In the beginning…
So let me set the scene, it is a sunny day at the beginning of July, 2022, and I’ve just received a thank you message from an author who I helped publish.
“Oh my God, my book is now live! I’m an actual published author! Thank you SO SO SO much Rob, for your patience, for staying up until 2am with me on zoom when I decided right at the last moment that I wanted to go back through the book and add images, and then again when we are about to publish when I wanted to change the page size which meant more work. You’re amazing. I never could have done this without you!”
It’s lovely seeing newbie authors so happy with the end product out there for the world to read, and this is the reason I started helping newbie (baby) authors in the first place, to pass on a few pearls of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way during my own author career.
This particular author was a tough one. She had a very particular vision for her travel memoir, yet was extremely indecisive when it came to setting things in stone. She came to me with a cover (almost done, but she wanted things changing but she could never get hold of her illustrator) and I jumped on photoshop and together we figured it out. It was a black and white hand drawn scene which I suggested adding a hint of colour to. She wasn’t sure, and so I added the colour to it which meant colouring in fifty or so mangos on the mango tree image.
She loved it.
I then made a 3D mock up of the book, making the spine the same orange as the mangos.
She loved it.
I suggested that the book she had written didn’t need ten bazillion footnotes at the end of each chapter, that it would be better to add the explanations into the story itself to refrain from distracting the reader from what was really important…yep, the story.
She hated it.
No…she hated ME!
It was as though I’d suggested sacrificing her pet kitten in some crazy book publishing voodoo ritual, and I really hadn’t, I didn’t even know if she had a pet kitten.
You see, although I was taking her through the publishing steps, from her typing “the end” all the way through to a deliriously happy text message I’d receive one sunny day in July once she could now call herself an author, I am always first and foremost an author myself, and I knew the book would work better if she listened to the experience of writing for a quarter of a century and publishing fifteen of my own novels in several genres, would bring.
And yes, some twenty years ago I had a similar experience to her, I packed my bags and headed to the other side of the world and then wrote a book about it upon my return, and nowhere in that book was there a single footnote, because footnotes are boring, they ruin the reader’s flow, stop the reader from getting lost in the story, and are pretty ugly to look at too. They can also come across as condescending: “Yes, I was already aware the Rupee is the currency of India, no need to spell it out for me.”
We worked our way through every single of the fifty squillion footnotes (fucknotes) littered in her book. It took time. While we were going through it we picked up plenty of mistakes her “editor” had missed and corrected them too. By the end of it, after a stiff drink, we had a book both her and I were happy with. The whole journey, from start to finish, had felt like a partnership and I wish the crazy sleep depriving author all the success in the world.
She is the seventh author I have taken all the way through the indie publishing process, and we’re not done yet because now her book is live we’ve moved onto marketing strategies, and I’m there to once again hold her hand as she builds her author brand, author platform, and gets her first sale, her first review, her first email from a reader, her first fan…it’s an exciting time for her, and I’m happy to help, but one on one teaching is time consuming.
I’d been thinking for a while how I might be able able to help more baby authors without being restricted by the same 24 hours in a day we all have, and because I’m not very good at pausing time, try as I might, I concluded that I’d probably be best off putting together some sort of book, or video guide, or something along those lines.
But who is going to listen to me, right?
Yes, I’ve written a few books, and yes I’ve helped a few baby authors along their way, but that still doesn’t make me an expert in anything other than knowing what I know.
Then it clicked. That’s the whole point. If you don’t know, you don’t know you need to know something…you know?
I know how to format a book, or put together a half decent genre appropriate cover, or set up and integrate an automated reader funnel with sign up forms, because I’ve been there and done it, and got it wrong, and done it again, and got slightly better. Now, a few years on, I can hold my own with all the steps of the indie publishing process and teach these things and offer author services to people less technically abled.
Even still, who am I? I’m no household name. I’m the guy who has done everything the wrong way, long enough to get it right. Would that appeal to anybody? Probably not. What else could I offer? What else do I have in my arsenal to set me apart from the squllions of so called “publishing gurus” spread across the internet?
I felt I needed to do something quite bold.
For a while now, I haven’t really done much writing. So much so that on my social media platforms I refer to myself as The Reluctant Writer, but that isn’t strictly true. I’m not reluctant, I love to write. Even writing this now sends me to my happy place. My issue has always been procrastination. I’m the guy who will literally polish every light bulb in the house before sitting down to do the thing I love more than anything, the thing I’ve been doing since I was fifteen years old, creating worlds, losing myself in character’s lives, and telling tales which entertain me and countless others (finger’s crossed).
Looking over my life’s work I’m proud of what I’ve produced, but I’m not proud of the majority of the individual books. Especially the first three or four. The reason for this is because they’re dated. They’re full of of the moment pop culture references that are long dead, taking my book down with it. They’re full of, quite frankly, embarrassing dialogue and far too many swears.
Now, I’m no stranger to putting the naughty words in my scribbles…I’m struggling to contain myself from throwing an f-bomb in here just for shits and giggles…oh no, so close. What I have done over the years, is matured as a writer. Back when I wrote my first couple of books I thought littering it with f-bombs was me finding my voice, being edgy, and funny with it, but in reality I was still in training, still honing my own skills as a writer and trying things out.
I’ve often thought how I’d love to go back to those first books and see what I could do to make them better, but I never have. I’ve always just written the next one, and then the next one, and in a way that isn’t fair on the book. Doesn’t it deserve to be the best version of itself? Of course it does. I want my first books to sparkle, I would love to be able to market them as new books, knowing what I know now. When they were published back in 2015/2016 I didn’t do nearly enough for them because I didn’t know what was needed.
And then the clichéd proverbial lightbulb went on in my head, waking up Mr. Muse who spends far too much time away from me these days.
What if I pulled all of my books from circulation, re-edited, and re-packaged each one, then re-published them? I would effectively be a brand new author, like you, like all the newbies out there struggling to find some sort of plan, and overloaded with information they don’t really understand. Then what if I chronicled, step by step, and explained like I’m explaining it to a four year old (because that is about the level my brain works best at anyway) the whole process from beginning to end, talking about why I’m choosing this particular formatting software, or even what formatting is…talking about whether you should make your book exclusive to Amazon for perks, or wide on all the digital store fronts there are available.
I’d be like a publishing wolf in sheep’s clothing, allowed in the pen and whispering to all the other sheep how to escape and become wolves (I must wholeheartedly apologise for perhaps the worst analogy ever written…but I did tell you four years old is about my level).
I could record my screen as I went back through publishing my first ever book. I could talk about what my plans are, why I’ve opted to do a crowdfunder before publishing, explain why I’m running ads to collect email addresses before the “first” book is even launched.
I could do it all, running through different software you could use for each and every step, comparing them, showing everyone what is out there to help make your life a lot easier in this publishing game. I could share my social media posts and videos, be completely and utterly transparent so that anyone coming along for the ride could simply replicate what I’m doing and have a better understanding of what it is to self publish their books.
I could start from scratch…from when we reach our favourite place after long months and sometimes even years of getting our thoughts down, and write those final two words. I could start from "The End".
And so, as of next week, that is exactly what I am going to do….