The Steps in Publishing Logbox
In my newsletter earlier this month, I said that my short story Logbox would be available in June. Two weeks ago, I realized that the month was almost gone and I had yet to add the short story on my website. So, I set to do just that. Little did I know that it would be a bit more effort than I initially thought.
First, let me tell you what was already done. Logbox had gone through 9 drafts and revisions, had been sent to at least four beta readers and had been through editing. It sounded ready to me, but it was the little things that were left to be done.
The first thing I needed to look at was the formatting. The story was in a Word document, but not very pretty. Since Logbox was my first story in this setting (Garadia), I did not have a template. So, I created styles and applied them but as I was about to convert the text to PDF, I realized I didn't have a cover. That is, I had one, but it looked terrible.
I didn't really know where to start for the cover. I needed something that would look okay, that would not take too much effort and that could potentially be reused for future short stories. I decided to look at pictures of space from NASA, remembering that their policies allow for such a use. I searched for asteroids and comets but had a hard time finding something that worked. I ended up using photos from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory - California Institute of Technology. After trying a few different layouts, I settled on this one.
When making covers (or any drawing, like a map), I prefer to take a day before making a final decision. I was relieved the next day, as I was satisfied with the final result of the cover. Not my best, I admit, but it would do for now.
From there, I had to decide what sections would appear in the final text. I inserted the cover in Word, updated the heading and footer, the copyrights page and added a new page at the end with my available stories. Then, I saved as PDF. It looked good.
Next, I debated if I would make the story available on my site in .mobi for Kindle. I even sent an email to my friend Gaetan saying I probably would not. Later, I changed my mind. To do this, I copied the story in Scrivener, where I cut the story into smaller sections, and resized the cover, and imported the cover. Then, I exported the whole thing into .mobi. I had to test the file twice on my Kindle reader before getting it right. Not bad. When I converted Emptiness, it took me over 10 times!
Now that I had the files, I needed to update the information of the story on my website. Thankfully, I have a simple interface to do this (one of the benefits of developing your own website, you can create all the forms you need with exactly the fields you want). I changed the status, added information about the beta readers, added information about the story (I already had a version for this, but it needed updating). When all this was done, I was ready to launch... except the story was not available in HTML (required to be readable directly on the site). I did not feel like doing one more conversion, but I did anyway. To transfer to HTML, I copied the text of the story in a text editor (EditPlus) and using shortcuts and recording keys, added the proper HTML codes around the text. Then, I copied the HTML code in the form and there you go, everything was on the site!
But I was still not done. I had forgotten to upload the files (PDF and .mobi). I did that (using FileZilla) and then tested the download links. It worked. Since my website is evolving as I go, I actually did a bit of PHP programming at this point, so the links to the PDF and Kindle versions would be better aligned on the story page.
There was still more to do, like letting the world know the story was available. This portion is probably my weakest area at this point. I have yet to find what works well. To start, I decided to post something on the accounts I had. I first looked at Twitter. I was about to post a simple message when I remembered another author using a series of hashtags when he tweeted about his story. I looked it up and to my surprise, he had 10 or so hashtags! Okay, I admit, it was more like 6, but you get the picture. I was going for 2, but now realized I could do better. I checked the hashtags he used and learned the existence of retweet groups on Twitter. I decided to test that out. So, I joined 2. Then, I posted my update on Twitter (it got retweeted, as it was supposed to). Thankfully, this updated my Facebook page automatically (I actually posted twice, so I had to go to my Facebook page to delete one of the messages).
Next, I turned to Goodreads. I didn't know what to do there. I have an author's page and a page for The Burden of the Protector. I explored and noticed there was a blog option on my profile page. I posted a message there, linking to the page of Logbox on my site (later, I plan on creating an RSS feed, that would automatically update on Goodreads). Recently, I also started joining groups on Goodreads, so I browsed a bit and posted the same message in one of the groups I had joined.
At the time of this post, I am still uncertain of the best approach to market my stories without having to pay for a service. Over the past few months, I have accumulated more and more followers on Twitter and likes on Facebook, but it is unclear as of yet how much traffic goes to my stories. Also, I haven't noticed any big change for my story on Amazon. There might be something I do wrong, or maybe it simply takes time to get a little bit of notoriety.
After all this, I was quite satisfied I had done enough, except one thing. I took a few minutes to send a message to my beta readers and editor, to let them know the story was available and to send them another thank you for helping me with the story.
And that was about it. Looking back, it seems like a lot (as proven by the fact that this is so far the longest post in my blog), but it is all part of the learning experience and most steps are enjoyable. The only downside came from a target date, imposed by myself. So, this could have been avoided. In all, in took me about 3 or 4 hours, which is a significant improvement from previous publications. More importantly, the result is a product of which I am proud.