Monday, September 16, 2013

Renaissance Woman

By Jennifer Harlow

Work grounds me. It centers me, at least when it's not the cause of all the hell in my life. This month said hell is at the courtesy of moving so amid being on hold for over an hours (Really Comcast?!?), packing, spending more on getting my shit down to ATL than my entire car is worth, setting up utilities, researching new car and health insurance, and a trillion other little things, I needed a day to find shelter from my self-imposed shit storm.

So I taught myself how to make an e-book.

We're talking writing, editing, formatting, converting, even the fraking cover. I went mental.

Ever since Justice I've been haunting the Kindleboards forum to learn the ins and outs of the e-book world. There people like Hugh Howey bestow their considerable knowledge to us plebeians. Everything's there from the best editors, writers helping others with blurbs, the best practices, all of it. I cannot recommend this place more, even if you're a traditional author vs. hybrid like me (a foot in both traditional and indie publishing as Kindleboards told me). However, as much as I love it, the boards can be a bit soul crushing. Not from the people, they're all lovely, but what some of them advise to make any money. Namely if you want to become a full time writer you need a ton of luck, only write romance/Erotica/New Adult, and publish a new book or novella once a month. Yeah, you read that right. A NEW BOOK A MONTH. This year I'll have FOUR full length books out, two traditional and two indie. I was so proud of myself. No one besides those with ghostwriters (Patterson/Evanovitch) accomplish that in the traditional world. But in the indie world, I'm a slacker. And if I haven't disillusioned y'all enough, it cost about $1000 to get Justice made and marketed. I've made about 20% of that back. The lovely, successful indies mantra is "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon." Fair, but what if your shoes are falling apart and you're out of shape? What do you do then?

Anything you can.

On their advice, I'd been toying with releasing a "short," meaning a short story just to keep up The Galilee Falls visibility up because once a book has been released for 3 months, it falls off a "cliff" where it is basically banished to Siberia to make way for newer titles. And damned if when 3 months hit I went from about 60,000 (not terrible but not great, if my superheroes were into BDSM it'd probably be at a thousand, but there's always the next one) to currently 267,000 in the Kindle store. (Cue crying jag). Okay, I'm back from the land of self-pity where I am basically their queen.  Anyway, I needed to produce new material and apparently most of my FREAKS and Midnight Magic readers aren't into superheroes as the release of Death Takes a Holiday last month did nothing to raise sales. (Not a swipe at y'all, I swear. To each his own.) So something had to be done and that couldn't cost a thousand dollars. 

Enter the Kindleboards brigade, especially Joe Konrath's 8-hour challenge. Joe Konrath, for those who don't know, used to write the Jack Daniels mystery series, then went indie before it was cool and made a million dollars self-publishing his own stuff. He's a member of the "10 new things a year club" along with Lilianna Hart, Elle Casey, and Bella Andre. One night when Joe was drunk he decided to try and get something up on Amazon in under an hour. That included the content, formatting, and cover. That magnificent bastard succeeded. And he was surprised to find it sold a few copies in the first day even though he didn't publish it under his own name. So on his BLOG (another indie must read) he put out the challenge for us all to try it, but gave us 8 hours to do it all. I was in the throws of house crap so I didn't hear about this until after the contest was done (My timing always sucks!!!) but when I got crazed and needed an escape I decided to give it a try anyway. I sort of had the content in mind. A few blog posts I'd written for the blog tour, I could include the playlists, the first chapter of the next Galilee book, and a short story I'd written a million years ago then called "When Justin Met Joanna" (now entitled "Origins.") So, on content I was good. It was everything else where I was screwed.

But I had no fucking clue where to begin when it came to formatting and covers. I'd hired someone for those with Justice but couldn't in this case. So I had to learn these things, me who barely knows how to turn on a computer. Once again, hurrah for Kindleboards. People there led me to a program called Scrivener, which was not only a word processor a la Word but would also convert your stuff into EPUB and MOBI. I bought the sucker. Then spent my allotted eight hours screaming, crying, and smashing my computer in frustration when the converted files looked a hot mess. Formatting was either non-existent or cluttered. Whole portions were missing. But I am not a quitter. I am stubborn to a fault, I admit it, but in this case it paid off. I played around until finally it looked professional. Clean. I could now add "Knows how to format an e-book" to my list of not-that-useful skills for the real world. But I'd done it. And hopefully in the future I can repeat the process and save $200. Well see when I get around to Galilee Rising.

So, content? Check. Manuscript? Check. Now came the cover. Enter Photoshop. My mom wanted to make Memes last year so for Christmas Dad bought her the program. She was kind enough to let me install it on my computer and I began to learn it as well. Another 8 hours later (no this wasn't the same day, it was between all the moving bullshit) I had a basic understanding of filters, text, effects, etc. Then I started an account at Shutterstock. This is a site where you can get photos/illustrations/vectors (whatever those are) to use for your covers. There are literally millions to chose from. I found mine after a few more hours of searching, Photoshopped the hell out of it (another few hours) and added it to my MOBI file (another hour of trial and error), and up it went. 

Ta da! I give you...

So if you need a Galilee Falls fix, this should keep you until December. Only $.99. But in the end, this experiment may save me hundreds. I still might pay for covers but I can do the formatting myself. Now if I could only write ten books a year...

Anyway back to moving. Hope this post was helpful to all you newbies.

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