Publishing Stress?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been possessive of my time. I felt like my time actually belonged to me and I had the freedom to avoid anything that interfered with my concept of how my time should be used.

Unrealistic, huh? Undoubtedly.

One reason I quit teaching school was the impossibility of avoiding taking work home and having to use my personal time. Then there was the time I convinced myself I was doing the right thing leaving work at quitting time while everyone else was still working hard at what I apparently considered less important; I got in big trouble over that.

Retirement promised to give me plenty of free time to do only the things I consider important. Like writing full-time. However, I soon discovered that “writing full-time” and “spending all of my time writing” were not the same, and I couldn’t spend every hour of every day writing. I had to be open to other uses of some of my time.

I’ve continued to carefully evaluate any request for the use of my time, however, and I’ve had to convince myself that relaxing and doing nothing is justifiable–even necessary–some of the time. But I feel guilty if I spend too much time being non-productive.

My life seems pretty well balanced now–especially regarding time-related projects; if I don’t think I can finish something well before time, I’ll probably avoid doing it at all.

Last week, however, I started to wonder. I received email from the publisher of seven of my twelve novels: “Hey, I’ve noticed you’ve ventured into self-publishing. Do you want the rights back to the books I have or shall I keep them?”

At that stage, I’d independently published (used to be called “self-published”) ROSA NO-NAME and my three most recent teen novels. I’d thoroughly enjoyed doing the teen book cover designs, hopefully getting better with each one but definitely learning as I went. I even enjoyed working out the formatting of the content files.

Because marketing falls largely on the author’s shoulders and I haven’t been very good at it–yes, I think my time issue is part of the problem–I’ve felt guilty about not helping my two publishers see more of a profit from having me in their folds.

So taking on the re-publishing of seven novels would free me from that guilt and give me a chance to do something I really enjoyed by doing what was necessary to release those seven books myself. In such a timely way they wouldn’t temporarily be out of print.

My wife and I prayed and talked and we talked and we prayed. Sometimes God doesn’t seem to say yes or no, and this was one of those times. So, for the reasons given in the previous paragraph, we decided to proceed.

My publisher and I agreed she wouldn’t unpublish those books until the end of September. That meant I had a little over three weeks to do everything.

One little problem, though. We have an eight-day vacation between now and the end of the month. Yes, I’ll be taking my laptop, but the idea of having to work on this project then was not very appealing.

So I got right to work, spending a number of hours daily on this project.

The book cover designs were a challenge, but they ultimately didn’t take as much time as I’d feared, and I’m pleased with the results.

My publisher gave me her copy of the formatted content files, which was really great. I thought finishing up would be a breeze. Ha!

I soon realized I wanted certain things changed, and doing that in such a way KDP (Kindle Direct Processing) would accept and make look the way I expected turned out to be really tricky.  Not to mention more time consuming–I spent numerous hours getting rid of blank pages–than expected.

Because of vacation, I’ve really pushed to get everything done. I’ve just ordered proof copies of all seven books.  Unless they arrive before vacation, we’ll only have a couple of days to look over them before the end of the month.

I’ve barely started work on the Kindle versions, but that’s far less of a concern.

Was I wrong to be concerned about the possibility of those seven books being unavailable on Amazon at the very beginning of October? Especially considering how few people know about them or would be apt to buy any during a short blackout period.

Maybe I didn’t need to push so hard, but doing everything I could this far ahead of time is a real relief. And now I can focus on something else without stressing about whether I could get those books ready in time. Not to mention a publishing-free vacation.

(If you’re interested, compare the covers on the two graphics below.)

What about you? Are you sometimes involved in projects that you tend to stress about because of the time factor? How about sharing in a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

     

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On Judging a Book by its Cover

There’s something to be said for the old cliche, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” It would be impossible to determine or even just  guess how many excellent books have the least appealing covers or how many of the absolutely worst books have covers that not only gain a potential purchaser’s second look, but are largely responsible for their ultimate purchase.

I suspect we’ve all avoided at least one excellent book and settled for one of the worst instead. Not that we’re apt to admit it, of course.

The longer I’m in my post-retirement career as a novelist, the more I’ve come to appreciate how important the cover is. And I’ve changed a lot in how I evaluate a cover.

I admit it. I want to see some kind of resemblance between the cover and what the book is about. But it doesn’t always work that way.

I was allowed to give input for my three traditionally published novels, and I had very specific ideas. What I didn’t realize at the time is that publishers have various sources they check for stock photos and use a model only as a last reserve. Undoubtedly a more expensive move for them.

My wife and I really liked the covers Barbour Publishing came up with for Found in Translation and Lost in Dreams. The Kim Hartlinger depicted on the first book is appropriately shown with a suitcase.  But Kim in the book was petite and looked almost Latina. Not so on the cover. It was still a good cover, though. One readers could connect with it, and that was the important thing.

Barbour very intelligently used the same girl on the cover of Lost in Dreams.  That in and of itself was appealing, and it helped to tie those two books together. Kim’s wistful look was perfect for a story that started out extremely seriously.

Although the way LPC depicted Gus on the original cover of The Devil and Pastor Gus was whimsical and clever–I can just hear Gus thinking, “Is this plan to defeat the Devil going to work?”–the cartoon-ish depiction of a stereotypical devil on the upper right not only didn’t fit the book’s depiction of B.L.ZeBubb, we know of people who were afraid to buy the book because of the cover. Not good.

LPC realized the need to try again, and the new cover is immensely more satisfactory. Although I’m not sure exactly what this night-time view of the church represents, it’s intriguing without being scary,  and I’m satisfied. I think the addition of those two lines of text at the top helps.

For Rosa No-Name, the prequel to Found in Translation, a novel I’m independently publishing, I knew I would need a professional cover. Not something I could do myself. So I got in touch with graphic artist Ken Raney, who’s done a number of excellent book covers, including some of his wife’s (popular women’s lit novelist Deb Raney).

My wife and I sent him a list of very specific suggestions. Although Ken couldn’t fit those ideas to any stock photos he could find, he sent us four or five photos to consider. We fell in love with two of them. Picking the right one was tough.

But since Rosa No-Name is a fictitious memoir about Rosa from age sixteen to twenty-nine, we thought the more mature Rosa would be the better choice. She looks like she’s actually thinking about her past, and we love that.

Everyone we’ve talked to loves Ken’s cover . We hope it will make people take a second look and hopefully read the description. And then buy it if it appeals to them. We want them to judge Rosa No-Name–initially at least–by its cover.

How do you feel about book covers? Do they make a difference in your buying…or at least in your considering buying? How about leaving a comment?

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger