Yes, I can do better book production!
My most recent book, A Sugary Frosting / A Memoir of a Girlhood Spent in a Parsonage, is making its way to publication. To launch it, as many readers know, I created an advanced reader community and was able to gather 90+ people who volunteered to write a review for Amazon in exchange for a heartfelt thank you from me, and upon sending me a copy of the published review, a link to the finished e-version, a hard copy and a $50 voucher in The Memoir Network’s e-bookstore.
The response from readers has been gratuitously generous. I have about 90 people who agreed to review the book. I am elated! Not only are these wonderful people providing me with a review but so many have offered suggestions that have made the book into a better one than it was initially. I don’t only mean by sending in corrections of typos but by suggesting tweaks the story—adding and taking out text. This experience of working with advanced readers has been a tremendously positive one for me.
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I offer the following review of what I learned on my way to better book production. I hope it helps you in the process of preparing a book for publication.
What have I learned?
1. I created too tight a deadline.
I must admit to being impulsive and wanting to do (and get) everything right now. (I am an MBTI perceiver.) Why did the deadline I had imposed on myself seem doable? It wasn’t. (Oh, to come back in the next life as a MBTI judger.) As a result…
I had to readjust the deadline both to get all the preparations done in my office and to facilitate the reviewers’ task. As an independent publisher, I have never given myself a strict publication deadline. When the book was ready, I called that date on which I released it the publication date. With A Sugary Frosting, I attempted to work with a firm deadline. Well, it hasn’t worked well as I scheduled too tightly. I think we are dealing with a perceiver trait again! 🙁
Take away: For my next book, the electronic version of My Eye Fell Into the Soup / A Cancer Journal / Book 1, I have given myself more time to do the production. This will necessarily include more leisure to edit the manuscript. (I hope to draw from advanced readers again.) I had scheduled the electronic first quarter of My Eye Fell Into the Soup to come out on May 30 but have now forwarded the date to June 10. Unlike Simon and Shuster or Random House, etc., I can change that date at will if, by late May, I see it does not work for me. (I have more books in the pipeline but I will not continue listing them. 🙂 )
2. I sent the manuscript out too soon.
The manuscript of A Sugary Frosting went out in Microsoft. At the time, this seemed fine as I was seeking a review of the story not of the lay out. What happened was that the quality of the reading experience was diminished by the text. With hindsight,
- the work of layout has forced me and my office assistant to scrutinize the manuscript more and make it better.
- the book is simply easier to read in lay out form.
- better book production would have called for reading in lay out form.
Take away: Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you. Don’t send the manuscript out too early.
3. I did not allow for a long-enough down time to review the manuscript.
I could have done much better self-editing. In the past, I have often put a manuscript away for a month, two months. This has distanced me from the manuscript and allowed me to read it with a more objective eye.
While I did not expect to publish the manuscript in the condition in which I sent it out to reviewers, I ought not to have let it go. I have more resources available to polish the story.
Take away: Build in some distancing time so as to engage in better self-editing. As mentioned above, I have a publication schedule extending into the future—in fact all the way to September 2017. Once I have my schedule up and running—and I am almost there—I will have scheduled time to allow a manuscript to lay fallow as I pick up another book at a different stage of development. For instance, while I have two of the stories of a fiction collection French Boys (a novella and a short story) I am still working on the text of a second novella to complete the collection. Meanwhile, I am rereading My Eye Fell Into the Soup in view of preparing it to send to editors. This will make for better book production.
4. I made a good choice by abandoning Microsoft in favor of Quark.
We had an older version of Quark that did not work on our current computers. We attempted to do the book in Microsoft and found that software to be ineffective. I spent some time exploring layout software options before choosing to upgrade our Quark.
Take away: Be sure to have the right software before beginning a project. We lost time with work in Microsoft that had to be done over again.
Thank you for your continuing input. You have been wonderful.