*This article was originally posted on an old blog of mine, but I thought it was still relevant and people have asked about it, so here it is.*
Why I Went It Alone
Asking for help isn’t something I’m particularly good at, especially when it comes to preparing my books for publication. The moment I’ve asked someone for help with a project, I feel vulnerable, small and very much aware of my shortcomings. (Or rather, what I’ve thought in the past were my shortcomings…)
It’s quite a pressurizing thing to do – ask for help. Especially when you’re asking for help with something that is practically your baby, and especially when you’re an anxious introvert.
I know that in the past when I’ve had help putting together a book, I was forever asking myself questions like ‘shit, would they be angry if I emailed to see how things are going?’ or ‘am I going to be happy with how everything looks when they send it over?’ or ‘is something more important going to come up for them, and they’re going to have to ditch working with me?’
I’ve had three books published traditionally by Accent Press, Mudfog Press and Nordland Publishing, and I’ve self-published five. My Father The Wendigo is the fifth, and for all expect this one, I’ve reached out for help with moving it from manuscript form in Microsoft Word to an actual, tangible book.
While I’m hugely, and I mean HUGELY grateful for every second anyone has devoted to my creative cause, I find that the older I get, the more involved and responsible I want to be for every stage of the publishing process. When I’m responsible, I’m on my clock, and I don’t have to put anyone other than myself under pressure to get a project completed.
There are times though, as someone trying to make their living from their creativity, when I really do need to ask for help. In the instance of my Patreon page, for example. I still struggle to talk about my Patreon page, and always hesitate before writing about it. But I’m teaching myself to relax. I’m teaching myself to be okay with asking for support with making a living as a writer.
With My Father The Wendigo, I decided I needed to stop umming and ahhing over whether I was going to ask for help, and instead teach myself everything I needed to know to turn the document that had been hanging around on my desktop for months into a published book.
From Microsoft Word Document To Tangible Book
After my sister had proofread my completed manuscript (frugal writer tip: get a member of the family who excels with spelling and grammar to do your proofreading!) I taught myself how to insert a contents page on Microsoft Word (took me a while because of pregnancy brain. I also couldn’t have done it without the help of YouTube) followed by a triple check of the document just to be sure.
I’ve used Create Space (now Kindle Direct Publishing) before – though not with a book from scratch – so I already had an account set up. It was quick to log in and before long I was comfortable with my surroundings.
The first two steps were simple enough – logging my title and ISBN information.
Note: KDP offer you a free ISBN so don’t go buying one!
Then came the interior step.
I chose the colour of the paper I wanted (white) and the interior type (black and white) and the trim size. I’m terrible when it comes to measurements, so I spent about half an hour checking out my previous books to ensure that I was going for the right size.
Then I uploaded my manuscript, and Create Space (KDP) gave me back a formatted document to make any necessary changes to. One of the first things I noticed about the document was that the font style I’d used for the cover page, contents page and poem titles wasn’t the Casablanca Antique style I’d initially used, but a standard font instead. Create Space helpfully left a message saying that to be able to use Casablanca, I’d need to download it to my Microsoft Word program. Did it and thus fixed the issue.
I re-uploaded my manuscript and it went through the Create Space (KDP) print check, coming back to me with no issues. (You won’t know how amazing it feels to have ‘no issues’ with your project until you’ve worked with Create Space!) The next step was to upload the cover.
To make my cover, I used Canva, a thoroughly excellent graphic design website and initially, my cover looked like this:
But I had a change of heart, and started over with a new image and layout at the last minute. (Another reason I think it’s better I work for myself.)
With a Canva For Work account, you can upload your own font and get access to dozens more features than aren’t available when you have a regular account. Though the regular free account does the job too, really, really well in fact.
I uploaded the same font as I’d used on the interior – Casablanca Antique and found an image that worked much better with the premise of the collection (The previous image had been my own, and while I liked it…I had a hunch that it wasn’t quite right.)
Once the front cover was completed, I moved onto working with the back cover and the spine. Now, I’ve only ever given the thumbs up or thumbs down when it’s come to the design of back cover and the spine, so it was new territory.
I decided to go minimal, and started off with a black spine and back cover, but something about it wasn’t working for me. So instead I opted for a clean, white colour and on the back cover there’s my website katiemetcalfewriting.com.
I went back to Create Space (KDP) and accessed their own cover designer. They have about twenty of so themes to choose from for your book cover, but I opted for one of the two themes that enables you to upload your cover, front and back, as JPEG images.
Now, the cover designer on Create Space does feels a bit dated. Okay, a lot dated. Like it’s exactly the same as it was back when it was first launched in the early 2000’s. But it does the job, so I can’t really complain.
I chose a matte finish over glossy. Something about matte just really works. Self-published books with a glossy finish, I think, look self-published, and while your book is self-published, you don’t want people to think it is.
Note: If you’re going to self-publish, do try and create your own cover, try and avoid going with a Create Space already made template as they look badly put together and old…like those self-published books of eons ago.
The next step was to choose the channels through which I wanted my book to be distributed, how much I wanted to sell it for and the description. The description is probably one of the most challenging parts of the process because you want it to be spot on. I can’t remember how many edits I did of the description…but it borders on fucking ridiculous.
Note: I highly recommend that you spend some time working on a description for your book before you begin the publishing process on Create Space. Make sure you have a short author bio ready too. It’s a great thing if you have a few reviews from folk from which you could extract some choice lines and put them in after the description.
As you’ll be able to see above, Create Space does have an excellent Project Homepage with an organised list showing you where you’re at with the process, so it’s easy to keep track of what needs to be done.
It’s a pain in the arse having to wait for your book to go through it’s final review before it’s ready to be printed – usually about 24 hours – but it’s oh so worth it.
While preparing my book for publication was easier than I’d expected, there were struggles and there were mistakes made and there were delays, but I reached the end of the road a more learned and content woman, glad that she’d decided to bypass asking for help and instead learn to do it her bloody self.
I know now that, when it comes to sharing my books with you, the only person I need to rely on is myself, and that’s a deeply satisfying thought.
Through this post, I want to encourage self-publishing authors who haven’t before tried to put their books together from scratch, to give it a go. Equip yourself with the knowledge you need, so that if you decide you want to rely on yourself to put your book together, then you’re more than capable.
My book My Father The Wendigo is available to buy now. If you find yourself with a copy, I’d love for you to get in touch and let me know your thoughts on it.