Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Me As Editor and Publisher

I never imagined that I'd edit or publish a book. But circumstances have rendered me both an editor and a publisher.

Last autumn as I was driving my son back to his university dorm after he spent a weekend at our home, he told me all about a novel he wanted to write. His story line, which had been formulating in his head for some three years, sounded quite innovative. He seemed to have a strong grasp of plot development and details.

Before long my son had produced the first chapter. He eventually wrote an outline for the book. But real life often gets in the way of pet projects, so months went by with little progress.

My son had hoped to leave on his mission late last spring. Alas, that was not to be. Although he started on his missionary application during the holidays and had it ready to submit by mid-January, a number of roadblocks popped up.

My son's ward was split and it took several weeks before his new bishop could access the application system and schedule an interview. Then the church missionary department had additional questions about my son's knee surgery. Eventually he had to meet with one of the church's specialists to resolve concerns. When my son's mission call finally arrived in early April we were surprised to see that his mission wouldn't begin for another 4½ months.

My son came home at the end of spring semester. But given the unexpected extra time he had, he pursued a full load of online courses during summer semester. He also got serious about writing his novel. He shared each newly completed chapter with certain family members and close friends. Many responded to his invitation for input. These suggestions helped refine the work.

As the time for my son's mission approached I wondered how he would complete his book. But he managed to pull it off with a few days to spare. I am certainly biased, but I believe that my son is a pretty good author. He has a captivating style of writing. The book is filled with innovative adventures.

Then with less than 48 hours before my son was to leave on his mission, he decided that he wanted to publish his book. I did a little research and realized that this was not really possible, given everything else that needed to happen in that short time period. I promised my son that his mother and I would do what it took to get the book e-published.

It turns out that self publishing is easier than ever. But there are so many options available that it's hard for a novice to know which course to pursue. CNET writer David Carnoy maintains a very good regularly updated article about self publishing. The upshot is that, while self publishing is not terribly difficult, actually selling books is more challenging than most authors imagine.

There are several reasons for this. One is that while almost all authors find fulfillment in writing, few of them enjoy or even know the first thing about marketing. To top it off, it is almost impossible to successfully market self published fiction books because supply outstrips demand.

My son has done a good job of formatting his book for e-publishing. But he left us the tasks of editing, getting cover art, and publishing the book. Without him to consult on changes, I am limiting my editing to obvious spelling errors—words that have passed spell check but that are still wrong—and egregious grammar mistakes (of which there are very few). I don't want to do anything that changes the author's style. We're going to have to find someone to develop cover art.

I don't foresee us doing much marketing once the book is published. I think the main goal is to make the book available to family and friends, at least for now. Besides, the book is the first of a two-book series. My son has uncharitably left his readers hanging with the book's tantalizing conclusion. He knows what he wants to write in the second book, but how long will it take him to write it once he returns from his mission two years from now? We will just have to wait.

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