Live and Learn. The Hard Way.

I like cats and dogs. I treat them respectfully. I have the scars on my arms and hands to show the learning process.

first lesson

That scar’s over here somewhere…

I also have scars from falling off bikes, skates, skis, and a bunk bed.

What can I say? I learn the hard way.

If a first-time author is fortunate enough to work with a publisher (And I’m thinking Random House, Penguin, St. Martin’s Press, etc. They should go with “E Pluribus Unum” as a slogan because that’s the way we’re headed), the publisher takes care of things like editing, proof-reading, typesetting, art, marketing and distribution.

And if one is not fortunate enough to work with a publisher…

Say it with me…”Susan’s gonna do it the hard way.”

learning the hard way

Actually, I’ve known better than to try this. Even after consuming tequila.

So I find myself with a book (ONE BOOK. Please keep that in mind. I started with 1 book), no experienced publisher to guide me through the process and a world of self-publishing possibilities.

Also working against me…

knight of swords

“Patience” is just a word in a dictionary

Yes, this is a Tarot card image. Don’t wig out.

Once the pieces are on the table (so to speak), I see no reason to wait. The family motto, “When All Else Fails, Read the Directions.”

It was suggested to me (by someone with far more knowledge and experience than I) that trilogies are what sell (Or at least a series). I think we can blame this one on George Lucas and the REAL Star Wars movies: Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (I’m ignoring the numbering. And Jar Jar Binks). He started it and everyone jumped on the bandwagon, even in books. “Hunger Games,” “50 Shades,” etc. (Yes, I know Harry Potter was 7 books and Twilight was 4). My book was “These Foolish Things.” I had (and have) no desire to continue past the current ending. I would go back and writing a prequel and I will happily debate with any book club or audience who wants to discuss it. This is the Age of the Franchise.

I have one book. One. 417 pages in Word.

I’ll divide it up! Figure out a logical stopping place in the story and divide it. I’ll have two books of about 200 pages. Hey! Problem solved!

Not so much.

With my editor, we figured out (in terms of the story) what as the best place to divide. Done.

Minor problem: the original version of the book (as written 12 years ago) had a Prologue. Um. Oh, boy.

Solution: 518vbuJItiL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-74,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_


Right: split off the Prologue and use it for marketing purposes. However 1) I can’t offer something for free continuously on Amazon. And it needs a separate ISBN AND cover art AND….

Ay yi yi.

I went ahead, found a picture (And I took it myself. Prince of Peace Church in Woodland Hills has a labyrinth and a lovely rose garden. That’s where the picture came from) and using Microsoft Paint (don’t judge me), I made a “cover.”

Lesson learned: if you are not versed in art or graphic design, get someone one who is.  This is part of the first impression and we are visual creatures.

Okay, so we have a divided book. First section is uploaded to Amazon’s Create Space, I have nice cover art (note for future reference that there is no lettering on the spine). According to Create Space, at a 6″ x 9″ book size, this works out to 205 pages. Well cool, thinks I, that means I’ll have another acceptably-sized book when we get to launch At Last (as I decided to name the split-off section). As a Word document, it’s 118 pages. I should be fine.

Not so much.

To my shock and dismay, At Last, as a 6″ x 9″ book is only 78 pages. That’s right: 78 pages.

Lesson learned: Do some research. Find out how your 8.5′ x 11″ manuscript will translate into an e-book (page numbers will vary) and how it will translate into an actual book. And simply dividing an existing manuscript, even if it works within the story, may create more problems than it solves. You want to write a trilogy? WRITE a flippin’ trilogy.

I have my story. I have cover art. I can plunge ahead (See the Knight of Swords) just load the thing into Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing and make an annoucement on Facebook and Twitter (with a link) and we’re off to the races.


Even a garage sale does better with some promotion (a notice in the Pennysaver, a sign nailed to a power pole a few days beforehand). And now that These Foolish Things is out and available, NOW I’m learning about marketing blitzes and creating buzz before launching (“Where’s the marketing adviser?” you ask. She was busy and I am DUMB enough to think that I’m SMART enough to figure this out and be successful without knowing what I’m doing. I relied too much on beginner’s luck).

NOW I subscribe to various blogs about marketing using social media and how to create buzz before you launch a product (It’s a book, but it’s also a product). My sincere apology to the author I copped this from: I don’t remember where I saw it. It was probably your blog. If you’d like to take credit and throw a link into the comments, please do.  At Last is THIS CLOSE to having cover art. I will recruit friends on Facebook and Twitter to help me publicize by posting a picture on their feeds. Some of my friends have substantial Facebook followings and when they posted information about the free giveaways I did through Amazon Select, the first day had 669 downloads and the second day (just complete) had 512. That’s 1100 people who have MY BOOK in their hands because my friends said, “Hey, check this out.”

Lesson learned: It’s not Fire, Aim, Ready for a reason. Get the publicity going FIRST. People like to be ahead of the crowd, in the know and in on a little secret.

Contagious by Jonah Berger

contagious cover

Right. I didn’t read this book until AFTER I launched.

I’ve also been reading up on blog tours! Yes! Recruiting others to help promote your book…Before. You. Launch.

The unlettered spine: Vroman’s is an independent bookstore in Pasadena. They will take books on conisgnment. Hey! I have a book they can take on consignment! Except: unless the book is too thin (I need to go back and look at their guidelines again), they require the title on the spine.

Live and learn. Live and learn.

So what have I learned? We’ll let Edna Mode from “The Incredibles” have the last word:

edna modeFortune favors the prepared, Dahling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *