by Lynne Benton
My agent once said something that has always stuck in my mind. She had just edited, and improved, a story of mine, and I said, “I wish I could get it right first time!”
“Believe me,” she said, “hardly anyone gets it right first time. But editors have something to work from, whereas you make something out of nothing!”
Of course, she was right. Why had I never realised it before? Writers can, and do, create stories from nothing but some nebulous ideas in our heads. And this is really special.
I've been thinking about it again over the last few weeks, when I have been busy getting my next Middle-Grade book ready for publishing via Amazon’s CreateSpace. This is my second venture into self-publishing – my first, “Jimmy’s War”, came out last year and has had a steady trickle of people buying the POD book or downloading the ebook. Not enough to make me a fortune, but at least it’s out there, and has had some nice reviews on Amazon and Blogger, not all of them from people I know! However, it had already been edited by my then agent (who has now given up the agency) who then suggested I should self-publish when in spite of her enthusiasm for it she couldn’t persuade a mainstream publisher to take it on.
So now it was time for my next book, “The Glass-Spinner”. And this time I didn’t have anyone to check it through and tell me if it was publishable. (This is where I miss my lovely agent! I still find it incredibly difficult to tell whether my work is any good or not.) After going over and over the manuscript until I thought it was ready to go, I decided to get it edited, which was invaluable. (Amazing how many things three new pairs of eyes found that could be improved!)
Then, of course, I needed to go through it all again, taking into account the suggestions for improvement.
Now to put it into the CreateSpace template.
Having done it once, I thought it would be easy this time round. Not quite true. Some things I remembered, but others… For example, I had to tick the box to show which category my book should fit into, and nowhere could I find “Children’s fiction”. It was only after I’d read the list three times that I discovered that here it was described as “Juvenile Fiction”. Should have known, I guess.
Then I went through the proof-reading process. And again. And again. In each case, when I thought it was ready I had to download it on to the template as a pdf, whereas the ms was in Word, so it had to be converted before downloading. And you can’t edit a pdf file, so if you discover any misprints, poor spacing, or bits you could improve, you have to go back to the original word document, edit that, then convert that version into a pdf and download it again. This took several forays before I got it right. By now I was getting a bit obsessive, but I was determined to get everything as I wanted it before I pressed PUBLISH. I’ve heard enough horror stories from fellow-writers about professional proof readers correcting some mistakes and then putting more in! At least with self-publishing it was entirely down to me – no pressure, then!
I also had to decide on the size I wanted the book to be, the size and style of the font, and the price I needed to charge (ie not too much or nobody will buy it, but not so little that you make no profit at all) etc etc, There’s quite a lot to it. Not to mention getting the right cover! I am extremely lucky to have a son who is a professional illustrator and who has designed me another great cover. (I do pay him for it, so I can ask him again…!)
But before I could ask him to finish the cover, I had to decide what needed to go in the blurb. And this was really difficult. I had to put enough to intrigue the potential reader and make him/her want to read the book, without giving away essential plot twists.
However, after many changes of mind, I eventually came up with a blurb I thought would work – only to find I’d forgotten to change the blurb that goes on the Amazon website to sell the book in the first place.
Now at long last I've done it all, and have sent off for my proof copy. I'll have to check that before ordering my own set of copies, and while I'm waiting for the proof I'll have to work on the ebook, so both versions are available at the same time.
But I suspect it won't be until I hold the actual book in my hand that I will realise all over again that writers really do make something out of nothing.