With a sample physical copy printed, and an independent publisher ready to take my book to the final stages of production, I was confident that I was still on track to launch before year-end.
Here comes trouble
However, with delays on the publisher’s end (not for the first time), my confidence in them waned, and I started to doubt whether this company would be the best vehicle through which to finish the project. In that waiting period, some pretty major personal issues also arose, which drained me emotionally, and naturally killed enthusiasm for the book. The final straw, however, was significant, unexpected financial demands that arose – decimating the budget I had to take this to print.
It became very clear to me that I couldn’t proceed as planned. The independent publisher would not be the right choice – at this point, at least – and even finishing the book was going to be a difficult task.
I really felt like giving up. Life’s challenges were overwhelming me at the time, and this book had turned into a burden I could do without. It was a weight I’d carried for three years, and it seemed irrelevant at that point – when I had so many other ‘real-life’ problems to deal with. I was deflated.
This passion project – the dream of having a book out – was an unnecessary luxury. Something I didn’t have the time nor energy for, given my circumstances.
Blast from the past
On the verge of quitting, two of the book’s pieces – Under Pressure and Try – came to my aid. I read through them again, and they uplifted me. It was like my old self sharing the precise advice I needed at the exact moment I needed it.
I was reassured that things would get better. The challenges would pass. They always do.
The book could take a back seat for the moment. I could get back to it once things had calmed down. I just needed to ride out the current storm.
As those troubles started dissipating, I was struck with new enthusiasm. I realised that I’d written a lot of new material over the previous two years – material that I had deliberately excluded because I had remained close-minded about the contents. But at this point, I wanted to bring in new stuff. And there were pieces in the current book which I no longer felt belonged there.
So I went through a partial revamp, dropping some content, and adding fresh material which I felt was more reflective of recent times.
That momentum continued as I planned for the final push. I made a few enquiries about services I’d need for the print version, and quickly realised – with the financial constraints still in place – that print was not at all feasible in the immediate future.
So, the new plan was to go to e-book first. That medium would help me overcome the visual struggles I was having (graphics can get complicated for print books), while also eliminating the print costs I couldn’t yet afford.
Maybe I would make enough money on the electronic version to finance the print, or maybe not. It really didn’t matter much, because I had my heart set on simply getting this book out at last.
I set out my tasks and got to work.
Challenges still arose – such as trying to get the electronic version to look good in the online publishing platform. Using these services, you upload your source document, and the software automatically converts it into the on-screen book that readers will see.
My chosen service did a horrendous job with my book. The spacing was non-existent (which is obviously critical for poetry), and the themes they offered just didn’t look right for me.
I would have to use Amazon’s own Kindle Create software to painstakingly compile the book. But that limited me to the Kindle platform alone – which was universal enough, but suffered issues with payments. South Africans can’t easily get directly paid from Amazon without jumping through some hoops. Expensive hoops, in my case.
I needed a service that worked with PayPal, which was far less snobbish towards us in the third world. My chosen service – Draft 2 Digital – offered that…but their formatting issues were a killer.
Their support staff told me the obvious: the only way would be to upload a fixed layout e-pub – which means you can set your special formatting yourself.
The problem is, without experience, it’s very difficult to design a fixed layout e-pub (or so I thought). I couldn’t afford to pay anyone to do it, either. I could use InDesign, of course – but Adobe products are not my favourite (due to the lack of user friendliness and technical knowledge needed). I didn’t have time for that. And I didn’t want to learn the product for just this one book.
Advice from online writing groups, plus a kind soul’s guide, saved the day.
I was able to prepare a sample that actually worked in my chosen platform!
WIth that incredible breakthrough, I set off on the next marketing push, with an email newsletter being the next crucial step.
Up to that point, no professional editor had worked on my manuscript. I had self-edited everything….many, many times.
Editing is part of my own job at work, but anyone in the publishing business will tell you that you simply cannot edit your own work. You’re too close to it. You’re bound to miss things.
No matter how meticulous you are, it’s crucial to get fresh eyes on your work – especially if you want to avoid embarrassing errors that make your final product look amateur.
I had previously sought out an editor, but nothing had ever come to fruition. A sudden pleasant upturn in financial fortunes now enabled me to pay for the service, and I turned back to another individual who I’d contacted very early in the project – outsourcing the proofreading and light editing for a very reasonable rate.
Momentum was in full force at this stage, and I set the ambitious target of publishing the e-book by 27th November 2019.
I implemented the edits, got the very final version from my editor, then finalised the book – moving all the content into a template that works with the online service I’m using.
But, just when I thought I had a clear path to the end, a new obstacle arose just days before my planned release date: Amazon doesn’t publish books that contain material that has been freely published elsewhere. This was a problem, because my book content had been published on my blog. It wasn’t the same, though. I had edited, enhanced – and generally just improved all the material. I didn’t just throw together old pieces and call it a book.
This had taken over three years over painstaking work…yet, if Amazon didn’t see the bigger picture, there was a very big chance they won’t publish it. And that, obviously, would have been a disaster – because Amazon is the biggest platform through which I expect this book to be sold.
Unfortunately, the service I was using didn’t work out on that particular side of things. They could happily publish to a number of stores, but because I’d made an earlier mistake with them, they promptly shut the door on my publishing to Amazon. I appealed it, and the support staff were kind enough to escalate it up the ladder – as they had to follow protocol, no matter how logical my arguments were.
Rather than waiting a week for an answer from the higher-ups there, I found an alternative, and was eventually able to publish to Amazon that way – albeit two days later than my planned publication date.
To make that happen, I had to heavily edit my blog – removing all the material that made it to the book, just so that Amazon doesn’t see it as being ‘freely available’.
It was a drastic step, and fairly unpleasant for me – because it means that this blog’s readers no longer have access to much of my favourite work on this platform. But that’s what I had to do.
I hadn’t gone through all this effort just to fall down at the final hurdle due to a company policy.
And so, after all that late drama, the book was finally released – as you can read in the launch announcement.
Other parts in this series: