Thursday, September 5, 2013

It's Back-to-School for Me by Alison Henderson

It's been many years since September meant back-to-school at our house, but this year was different. I'm the one who's been immersed in the challenge of learning new things. So many new things.

This week marked a major milestone in my writing career--I published my first indie book, Unwritten Rules. Those of you who are old hands at self-publishing, try to remember your first time. It's a lot like going back to school--scary, exhilarating, and brimming with possibilities. I'm glad I published my first three books with a wonderful small press. I learned so many things that made it possible for me to take on the challenge of publishing on my own. Chiefly, I learned that you can't do it on your own.

What, you say. Isn't doing everything yourself what self-publishing is all about? It is, and it isn't. It's about taking ultimate responsibility for the final product and learning to do as many of the tasks as you can, but it's also about understanding your limits and getting help when you need it.

I designed the cover myself, which was a large part of the impetus to try self-publishing. I love the design process and enjoyed learning the necessary tech skills to produce an eye-catching cover. I also did the formatting myself, but that was such a frustrating process I'm not sure I would do it again. The only reason the book is available on Amazon now is that Amazon is incredibly easy to work with. When my KDP Select exclusive period expires, I doubt I have the patience and skills required to format it for other outlets. Who knows? I might surprise myself and be full of the confidence and energy required to tackle it again, but I doubt it. Only time will tell.

Where I got the most help was with the heart of the book--the manuscript itself. I initially wrote the book with a critique partner, but she writes in a different sub-genre and is a lovely, gentle person--probably too gentle for the kick-in-the-pants I needed on this one. When I thought I was finished, I gave the manuscript to my two sisters for non-writer's suggestions. They had several excellent suggestions, which I then incorporated, but the real work was still ahead. 

Several months ago, I traded services with one of my fellow Roses, Jannine Gallant. I designed the covers for her Secrets of Ravenswood series in return for editing help with Unwritten Rules. I definitely got the better end of that bargain. Jannine put in countless hours reading, critiquing, and editing the book. She was just the kind of editor I needed--relentless and tough. I am so proud of the final version. I think Unwritten Rules is my best book to date, and I couldn't have done it without her. Hats off to Jannine!

Here's the blurb:

Things aren’t going Madelyn Li’s way. Her bodyguard agency is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, her grandmother keeps hatching plots to marry her off, and someone is trying to kill her latest client. All she wants is to safely escort thriller writer and former CIA agent Carter Devlin on his cross country book tour and collect her check, but two obstacles stand in her way: a shadowy assailant and her own growing attraction to her dashing client.

Carter Devlin has agreed to accept the beautiful and determined Ms. Li as a bodyguard primarily to appease his publisher. After all, who would want to kill a beat-up, retired ex-spy on a book tour? But when the attacks turn deadly, he soon learns there’s more to Madelyn than a pretty face and tempting body. Will the spark become a flame before a killer snuffs it out?

For you other self-publishers out there: what is your favorite part of the process? What's your biggest headache? What's the biggest reward? Would you do it again? I'd love to hear from you.



Margo Hoornstra said...

Alison, My hat's off to you for having the fortitude to self publish. Not sure I have the patience. As for your comments about Jannine. When it comes to reviewing manuscripts, she is tough, relentless and then some. I've had many a manuscript come out better through her efforts too. Best of luck with your indie venture!

Jannine Gallant said...

It's a terrific book, Alison, and I wish you the best of luck with sales. Me - I hate the formatting too. As for covers, I'm clueless - that's why we make a good team! LOL Hope I wasn't too brutal. My theory is platitudes never improved anyone's work, though they're certainly nice to hear. That's why we have moms!

Alison Henderson said...

Margo - Jannine's help was invaluable. I'm much happier with the end result!

Alison Henderson said...

Jannine - I'm glad you liked SOMETHING about the book - LOL! Truthfully, I have a very thick skin and took no offense at all after the initial shock. None of my previous editors or critique partners offered anywhere near as much constructive help.

Even though I didn't take every single bit of advice, I hope you'll be proud of the final product. I am.

Unknown said...

Hi Alison,

I'm getting ready to jump into the indie-pub pond...your analogy of going back to school is right on target. So much to learn!

Your book looks great...awesome cover! Looking forward to reading it.


Alison Henderson said...

Hi Tara,
Indie publishing is a great adventure - fun, but not for the faint of heart. If you have any questions or just want to commiserate, you know where to find me!

glenys said...

Alison, congrats on taking the plunge into the indie publishing pond! Sounds like you & Jannine have a good thing going there! And the cover! I' m blown away by the idea that you did such a gorgeous cover yourself- any pointers for someone struggling with cover design? Like what programs did you use?

glenys said...

Alison, congrats on taking the plunge into the indie publishing pond! Sounds like you & Jannine have a good thing going there! And the cover! I' m blown away by the idea that you did such a gorgeous cover yourself- any pointers for someone struggling with cover design? Like what programs did you use?

Alison Henderson said...

I did the cover in Photoshop, but I had to buy and learn to use it first. Although I majored in Art History in college, book covers are completely different. I read a book on graphic design, a how-to manual on using Photoshop, and many blogs and websites of book cover designers. Then I started playing around with it using stock images from iStockphoto and Dreamstime. You can download the images (not in web or print quality) to try them out in a design before you purchase them.

Feel free to contact me directly with any questions. I still have a lot to learn, but I'd be happy to help you if I can.

Alicia Dean said...

Fantastic cover, and the book sounds wonderful. I just purchased it and can't wait to read it. What an awesome deal you and Jannine worked out. (I think pretty highly of her, and I'm sure she did a great job.) It's very smart to find people to trade tasks with. You're right, you shouldn't really do it all on your own. I found self-publishing to be an exciting, challenging, and rewarding experience. I definitely needed help with editing and covers. I am also published with small publishers, one traditional (now defunct) publisher, and Amazon Publishing (non Indie as well as Indie). I appreciate all the opportunities each one affords. Best of luck with this foray into Self Publishing!

Alison Henderson said...

Thanks so much, Alicia! I hope you see Jannine's "quality" stamp on my story when you read it. LOL

Leah St. James said...

I do remember my first indie book, and the weeks of torturous formatting still haunt my dreams! But then I blame MS Word. (I blame Word for a's never failed me yet.) :-) Best of luck with the book! Sounds terrific!