‘Three Steps’ – Repost with comments

Hard copy proofing never seems to end. One of the non-fiction books I am working on at the moment is so complex to create (even though I am working in InDesign) that I keep having daymares that I’m going to miss grammar, spelling, numbering and style mistakes. Nearly every sentence of the book has a Xhosa word. I don’t speak isiXhosa. The author and I are currently going through the process of hard copy proofing and correcting, outlined in the latter half of the post below. When we are done, the 2nd edition of AmaZizi: The Dlamini of Southern Africa will be a book to be proud of.

Three Steps – (Sep 16, 2014)

Three steps were taken in my journey to recognised authorhood in the last 24 hours. Only one was taken by me. The other two were propelled by Keg1901 and Anonymous.

Keg1901, bless her heart, wrote a review of Cheery Red – and gave it five stars. This is harder to achieve than some people might imagine, because getting reviews that are from people unknown to a new author, that are not paid for, is mostly random luck. You can ask people to post a review but they mostly don’t. Getting 5 stars when you didn’t ask for it or pay for it? That’s magical.

Anonymous paid $4.00 for Cheery Red, leaving me as gobsmacked as the first payment, because $4.00 is a lot of money for a 20 A5 page story. Anonymous must really have liked it. I am just as thrilled.

Thank you, Keg1901 and Anonymous.

Step number three was completed this afternoon. I finally managed to get the print version [of Innerone] ready for the printer.

If you are an author or in the publishing business, you will know that e-mailing the file is the start of the hard copy proofreading, not the actual printing of the book.

The process is as follows:

Once you’ve approved the quote for the print run, the printer sends you a hard copy of the text, pages folded in sections, for a format proof reading. The proofreader or publisher or author or all three go over the text carefully, checking for format errors – the wrong spacing, missing pages, text repeats, page numbers, font size or type mistakes etc. Text errors like spelling and grammar should have been sorted by this time, but usually more are spotted and corrected at this time.

Aside from the above, I make sure that the imposition is correct – that the proofs are aligned correctly on the page, that the headers are in line, that the spacing around the text is adequate, that the pages are cropped straight. If your book is skew, it’s not a quality, bookshop worthy item.

You then correct and sign-off errors that you found with the author (one and the same in this instance) and send the new hard copy to the printer. This usually happens a couple times. The cover is done at the same time; and again, all cover items are checked for accuracy, including the all important spine width. Get that wrong and your entire cover goes out of whack.

One of my big worries, using an overseas company to do print-on-demand (postage from South Africa is prohibitively expensive) for possible overseas orders, is that they’ll print the book any which way, knowing that their clients are too far away to oversee the printing quality; and that my reputation will suffer as a result. Ah well. I’ve chosen IngramSpark for that and we will see how good their print quality is, should I receive overseas orders for the book.

What to check for in hard copy and on the cover are detailed topics deserving blog posts of their own.

In the meantime, tonight, I am celebrating those three steps by writing this blog.

‘Watching the Stats’ – repost with comments

I have to admit it – despite how keen I was to collect and analyse data, after all the analytic setting up I did after this post, I never looked at it again. I have discovered that analysing data is last on my very long to-do list.

I need to treat analytics like a writing a book, something I’ll blog properly on later. In brief, you have to write the book before you edit it or you’ll never finish writing the book. I think, when all the rock climbing up the cliffs of communication and publishing are accomplished and I’m sitting flushed and triumphant on the plateau of maintenance, I will finally be able to turn my attention to analysing the data properly and making the adjustments that are necessary.

As for asking for reviews – of the many people who contacted me to say they loved the story and promising to put up a review, only one did. I’ve thought about why this is and it did not take long to understand why. It’s not about being better at asking for a review. The fact is, asking for a review is a lot to ask for. In a person’s busy life, they have to make time to think about what they want to say, write it down in a way they feel they can put in a public space and then go through the process of putting it on their favourite site. It’s a charitable act. Perhaps people need to be incentivised with a coupon for the next book or something. In any case, you can ask, but it is better to expect nothing to avoid disappointment.

Watching the Stats  (posted Aug 21, 2014)

At this moment I’m up to 64 downloads of Cheery Red. It’s exciting! I never hoped for so many.

It’s also a period of discovery. Aside from a journalist friend of mine, Jon, who wrote on Facebook that he enjoyed the story, there have been no other reviews. Two of the 64 people have put Cheery Red into their permanent Smashwords libraries. And I foolishly didn’t add Google Analytics to my new website before I published it, so I have no idea where visitors preferred to go on the site or any other stats at all.

What does this mean? Well, firstly, I’m going to have to get better at asking for reviews. They are important for both author and readers. I get to understand what people think of the work and readers can see at a glance what others thought of the story.

Regarding the permanent libraries, it’s a compliment every time someone wants to keep your work in their collection. So the story has been complimented twice. Of the 64 people who have so far downloaded Cheery Red, there is no way of knowing how what percentage have Smashword accounts, so I don’t know whether it is 2 out of 64 or 2 out of 2. I just don’t know. I also don’t know what the typical download of a free short story is within 48 hours, so I cannot say whether the download amount is good on average or not. I’m still trying to find out.

Finally, I must add Google Analytics to my site. I will never recover the first few days of stats, and I have lost the information it would have given me. Let that be a valuable lesson to my fellow writers who wish to share their creative output with a new website. Ensure you have statistical functions in place before you go live!