About a year ago I attended a publishing workshop run by the New Zealand Society of Authors. Up to that point I knew very little about ePublishing.
The first presenter was Mark Coker. I had never heard of him or Smashwords. I hang my head in shame!
From the question and answer session at the end of Mark's presentation, I realised that a significant number of the people there were already trying out this brave new world.
Driftwood had not long been published in UK, but I had already discovered some of the frustrations of the publishing and distribution system.
Going back yet another year, I had finished Lives Interrupted and sent it off to some publishers in London. I waited. And waited. Then finally, oh joy, they wanted a full manuscript.
More waiting. Ultimately they decided not to take it on, but the letters were personal and they gave me feedback, which I treasured because I knew it was rare. The feedback was useful and I worked on it, and around this time started meeting with my present writing group.
At this point I attended the NZSA workshop, and left deciding this was the route I would take. I also came away with details of websites for research. One of these was Joe Konrath, and so I started reading his blog as well as others that had been suggested.
One of the most important points that Joe Konrath makes on his blog is that to sell well, you have to have a good product. He isn't the only author, editor or agent to say that. People may buy one bad book from an author but they won't do it again, and with blogs, Twitter, and review sites, people find out about that. We owe it to ourselves and readers to put out the best product we can. Over the year I've been blogging I've written about my editing process and the feedback I've received, and they have made Lives Interrupted so much stronger.
Sometimes it felt as though the editing process would never end; that the book would never be finished, and I guess in some ways it isn't. We grow and mature as people, as well as writers, and see things in a different light through various experiences.
Another of the things that Joe talked about was the importance of having a product that was as near perfect as possible, which, depending on your skills, may mean using an editor, someone to create a cover, or someone to format the manuscript for you.
Most of the training companies I've worked with have a process for developing training materials or technical manuals. This process usually involves a final edit by a writer who hasn't been involved in the project. The principle is a simple one, and I'm sure most writers are familiar with the scenario. You are too close to the writing, and just don't see your own mistakes. That is true whether it's grammar, typos, or plot holes. In technical writing it might be adding material that isn't relevant, or glossing over (or even missing out) important steps in a process. For that reason I had my manuscript edited. Because of the editing and feedback process the manuscript had been through with the writing group, I was fairly confident I had the big picture, structure, plot etc. covered okay, and so I asked for a copy edit, covering typos and grammar, and only comments on structure if the editor noticed any major inconsistencies.
I have absolutely no skills as a graphic designer/artist, and so I asked a fellow writer, Bev, who is also a photographer and has designed other book covers, to work on mine.
With a book cover, the manuscript edited and read (several times!), and feeling as confident as a perfectionist can ever feel that it is finished, I was ready to get to grips with turning it into an ebook.