Publishing a Book | Cover Design

Thanks for following along on my book publishing journey. In my last post I talked about the editing process. That’s probably the most important part in the whole complex process of releasing a book, but perhaps the most exciting part of the process is the cover design. That’s when it starts to feel real!

To get started, the publishing company asked me to fill out a questionnaire that outlined my vision for the cover. In my mind I very clearly pictured a path winding through tall trees with a small figure walking under their gaze. I really liked the idea of a blue-grey colour that captured the moodiness of a British Columbia forest.

I tried to give as much detail as possible for the designer. Doing this virtually through a questionnaire rather than in person was quite challenging. What seems clear to you might not seem clear and comprehensible to another person.

It took a week for the first draft to come back. I had been told that the first draft was unlikely to match what I was looking for, and sure enough that was the case. While the designer had included the elements I’d mentioned, they weren’t presented in a way that matched my vision. I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing this book cover on the shelves.

I immediately started to leave notes on the cover to help the designer make changes. A little less blue, a smaller figure, taller trees. In doing so, I had doubts about how effective how my feedback would be, and whether the proposed changes would be enough.

Then I recognized the main flaw. The cover image was more suited to a fantasy or horror genre, not to a memoir. While I still liked the idea of the setting, the colours were very mysterious and quite haunting. Even the font seemed more like the style you’d see on a sci-fi book. The cover didn’t match the theme of the book at all, and it was because my vision hadn’t matched the theme.

I reluctantly accepted that my initial vision for the colours would need to change slightly, in order to avoid confusing readers about the kind of book they would be reading. I began to consider the different colours I could use, but none left me inspired.

In my moment of contemplation, I suddenly remembered that a photo had been taken on my camera a few years ago that matched the vision I had. A small figure on a trail under tall trees. The crazy thing is that this photo was taken in the period featured in the story. Maybe it was all meant to be..!

Feeling inspired again, I decided to send this photo to the designer so they could use it for the cover. I also requested changes to the text font, size and positioning. At first I felt bad for potentially seeming picky and demanding. Then I reminded myself that I am paying for this service, and that the book cover is extremely important.

This isn’t the book’s cover image, but it’s definitely got some similarities!

The revised cover came back just under a week later, and it looked so much better! The designer had done a fantastic job of adapting the photo to the front and back cover. And because it was a photo owned by me, the book suddenly felt even more authentic and special. I began to feel really excited at the thought of people holding the book in their hands.

At this stage I edited the blurb slightly and requested a few minor revisions to the text styling. There were just a few small things that I felt could be tweaked before I felt 100% comfortable. The updated version was returned to me in less than a week, and it looked spot on.

Now I’m just waiting for my editor to finish the copy edit. It’s been three weeks since I sent my updated manuscript for the edit, and I’m feeling restless! The end is in sight and I just want to be reviewing those edits. However, I’m also very aware that high-quality editing takes time, and my book is around 120,000 words. I’d of course prefer the editor to put a lot of care into the process, than to rush through and compromise quality. But it will definitely be an exciting day when that email comes in…

I look forward to sharing Trail of Worth with you, once complete!

Publishing a Book | The Editing Process

In my last blog post I shared that I am in the process of publishing a book. Since December, I’ve been working on editing my manuscript. Today I’m going to talk a little more about that part of the process.

The most challenging things I’ve found about the editing process are 1) being selective and 2) not being too much of a perfectionist.

I used journals to frame a lot of my manuscript’s content. Having these references was super helpful for dialogue and structure. The downside was that I sometimes struggled to decide whether something should or shouldn’t be included. I almost seemed to feel a need to do justice to something that had happened in real life. I might feel compelled to write about an interesting side-event, even though I knew it didn’t necessarily fit in with the course of the narrative.

It was this challenge that particularly influenced me to request an editorial evaluation from the book publishing company. This is where a professional editor reads your manuscript without making any changes on the document, and then writes a summary of its strengths and weaknesses.

It took two weeks for my editorial evaluation to come back, and I really appreciated the editor’s input. I’m fairly confident in my writing ability and had been pretty satisfied with my content, but hearing an external person’s perspective was really valuable. I really came to realize that some of the content I had didn’t add much to the story and its purpose. It might have been an interesting detail, but oftentimes it was actually disrupting the flow and pace of the story. Having the impartial eyes of someone I didn’t know really helped me cut out the needless content I felt committed to!

A highlight of my editorial evaluation was seeing that the editor felt the central theme of the book was clear and believed in the importance of its message. I’m sure a lot of writers go through moments of doubt during the process where they wonder if their story is “even any good” and worth sharing. After getting the editor’s feedback, I felt encouraged. I also felt like her feedback wasn’t given for the sake of being critical, but was given with my best interests and those of my book in mind.

One of the great things about an editorial evaluation when self-publishing is that you have the power to do what you want with the feedback. You might elect to request a substantive edit where the editor studies your content in-depth to suggest changes to the flow, voice and characterization etc., or you might just make a few minor changes and then request a copy edit, or you might not make any changes and just go straight to publish.

In my case, the editor recommended a copy edit (which is standard). She also recommended some changes to the content, and said that if I didn’t feel confident making these changes on my own, she’d be happy to help with a substantive edit.

I chose to work on the changes myself. I loved the challenge of it. I almost felt like I was back in school, improving a draft of a story an English teacher had read. It was a really fun project for me because it allowed me to test my skills as a writer while maintaining creative control.

I spent two weeks working on the edits while continuing to work full-time. Some of the edits were pretty quick and simple changes, while others took more thinking and a few tries of different approaches. Overall, it was a really rewarding process. I had a goal of finishing the edits in two weeks, but I also felt it important to be flexible. As mentioned in my last blog post, the editing process shouldn’t be rushed.

On the day I went to re-submit the manuscript to the publisher, I found myself having last-minute thoughts of “Maybe I’d better read that section one more time”. I would then find little things to change – adjective or adverb replacements, rephrasing of a sentence, removal of a word. That’s where the perfectionist in me comes out. Even after re-submitting, I’ve made notes of little things I want to change once I get the copy edit back. I don’t think this is a bad thing; I just hope I won’t be doing it once the final copy has been sent for interior layout design ;). There’s definitely a fine balance between putting effort into ensuring something’s quality and obsessing unnecessarily over tiny things!

Tips for Other First-Time Writers (from a Non-Expert!)

·  Be selective. Journals can be a great source of inspiration for creating content and dialogue, but it’s important to keep the content relevant to the narrative and purpose of the story.

·  Take your time. Having a deadline to work towards can be motivating, but be mindful that life happens and things can get delayed. Once you are finished writing, don’t rush to send the manuscript off to an editor. Take time to re-read and make revisions until you are completely satisfied.

·  Get an editorial evaluation. Even if you consider yourself a skilled writer, getting a summary of the manuscript’s strengths and some recommendations for improvement is really helpful. It gives you a base off which to make more edits that will only make your book better!

·  Before submitting your manuscript for an editorial evaluation, prepare notes for the editor. Explain the story’s purpose and your goals for the book, provide context behind the style and methods you’ve used, and summarize the key areas you’re looking for feedback on. This helps ensure you get as much value as possible from the evaluation.

·  Be open to feedback. Hearing the opinion of a stranger about something so personal to you, even if it’s constructive criticism, can be daunting. But the feedback is ultimately coming from someone who cares about quality writing and good stories. It could be extremely valuable to you, not just for a current project, but for future projects as well.

·  Get a copy edit. If you don’t want to pay much for editing services, it’s still recommended to get a copy edit at minimum. This helps ensure a polished and professional finish to your book. I consider myself a pretty strong writer, but I knew there would be grammatical or structural errors I’d made.

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Thanks for following my book publishing journey! I’m now waiting to get the copy edit back, after which the editing process will be complete. My next blog post will be about the cover design process!

If you’re a published author or are in the process of publishing a book, feel free to leave your thoughts and tips on the editing process below 🙂

I’m Publishing a Book!

Many people seemed to spend their free time in 2020 making a baby. I spent it writing a book, and I’m excited (and nervous!) to share that I will be publishing it in the coming months 😊

I’ve been writing since I was a kid – pony stories, poems, journals, articles in the local paper. There was a time when I wanted to be an author, but it quickly got to the point where it didn’t seem like a realistic way of making a living. However, the dream of one day writing a book lived on. The issue was that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. I had ideas for novels, but never one that really inspired a devoted effort. So, I just carried on writing my blog and journaling. Through journaling, I’ve always enjoyed the process of identifying interesting trends and themes from daily life.

Scribbling next to my childhood best friend, Tom

Then I moved to Canada at the end of 2016 and experienced a big life change that led to some interesting experiences and challenges. Some experiences were unique to my situation, while others exemplified life events and scenarios common to women in their mid-twenties.

In December 2019, I was home alone for Christmas. During a state of restless boredom, I felt a sudden motivation to write. I thought back to my first year in Canada, and the experiences in my first year overseas ended up giving me the inspiration I was looking for. So, I decided to write a piece of creative non-fiction. I opened up my laptop one evening and set myself a goal of finishing writing a draft manuscript by the end of 2020.

About the Book

An honest portrayal of moving overseas, this book creatively explores the various themes and challenges that accompany both an expat life and the general life of a woman navigating her mid-twenties. From adjusting to a new environment, seeking a fulfilling job, establishing oneself in an occupation, and handling complex relationships, the book’s theme centers around self-worth during a quarter-life crisis. It’s a story that will make readers reflect on their own experiences, with the purpose of inspiring and uplifting them.

The Writing Process

A year may sound like a long time in which to write a manuscript, but when you have a full-time office job and don’t want to spend all of your free time staring at a computer screen, it starts to feel more reasonable.

Before starting, I had a good idea of how I wanted to structure the book, the key content I wanted to include, and the main theme I wanted to be conveyed. Some people know what they want their book’s title to be right from the beginning. I personally didn’t have a title in mind when I started, but it came to me a few months into writing.

The social distancing regulations that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic became a strange convenience, because they gave more reason for me to focus on writing in my free time.

For some reason, I’ve always been secretive with my writing. Even as a kid scribbling pony stories, I would hide them away when my family came to look. I think it was because I was shy about others reading what I wrote. During this writing process, it was only my partner that knew I was writing a book. Our suite doesn’t have a separate office for work or writing, so I quickly came to appreciate how great he was at leaving me to it! The reason I decided not to tell anyone else was because I wanted avoid any requests for updates, and just focus on the book without feeling any intrusion or pressure.

One thing I noticed was how easy it was to get fatigued while writing, especially if covering a topic that was complex or emotional in nature. Sometimes my creativity seemed to be lacking. The longest break I took from writing was around 3 weeks. However, there were other times when the words just seemed to flow freely and before I knew it, it was almost midnight!

I met my goal of finishing drafting the content in December 2020, but then my own revisions and edits started. This is such an important part of the process. I found that there were many things I’d written almost a year earlier that I wanted to change, particularly with regards to content and structure. Some of the content no longer seemed to be relevant or add value. In some areas, there was a lack of flow, or I felt things could be written more creatively. I ended up re-writing several sections of the manuscript.

The revisions process took around two months until I was satisfied with the manuscript. In addition to content editing, I also did copy editing to the best of my non-professional ability. Sometimes during my work day, I would suddenly think of something that I felt could be edited or added, and I’d make a note in my phone for later. The revision process is something that really can’t be rushed. It’s amazing what a rested pair of eyes can see! Even if you plan on getting the book professionally edited (which I have), it’s important to ensure you have a relatively polished manuscript in advance.

Choosing a Publishing Path

The next step in the process was deciding how I wanted to publish the book – the traditional route or self-publishing. I’m lucky in that I had knowledge of two experiences. My brother’s book, The Rule (Jack Colman) was published by Harper Voyager in 2015, while my dad self-published his memoir, The Right Thing? (Dr. Richard Colman) in 2014.

Both routes have their pros and cons, depending on the writer’s goals. Getting published the traditional route still carries more prestige, while self-publishing is sometimes termed “vanity publishing”. I get why this term is used for some self-publishers, however, I think it’s also quite offensive to the talented writers who simply feel tired of waiting to hear back from agents, or worry that their book will lose its integrity if managed by someone with a different priority. Does “vanity publishing” mean that artists who sell their paintings at local street markets are “vanity artists”? Are people who turn their passion into a business “vanity business owners”? Frankly, it’s the “stars” of trashy reality TV shows who seemingly have no problem securing a deal to publish a book about their life that are the vain ones.

Here are the reasons I’ve decided to go the self-publishing route (in case anyone is debating the options for their own manuscript):

  • I like the idea of having ownership over something I’ve created (this book is literally my baby!) instead of having it be owned and managed by someone else.
  • Because the book is based on real-life personal events, it’s important to me that I maintain a large amount of control over the content. With self-publishing, I can maintain full creative control. I have the final say on any edits suggested, whereas traditional publishing can take away a lot of the writer’s control. I would hate for someone to try to change the content of my book to make it fit what they might see as a more mainstream (aka $$) narrative.
  • Self-publishing does not mean you’ll have a terribly written book that’s filled with typos. You can have your manuscript professionally edited with a polished design. You have to pay for this service, but if you believe the story is worth sharing, why wouldn’t you invest in its success?
  • It is extremely competitive and can take a long time to get a literary agent and/or be offered a deal by a publishing company. This isn’t a reason not to try, however I’m personally at the point where I don’t want to wait months to hear back from an agent (or not hear back at all!), only to then wait even longer for the work to be published.
  • I’m not writing this book to launch a new career as a full-time author. I’m writing it to share a story that I believe (and have been told my editor!) has an important message. I’m also writing it to tick off something from wish list. Perhaps that’s the vain part 😉
  • You get higher royalties when you self-publish. Who doesn’t like being rewarded more for their writing skills and hard work?!
  • One thing the pandemic has highlighted is the importance of supporting local.

If I write another book in future, I would definitely be open to trying the traditional publishing route. But for this particular story, self-publishing seems to work well for me. Plus, if I did want to write more books in the future, having an already published book could be helpful in securing an agent.

Side note: I recently learned that The Martian was initially self-published in 2011, before a traditional publishing company bought the rights a few years later. Then it was turned into a film! That’s pretty cool.

To get things going, I researched two local publishing companies in Victoria. I contacted both for more information. Ultimately, I opted for the one whose website content spoke more to my interests and goals, whose publishing consultants seemed less sales-driven, and whose publishing package offered better value for what I was looking for.

Journalling

I’m currently working on content edits, and am excited for the next stage! I’ll be posting updates on my Instagram page if you’d like to follow along 🙂

Have you written and self-published a book? What tips would you share?