To follow on from my last post, today I’m going to discuss reviewing your manuscript with Createspace. I made a lot of errors on my first manuscript proof so I feel like I have some wisdom I can share here.
Once you’ve submitted your manuscript Createspace reviews your manuscript for compatibility with their software. From memory they say this can take a couple of days but since The Kingston Chronicles is now live and it’s sequel, Samhain Sorcery, has not yet been submitted I can’t double check this. Createspace advocates that you use their digital proofer as well as reading a physical proof copy. I admit it I kind of fudged this process. I didn’t sit there and read my book but I did flip through the digital pages to make sure that the formatting looked right and there were no weird page breaks or formatting. Besides I knew that I was going to end up getting more than one proof copy so anything weird was going to get picked up when I looked at the physical proof copy. Createspace also advocate reading through your proof three times, each focusing on a different thing such as grammar and punctuation. I won’t go further into their suggestions because it’s the first thing you see on their help page and it pops up when you get to the proofing stage anyway.
When I received my first proof copy a lot of errors became apparent to me. Createspace tell you to make sure your formatting, punctuation, grammar etc. is correct before you send them your manuscript because they will print what you send them. Doesn’t really seem difficult does it? Nothing really hidden in the meaning there. Still, I submitted my manuscript the way I’d become accustomed with submitting manuscripts; with the formatting expected of a University or competition guidelines. My excitement of opening the box containing my proof copy during a celebratory dinner at my local pub was short lived when I saw that the thing was the size of a George R. R. Martin novel, had no page numbers and formatting weird for a novel. Seriously imagine a fat book with double spaced text and left alignment. Naturally I was disappointed that it hadn’t come out the way I expected (obviously not the publishers fault seeing as they kept their end of the bargain and published exactly what I sent them). My disappointment was short lived however when my dad, who was at the dinner that night, kindly pointed out that prior to this I have had no experience or training in the publishing side of being an author. The proof copy had cost me less than $30AUD if memory serves correctly, and as my dad pointed out, the lesson had been a fairly cheap one. There were tweaks to be made to the cover art, as well as the formatting and story itself, and I went through the book with a pencil making marks on almost every page. It annoyed me a little as not only had I previously edited it a dozen times I had also paid two professionals to edit it and still found mistakes. But, like I said in my interview with Nina Smith, it’s pretty standard, even in traditionally published books, to find mistakes. Authors and Editors are still human after all. I like to take my fat proof copy as well as the much slimmer second proof to author talks with me as an example of things to keep in mind when you self-publish. Best bit of advice I can give at this point is: don’t assume anything! Have it the way you expect it to be and then triple check the proof when it arrives. Don’t make my mistake and assume that page numbers will be added in at time of printing.
Another thing my dad pointed out to me about the proof was something that another self-published author had pointed out to him (I believe it was Ian Andrew). That was, Title and Name placement on your books’ spine and cover. If your book is going to go into a library there are certain parts of your cover that you will want to keep clear for the stickers they will place on them. In Australia for example library books have information stickers placed on the bottom segment of the spine and a barcode for scanning on either the front or back. If you don’t want information like your name covered then consider carefully where you want to put it. If in doubt you can always ask your local librarian where the standard stickers go so you know exactly which areas to avoid. Of course if you don’t mind it being covered that’s your choice too.
When it comes to your cover art Createspace have templates you can use and add your own images. I chose not to use theirs and created my own cover. They give you a formula so that you can work out the size the cover needs to be based on the book size and page count, so you don’t need to worry about your image warping, and then you attach the file to their system to be sent to the printer. If you are self-publishing then you will need to supply your own cover art. It probably goes without saying but seeing as there were things, like page numbers, I neglected to think about I thought it was worth mentioning. I chose to create my own cover art from photographs I took seeing as I knew exactly what I wanted and I have the technical skills behind me to be able to make such a choice (I’m a fully qualified professional photographer). There are many different options out there for Indie authors to buy or license cover art from artists or to commission works to be created for them. Make the choice that’s right for you. The cover is the first thing that is going to draw a reader to your book, paperback or e-book, and regardless of the old saying, readers will judge a book by its cover. The cover needs to pique the reader’s interest and to do this is needs to be aesthetically pleasing and draw the reader in.
Because of my art background and my photomedia classes in college I knew that picking the right font for the cover art was important. To this end I spent days searching websites that offer font downloads for the right mix. There are many fonts you can download for free, as well as paid fonts, but I suggest if you find a font you like to read the information in the download packet and not just assume the license for the font is free. There are fonts out there that are free for commercial and private use, fonts that are only free for private use and fonts that will cost you to use regardless. A font is another artist’s piece of work and respecting their terms and conditions on the arts use is important.
I also took a lot of time to search Amazon and other book sellers to see what other covers in my genre looked like. There seemed to be several conventions that defined the cover art for Urban Fantasy which included dark covers, cool toned backgrounds and female characters on the cover. I didn’t want to over photoshop my images because I feel that it is as damaging as fashion magazine images. Readers often identify with characters or aspire to emulate their favourite characters and realistic body standards, relationship standards and quality of character is important to me (especially the relationship standards).
I only ended up getting the two proof copies but I have known other authors to require more or fewer depending on their situation. I’m hoping that with Samhain Sorcery I will only have one proof, especially taking into consideration all the things I now know I need to plan on, and that I will be able to get it out by the end of the year. In my mind fewer proof copies needed equals quicker turn around between finalizing the manuscript and making it available for purchase.
Next fortnight I’ll write about my experiences launching my book. My launch was fun, daunting, nerve-wracking and one of the most special things I have ever done. I was really lucky to have amazing women help me out on the day and my family there to support me. My launch day ended up being as amazing as I could have hoped for and reflected my personality perfectly.
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