My Adventure in Self-Publishing: Next Steps and a Vision

Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, coverA good cover artist can give an author an amazing gift.

This is not about sales, audience, branding, or marketing (I’ve talked about that already in previous posts and that’s all good); this is much, much more personal.

This gift can be sharp like a knife, and it can cut right into you, your brain and your heart, in a way you would never expect nor be prepared for. That happened for me and my cover artist.

See, what my marvelous cover artist did for me was she introduced me to my characters visually for the first time. For the very first time I could see them.

There they are, right there. They could almost wave at me…

Like I said, it is an amazing gift, and I will always be so very thankful of my cover artist for it. Her name is Brina Williamson and I am in awe. (Do yourself a favor and check out her website here now to see more examples of her work and what she could do for your own books.)

For the first time, one of my creations stepped out of the home of my imagination, becoming more than a description on a piece of paper. And, to be honest, I’m one of those writers that lean towards less is more in character descriptions, hoping that my reader will fill in the gaps, making the story more personal for them (an old writing trick, take note); but Brina asked for notes from me on the characters… and… well… there they are.

I’ve seen my stories performed at readings (many times in classroom settings with fellow writers), I’ve heard my characters recreated in audiobooks and in full cast radio dramatizations (you can hear The Dante Experience here), and that was all fun… but visual is new for me. And I have such a hard time looking away from it, it’s addicting.

I’m going to say it for a third time; that image is an amazing gift and when I saw it I am not ashamed to admit I had to wipe away tears.

Having Visions

I knew after exploring Brina Williamson’s website (which is, again, located here) that she could make a great cover for my book, but this is such a wonderful introduction to my characters.

Characters who will each endure the trials of the cursed McGregor castle in my (very) experimental period mystery/thriller.

BobThis is Bob. My narrator, my main character, my voice of reason.

He acts as bodyguard, carriage driver and biographer to our hero, Maximilian Standforth.  He is also madly in love with Maggie, an actress turned maid and spy.

A sensitive big bloke.

MaximilianMaximilian Standforth.

The genius, the extravagant aristocrat playboy, who is drawn to danger and excitement, the more terrifying the better. Arrogant, wicked smart, adventurous.

Only someone like him would be drawn to the horrors of McGregor Castle on purpose.

AnnaAnna, a psychic with strange mystical powers from Dublin, who came to find Maximilian after a vision of St. Peter told her she had to stop him.

She is innocent, young, experiencing her first adventure that is more real than the books she loved to read back in her small village. Her curiosity for Maximilian’s mysteries may get the better of her.

MaggieMaggie, the object of Bob’s affections, full of secrets. She has a skill for collecting facts on Maximilian’s cases, but how she does it, Bob has not idea.

Strong, smart, she has seen a lot of the world.

I could go on and on, discussing the other two characters in the scene, the wonderfully gothic castle they are approaching, the gargoyles…

Well, I’ll let the book take over doing that when it is ready and out.

As I described in my last post, Brina Williamson as a freelance cover artist asked some pretty detailed questions about the cover and the characters (you can read more about that exchange here), and typically that, as she explained to me, is followed with a concept sketch, just to see if she is on the right page. However, what is fun here is that, as she put it, she “got a little caught up.”

Heeheehee… okay as a writer it is cool to hear that from someone who works on covers all of the time! She is right now finalizing the image and will be cropping it to work in the different formats the final book will need for publication (see below).

As a writer, working with her has been an amazing experience. I would not hesitate to work with her again.

Locking Down the Editing

Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but I truly think there is nothing more important than a good edit in getting a book out into the market. No, I’m not talking simply about grammar. That is the easy bit! I’m talking overarching stuff, the big questions.

Frankly, you need a “heavy” aggressive edit to make sure your book even works as… ah… a book. And you need an editor that has the guts to call you on the choices that you make. (As I have said I am working with bold editor Rebecca T. Dickson, you can learn more about her services here, or try one of these links: “Fear I want to write but” and “Who the hell is Rebecca T. Dickson?”)

Let me be honest with you. Every time I have worked with an editor on one of my books it has been painful. See, I always get so into the artistry stuff that I can lose my focus. I discussed a bit of this stuff in an earlier entry, so why bring it up now? Well, consider this the part two to that discussion. Because I have hit the hard part of the editing of Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare and survived to write another day. In other words, I have made it through the fire and I am on the other side unscathed.

And it’s a good feeling to be there with this unique and surprising book.

So what have I done with my manuscript?

Well, the original book was only 10 chapters long. 10.

They were longish chapters that in many ways I felt were “experiences” onto themselves. One of the chapters was actually 65 pages long, if you can believe it! (Don’t laugh, it actually worked.) Thanks to the bold insight and suggestions of my fearless editor, the book is now 21 chapters long and it is a good change.

My editor was right.

This change adds a sense of speed to the book that really helps the story move at an even faster clip.

The second thing I cut was kind of an emotional one for me. I had a long past-experience that I interlaced into the “present” story in one of the chapters. So I was making the reader jump from the past to the present, interlacing both together.

Okay, it sounds neat in theory (and some of the past stuff had nice writing), but Rebecca wisely pointed out that the story (the excitement, the driving force) was in the present. The past was simply the past, and was unneccessary to the story. There was enough going on! Focus, focus, focus, focus on the story.

See, this is what I am talking about writers! Good editing is more than just grammar, it is about making a better book. My editor helped me to do that.

And once I finish my work on the last chapter, I will begin my last read through of the book. That is a moment I am looking forward to and also a little scared of… I’ll discuss that in my next post.

What Do I Do Now?

Then I reach this moment.

This is where I am in new territory for me as an author. Which self-publishing site do I go for? There are so many options out there, each having their own “charms.” (Yeah, I put charms in quotes.) Some promise marketing, editing, copies of the book, etc. The financial aspect is as diverse as the services each of them offer.

I spent a few evenings this week visiting site after site, looking for what would work best for my book. And after talking to both my editor and cover artist, I have initially decided to go down this path:

  1. I’m going to print the book with createspace.
  2. I am going to use Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for the Kindle version.
  3. I will use Smashwords for everything else related to the eBook.

(By the way, are you a self-published author? What was the path you took to get your book out into the market? I would love to know your experience and the “how.” Please comment below.)

Which means, technically, I need to create three different versions of the book, one for each of the companies. Frankly, this intimidates me, but luckily I don’t have to think about that yet.

I still have to lock down my editing, oh, and I need a good description to explain my experimental genre-breaking novel…

But, for now- Hey, isn’t my cover cool?

If you liked reading this post, why not check out one of my books? I’ve had three novels published in the last few years, A Jane Austen Daydream (coming in April), My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here.  Thanks for reading!…

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15 responses

    • Thanks! That was my hope with these posts around self-publishing my novel Maximilian Standforth… I’m still not completely convinced this is the best overall decision for my book on the market, but it has been a fun process so far.

  1. Great post! Thanks for introducing me to a great cover artist and a great editor. From all my own research in the land of self-publishing, I came up with the exact same plan as you – Createspace (POD) and Kindle Direct/SmashWords for ePub.

    Your cover looks awesome. Thanks for the character close-ups. Huge congrats! I can’t wait to buy the book!
    -Sara

  2. Good grief, that is a hell of an awesome cover. I may have to hire this artist at some point.

    It’s too bad you couldn’t make the interweaving past sequence work – I’m a fan of that sort of thing, and when done well, it can really build up the intrigue element (which I find ultimately more important than strict pacing).

    • I think it would have been if it was any chapter but the last one (I do this as well in Permanent Spring Showers) it was just too much then.

      Maybe if the book is popular I can share the edited bit in a special edition! LOL

      Glad you dig the cover!

      • Other parts of the book have some interweaving of past sequence that works very well. But Scott’s right, in that last chapter, it overwhelms. The book is truly amazing. I can’t wait to see it in print.

  3. Pingback: Cover Art for Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare | Scribblings of Brina Williamson

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