Chronotrace Sequence Postmortem: Part 2
Picking up right where I left off in my Chronotrace Sequence Postmortem Part 1, the first book was certainly the most difficult to write. It went through two major drafts in which the plot was reworked and a few minor drafts for error checking before it was even close to thinking about publication. The initial title, by the way, was actually Nature Ascendant, not Into the Vast.
After so many drafts the story started to take on a settled form. During this time I was submitting query letters to literary agents and usually getting no response or a form letter. I also took a break and wrote three short stories, two of which have since been released, the very short scifi/romance The Spirit of Caledonia and the somewhat longer cyberpunk tale The Artificer’s Apprentice. Both are available for free, so be sure to check them out if you haven’t already. The longer, unpublished story I plan on releasing sometime within the next year, after the release of my fantasy novel, but I’ll talk more about that in the future. I did submit all three stories to some online magazines, but got no interest.
A word about agents and publishing in general might be apropos at this point. As I was researching who to send the synopsis of my novel to I slowly came to the realization that I actually had no desire to work with any of the agents I was submitting to. I didn’t like the novels their authors were writing and I did not like the vibe I was getting about the industry at all when researching them. In fact, the more I learned about publishing, the more of a bad fit the system seemed for me.
For those of you unfamiliar with how traditional publishing works, here’s the typical scenario (*note, though I feel the following assessment is accurate, I’m not saying traditional publishing cannot or will not work for other authors, this is just the picture that emerged from my own research. Your mileage may vary). You send off your synopsis to an agent. If the agent likes it, they’ll ask for a partial or full manuscript. Assuming they like what you send, they’ll sign you on as a client. This process usually takes between a few months and forever (for those who never find an agent). Let’s say in a good case it takes you six months.
Now they’ll begin shopping your book around to every publisher under the sun. If they find a publisher who wants to publish it, you can expect an advance between $1000-$5000 (on average). Your agent will take 15% of that (they take 15% of everything you ever make, usually). For many authors (pay attention here) this is all the money you’ll ever see from the publication of your book. You’ll make a paltry percentage on each sale, but the publisher will take almost all of it and if you don’t sell through your initial run and make back your advance (many authors don’t) your book will eventually go out of print and the publisher will own the rights (in most cases). But even if your book does sell through, you won’t receive any royalty checks for between 6-18 months.
Keep in mind that from the day you sign with a publisher it will be 12-24 months (sometimes longer) before your book ever sees the light of day. They already have other books that are scheduled to release ahead of yours. But what about editing, cover design, and promotion? Doesn’t a publisher provide these valuable services? Yes, for the first two (which you can easily hire freelancers to do), for the last one, not so much. Sure you’ll get some mention to their partners, but you’re one of dozens of authors in their stable. The lion’s share of their promotional efforts will go to the top handful of authors that will make them almost all of their money.
So to sum up, even if you find and agent (many writers don’t) and sign with a publisher (most books never get here either) the traditional route offers you a 24-42 month wait for your book to be published and they’ll own the rights and you probably won’t make very much money. Doesn’t sound very appealing does it?
A better path
It was during this time that I came across an independent author online explaining in great detail how she had self-published her book. A romance author, she had made about $25,000 in six months and spent around $800 on having her book proofed, edited, and for her cover design (I’ve since learned that this is incredibly cheap, most editors charge between $500-$6000). And there was no wait time on getting it to print. This last bit was, for me, one of the most attractive aspects of her story.
Based on this, and other stories I came across about authors finding self-publishing success, I started to reorient my thinking. Could this model work for me? It certainly seemed to fit my skill set. A web designer by trade with some graphic design skills in my back pocket, I knew I could handle the cover design and visual aspects of promotion as well as the technical aspects of ebook creation. So, based on everything I had learned up to that point, I took the plunge and started prepping the book for publication on my own.
Judging a book by its cover?
The first thing I knew I would need would be covers for the three books. Here are some of the early prototypes I came up with. You can see that the final covers are somewhat similar. You can also see that I kept “Nature Ascendant” as the working title for the third book (I really liked that title, but in the end felt that it just didn’t have a strong enough tie to the story).
Speaking of covers, in case you didn’t already know, the first two covers (of the final versions, not the ones pictured above) are based off 3D landscapes I designed in a program called Blender and then heavily photoshopped. It was incredibly difficult and time consuming to do it this way so I decided to use someone else’s artwork for the third book, Ascent of the Nebula and just do the layout and design part on that one.
Biting off more than I could chew
One advantage of creating my own artwork, though, was that I was able to use it in making the trailer for my book. I created that as well using Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premier. If you’d like to learn more about what went into making the trailer, I have written about that elsewhere. Or you can just check it out here, if you’d like.
I am incredibly proud of the covers and the trailer, but if you are an aspiring author I would not recommend doing what I did. It’s waaay too much work. You’re much better off spending that time on writing. In fact, even if you made the best cover and trailer in the world, it won’t sell you many books, especially the trailer unless you were already well-established. Don’t get me wrong, the cover in particular is incredibly important in helping your book stand out, I just wouldn’t recommend spending the time making your own unless that’s something you just love doing anyway.
I had hoped to wrap up this series with only two episodes, but it looks like I will not be able to do that. Check back for the next installment soon!