From Inception to Self Publication: an all Inclusive Guide with Price and Process
Having been here for some time (almost 2 years) and have been met with a great deal of support and acceptance. After 1.1 million + words published on Royal Road, I have finally put out a book, but you don't have to look at it or read it or buy it.
This POST is just a guide for anyone looking for answers I could not find when I was writing my book.
Metaworld Chronicles began just as a way to relax. It's an excellent way to divert your mind from real-life stress, assuming, of course, you have a quiet time to spare. If you have a room of your own and time to write, that is the best time and place to do it. NOTE this is important - write to RELAX, not write to STRESS yourself. If you are stressed by writing, if it isn't joy... you might be more suited to reading, or petting cats.
I knew that I wanted to write urban fantasy. The last campaign I ran was D&D D20 Modern, followed by Shadowrun 3.5 Edition. I have an absurd amount of random ideas that never realised, so I began with a basic scaffold below:
World - Alt-Earth with Magic
Setting - Magic and Technology
Tone - Dystopian
Protagonist - Female Self Empowerment
That was all I had. I started in the same way a game campaign began, with an idea and that's it. That was the basis for the first 10 Chapters, which fleshed out my world and was my prototype. Initially, I did not plan anything beyond that as I had no idea other than a character concept.
For my protagonist, I had many notions, but in the end, I based it on my partner, who during this time was going through an incredibly rough patch, and whose family was going through an insane squabble. So I took that as a base, added in a bit of Virginia Woolf, a lot of Sylvia Plath, pasted some Margaret Atwood heroines and tossed in a bit of the overthinking Hamlet.
And so, combining real-life drama and a little literature magic, I hammered out the story of a girl with 'realistic' family issues. As they say, life imitates art; art imitates life. As for the setting, for those of you who read my book, you know that many of my locations exist in real life, indeed, that made writing much more accessible.
For Side Characters, I use an old D&D Campaign method:
For example, let's take Lulan (For those of you who know)
Character purpose:: Survive solo with brother Kusu, find a place for herself
Character motivation:: Home and friendship, sense of security,
Contextual motivation:: Leave behind abusive home and past, paranoid it will come back to haunt her
Character long term goal:: Build a home, safety and growth in skills - which is also for self-preservation
Character short term goal:: Friendship with Gwen, power up spells, be useful, see more of the world,
How short term goals fit into long term goals:: Gwen is a means for her to find a home in the future, Gwen' friendship and connections will get her old Clan off her back and provide her with the means to be free.
After about 30,000 words, I post the first variation on Royal Royal.
Errors and typos everywhere. Random run-on sentences. People found parts completely random, and there was a lot of TELL. Criticism poured in, and I was shocked that me, a semi-professional academic, could write something so horrid. At this time was when I learned a fundamental lesson.
My biggest sins
1. Direct injection of literary quotes, arrrgh cringe.
2. Anime tropes, arrrrgn cringe.
3. According to my readers - a fascination with Yue's breasts. Yue's RL model would like to say 'that's rude. I like my breasts'.
4. INFO DUMP - this wasn't fixed until 3rd or 4th edit a YEAR later because the world wasn't fleshed out yet.
Don't rush things.
Thanks to a few people's help - @Andur, @Graestra @The Last Melody @Belial666 @skydragonknight @HamsterDesTodes to name a few, I changed up how I write.
And so on.
Things got better, typo and stories got more planning.
At CH 20 or 60,000 words, the first big Event occurs. It was a lot of fun, and people responded very well to the story after that.
After that initial big ego boost, I decided to keep going.
The world was fleshed out.
The bad guys hinted.
Gwen's primary narrative-catalyst ability was unlocked.
Things were moving in a new direction.
From this point onwards, I was in the "Middle of the Novel Magical Thinking" where I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my world and my characters, and my style has somewhat matured.
If you would like more information on how to start writing and how to keep writing after you start, these ladies can tell you more:
That Crafty Feeling - Zadie Smith
Power of Fiction by Geraldine Brooks
Margaret Atwood talks shop
[/url][url=https://www.arts.gov/video/nea-big-read-meet-ray-bradbury]Ray Bradbury Talks shop.
This process took place between 2017 and 2019 Jan.
How to generate meaningful content?
I can't tell you exactly, but the answer isn't in your head. It's 10% you, and 90% generated from what you have experienced in the real world, as well as what you're willing to read. Here's how I keep my writing interesting -
1. Consume different Genres as they add to your writing tools -
- Life Writing (David Sedaris, Jenny Lawson, )
- Resistance and Post-Colonial Writing (Achebe, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Joseph Conrad)
- Science Fiction (I will plug Ursula K. Le Guin, but I've read... to much of this genre.)
- Fantasy (You guys know better, but my no.1 is Terry Pratchett, RIP.)
- Speculative (George Orwell, Aldur Huxley, Atwood, )
- Pop Fiction (Mathew Reily, James Patterson, Lee Child)
- Philosophy-Fiction (Paulo Coelho, Murakami, Kazuo Ishiguro, Franz Kafka, Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald)
- Post-Mod Feminism (Margaret Atwood)
- Classic Poets (Coleridge, Yeats, Blake, Frost, Dickinson, Dylan Thomas)
- Modern Poets (Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, W.H Auden, W.B Yeats)
- Shakespeare (All the tragedies. Tempest and Hamlet are my favourite)
2. Be open to criticism, more criticism, and yet more criticism.
Don't get pissed, don't get angry, don't even get upset.
Think about it like this; someone took the time to read and then rag on your work! They spent time from their life to write about your work! If writing is supposed to move people, you're half-way there!
3. Promote your book
Actually, mine kind of grew organically so I have no clue other than
1. Add your book to topwebfiction.com
2. I made a post in the forum that was viewed 50 times!
That's all I did.
After about 1 millionth word, I think I levelled up from tier 20 to about 60 out of 100. I went back and looked at my old stuff; then I almost shat myself. How the hell did that imagery make sense, how is that sentence balanced? Why is that expression so retarded?
I don't believe in re-writing.
But I do believe in good editing.
How many times did I edit Ch 1 - 20?
About ten to twenty times. That's right. I edited CH 1 - 5 a dozen times, then again re-tooled all my imagery and perspectives for the eBook draft. As Zadie Smith said, the first 20 Chapters will be the death of an author. Sometimes, you have to learn to let go and let your readers be the judge.
At this point, I entertained the idea of publishing a book.
I asked the author of IRONTEETH / for some advice, and he told me he got a professional editor because DIY everything means you get to keep your rights to keeping the book free. I then asked a colleague, who was a writer with an agent, and whose brother was a theatre writer and whose father was a director, and they said the publishing racket is dismal these days, just DIY it.
Confused as anything, I did some reading and emailed people to do my research.
I contacted Agents + Publishers + Read up on Amazon's guidelines.
Here's what I surmised, this is after 4 months of back and forth with a dozen publishers and agencies:
1. If you publish with a traditional publisher like Pan MacMillan, they do not take manuscripts for Fantasy of any kind, so DEAD END.
2. If you want to find an agent to hawk your book to a publisher, 90% of Agency do not take Fantasy, and if they do, their fees are generally 15% of all of your future income on the IP of the book. Despite everything, finding a good agent is almost impossible.
3. Agents, in general, will turn away anyone who is not in the industry, almost like a Catch-22. Their time is money, and 99% of us won't generate guaranteed money for them.
4. If you self-publish and tank the costs yourself, no problem, see below.
For me, there was a very important distinction that made it impossible for anything other than self-publish.
I want to keep my book online for free and sell a professionally edited and formatted version. The fact that I want to keep my OG web-novel live means that this book will never exist under an Agent, or a traditional publisher, period. I don't know how those Japanese authors do it, but in the western world, forget it. Western Agents and publishers have stringent rules and guidelines against conflict of interest.
To inspire my self, I ordered a piece of artwork from one of my long-term favourite artists Laovaan (see book description)
The process was arranged as follows:
4. 80% completion
5. Full Payment
Commission Process Gallery / PROCESS IMGUR GALLERY
The total cost is between 750 - 1100 Euros for an artist at Laovaan's level of fame. (He is very popular on Instagram)
I asked around for estimates on editing my first Ch 1 - 49 into Vol 1.
American Editors seem to charge about the same as Australian ones. Confident in my narrative form, I paid for proof editing.
My original Royal Road copy-paste was 177,000 words
I ended up going with Australian EBook Editor
who charged $80 per Hour of work.
Lynne said my book for Ch 1 - 97 too long and it would be a waste of money. (It was 1000 pages...) I decided to split it in two. (550!) I then edited the draft so that after cutting out all of my bullshit and adding in new scenes, it was 165,000 ish words.
Total editing cost was around AUD 3000
Here's my review: Hello, my name is D.J Wuto (Wutosama) and I am the author of Metaworld Chronicles on Royal Road. I engaged Lynne Stringer from Australian Ebook Publisher for the first volume of my novel, totally 160,000 words. Throughout the process, Lynne has been professional and pleasant, providing an upfront cost, clarified the process of editing, and offered a clear timeline for delivery of an annotated, proofed manuscript. As for the result itself, I am very happy with the outcome, as Lynne had drastically improved the consistency of my craft, taught me arcane grammatical rules, provided guidance on language for my international readership, and pointed out the narrative shortfalls.
I ran through yet another Edit from top to bottom, accepting, rejecting and fixing all of my Editor's suggestions. There was 150,000 changes in total. HOLY SHIT. 1 Months later, I was finally satisfied. Are there going to be errors still? Sure. But this is the best product I can produce at my current level.
What a bloody nightmare, as a noob, I was stumped.
Do not even begin to format your book without due diligence!!
READ THIS FIRST!
Ebook Formatting Guide by Amazon KDP
KDP General Formatting for Everything
My book has Images for Scene Breaks + Full colour Glossary
Almost all eBooker sells have their formatting. The only ones I could make work perfectly with my designs are
3. Google play
On Kobo, the format goes weird because @Lampshade made me very cool page breaks, seen here
I found out later that only iBooks support PNG, so unless you view in white, they show up as white-boxed Sigils with white box background. Not all E-book readers are created equal! Oh well, such is life.
Likewise, did you know despite my favourite author being Murakami, Amazon and all other publishers do not accept ONE NAME authors as metadata? Yep, we're all two name plebians. That delayed publication for a few days while I had to change all my metadata.
Formatting my cover was hell as well. Even as someone who knew how to use Illustrator, it took extensive formatting to finally get KDP To accept the Print book cover and the Ebook cover without any error or crop. Make sure to download this :
Before you get into Illustrator. Make sure the background covers all bleed areas else your book will be rejected.
Taking advice from my readers, I have chosen to manage Amazon myself and to give 15% of all my income to Draft2Digital, so I don't have to worry about multi-channel tax. God, I hate submitting tax forms. D2D formatting doesn't work with epub 3, so I forwent their self-formatting and went straight to the bookselling part. After some tax problems (I am in Australia they in the USA) The book is now up. The multi-link looks like this::
Metaworld Chronicle Volume 1 for Kobo, iBook, Google Play, etc
Amazon link looks like this
You get the idea
So there you have it - from inception to publication.
On average, I do about 20 hours of writing and reading per week.
The first book likely took between 800 - 900 hours from conception to publication, though I have a feeling Volume 2 will take a lot less time. The total cost to me to produce something that looks good and feels good was about AUD 4500. I would have to say that I have no expectation of recouping costs and only hope to get enough to pay it forward for Volume 2, then 3, then 4, etc. Just the fact that if I were to have worked on Sundays (self-employed) for 1000 hours... I could have bought about 25 years worth of Smashed Avocado Sandwiches about now is the reality of it.
So don't worry about the money, if you're a hobbyist. It's a labour of love.
Selling the book at 3.99 USD means about $2 bucks a book that goes to me. The $19.99 hard copy gives me about $3.84 if I recall.
Looks like there's some PDF to PRINT issues with the interior.
- The cover is beautiful. Zero Errors. Excellent stuff.
- Despite consulting with a human being at Amazon, I can see now that doing the minimum possible is also a part of the customer service creed.
- I am going to have to measure the book with a frigging ruler, then make a PDF to match the print prize through trial and error.
- All formatting speccs are provided by KDP - but I couldn't 'Auto' the process...
- Because of @Lampshade's fault HAHAHA. The sweet page breaks means I have to manually format everything as Amazon's algorithm in Kindle bookmaker fucks it all to hell.
- I guess that's the first "Edition". Time to manually calibrate the formatting.
Thanks for writing about the process and also for paying fair prices to artists.
@Chrysis - Yeah, I was surprised at first as well. For Art, there's cheaper alternatives, and usually, people ask peers and friends to spot them. The cheaper ones I have seen on Deviant Art are $150 for simple portraits to $350 for detail portraits. Obviously, buying out the COPY RIGHT and receiving the Original would cost more money.
Oh, about the cover... A quality cover befits a quality book. Though I did kinda wince at that price.
Wutosama Wrote: Cool Bananas, if anyone got Q,s about writing or whatever, just fire away.
I would love to read the very first chapter before you did all the editing and the polished chapter to see how it evolved. Any chance you saved that first piece of work and can post so we can compare?
I've finished everything you've posted on RR, but I'm adding the eBook to my Christmas list for a little extra support. Thanks for the fantastic adventure so far!