First, the Write by the Lake workshop/retreat was AMAZING. But it’s good to be back and I will be blogging about my lessons learned in future posts.
Today, I want to share the story of publishing my son’s book.
Last fall, Dark Omen (age 12) started a new novel, encouraged by his 6th grade teacher’s Exquisite Corpse project (where kids jointly wrote stories by passing notebooks around and each adding a section). He had started several other novels, but this one he decided he was going to finish.
Did he ever.
Thirty thousand words and six months later, he had finished the first draft.
He asked me to critique it, (Great Writer Lesson #1: Ask for Critiques) and I was very glad that I gave him the respect of critiquing it as I would any other author (as nerve wracking as that was for me). He took it like a pro (Great Writer Lesson #2: Learn How to Take a Critique). I promised him that if he finished editing the second draft, we would print it up, so he and his teacher could have a copy.
Now, Dark Omen is his mother’s son, so soon he was asking where he could find more people to critique his book. He had signed up for my Writing While Teen workshop this summer (GWL #3: Invest in Your Craft) (he’s 12 1/2 now, nearly a teenager, he tells me), so I told him he could start building his critique partner list for the sequel at the workshop (GWL #4: Seek Out New Crit Partners). I wanted him to finish up Book 1 before the end of the school year, so he could give it to his teacher (GWL #5: Know When to Move On to the Next Book).
We did a couple more rounds of edits (mostly copyedits at this point), and decided it was time to print.
I figured we would just print up a couple copies at the local Staples, like I had for drafts of my novels when I needed a paper copy for beta readers (kids or adults). I knew it would cost $10-20 per copy depending on whether I had it bound/double-sided/etc. And I had a vague notion that we might upload an e-book version, so that he could share it with his friends, if he wanted to.
But once I looked into it, I quickly discovered that we could get (nice-looking) print-on-demand copies of his book for CHEAPER than it would be to print an (ugly MS type) copy at the Staples (about 1/4th the cost). It would just require, yanno, figuring out how exactly to self-publish a print-on-demand book!
Fortunately, I have author friends who were happy to share their expertise. (Thank you, author friends!)
We started at Smashwords, on the advice of a self-pubbed friend who said that following their format guidelines would work in other places. Plus, Smashwords lets you set your e-book price to FREE (unlike AmazonDirect), and has every conceivable format, so he could share his story with his grandma and cousins who have Nooks as well as his friends with iPads and Kindles. The formating was a bit tricky, but Smashwords has great step-by-step instructions. It required several hours and a bit of swearing on Mom’s part.
While I was busy on Smashwords, Dark Omen set about creating the cover from a program called CoreFx (it’s like Photoshop for kids). Just like the book, it shows his character and sense of humor (and also represents the book fairly well):
Once I had wrangled the e-book formatting into submission, we attached the cover jpg and uploaded to Smashwords. It goes live instantly, which enables you to check all the different formats. Another round of edits ensued as we found errors in formatting and typos (Mighty Mite and Worm Burner couldn’t wait to read it on the Nook!). But several revisions later, it was looking pretty good.
The Print Version
Then I set about formatting the book for the print version at Createspace (Amazon’s Print-on-Demand company). This was a bit more complicated, but my friend was right – having already formatted it for Smashwords, I was proficient enough with interior design to make it work. Only now I needed a back cover as well, so I borrowed Adam’s artwork and created this:
Once the interior formatting was finished and the front and back covers were ready to go, I uploaded everything to Createspace and prepared to wait (it takes 48 hours for your novel to clear with the Createspace Gods-in-the-Sky).
The next day, I checked back on Adventures at and Around the Galaxy at Smashwords.
In the first 24 hours, it had 51 downloads, 3 “likes” on Facebook, and 5 people who had added it to their libraries.
I was stunned.
We hadn’t told anyone about it yet – not his teacher, not his friends, not even Grandma knew.
Just being on the “New Releases” list for his category on Smashwords (Fiction/Children’s Books/Fiction) had netted him 51 downloads. Yes, it was FREE. But still.
The look on Dark Omen’s face after school when I told him? Priceless.
We printed up some cards for him to take to school to share with his friends:
You never know where a leap of faith will take you.