I live in Arizona—home of the Stupid Motorist law. For those of you not familiar with this particular law let me give you a glimpse into the need.
We don’t get a lot of rain out here in the desert southwest. We replace dry rotted windshield wipers at least once a year in hopes that we’ll get to use the new set when monsoon season kicks in around the middle of June. Sometimes we get to use them. Sometimes not.
Monsoon is when the thunderheads build to gully washing capacity and dump their bounty onto the usually desert and filling the usually dry washes, creeks and rivers. When the clouds let lose many of the washes swell to overflowing in a matter of minutes crossing roads and moving at a swift pace. There are signs all over the desert southwest that many tourists laugh about. ‘Do Not Enter When Flooded’ and ‘No Fishing From the Bridge’ are just two such signs. But they’re no laughing matter.
Enter a flooded wash and you’ll be swept away in seconds and it could take months to find what’s left of you, if any trace at all. It’s fact. It happens every year. Someone thinks they can beat the odds and just go for it. Those lucky ones who are rescued incur the cost of that rescue. Ambulance, helicopter, hospital, police and rescue teams all need to be paid and you’ll be the one footing the bill. That’s the law.
The same is true for publishing your own novel, memoir, poetry, or non-fiction. Adhere to the signs! Many writers think they can beat the odds. Jump in with both feet and come out with a best seller. Those are some mighty slim odds—about the same as entering a flooded wash and coming out on the other side with a smile on your face and dignity intact. It ain’t gonna happen.
Want to do it right? Hire an editor. Hire someone to format. Hire someone to design a cover. Okay, editor first, please. And listen to him!
You can shop around for someone to format while the edit is in progress, but don’t give a rough copy to the formatter and expect them to format and put in edit after edit after edit. The editor edits. The formatter formats. Once the file is in the formatter’s hands it’s tweaked, reshaped, front matter is added, author info is added, so if you find you used ‘crazy’ on page thirty-eight and now you wish you’d used ‘insane’ and want the formatter to make just that little itty bitty change while they’re at it, well, it’s no longer on page thirty-eight. How can the formatter ever finish formatting if they’re editing?
The editor edits. The formatter formats. The file that you give to the formatter should be a clean, ready to go, no changes needed file. You should have your author bio ready to place at the end. You should have credits ready for the front matter. You should have a dedication prepared. You should know if you want the chapters to start on the first clean page or the first clean right-hand page. Do you need a Table of Contents? All of these things needs to be decided before the formatting process begins.
And while we’re on the subject. Ebook? Of course you want your work available for kindle, nook, apple, and just about any tablet, PC, Mac, or Android. But the formatting is different. And, once again, you need to start with a clean file. Chances are the person doing your formatting can do POD and ebook.
And the cover? Do you have a photo? Artwork? Is it digital? Sub-title? Author picture for the back cover? Logo you want to use on this and future works?
Think about the end result. Think about all the other writers who have jumped in the raging waters of self-publishing and have been swept away because they didn’t adhere to the signs. They are buried in the sand of the remains of others who didn’t adhere to the signs.
So what’s it gonna be. Jump in, and then call for a lifeline when your sales and returns wash each other out and hope it’s not too late and that you haven’t disgruntled too many readers? Or are you going to do it right the first time and build a reputation as a writer with a good read—a writer who earns the respect of the reader and keeps them coming back for more.
Read any article on self-publishing, and then adhere to their tried and true advice. Put your best into everything you write. Hire an editor and listen to what he has to say. Hire someone to format your work so that it will be accepted into premium catalogs for better exposure. Hire someone to design a ‘pick me up and read me’ cover.
Now, I bet you’re wondering how you’ll make any money if you hire all of these people to help you adhere to the signs. Sure, you have to pay them. An edit—several Franklins. Formatting—a couple more Franklins. Cover— a Grant or two. A reputation as a writer worthy of a Hamilton? Priceless.
It’s not hydroscience. It’s just good common sense. And you’ll come out on the other side of the river with a smile on your face and dignity intact.
Oh, and the ‘No Fishing From the Bridge’ sign? I’ll take catfish over flounder any day of the week! Fried of course.
Gonna get off of here and dig out the fishin’ pole,