As many of you may remember, in late 2013 I signed with REUTS Publishing for my first non-indie book: The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, The Vampire Accountant. That book is actually due to come out in July 2014, having been in development for the last several months. This blog series, however, has nothing to do with the content of the book itself. Instead, I wanted to shine a little light on what it’s like being on different sides of the publishing window: Indie vs. Traditional.
If you’re expecting me to trash either, now is a good time to brace for disappointment. I already wrote about why both methods are entirely valid, depending on what you want to get out of them. This is merely a compare and contrast between the two systems, my meager attempts to take some of the long-imposed mystery out of the book making process. I love being Indie and I also love working with REUTS. There is no wrong, only not right for certain projects.
I plan to write more of these as I move further into the process, but today’s will focus predominantly on all the aspects of getting the book ready for release, what I’m collectively calling The Pre-Release.
For me, this was probably the biggest aspect that I had to adjust to. In the Indie world, staying relevant and on people’s minds is one of the most important challenges to tackle. That usually means that as soon as a project is ready, it needs to be promoted and set-up for release, because there’s another idea or manuscript that requires development. Part of this is building up your library of works to increase the chance of a reader enjoying your work, but part of it is keeping new material going out in hopes of catching the eyes of new readers.
With publishers, it’s obviously different. They have a schedule of books lined up for release, with certain criteria to be met along each step of the way. If a book moves faster than necessary, it probably won’t change the schedule much because they are still going to give each release the time in the spotlight it deserves. This all translates to them taking their time with each part of the process, so long as things are on track. While it can be a bit restraining to someone who is always going a hundred miles an hour on projects, such as myself, it also yields some definite benefits in allowing more time for things to be carefully considered and mulled over.
Once you get accustomed to the idea of more gradually paced timetable, it’s actually a bit relaxing. It allows you to manage your workload carefully, allowing in space for things like “fun” and a “not sitting at the computer.” Or, if you’re like me, “knocking out a different book and some side projects.”
When I go Indie, I pay for proof editing, meaning my editor(s) evaluate grammar, sentence structure, and look for missing words; or as you lot probably know it: The Drew Hayes Specials. My usual editor is an old friend familiar with my works, so she’s not shy about calling me out on flawed logic or continuity. Still, for the most part, the content is my own and my editors are there to do the downright saintly job of making sure it’s all written out correctly.
In Traditional Publishing, I was set-up to work with a Line Editor. Line Editors evaluate not just the grammar of a work, but the content it presents as well. They study the manuscript well, getting a sense of each character and the flow of the plot, then go through and make sure things are consistent. It could be anything as simple as established speech patterns dropping, to intricate problems like dialogue or actions that are clearly out of character. Your Line Editor is probably the person most familiar with the work outside the author, because they have to be to do their job well.
Working with a Line Editor was a new experience, and while I’ll admit to feeling occasionally frustrated by the amount of issues brought up (Hey, I’m not perfect), after stepping back and looking at them, each one raised a valid point. It was a longer process than just proofing, obviously, but again thanks to the time cushion you get with Traditional that was never a thing that caused me concern.
For this project, I’m very glad I got to work with such a skilled Line Editor. The piece is very character driven, and her keen eye for discrepancies definitely tightened up many of the weaker portions. I don’t know that I’ll always employ one for every project (even Indie authors can outsource that) but I’m genuinely thankful I got such a good example of what they bring to the table.
This should barely be an entry; it’s such a slam-dunk difference. Cover-design, if you’re like me and have no artistic skill, is a pain in the ass. I’ve gotten to work with some great talents on my covers, and that part was fine. The toughest issue is finding the artists in the first place. Assuming you have a design style in your head, maybe even a concept for the cover, you have to hunt down someone who can: deliver that style, do it on your budget, do it in your timeframe, provide the elements you need, and of course actually wants to do it.
With Traditional Publishing, you just have the conversation about what style and concept you’re looking for, and the publisher takes it from there. I love the cover for Fred, which will be revealed all in due time, and it was such a low-stress affair that I legitimately kept forgetting it was already done. Since my memory banks did recall any frantic efforts to get it made, my mind didn’t want to check it off the “done” list.
I think the biggest difference in this part of the process was, to me, the amount of control and responsibility I gave up in going through the Traditional route. When you’re Indie, everything, and I mean everything, is on you. Final cut of the manuscript, final look of the cover, release date, marketing, blah blah blah you get the point. I’m not saying you hand away your work and it’s suddenly guarded by a dragon in an immense keep. A good publisher will keep you engaged through the whole process and make sure your input is utilized at every appropriate opportunity. Even the editing, which I mentioned before, is a collaborative effort with lots of discussion. You’re still very much involved in bringing the book up to standards of publication, just not in total control.
And honestly, sometimes that is a very good thing. As an author it’s sometimes too easy to get so deep in the text that we lose sight of the story. Bringing in those other perspectives can make a big difference, not to mention the benefits of having others share in the production responsibilities. I doubt I’ll ever get to a point where I go Traditional on every project, but for this one I’m really happy I did.