Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The First 30 Years Was the Easy Part

I came to a particularly disturbing conclusion last Friday. It turns out that all the writing I’ve done professionally and recreationally for the past 33-plus years was a piece of cake. White chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake, to be exact.

It seems that, somehow, I escaped the hard part – a.k.a Auntie Em's wonderful Christmas fruitcake -- until now.

That hard part is getting published. And, by that, I mean the technical stuff to actually get it into the hands or Nooks or Kindles of readers.

And how do I know it’s the hard part?

Because the process shoved itself into my face. Well, okay, maybe “shove” is too harsh a word. It introduced me to the ugliest blind date in history and, while I was gagging, sneaked out the back door and drove off.

No longer would I be able to just write the story and palm it off on the editors who would handle the actual printing aspects like I did at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram or JDTV, Inc., my old magazine publisher.

No longer would I upload my stuff to Lulu and Smashwords, wishing on big sales while the actual sales figures could best be described by the phrase “pennies on the dollar.” I was content to say that I was a published author. Not a writer, but an honest-to-goodness published author.

Oh, no. This time around I was going to have to do some real work. Disconcertingly, I have learned that dealing with coaches, athletes and parents for quotes, trying to meet a crushing deadline and reworking the same piece of fiction umpteen times was, in fact, the easy part.

For example, last Friday, C.J. Ellisson (online publishing tour de force) told me I needed to bookmark and hyperlink my table of contents, chapter headings and glossary for Hunters.

Bookmark? Hyperlink?


I've always been a quick learner (except for Calculus III and Differential Equations and Advanced Chemistry). So, I went online to look up those terms. I knew them already but had never actually bookmarked an item within a story. Slowly and painfully, I went back through my novel Hunters to make the changes necessary for publication.

I looked to C.J. for advice. Up front, she was real supportive and patient. In reality, I was worried she might have hurt herself from either laughing her ass off or finally experiencing what a migraine felt like as she dealt with my shenanigans. At the very least, I’m pretty certain she can see up into her brain from rolling her eyes so much.

Anyway, just when I had gotten this bookmark & link thing down, next I had to offer up half of Hunters onto my novellas Dark Tidings Volumes I & II and They Call the Wind Muryah. It was a business move to attract readers to my novel, so I did it.

Keep in mind, my mood during all this wasn't that great. It came after I did up one of my patented honest book reviews for a fellow writer. It seems the review had a lot of punch as I was promptly knocked into next week.

This marks my tenth trip into the future, if anyone’s curious (and it doesn't even count all the problems I caused with my editorial skills in high school and college). I might have to be less honest in the future.

As I was saying before I became nostalgic, my mood wasn't the greatest. But, I've persevered for three decades, so I could handle it or so I thought. C.J., the head of Red Hot Publishing (I'm not being paid for this free advertising) told me to insert the title page with table of contents (check), glossary (uncheck) and chapter headings replete with bookmarks and links (check). 

She provided an example from her own high-selling novel The Hunt. It all looked good until I got down to the ISBN.

For the uninitiated, ISBNs are not those new North Korean ballistic missiles. They’re International Standard Book Numbers, thirteen-digit numeric codes. They make it real helpful in getting books into libraries, bookstores and other places that generally weed out 99 percent of aspiring writers who have no clue what they’re doing. But, occasionally, they let their guard down and guys like me slip through.

Getting an ISBN is not as difficult as you might think, especially if you have someone on the inside, which I do. This someone is pretty smart and has a high level of tolerance to put up with my crap and still be talking to me. 

Part of getting an ISBN is to figure out the length of the work. To do that, I had to do up a glossary, a necessary item if you have a lot of characters and/or technical terms in the piece. Even worse, I had to do my own acknowledgements. You know, where you thanks people who have helped you. That was very hard. Aside from the usual people (family, publisher, etc.), you never want to leave out people who might have helped you out in indirect ways, like maybe inspiring you to keep going when you were ready to chuck it all. They may say it's okay if you leave them out, but I know it must hurt nonetheless.

But, I got everything done, putting one novella, one anthology and one full-length novel through the technical stuff. They've all gotten ISBNs and have been sent off to Red Hot Publishing.

Remember I had to add half of Hunters to the anthology and novella, so that took a bit of time to figure out the number of pages.

Then, C.J. says "Oh, you could have just taken the word count and divided by 250 to get the page count."


Before I could handle that shot to the gut, though, I get an e-mail mentioning setting up a book blogging tour.

I can’t even set up a date without making a G20 Summit out of it.

No fear, though. With Red Hot Publishing’s help, I put my bid package in. The woman handling the tour comes with excellent references, so I'm not worried. Not too much anyway. There's a slight trepidation because she normally deals with paranormal and supernatural romance. Yeah, the teen girl angst-driven Twilight kind of prose. 

As most of you know, I write old-school horror and Golden Age science fiction. There's no making out with vampires and demons and monsters. This is a "how do you like your stake?" kind of horror or giant monster ripping a path of destruction through anything connected to the New York Yankees kind of science fiction. 

As I said, though, I am in very capable hands. After all, I am the novice idiot here and C.J. and the others have fought these "wars" before. They're making money.

And you know what the most ironic part of all this is?

Despite the steep learning curve, I think it's all worth it. The thrill of being published, I think, will make all of this both memorable and completely worthwhile. Soon, I'll be able to mention certain people's names without doubling over in excruciating pain.

Okay, they know I'm just joking.

Hold on a second. Got another e-mail from C.J. Let's see: 

Have I fixed the numbers thing yet? Do I have another book in the series ready to go so I can tease to it at the end of Hunters?

The hard part continues...


  1. Love you, you're doing great. Never once did I roll my eyes. I've been there and I'd never laugh at a friend. *With* you when make jokes, well, sure. That's to be expected, right?

    Wishing you only the best with sales, my friend!

  2. Great post, Gregory. You've completely freaked me out though. I knew I was going to have to send CJ "the email" saying, Okay, now what do I do first. Good luck with the process and the journey.

  3. You'll do fine, trust me! Would I lie? Or better yet, what would it gain me to do so? The answer is nothing, so I won't lie.

    The first book is always the hardest. You swear a lot, you're ready to chuck it all and hire someone, you're shocked you don't really know how to use Word properly… or maybe that was just me.

    Took me a week to format V V. And learn Adobe's Design software had me ready to poke my eyes out, so I scraped it. But it all worked out in the end, and it will for you guys, too.

  4. Congrats you guys at Red Hot Publishing, and good luck!

    I kinda sorta wish my publisher was on my butt, but instead, I'm on her butt, emailing her questions all day as they pop into my head. She's probably ready to strangle me, but she's really polite about it. LOL.

    My problem right now is trying to sit down long enough to spew - er, I mean WRITE - the sequel.

  5. Don't worry about it, J.D. Publishers just love the little details. I'm sure C.J. would love to read our e-mails all day long.

  6. Wow, it all sounds so overwhelming. I just got to 50,000 words on my first book, a memoir. At least now I know that is 200 pages, ha-ha. (Vida D.)