Less than a week until Timber Howligan’s publication date (June 12th! June 12th!)! You may wonder what the penultimate week in a self-published author’s life looks like. This is my basement, where I set up shop…


Screenprinting t-shirts.

Yes, that’s right. My kids just finished their last week of school, so one batch of t-shirts was for the Maker Team. Another was a class gift for my son’s fourth grade teacher. Home screenprinting is lots of fun—it’s messy and creative and full of hours of nitpicky frustration, just like writing except it ruins your favorite clothes.

For those who are interested, here’s a more useful description of the self-publishing process. This list might reveal my naiveté, especially when it comes to marketing—a social media hound I am not. But these are the general steps I’ve gone through. Keep in mind this list is out there in more generic forms in other venues, and this particular list reflects my goals: to have fun, and to create a product I’m proud of.

1. Write book/edit book. I hired professional editors—one for content, and another for copy editing at a later stage. You can find editors through professional associations (e.g. SCBWI), word of mouth, and I can’t say enough good things about selfpublishingreview.com—they have so many good resources for the independent publisher, including a version of this checklist.

2. Book cover design. I used friends, but there are many professional resources, for example at selfpublishingreview.com. I also hired an illustrator, because this was a children’s novel. The cover was worth all the money I spent–I could not have come up with something this cool on my own:

Front Cover (final)

3. ISBN number from Bowker. As far as I can tell, the consensus is that you should splurge for 10 (1 costs $125, 10 cost $295). The print and ebook versions each need their own ISBN, so you’re already in it for two if you plan to publish both. Don’t bother to pay for the barcode, because there are plenty of barcode generators out there (including CreateSpace, who will generate one for you).

4. Register book title with http://www.bowkerlink.com after assigning ISBN—you should know things like when your book is being published, the list price, etc. This is a later step.

5. Not every independent publisher does this, but I registered my own Sole Proprietorship with my home county’s Register of Deeds. I am Lionheart Press. I did this so I could legitimately put a publishing company on the title page and back cover of my book. Also, once you register a business name, you get cool things in the mail—like an offer for a free “Square” doodad, so I can take credit card sales. How cool is that?

6. Pick an interior design—I bought a template from BookDesignTemplates.com and found it very easy to use; worth the ~$30. The separate ebook template was only $10. Splurging for a professional interior design template sets things like margins, headers, page numbers, blank pages, etc. You can customize it as desired. This is what it ended up looking like:

Screenshot 2015-06-06 15.15.43

7. Format book, format ebook—very very different processes. Much more to it than slapping text in a template. I spent one day fixing ellipses, because they didn’t come over the right way from Scrivener. You can hire people to do this for you too.

8. Marketing….On this I am not an expert, as anyone who follows me on Twitter can tell. But my son’s friends bug me every time they see me about when the book is coming out, so I must be doing something right. The most important thing is, don’t skip this step. Know what your book is about and be able to rattle off the blurb in your sleep. Have the one sentence cocktail party summary flow smoothly from your lips whenever anyone asks “So what’s your book about?” And don’t call it “My book.” Plug it by its title relentlessly. “Timber Howligan is about a cat who always wanted to be a secret agent, but when he finally gets a chance, everything goes wrong…it’s kind of like James Bond meets Garfield.”

9. Redesign my website: I made www.timberhowligan.com a static page, where the ebook will be available for free, because I believe that once you’ve paid for the text, you deserve it in electronic format also. These are the kinds of things I have the power to do as an independent author. I also had to change the name of this website to http://www.hjfrederick.com, because I promised Heather Vogel Frederick, author of Spy Mice, that I wouldn’t use my full name when I published Timber Howligan, Secret Agent Cat. What are the odds that two Heather Frederick’s would write about the secret world of spy mammals?

10. Pick a platform—CreateSpace versus LightningSource? Draft2Digital? Smashwords? All will get you where you want to go. I picked CreateSpace for print, and I’m still evaluating options for the ebook. I’m strongly considering Draft2Digital based on what I’ve read and heard. Kind of have to make that decision…today.

11. Print proof—do not skip this step if you are doing a print version of your book. Nothing substitutes for seeing what the reader will see. I printed extras to hand out to beta readers, because maybe they will catch something I didn’t. Also, my son didn’t want to wait until June 12th–he’s been reading the proof copy, and he’s figured out I’ll let him stay up waaaaay past his bedtime if he’s reading Timber Howligan.

12. Publish! Celebrate! Tell yourself this is fun. Now it’s time to go write the next book.

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