Friday, November 13, 2009

Evolution Of A Book, Part 4

One of the first things I did when I actually made the decision to write Comic Book Fanthropology was to announce it here on my blog. That was done partially to start generating some interest, but partially to make sure I got my own ass in gear. Since I was writing it for myself -- as opposed to another publisher -- telling the world that I was working on it was a way of forcing some pressure on myself to actually get it done. If I'd have never said anything, I could have sloughed off for a year or three, and no one would know or care. So here I was, researching and writing away with at least the impression that there were some expectations on me now.

After I'd written the first few chapters, I stopped a moment to take stock of how I was doing. Things were actually going surprisingly well and it occurred to me that this might actually take less time than I anticipated. I could easily finish it up by December if things kept going as smoothly as they had been.

At which point, my marketing brain kicked in and realized that if I could actually have it ready by Thanksgiving (only a week earlier than December) I could start selling them in time for the holiday shopping season, and try to play off the increased spending people inevitably do. So I worked out a rough timeline of how long I had to write each chapter, working backwards from my Thanksgiving deadline. Not a leisurely pace, certainly, but easily do-able.

Then I found myself actually looking up info on various Print-on-Demand (POD) services. Knowing that my book essentially catered to a niche market within a niche market, and having talked with other publishers already, I knew this wasn't going be a huge seller. So I decided early on to go the POD route -- there were low set-up costs, zero inventory, and I could take advantage of their distribution network. The downside is that the money I make on each book is pretty low, but I'm not looking to earn a living from this book (and possibly other future ones). In any event, I opted for Lulu, as they seem to have a good track record and, from everything I've heard, turn out some good work from a production standpoint. And part of their process requires me to sign off on a printed copy of the book.

Which means they have to print one up, put it in the mail, and send it to me. Which can take up to two weeks for the hardcover version. Which means I had two move my deadline for finishing everything up and having the book ready to go about two weeks in advance of Thanksgiving. That would give Lulu time to get a proof copy to me, and have me sign off on it, so that it could be available for sale on Thanksgiving. If you don't have a calendar handy, that's essentially this weekend that I need to be finishing up and sending it off.

Around this time, too, I realized that there was a whole other aspect of fandom I should talk about but hadn't alloted for. No problem; I can just drop in another chapter on that and that should cover things. Oh, and I decided one of the chapters I had started was a little too broad and should be broken up into two chapters.

All of which meant that my original timeline went out the window.

I still really wanted to have this ready for Thanksgiving, so I decided I really needed to buckle down and do some literary ass-kicking. My days generally worked like this...

Get up, shower, get dressed, head off to my day job and work until lunch. Spend my lunch hour sitting in the one of the break rooms doing research. Work until around 5:00, and head home for a quick dinner. After dinner, write until 9:00, take the dog for a walk, and work on illustrations and/or layout portions of the book until midnight. Collapse in bed for about 6 hours and repeat the next day. The entirety of my "leisure" activities was watching part of the previous night's The Daily Show while I was eating dinner. I did have some music to listen to while I was walking the dog, but I was usually still writing in my head and not paying much attention to anything else.

I don't mind telling you that, after four or five weeks of doing that, I was pretty well exhausted. It's not an approach I suggest anyone take, unless you're in a position to really dedicate every waking moment of your free time towards your project.

That said, it has seemed to work. The book is essentially done. I have to drop in the Foreward as soon as I get that, and I'd like to throw a couple of pull quotes on the back cover, but it's otherwise ready to go on the stupid-short schedule I set for myself. I think the book says everything I intended it to say, and doesn't look half-bad either. I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing an actual printed copy in my hands; I think it'll look really slick. (In no small part, thanks to an awesome cover! Did I mention Colin Panetta did a fantastic job on that?)

Before I finish up this post, let me point out that I've actually got a website set up for the book itself. Head on over now, and make sure you subscribe to the RSS feed so you won't miss when it starts coming out. Or, better yet, bookmark it so you'll be able to return to it repeatedly and order several hundred copies of the book once it's out!

Up next: marketing strategy!

2 comments:

Matthew E said...

Question for you. Did you have anyone edit the book?

Sean Kleefeld said...

Yes and no. I didn't hire an actual editor to go through with a red pen, although I did consider that.

I've gone through it myself several times, marking up printed copies of the layout version. I specifically used the printed layout, since it was noticeably formatted differently than how I'd written it, which I think helps counter at least some of the usual skimming-it-too-quickly-because-I-already-wrote-it blind spots a writer can have.

I've also had a few other (professional and amateur) writers read through it independently. I didn't ask them to edit it per se, but I did ask for honest input/feedback regarding overall structure and flow, and whether I missed or glossed over too quickly any significant points.