Greetings, fellow Americans! I hope your July 4th was better than mine. I spent most of it being sick to my stomach and beyond, with some kind of gastric virus that produced symptoms not suitable for discussion in a family publication. Eventually, I felt okay enough to pull up a chair and begin prepping Welcome To The Fold for (self-)publication.
My whole process for putting out a book works something like so. I write the whole thing in Microsoft Word, with block-level styles that remove a lot of the tedium from the formatting process, so I can format quickly as I go. From this, I generate a .PDF used to print the recycled-trees edition. The same Word document then gets piped into an app called Calibre that generates a Kindle-compatible e-book file. Some tweaking has to be applied along the way to make sure any formatting that is only relevant in a paper edition of the book doesn't gum up the e-book version, but it's actually not that hard. Most of that stuff gets pruned out automatically anyway.
The slow 'n painful part is that I have to audit the whole manuscript beforehand, line by line, page by page. Any show-stopping typos, misplaced formatting, broken styles, etc. have to be screened out. Despite all the automation involved at every step of the process, there are just some things you can't flag any other way except by having a human being look at it. Maybe that's for the best, because I already found some things that even my copy editor didn't flag — not just typos, but a couple of nonsensical statements that needed rewording, and one sentence where a single missing word made it seem like a character was going off-script.
Still, odds are the e-book version of Welcome To The Fold will be done quickly — probably by the middle of next week, if not sooner. Getting the paper version of the book together will take a little longer since I still have to design a cover, add flap copy, and so on. My aim is to have both e-editions and paper editions released at the same time. I've received a surprising amount of feedback from people who want print copies, because they like the way it looks on a shelf, and I guess maybe also because they want to ambush me in person at some point and have me sign them. (I'm not complaining!)
One thing I keep promising myself I'm going to do is go back and reformat all of my previous books with the latest version of the software I'm using so's to clean up all the little inconsistencies and such that have crept in, and also to bring things like the "About The Author" section up to date. It's not a giant priority, just something I eventually want to cross off the list.
Back in the mid-2000s or so, when I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my writing, I ran into a fantastic book called Our Band Could Be Your Life, a history of indie bands across the U.S. during the 1980s. I wasn't unfamiliar by that point with the idea of starting your own little boutique publishing label, and we'd reached a point by then where the technology and logistics and fulfillment of self-publishing had become pretty push-button affairs. What stuck with me most in the book, and what persuaded me the DIY route made the most sense for me, was the work ethic, the sense of asserting complete control (hello, Joe Strummer) over every aspect of one's work, of doing something you loved for its own sake, of taking pride in making the end result yours. Some of the stuff that came out from those indie outfits looked like something pried loose from a jammed photocopier's toner drum and sounded like it had been recorded in a wind tunnel, but some of it was as polished and self-assured as anything from a major label.
Genji Press always felt to me more like an indie record label with a staff of one than a publishing outfit, if only because so much of the work ethic involved was stuff I felt I'd picked up more from bands rather than from other writers or publishers. Do your own thing, do it well, take pride in it, give it a personality, get it out there. Crass and Jandek were far more the role models I wanted to emulate than, say, anyone at a publisher like Tor or Baen. (I have a separate post I'm working on about how most of the really good advice and inspiration I've picked up as a writer has come more from artists in other media than from writers per se.)
A lot of the work you have to do in such a DIY context, though, is boring and thankless and tedious — like the 516th copyediting pass on a book you just wanna get out the door and be done with already. But the alternative is to have to try and satisfy a lot of people that maybe you can never really satisfy, except in ways that you don't want to anyway. At the end of the day, I'm happy to be a do-it-yourselfer, because it means I can get exactly the things I want out into the world in exactly the form I want it, without having to wait on anyone's approval to do so. Mine! Mine! All mine!
Other Lives Of The Mind