So, congratulations once again. It looks like your manuscript is complete, and you are already preoccupied with the dreams of seeing your name in print. It kind of takes me back to my days of fancy, those days of a desperate wait to hold “Rage Against The Dying Of The Light”, to feel its texture, and to imbibe that smell of paper entwined with emotions of words that I wrote. How will my first encounter be? Will it be Like Priyanka Chopra Opening the pack of her ‘Unfinished’ with her so glamourous, so famous smile ebbing the joy of yet another success? Well, you are right there’s no greater kick for a writer than to see his ‘nom de plume’ inscribed on the cover but wait, I am not Priyanka, her ‘unfinished’ may have been finished the moment she thought of writing it (no attempt to undermine her, ability, effort or enthusiasm) but even with manuscript completion my work was truly unfinished in the literal sense, in fact, It seemed a long battle ahead. Manuscript completion is only one-third of the job done publishing, and marketing are even arduous extensions. I’ll try to share some of my publishing insights today, marketing will be dealt with in the third and the last post of this series. In today’s blog, I’ll try to answer some basic queries.
1.Is Editing Mandatory?
“Just because someone said that your English is good, or because you were able to pile up a monumental vocabulary to finish the story, does not mean you could do away without an editor.”
The day I finished writing the manuscript, my enthusiasm was at its peak and a face coated with a smile of triumph, I went shouting about, played with the font and formatting a couple of times, kept staring at the completed text as if I couldn’t believe the reality of accomplishment. After a few days, I found myself pondering over the next step, the publishing options. While my teeming confidence and my belief in personal abilities kept yelling like the immaturity of a teenage boy that seeking a professional editor’s services is a waste of time and money, I got a piece of useful advice.
Ego was swiftly bundled up and set aside as I sat searching for a prospective editor. I did come across a few good ones like Dagny and Harika (from the list of top ten freelance editors). However, I must confess that being a first-time author is a very impatient affair. As it is, it had taken two years to write, and I wasn’t ready to make the wait any longer. Was I wrong in deciding that? Well, can’t judge but looking back, I think it’s like jumping directly to the phase three trial. Luckily most publishing houses have in-house editors. I had a tedious yet very satisfying and fruitful editing journey with Mukund Sanghi and Oorja Mishra. Juggling among us the manuscript behaved like an engaging mind game, and I loved every bit of it. Since the manuscript was already complete, I picked up a comprehensive editing option that included the line edits and the copy editing. And, a few tips regarding the story structure was a welcome bonus.
From whatever I have understood so far, editing services broadly fall into the following four categories with some degree of overlap.
Developmental editors: A developmental editor comes into play when the manuscript is in the budding phase and can help structure your plot, fill the gaps, tighten the loose end and even suggest how to carry your idea forward. Make no mistake, developmental editors don’t do any actual writing work, they might make a suggestion or two to structure your ideas and transition them smoothly from one end to the other.
Line editors: .make line-by-line review of the content and make suggestions about sentence structure, style, and word choices. They analyze the manuscript at a micro-level and ensure that each sentence has the intended impact.
Copy editors: Copy editors are the ones who check grammar, punctuations, and syntax.
Proofreaders: scan the book after the final formatting before it is ready for printing. This is to say that proofreading is the last line of defense against errors.
2. Traditional vs Self Publishing
Traditional publishers are the industry leaders like Penguin, Harper Collins, MacMillan, etc. Most first-time authors, myself included, have this illusory notion that their script is so unique that finding a publisher may not be that difficult. You may be absolutely right in having confidence in your writing ability nothing wrong with that but, the truth of the matter is that every publisher operates in their specific domain, some publishers may specialize in children’s books, some deal only in nonfiction, others may prefer mystery over romance and so on. Then there is this tricky task of deciding whether to go in for self-publishing or hope for traditional publishers to make an offer. I realized this soon that choice was never in my hand. Getting picked up by a traditional publisher for a first-time author is harder than winning a lottery. So, essentially only self-publishing options were open to me. The entire horde of vanity publishers started luring me. Yet, there was a mid-way, and I gladly took it.
Manage everything on their own, the editing, printing, and distribution through their well-established supply chain. You will remain the author but the ownership will lie with them. In a way it means, selling the product of your book for their services and industry connections. They won’t charge anything for these services, and on the contrary, offer an upfront amount as part of the small royalty you are entitled to.
As the name suggests, you have more or less total control, including creative liberty. From designing the cover to marketing the book it is a do-it-yourself kind of service. While in traditional publishing you receive expert guidance in self-publishing you are the expert. The ownership remains with you, and royalties are likewise higher. Most importantly, this requires an initial investment.
Partner Publishing or the Hybrid.
This is the midway. Some traditional publishers have these self-publishing extensions as a different imprint like Quignog is to Pirate. While Pirate is the traditional publisher, Quignog is its self-publishing arm. The author does have to make an initial payment but only partially, and that too may be waived off depending upon the sale. The rest of the publishing cost is borne by the publisher. The benefit from the author’s point is that he gets to enjoy the expertise and connectivity of the traditional publisher without parting with the creative control or the profitability.
Pros & Cons
No need to shell out money.
Everything taken care of including marketing and distribution.
Prestige and possible doorway to Literary awards.
Hard to get on board
Time consuming affair, may take anywhere between one and half to two years or longer.
Smaller time line
Greater creative control
Greater profit share, up to 50-70%
Requires lots of personal effort for both distribution and promotion.
High initial cost.
Lesser recognition in literary circles.
Self publishing seems more reliable and viable options at least for majority of authors, especially the first-time authors.
3. How to Choose an Apt Title?
This is crucial and could be extremely exhausting as well. The title and the cover are the ones that draw the prospective readers and motivate them to pick up a book. The title should be something that is representative of the text. So, your title could be catchy, quirky, or bold, based upon the content of your writing. Some of the good title examples in my view are: ‘ The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’, The Fault in Our Stars, Think and Grow Rich, etc.
As a general rule, the title should be:
Intriguing and should linger in the reader’s mind.
Should address directly to your target audience.
Rage Against The Dying Of The Light was zeroed on after a lot of brainstorming sessions with Mukund, my publisher. We were looking for a title that could represent my chase to save the life of my son-the memoir part. Simultaneously, it should also be adumbrative of the doctor’s community in general, depicting their feeling as they undergo the hardship of medical training and practice. We put our heads together for quite a few options like Trait, Doctor Father Patient, Don’t Let Him Go till I recalled this very famous poem by Dylan Thomas– Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Rage, Rage Against The Dying Of The Light.
The title, Rage Against the Dying Of The Light, looked apt to me and imparts a literary inclination supporting my writing style and purpose. Yet, I must confess, it’s a hard-to-remember kind of title, and many may disagree with my choice. Those who have read the book and suggest a better version, I will be just too glad to welcome their ideas.
4. How important is the cover design?
The famous idiom, ‘ Don’t judge the cover by its book may be true in a literary, idealistic or philosophical sense but, on a practical note, the cover is not only the billboard of the book but in fact, is the first page of the story.
The book cover and its title go hand in hand and complement each other. Together, serve as the salesman of your book. Yet, their jobs end once the reader selects your book. There on, it’s the quality of content all the way that decides the book’s fate.
A good publisher will hire the services of a professional designer who will take into account the character trait, story setup, and the author’s mood. I was fortunate to have a very competent team of Jayshree and Abhilasha, to do the job for me. Rage Against Dying… went through an exhausting yet intriguing metamorphosis to finally come out with this brilliant cover.
Two designs I was toiling with before finalising the current one.
It’s a long post, and I hope I didn’t put you off to sleep. Still, a whole lot of issues remain to discuss, like the book blurb or how to make a smart pitch for your book to the prospective publisher. I will continue it in my next post, signing off for now. I hope you found it a useful read. Feel free to reach out to me should there be any queries. You are welcome to share your feedback to make this better.