Chris Lough writes in Tor.com an article which is, hands down, the best description of the book production process I’ve ever read. In How Could The Winds of Winter Be Published in Only Three Months he walks us through the six key steps in the process for a typical book and then for R. R. Martin’s upcoming title in his Game of Thrones series.
My own experience with a small press is a little different, and if you self-publish or do some hybrid the experience may vary as well. Below are a few quick notes on my own experience as an author with a small press:
- Editing–beyond self-editing and beta readers, the press assigned a single editor to do a combination of structural, line, and copy edits. If you’re not familiar with those terms, Chris does a good job of defining them in his article. If you self-publish, you’re either doing it all yourself or hiring out the editing, which is in the thousands of dollars for good, solid editorial advice.
Cover Art–Chris describes a much more involved process of 4-6 months for developing the art from the primary themes of the book to booksellers acceptance of the art. In my small press experience, the cover took a couple of weeks after I sent some ideas to the artist. In my case I signed away my rights to the cover, so I did not have final approval. In the future, I won’t do that again. Why? The cover on the left is the original cover from the publisher. The protagonist was a rugged looking guy in his mid-thirties. This cover features a young twenty-something looking a bit like a male dancer on “Cowboy Night” at a strip club. And every reader I spoke to, when the conversation went to the cover, had a similar impression. I imagine it would have worked for a romance, which was the publisher’s bread and butter, but for a crime novel–not so much. The cover on the right The cover, designed by Anna Downey, has a fun vibe reminiscent of 60’s crime shows like I Spy and Mission Impossible. I think it does good job of communicating the humor in the story. You tell me.
Marketing and Advertising–he describes a marketing and advertising campaign for an author which includes selling the book to booksellers for retail distribution. Since the only distribution was online, there was no brick and mortar distribution. In my small press experience, the expectation was for the author to drive any and all marketing endeavors.
Sales–as an author of ebooks, sales were handled through the online booksellers. I didn’t have control over pricing and I had a delay of 6-8 weeks for sales data, which meant I never knew the impact of any of my sales strategies.
Formatting and Finalizing–The publisher formatted the book in several ebook formats for different online retailers.
Printing and Distribution–With an ebook printing is not an issue. In terms of distribution, the publisher placed the book in all of the major online ebook retailers, which included Amazon (US and foreign distribution), Kobo, Apple, and Barnes and Noble, among others.
When the contract for my last novel came to it’s conclusion, I got the rights back. My plan, which is in process, is to self-publishing through Kindle by revising, using new titles (I had signed away final approval on titles as well), and new covers. The first Nick Sibelius novel, is now called KILL’T DEAD OR WORSE and is available as an ebook and a paperback through Amazon.
Next up will be the second Nick Sibelius novel, ALL HAT & NO CATTLE, again with a new title, cover, and a complete revision.
At the other end of the spectrum, I have a fantasy novel, THE FIVE PENS OF JOHANN, which I’ve been shopping around for almost two years now. Two years ago I had an agent for a year, but the process didn’t go anywhere, so I put my lure back in the water for another agent. The goal has been to get the novel in front of a larger publisher. I’m coming to end of that path, however, and am considering an offer by a small publishing house. And finally, I’m thinking of sending my sci-fi novel, THE BIFURCATION OF DUNGSTEN CREASE, to Kindle Publishing, just to try out the process.
It’s an unsettled, confusing time for writers and frankly, I’d rather just write. But I’d also love to have readers. Gazillions of them.
Chris Lough’s article is quite long, just to forewarn you, but it’s also very good. Let me know what you think. What’s your publishing experience? How are you moving forward in this current environment?