Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Equation Occasion - Where

The Where Installment of 
(W5+ H) x (IP ÷ RMs)
The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of Indie Publishing - R McCormack Style

Everyday we wake up with an option to see the day as a new beginning or a continuation of the past.  It’s one thing to use the lessons of yesterday to take a fresh look at the current moment and entirely different thing to live in those yesterdays.  Great days and tough days alike offer us experience, and we must use both to grow.  Sometimes we get stuck, though, and we operate in a loop of sameness, which keeps us from expanding our experiential life map.  The trick to beginning again, no matter the project or goal, is to organize the action into simple steps. 

With this in mind, we move deeper into our Indie publishing equation by asking:

Where do I start? 

In the previous posts, I indicated the importance of knowing the Who, What, and When of Indie publishing in order to decide if you want to enter this world.  But once you commit to going for it, it’s time to get organized.  This variable in our equation could ignite a frenzy of worry and wandering, but not if we balance our awareness of the details with the big picture.  For me, it helped to make lists outlining my strengths and weaknesses, and the Knowns and Unknowns.

Below I’ll walk you through list construction, and further down, I’ll give you some of the basic tasks to consider on the front end.  This will not be a How To guide, but a visual map to help you see the hills and valleys of the learning curve.  Before you make any list, though, I’ll suggest that you do a smidge of research on the How To.  It will be invaluable to you pinpointing those Knowns and Unknowns.  Here are three ways to get the basic understanding of the How To:

Read a Book – there are two excellent resource books I read before making my lists, Becoming an Authorpreneur by Kris Tualla and Indie Publishing by Ellen Lupton.  Tualla’s book is a great How To guide.  Lupton’s book is a great design guide.  I’m sure there are more.  Ask around, do a search, go to the library.  Pick one or two and give them a good once-over.

Visit Blogs and Websites – there are many good ones (google “self publishing”), and some are listed in the left column under Helpful Places.

Go to the Source - going directly to the online pubbing sites, CreateSpace, KDP, Pub It, Lulu, or Smashwords will give you a quick education about the requirements.  Creating an eBook and creating a POD book require different tasks, so read their instruction manuals, if you’d like.  Remember, at first glance, their directives may sound very technical (and they are), but as you go along, you learn the vocab.  As a side note, I found myself returning to the Smashwords guidelines more and more often to troubleshoot problems because it’s.  Just.  That.  Awesome.

Once you’ve got some basic knowledge about the tasks involved, you’ll be ready to start your lists.

A List of Knowns and Unknowns

Whether you do this on the computer, the notes section on your iPhone, or sit down with pad and pen, you’ll begin the same way.  Make an exhaustive list, all-inclusive of everything you know and don’t know about writing, designing, and marketing a book.  Also list what you know and what you need to learn about the Indie publishing industry.

At this point, the order to the list isn’t important, but as you move deeper into the process there will be a need for ordering your tasks.  This is very personal, based on your individual strengths and weaknesses, so I won’t focus on it here.  Just keep in mind that I’ve mentioned it. 

Also, as you create your list, make note of little things and big things. 

Examples are:

revise chapter 12 versus write the book
set up account on Smashwords versus read entire Smashwords manual 

Including Knowns and Unknowns at all levels of the process is important as well.  Some items, like marketing, have many steps, and you’ll be working on them in each phase of development.  Last thing, don’t become overwhelmed when the list grows longer than expected because some of the Knowns and Unknowns won’t become actual tasks.

Here are some general Known and Unknown topics to consider for your list:

Computer skills – Do you know how to:

Use Word (book interior), design software (book cover)?
Build and use a blog, website, social media page?
Interpret technical language to format and transfer documents to online sites?
Troubleshoot uploading problems?

Writing and formatting skills – Do you know how to:

Write? Edit? Revise?
Structure a manuscript?
Use fonts?
Design a book interior, including front and back matter?

Art and design skills – Do you know how to:

Decide what goes on the front and back cover?
Choose colors, fonts, images for the front and back cover?
Create graphics and/or use photography for either the cover or interior?
Use art and design for marketing elements?

Marketing skills – Do you know how to:

Reach your audience?
Use online and earned media?
Schedule your time and promotions in a way that energizes, not depletes, you?
Be creative with resources and budget?

When you get to a point where the list feels complete, the next step is to transform the Known and Unknown into tasks.  And from there, divide the tasks into sections.  Beginning, middle, end.  First, second, third.  A, B, C.  Writing, Designing, Marketing.  Label them what you like, post them where you can refer to them, and then turn your attention to those first phase tasks.

So, what kinds of things happen in the first phase?

First and foremost, Prepare a Well-Written Manuscript.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve written a lot about the importance of quality in the self-publishing process.  This is the most important element in the process.  So important, that I’ll say it again, having a well-written book is the most critical part of Indie publishing.  Two ways to become a better writer are to read well-written books and to write.  A lot.  If you’re a beginner, the mantra is read, write, repeat.  If you’re a veteran, scrutinize your work until it meets a high personal standard.

Other things to do first:

Set up accounts on the publishing sites
Familiarize yourself with publishing sites guidelines
Research book covers, fonts, and interior formatting
Create first drafts of your cover and interior
Decide on building a blog, website, or blogsite to support your printed work
Look into marketing materials and brainstorm ways to garner earned media
Find people (to hire or trade services with) who can do the things you can’t

Where do I go now?

It may feel like I’m being vague with the answer to Where do I start?  But the truth is, as you research and learn, as you transform the Unknown into the Known and create a To Do list of tasks, the personal details to your process will reveal themselves.  Then you’ll begin to check things off the list.  Do what’s in front of you, taking time to unravel mistakes.  This often means allowing some problems to overflow into other tasks in order to expose the best solution.  As you near the finish line, you’ll see where you can jump ahead.  For example, there’s a proofing process that happens on each publication site once you upload your submission, and you’ll also need to order hardcopy proofs to review.  While you wait, you can move forward to other tasks, or go back and work on a problem.  Remember the opening paragraph about seeing each new day as a beginning?  That idea easily transfers to our Indie publishing To Do list.  As you approach each task, and each phase, always be asking yourself, Where did I leave off?  And just begin there.  

Once you take the leap and move, momentum will be on your side.  Depending on your computer skills and the time and energy you have to dedicate to this, it could take up to six months to put out a quality product on every site.  Just keep looking at every moment as a bright new day.

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