do know very well.
Some just want to write their life stories, the history of the turbulence they lived through. Yes, they are not writers. Does that make their stories less valid?
Some people are always complaining that there is too much crap out there especially in ebooks and self-publishing. What does that mean? By whose definition is one book less valid than another?
Who decides on quality anyway? Publishers liked to think they did, that a writer is anointed as a writer of quality by being published by the best imprints.
For me, validation, if you even need it, comes from readers.
And I have been lucky enough to have it in plenty. So many people told me they keep my book Mantramala by their bedside. Others showed me they carried it in their bags or gave it as gifts.
Was that more important than seeing my book on the front shelves of a book shop? I saw that too, but yes, it was. That was real validation.
And it does not need anyone’s stamp of approval.
So, I see a real hunger and its everywhere.
Can I really do it myself? How do I do it?
Things have really changed. One new author told me she was offered a package from a publisher and she refused it, indignantly. They offered me only ten percent, she said, how foolish do they think I am?
There is no question in my mind –
almost everyone wants to write a book
and now everyone can
and that’s what is right about this world.
Whispers in the Wind carried my poem, Waiting. It is a great community of poets on the web and seems very friendly too.
I wrote it earlier this year when our little bit of winter was turning into spring. Mumbai, of course has hardly a winter. Enough for a slight chill and enough to bother cats who really like it warm. We do have a spring. Trees shed their leaves and get new shoots, all in the space of a week. Summer fruit trees start to bud.
In Mumbai, winter is the best season, pleasantly cool and a long way from the heat of summer. Spring is beautiful and full of flowers, paving the way for the dazzle of summer’s scarlet Gulmohar.
One of the delights of self publishing is that you get to do your own cover. Even if you don’t do the artwork you get to conceptualize it. And the final say is always yours.
This is a very pleasant task especially if you have worked with publishers. Publishers don’t consult lowly writers on the cover. You may not even see it before the book is printed. Worse, you might just hate the cover but you have absolutely no power to change it.
So, doing it myself was a delightful change.
I could have found a cover artist and probably will for the next book, but for this one, I decided to do my own and had lots of fun playing around with my cover.
Here it is. Do take a look and give me some feedback.
The book is called To Catch a Falling Star and its a collection of 24 stories, some published and some unpublished. Also 14 articles on writing, some published. Several years of work in writing, submitting and publishing.
For this book, my first ebook I wanted to do everything myself and learn everything by doing it, even if I make mistakes, even if it takes me longer and some parts get quite tedious. In the end it’s immensely satisfying.
The book is done. I am waiting for the two things I opted not to do myself. The blurb and the conversion to ebook kindle format.
The very last lap. I can now see the finish line ahead and the date on it is still June.
What is more this is the hundredth post on this blog, another milestone right next to self publication.
I have been so busy with my book that I have not been working on stories much these days, but one or two which I had sent earlier and being published now.
This story came from a real experience. I was waiting outside a building which had a nursery school and a small child was clutching his mothers hand and crying because he had seen a dog.
What, I wondered, did it look like from the boy’s eyes? The dog was a stray dog, going about his own business but even that mid sized stray was bigger than the little boy.
I found myself writing a story and here it is. The Journal of Microliterature published it. Click on the picture.
Almost done. The very last formatting stage. I have to figure out how to convert it myself or get someone to do it.
The very last lap now. Soon, very soon.
After I put up that post on self publishing, I’m taking the self publishing plunge, I got a lot more feedback than I expected. People who barely knew what self publishing was, were congratulating me as if the book was up already.
(It is not up. Last lap. I am a week or so away.)
The most unexpected people were coming up to me to say, so you are self publishing. Even if they had no idea what it meant they still approved. Many were curious about the process. What is it, how does it work? They asked questions and listened when I tried to explain.
The few people who did not ask and, I learned later, did not approve, were writer friends. Self publishing is vanity publishing was their tired old mantra.
It was no use trying to tell them that the two are very different. In vanity publishing you pay a company to publish your book and then stash the pile of unsold books in your loft. Vanity publishing is not about readers at all – it’s just for the writer’s self satisfaction. There are plenty of people who just want to hold a book with their name on it. It makes no difference to them if anyone reads it or not. Usually no one does because quality does not count.
In self publishing you take your ebooks to market, and hope that readers will like them. You put up your goods. The readers decide. It’s all about the readers which means you have to produce the very best book you can and the moment is up, you are writing the next one.
It’s a new dream, not the old dream but for some it has not changed a bit.
They are still holding on to that old dream – the grand trio, finding a publisher, an agent and shelf space in a bookshop.
It is still possible.
You can find a publisher and you may not have to sell your soul.
You might get an agent – they have changed their tone of late and are talking of reaching out and communicating as never before.
Bookshelf space is not so easy with so many shops collapsing.
You can hold on to that dream. You can also deny ebooks and pretend that ebook readers don’t exist. Only the good old things, the dead tree books crammed into the eroding shelf space of the few remaining bookshops for them.
There was a time when I wanted to see my book on bookshop shelves too.
I did get to see it.
For a day or two at most.
Most bookshops order one or two copies and when those are sold, they just don’t re-order. On an electronic shelf, online, you book is there for as long as you please, or forever. No one will soil it. No one will return boxes of it to the publisher. No one will tear off the cover and junk it.
And I don’t have to live around the corner to the bookstore to find and read books from all over the world. I don’t even have to go to the bookstore. It comes to me.
But you just can’t please everyone.
Least if all writer friends who can’t understand why you are wasting your time painting your own cover when you could be writing another trying-not-to-be-desperate query letter which, most likely, will go unanswered or just add to that shoebox of refusals.
Been there, did my time.
It’s a different world now.
Editing and editing and editing
Life seems to have shrunk to the next comma, the next misspelling, the para indent, the page break. Changing capitals, removing unnecessary colons, correcting the tenses seems the most important thing in the world right now.
Some people put a capital after inverted commas and some people don’t. Now it all matters. Lines crawl by, consuming hours and days.
Will I ever finish, I wonder?
This is not the part I enjoy – all the more reason to make sure it is done right.
Mumbai is so full of events that if I went for them all, I would never get any writing done. But there are a few I like to attend and last Friday there were two of them.
Get your coffee, shut out the world and listen to some good poetry. That is Cappuccino Readings at Starbucks, Horniman circle. It was their one year anniversary and so the room was full of poets and poetry lovers. What better way to spend a summer evening?
A friend, Archana Mehta, held an art exhibition at Coomaraswamy hall, as part of a group exhibit on spiritual art. Mixed media. I specially like the one behind her, the one with the sun. The textures are delightful.
Both venues are just lovely. The grand old building at Horniman circle where poets read amid Mocha and Ice blends and the wonderful green gardens of the museum complete with a very Mumbai snack of Sev Puri – both are a treat.
A full dinner for the soul.