FINAL PART: ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) made the task of preparing my book for publishing incredibly simple: I downloaded a template for the size I needed (as close as I could to Watched’s measurements), inserted enough chapters and formatted them as closely as I could to Watched, and then literally just copied-and-pasted my edited manuscript into the template. Although it was a simple task, it was tedious, as things tended to shift randomly during the conversion. Then, once all the content had been copied over, I needed to fine-comb the formatting; make sure every single indent for new paragraphs was the same width, ensure there were the same number of spaces between chapter titles, check the font used for those spaces was the same type and size. I spent hours correcting rogue page numbers and formatting paragraphs that had inexplicably changed in the conversion.
Reaching the end of that process gave me a page count, but I still didn’t want to submit that to Vivid Covers – who needed to know it for the size of the book’s spine – without having proof-read the actual content. I doubted that, even if I found any mistakes, they would alter the page count, but I didn’t want to risk Vivid Covers sizing the cover’s spine according to the wrong number of pages.
So then began the final proofread. One last read through the entire book. By this time I was so familiar with this story that I glided through it. Errors leaped out at me, now easily-identifiable in this product I had been crafting meticulously for the last few years. I changed one thing on the last page – not a typo, but a single sentence that I realised didn’t belong.
And then it was finished. 344 pages, over 120,000 words. Countless hours’ worth of work.
I emailed Vivid Covers straight away. I gave them the book size, page count, type of paper it would be printed on and the blurb that I had drafted on my lunch break at work months ago. In three days, I had my final book cover and the other images that formed part of the package Vivid Covers provided. I couldn’t be happier with their service.
Next, I had to upload everything to KDP. Again, this was really easy; a matter of filling in a few boxes, then uploading the actual files. Deciding on a price was the penultimate task, and one where my accountant fiancée Nicole was able to shine. She created a cost-benefit analysis – something that was probably quite rudimentary to her but basically magic to me – that calculated, based on a range of sale prices and the printing costs, what the expected cost to NZ buyers would be (including currency conversion) and the royalties I could expect to make. The analysis also calculated, for each sale price, how many copies sold it would take me to make back the production costs.
I settled on US$14.99 for the paperback, and US$4.99 for the eBook. I felt like these were the best prices that balanced my desire to ensure the book is affordable for NZers, and take a shot at making back the costs of production. The reality is I don’t expect to make those costs back at all, but I feel it’s worth aiming for anyway.
With the price set, everything was ready to go. Ordering my proof copy – which is an example of how the final book will look – was the very last thing I needed to do before the paperback was ready. Being the generally anxious person I am, it was quite a tense wait for it to arrive. I envisioned this muddled, poorly-put together excuse for a book showing up, proving that all the work I had put into these final, crucial steps was for nothing.
So I distracted myself by setting up the eBook. Again, KDP made this easy. I downloaded a program of theirs specifically designed for formatting eBooks, and used that to create an eBook file of Exceptional. It required another round of scouring the entire manuscript to fix any areas that had shifted in the conversion, but I didn’t need to proofread it given I had already done it. Although, as was probably bound to happen, during this process I noticed possibly the tiniest typo ever:
‘Shall we begin?’.
As incredibly annoying as that was, it was easy enough to fix in both the eBook and paperback files, and I supposed it was better I found it then than once the book was published. I uploaded the eBook cover, set the price, and resumed the anxious wait for the proof copy to arrive.
If it wasn’t clear in this Facebook video, I was so happy with it. Everything seemed to have been done perfectly; the cover was all in order, there were no formatting issues inside, everything was as it should have been. I had one concern about the resolution of the illustration, and whether or not it was sharp enough, but feedback from whānau convinced me that I was nitpicking.
The best thing about the proof copy arriving when it did was being able to show it to my Koro before he passed away. He was very unwell at the time, and the morning after I posted that video to my Facebook page, I made the decision to head up to Taranaki to see him. I took the book with me, thinking I would continue to check it for issues on the way, and, of course, show it to him and the rest of the whānau who had come to see him as well. Being in a lot of discomfort, on a lot of medication, and suffering from dementia, I’m not sure Koro really understood the significance of the book, but it was still a special experience to sit with him while he held it, took in the cover, read the blurb, and checked over a few pages. I feel very lucky to have shared that with him. He passed away two days later.
After Koro’s tangi, I was ready to publish. I set the date for Saturday 18 May and so, as KDP advised that it could take up to 72 hours for the book to appear on Amazon, I decided to click “publish” first thing in the morning on Wednesday 15 May. The eBook was online within a few hours; the paperback by the next morning. By the time I officially “launched” it on that Saturday 18 May, whānau and close friends had already ordered their copies.
And so, just like that, Exceptional was published. I had completed my second book. Like I said at the start of this series, I didn’t quite know what I felt. Four years of work had culminated in this point, but I didn’t really feel anything to be honest. I almost wonder if I’d already felt everything I could throughout the journey! I think that will change, though, once people have read it and start telling me what they think.
For anyone thinking about doing self-publishing, here are links to the resources I used and costs.
- Manuscript assessment (NZ$400) and editing (NZ$1200) – https://www.colesandlopez.com/
- Cover design and illustration (US$750) – https://www.vividcovers.com/
- Kindle Direct Publishing – https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US
This journey is far from over, however. Ahead of me is the daunting task of marketing; developing ads, trying to get Exceptional into bookstores and so on. I have contacted a couple of reviewers, and I am encouraging everyone I can to leave me customer reviews on Amazon – this will be one of the most helpful things for me because it will increase the book’s visibility on that platform.
Aside from that, there are other little things keeping me busy too – like Watched being studied at Victoria University next year, and trying to get more copies of Watched printed so people can read both books.
But what’s next for what I’ve now dubbed as The Watchers Trilogy? Well, I’m pretty far away from giving concrete details but I can say the third book is truly under way. I’d say I’ve written about two thirds of a first draft, and everything is coming together very nicely and organically. It’ll probably be the loosest first draft I’ve written, but I’m just focussing on getting the basic story down on paper and enjoying it as I go. I’m particularly excited about bringing the story home – I’ll let you make of that what you will.
For those of you who have stuck with this miniseries: thank you, and I hope you’ve found it interesting. When people ask me how my writing is going, the last 7000 words is what I really feel like saying. It’s a journey in the truest sense, and recording it like this is probably the best way I can capture the experience – notwithstanding that there’s probably so much more I could tell!
Now, I also have another journey to set off on, and it starts with…
Imperium Training Programme
Session: Heavy Training Module