A Renaissance Lesson

With Renaissance Calling published, I wanted to take a moment to write down a lesson or four, to help anyone reading this who is thinking of publishing, and to remind myself down the line of mistakes I made. Renaissance Calling is my first book, so I’m not surprised I made some errors. With Book 2, I’m going to get these right.

Taking notes.
  1. Proofreading versus Editing

My editor was a huge help in prepping Renaissance Calling for publishing. She helped me refine my writing voice, clarify my story, and improve the general quality of the writing flow. I’m thankful she’s agreed to stick around for Book 2. But as it turns out, neither of us are proofreaders; we get into the flow of the story without looking at the details. So when several people who backer Renaissance Calling came to me with issues, I cringed.

Despite our best efforts, a number of small errors made it through to the first printing. Some of them were simple things (example: ‘while he attached’, instead of ‘attacked’). Others were a bit ‘how did I miss that’ (example: Horace spelled Horus on several occasions). One was downright ‘I didn’t know that was a thing’ (the single quotation marks would switch between straight and curly, sometimes on the same page).

A bit embarrassing, but a lot of books, even best sellers, have small errors. I’ve still gotten overwhelmingly positive responses to the story, even from people who handed me lists of corrections. So I’ve made the changes and I’m replacing the documents for future printings and eBooks. I’d like to say no one will find anymore, but I’m only human.

Lesson Learned: I need to spend more time and effort on proofreading.

How: A couple of things I can do.

  • I found a few mistakes when I was practicing reading out loud for my launch party, so I have made reading out loud part of my revision process.
  • A number of the detail-oriented people who handed me lists are willing to proofread future books, which will also help.
  • I’ve made some notes about common errors I made, and will endeavor to account for them in future projects.
  1. Publishing Date

The Kickstarter campaign finished in early November, and I had a tentative publishing date of February 10th (the main character’s birthday). All I had to do was write a Backer Book, finish editing Renaissance Calling, get ISBN’s and Barcodes, get final covers from my cover artist, and load all the documents to the printers. I could do all that in three months, right?

Well, not so fast. The Backer Book turned into a bigger endeavor than I thought it would, finishing at twice as long as I planned. The cover was some back and forth due to differences in RBG and CMYK formats.  And it took a lot more time and money to proof test prints of my book than I thought it would (details in No. 4 below).

The date was pushed back to March 8th, then April 8th. As I wrote about before, I got accidentally published on Amazon when I forgot to change the publishing date on one of the publishing sites. This was a bit of a relief, as I no longer had to feel rushed about getting my stuff done and out there.

Lesson Learned: I need to set a publishing date far enough out that I can get everything done.

How: As I’m scheduling my next book, I’m considering how long it took me to get Renaissance Calling into print and adjusting for differences in the book size (I’m anticipating Book 2 to be noticeably longer). My goal is to have everything done, proofed and printed two weeks before publishing.

  1. Figure out prices before committing

A minor error that I should have foreseen, but I assumed the costs of my books were going to be $12 for paperback and $16 for hardcover. I don’t know how I came to those numbers, but I was pretty certain of that going in. So much so that I had the original barcode for the paperback made with $12 on it.

Turns out, however, that after printing and distribution costs (particularly for the hardcover), sticking with those princes was not feasible. If I had, I’d be making less than a dollar on the paperback, and I’d be losing money on the hard cover. I had to raise the price for both formats.

Not a huge deal, except the first round of paperbacks got printed with the price still listed at $12. That’s been fixed and the correct price will displayed on future printings.

Lesson Learned: Do all the math before you set something in stone.

How: Not difficult; most printers and distributors have calculators to help you figure out the math. Take advantage of the tools. Work it out before you commit.

  1. Proofing and Printing

(Note: Proofing in this section was not for content or spelling, but for formatting errors when converting from Word to PDF and PDF to print.)

Proofing printed copies of Renaissance Calling turned out to take longer, and be more expensive, than I anticipated. A lot of this was due to this being my first book, and not being experienced enough to understand what I was doing.

With Createspace, the process is pretty easy. Once a PDF of the internal documents is loaded (and their website can convert Word docs to PDF), it can be proofed through an online viewer that organizes it as if it was a book. I should have spent more time reviewing it online, instead of ordering a proof copy and finding formatting errors in that.

Ingram Spark is much more complex. The files being uploaded have to be corrected by you, the author, which can result in some issues when the formatting is off. Issues that are a pain in the ass to correct, since Spark is so particular. Luckily there is an option to ignore the issues and continue, so when you’re black and white PDF is being kicked back as having color (Yeah, I never figured out what this was), you can tell it to continue with a little waiver. They do provide a PDF to proof, but not the snazzy online program Createspace does.

In both cases, it took a bit longer to get physical proofs than I expected. It also cost a bit more, since I had missed that Ingram Spark requires $50 to set up a file and $25 to correct. With two books set up at Ingram (hardcover and backer book), one correction each, and two proof copies of all three books, I spent well over $200 just proofing. If I had been on the ball, I could have saved about $100.

Lesson Learned: Give enough time to proof and print thoroughly, and be careful before you print off a copy.

How: There are a number of things I can do for this one.

  • Both: Convert the document to PDF and check thoroughly. A lot of errors come from this step, so checking the PDF should catch most of them. Check it several times.
  • Createspace: Proof the online program several times before confirming.
  • Ingram Spark: Proof the provided PDF several times before confirming.

Conclusion

As this was my first novel, I’m not surprised I made a few errors. But the point of an error is to learn a lesson. By writing these down now, I am going to remember them when I get back into the publishing process, which should be sometime next year.

If you’ve got any of your own tips, feel free to share. Thanks!

-Michael

Launch Party and May Check In

This last Saturday I had the launch party for Renaissance Calling.  It was not a huge shindig, with about thirty guests in attendance. There was food and drink, and good times. I gave a short speech about how I came up with the story (that I’m hoping to get online at some point), and read from the book. I sold a few more copies. It was a good time.

My display

Speaking in public is something I’ve had to work on. I’m part of a writing group that involves reading out loud, which has given me quite a bit of confidence in both what I write and what I sound like. The videos I recorded for the Kickstarter campaign were also helpful. But I thought it went well. I want to keep practicing, but I didn’t panic in front of the crowd.

Into the future

As of this posting, Renaissance Calling has four 5-star reviews on Amazon, and everyone I’ve spoken to has enjoyed the book. Work on Book 2 is already underway, as are several other writing projects.

Later on this month I’ll have a booth at Manti-Con, a sci-fi convention in Bloomington. It will be my first completely public outing as an author. I’m excited, and a bit nervous. If you know anything about having a booth at a similar event, please let me know.

And if you haven’t gotten Renaissance Calling yet, head on over to Amazon. It’s worth your read.

Accidentally Published on Amazon

The story of how I accidentally got published.

So the fun thing about setting up books with printers (in this case Createspace and Ingram Spark) is you have to decide a publication date. Since I have never done this before, I was a bit optimistic about when I could get everything proofed and prepared. When I started setting everything up in February, I believed I could get it all done by early March. March has turned into April, since the hard cover turned out to be a bit longer to proof than the paperback was.

While this was happening, because the paperback (from Createspace) was already approved, I forgot to change the publishing date from early March. So two weeks ago, I realized that Renaissance Calling was already on Amazon. I had been unofficially published and I didn’t know it.

Surprise to me.

Shortly thereafter I got a 5-star review from a Hall of Fame reviewer. That was a nice start.

So, as things stand the eBook and paperback are on Amazon. The hardcover has been approved but is still tricking through the internet to get posted (the hard cover printer isn’t affiliated with Amazon, so it takes a few weeks to get put up).

Anyway, you can now buy Renaissance Calling on Amazon.

I am, officially, a published author.

Cover Art

I had hoped to be ready for a February 10th release, that being the main character’s birthday.  But I’m not going to make that date.  End of February or early March is now the goal.

But work is being done.  Three of the five Backer Booklet sections are awaiting revisions.  Renaissance Calling will be ready for the publishers later this week. And, I’m proud to announce, I have cover art.

RenCallingSketch20

Almost there!

-Michael

Closing up 2016 and into 2017

Hard to believe the year is almost over, and a new one about to christmas-iconbeing. As I’m closing up 2016, and looking forward into 2017, I take a moment to consider both.

From 2016

In terms of writing, I didn’t get a whole lot done.  Sure, I finished the rough draft of a fantasy novel, which is great, I’m glad to have another one under my belt, but I did little other writing.

I spent most of this year working towards publishing;  I went through a number of artists trying to get artwork done;  I worked with an editor to get Renaissance Calling finalized.

I spent a lot of time getting a plan in place for when the project is done and Renaissance Calling gets published.  Learning the who to go to for what seemed daunting, but you cut through enough advertising you can find what you’re looking for.

I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign.  That was a bit nerve wracking, but I got it done.

I commissioned and artist for cover artwork.  A few rounds of back and forth later, I’ve got a cover (which I will be releasing soon).

And now I’m close to being done with my first book.

For 2017

I have a number of goals for 2017.

For starters, I plan to finish the publishing process and get Renaissance Calling to print.

Second, I plan to finish the rough draft for Templar Scholar, Book 2 of the Renaissance Army Series.  A decent start is already underway, awaiting the arrival of characters created by the backers.

Third, I want to finish the rough draft of the fantasy trilogy.  Book one is done, and the other two are outlined.  I want to get the three books done so I can make sure all three line up before I get the first one ready for publication.

I don’t want to set too many goals for 2017, but I want to stay focused.  Ideally, I’ll publish two books in 2018.  Now, I know that’s a large amount of work (now more than ever) but I think I can do it.  I’m already writing more efficiently: now that I know how much changes between rough and final drafts, I’m not so focused on getting the rough draft ‘just right’.

So as I close up 2016 and look into 2017, I want to thank you for reading this and supporting me, and I hope you have a great new years.

Keep on writing!

-Michael

A different type of writing

Right now, I’m going through a bit of a rough writing spot.  I fulfill a requirement for my Kickstarter, I need to write a number of segments of mechanical (think social studies) styled articles. Which, let me tell you, is a different type of writing.

As a reward in my crowdfunding campaign, backers are slated to receive the ‘Backer Booklet’, a small book that rounds out the world of Renaissance Calling.  The topics chosen for the book were selected by four polls run during the campaign, and they all turned out to be pretty similar in their scope:

  • From State to Kingdom: History of Minnesota
  • Life in Walker County: How the Protagonist grew up
  • The Kingdom of North Mississippi: The setting of the story
  • Countries of Atlantic America: A survey of foreign powers

Some of them could easily be Wikipedia articles, and the rest could be found in some scholastic journal.   All world building.

It may sound easy, since you’re not writing with dramatic prose or worrying about ‘show don’t tell’, but I’m not coming up with sixty pages of mundane facts.  ‘Life in Walker County’ is not a counting of population and agricultural production. It is a look into the life of the main character, explaining the world she grew up in.  It needs to be interesting and informative.

One easy assist it to add in graphics. I’ve got maps and flags planned, and I’m leaning towards commissioning a few pieces of artwork to round it all out.  That definitely goes a long way to keeping it interesting.  But it can’t save a book where the writing is too mechanical.

At the moment, what I’m working on is getting the information down, so I have a good starting place.  It will be dry, sure, but I can worry about crafting the words later, once I know what the data is.

I can tell you this, though.  I’m looking forward to getting back to some good, old fashioned fiction writing.

-Michael

5 Lessons from my Kickstarter

Running a Kickstarter campaign was an odd experience.  37 days of watching the backer numbers go up, punctuated by the occasional busy day of emails, postings and tweets.

There’s no reason to go through every aspect of my campaign, since many campaigns are so similar in many of their aspects.  So instead, I will go through 5 things I learned that I think people should keep in mind for their own campaigns.

1 – START THE PAGE RIGHT AWAY

As soon as you know you want to run the campaign, start the campaign page.  No one can see it until you publish, but you can start building it right away.

Once you have it started, you can preview the page, and really begin getting into what you need to make it better.  From the text you will re-write sixteen times to how many picture you’ll want to flesh it out, having it there to check and revise is invaluable.

2 – MAKE SURE YOU HAVE GOOD ARTWORK

Imagery is really important in a Kickstarter campaign.  One of my turn-offs for campaigns I look at is having only a few or poor quality images.

This is one area where some campaigns have a natural advantage: movies, games and graphic novelists have lots of artwork lying around, while novelists and musicians usually don’t.

Get some good artwork.  Pictures of yourself working could work, but don’t be afraid to commission some artwork. I did that through fiverr, and ended up with three great pieces of art that really helped the campaign.

3 – WATCH YOUR REWARD LEVELS

and

4 – IS THAT REWARD ACTUALLY A REWARD?

For a while I had 12 reward levels.  $1/$5/$10/$15/$20/$25/$30/$50/$75/$100/$250/$500.  The idea was to try to get the maximum amount I could from any one backer.

The problem was making rewards that actually sounded like rewards.  For a while, my reward levels included things like mugs, t-shirts and posters.   Things that a lot of people might toss into a bin somewhere and later donate to Goodwill.  Stuff that I would have to pay for if the campaign funded.  And if I was going to pay for them, I didn’t want them to be stuffed into the Goodwill box six weeks after delivery.

The point is, having a $75 reward level that doesn’t offer anything of value is a useless level.  You need to find a balance between rewards and levels.

At some point I reset my rewards and worked out exactly what I could do that would be a real reward, I came up with eight levels worth of rewards.  I cut four levels out by shifting my view from Quantity to Quality.

Like No. 2, this is something that novel campaign might have some issues with, since artists can offer sketches and movies can offer clips, but I think it still stands regardless of what your campaign is about.  Avoid the garage sale fodder.  Focus on the item.  Let that draw people to the reward level.

5 – CONSIDER A COLD START

My official launch was a Thursday, but I actually launched two days earlier.  This was for two reasons:

  • I wanted to focus on the personal emails to family and friends without the loud launch releases a lot of people recommended, and
  • I wanted to have a quiet time to get used to how the campaign ran, to deal with any hiccups that might occur.

After two days I was more comfortable with the Kickstarter system, and when I did the loud launch, it already had a sizable number of pledges to give it some inertia.  I think it helped get a few pledges in to see someone was already backing it.

I don’t know if I will run another campaign in the future.  For now, I’m just working on wrapping up this one.  But it’s always an option.

If any of you have any thoughts on Kickstarter campaigns, let me know.

Keep on writing!

Michael

Kickstarting Renaissance Calling

The campaign to bring Renaissance Calling to print is live and going strong.

I’ve got some great rewards lined up.  Copies of the book, a backer’s box, even a chance to put your own character in the next book.

Take a look and remember to pledge early.  Even if it’s a dollar, it gets you access to Backer Polls and updates.

I’m excited by this and I hope you’ll join me in this endeavor.

-Michael