How will it feel to see your book on the shelf?

The test copy of my book arrived this week! When you publish your book as a printed book (as opposed to an ebook), you can order a test copy so you can see what your readers will get when they buy your book.

Before I get into how it feels to hold your book for the first time and put it on your shelf, I’ll briefly describe what you need to do when you get your test copy.

What do you do with a test copy?

Once you stop marvelling at the fact that you’re holding your book in your hand, you need to take a close look at it.

This is not at all the same as the proofreading stage – you’re not looking for sentence level errors now because they should have been sorted before your book was typeset.

So what are you looking for? When you examine your test copy, you’re looking at the overall layout and quality. Is the artwork arranged how and where you want it? Are the pages laid out correctly?

While at this stage you don’t need to read every word of your book, you do need to carefully look at each page. When you do this, you’re keeping your reader’s experience in mind. Is this the kind of book your reader will enjoy reading?

How did I feel?

I knew when the test copy was arriving and expected to feel excited the first time I held it.

It was exciting, but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on over the last couple of days.

Thrilled

It’s thrilling to hold your book, to see that it’s real, to know that the hard work of writing and revising it is nearly finished!

I was happy, relieved and excited all at once. I wanted to show it to anyone who would look at it. I also loved putting it on the shelf and seeing that it looks like it belongs there amongst all the other books!

Sad

I was a little sad. I feel like I should have anticipated this because of how I felt when I finished my thesis. But I didn’t – it caught me by surprise.

On reflection, this response makes sense: this part of my journey is over. Endings, even ones we look forward to like finishing school, are inherently sad. We’re moving from what we’ve known into the unknown, or at least something we know less well than what came before.

Explaining this feeling to those closest to you is another matter. I’m pretty sure my husband is still confused by my response yesterday. He kept saying, ‘but it’s good that you have your book now’. He’s a published author (Purity and Contamination in Late Victorian Detective Fiction), he’s been here, but he responded very differently.

This isn’t the first time I’ve perplexed him, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Scared

I was scared. This book is going to be out in the world very, very soon. While it was an idea, it was safe. No one could read it. No one could decide they don’t like it. No one could decide they think it’s brilliant and start referring people to me.

I knew this response was likely, and I address these feelings in my book in chapters 19 (Dealing with criticism) and 20 (Dealing with praise). I’m trying to take my own advice here and remember that judgements (good or bad) of my book are not judgements of me as a person.

This response is another one that perplexed my husband. I don’t like arguments that men are one way and women are another way (men are from Mars, women are from Venus). Humans are too wonderfully complex to be put into neat little categories like that. Nevertheless, historically, female authors have been more likely to have, or at least to give voice to, fearful responses to publication.

They range from Anne Bradstreet’s poetic response in ‘The Author to Her Book‘, in which she calls her book ‘Thou ill form’d offspring of my feeble brain’, to George Eliot’s (pen name for Marian Evans) avoidance of all reviews. She feared positive and negative reviews in equal measure. Eliot thought positive ones would make her feel she’d never write so well again (and therefore shouldn’t try), while negative ones would reinforce her self doubt which would cause her to stop writing.

If you respond to impending publication with fear, try to remember to sit with your feelings for a bit: counter any arguments your impostor syndrome throws at you and trust that this too shall pass.

What’s next?

I’ll have a publication date soon. That still seems weird. A year ago today, I hadn’t even started writing the first draft! I started writing it on 23 April 2019.

If you’re thinking of embarking on this weird and wonderful journey of becoming a published author, sign up for my free ecourse: How to get clear on your book and who it’s for in just 3 days!

What Happens When You Work with a Publishing Consultant: Interior design, proofs, and metadata

So you’ve finished your manuscript, thoroughly revised it, sent it to your beta readers, applied their feedback, and sent it to your proofreader. You must be done, right?

No. Sorry, you’re not.

Now it’s time to get your publishing consultant involved.

What is a publishing consultant?

I hired Sam Pearce of Swatt Books to help me publish my book, There’s a Book in Every Expert (that’s you!). My book is ‘self-published’, which means I retain all rights to it, but Sam has sorted all of the formatting, ISBN numbers, etc. If you want details of everything that’s involved in self-publishing a book, you’ll need to read Sam’s afterword in my book!

Here, I’m going to discuss what working with her has been like from my end.

Interior design

After I signed the contract to work with Sam, we agreed a date by which I would send my manuscript to her. Once she received it, she started on the interior design for the book.

First, she gave me a questionnaire to get an idea of how I wanted the inside of the book to look. This included questions about my preferred size for the finished book, which fonts I like/can’t stand, and which already published books I like the look of.

Sam took this data and my manuscript and produced three mock-ups for me to consider. She included pages with chapter headings, pages with lists, and pages with just text and subheadings, so I would get a feel for how the whole book would look with the three different layouts.

I then chose the aspects I liked from each and she made a composite mock-up. We tweaked a couple of things after that (spaces between paragraphs to give the reader room to think and font size to make the text easier to read).

When I was happy, she made the first set of proofs.

Why couldn’t I just use my typed manuscript?

You may be wondering why, since I typed my manuscript, I needed any interior design at all. I needed it because a word processed document is not a book.

You want your book to look and feel like, well, a book. You also want it to be easy to read for as wide an audience as possible.

Publishing consultants should know which fonts are easiest for people with dyslexia to work with, for example. You don’t want to publish your book in your favourite font only for it to be inaccessible to a significant portion of your target audience.

Also, consultants understand how to set the margins correctly – you have to allow for binding the book – and how to ensure optimal readability by choosing the right line height and spacing.

I’ve been a writer for a long time and a reader for even longer, and it didn’t occur to me until Sam mentioned it that it’s useful to have spaces between paragraphs in nonfiction books. Having that visual break gives the reader a break to process the information given in the paragraph.

Finally, it’s irritating to read a badly designed book, even if you can’t pinpoint what you find irritating about it. It’s a publishing consultant’s job to help you make choices that will make your book easy for your audience to read!

Reading your proofs

As I said above, after the design phase, Sam typeset the book and sent me the first of three sets of proofs.

She typeset the manuscript as it was after I had made the changes suggested by my editor. The point of reading the page proofs is to make sure the editor’s changes made it into the proofs and to check for other errors. This isn’t the time for major changes like restructuring your book – that should happen before the book is typeset. Waiting to do it later may cause you to incur extra charges for the extra work it requires of the typesetter.

By the time you get to the proofs stage, you’ve likely read your book a number of times. Most of these readings will be on your computer screen, and all of them are likely to have been of your word processed manuscript.

You’ll be better able to spot errors now that your book has been typeset because it looks very different to the manuscript you sent off. However, you still need to print it out. We proofread better on paper than on the screen.

Once you’ve printed your proofs, read them through start to finish and compare them to your final (professionally edited) manuscript. This will take time and energy. I don’t recommend trying to do more than about 20 pages in a sitting because the work requires intense concentration.

So, when you get your proofs back, you need to plan your proofreading time wisely to make sure you get them back to your consultant on time – if you’re late you’ll delay the production of your book.

My proofs were sent in PDF format and I made comments on them for what the typesetter needed to change. When you receive your second proofs, you need to make sure the changes you requested for the first ones were applied correctly. You’ll mark this one like the first and, hopefully, in the third set, you’ll just confirm everything is complete and correct.

Help your consultant help you

At some point, you consultant will ask you for both a short and long description of your book and for metadata, or which genres/subgenres it should be listed under. You need to take your time with these steps because they will influence the success of your book.

Your consultant will help you refine your choices, but you’re responsible for doing most of the work.

Your book descriptions need to be concise, engaging, and detailed. You may think it should be easy to summarise your own work, but you’ll be surprised by how tricky it is to do so in 400 characters or fewer!

The metadata is important because it will help booksellers understand what kind of book yours is. This will help them understand where it fits among all the other books they sell and will help your readers find your book.

Do you have to hire a consultant?

Of course you don’t. It’s your book, you may publish it however you wish. If you decide to go it alone (or must because of financial constraints), you need to allow yourself time to thoroughly familiarise yourself with all aspects of self publishing.

I hired a consultant because I understand how much is involved in self publishing, and I know I didn’t have the time or the inclination to learn all of it. After all, there’s little point in writing a book, if you’re not going to give it its best possible chance of reaching the people who need to read it!

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