Producing a Book Is a Lot of Work!

Warren Lane is finally out there, available for purchase as both a paperback and an electronic book. You can get it at Amazon , or you can order a copy through your local bookstore.

You can also read a sample chapter right here.

Aside from hiring a professional editor and book designer—because there are some things you shouldn’t skimp on—I did everything myself. And I’m amazed at how much work it takes. The manuscript went through 8 major revisions and countless minor ones, 4 rounds of proofreading, then digital and print layout, ebook conversion, print proofs, more proofreading, and publication through several channels. There’s actually a lot more to it than that, but I won’t go into it.

I wanted to do as much of the work as I could on my own, just so I could learn all the steps involved, and how all the pieces fit together. When I started learning to program 17 years ago, I did the same thing. Pre-made frameworks, tools and libraries existed that could help with a lot of the work I was doing. But rather than rely on existing tools, I wanted to write everything from scratch at least once, so I’d get an understanding of how things worked and an appreciation of the complexity and technical challenges involved. It took a lot of time, but it gave me a solid foundation for the programming work I went on to do in later years.

After doing some research online and talking with a number of people in the publishing industry, I decided early on to self-publish this book instead of trying to go with a traditional publisher. A big part of that decision was practical. An editor told me that publishing houses these days are not even considering novels from first-time fiction writers. Instead, publishers watch for new self-published work that’s selling online, and they’ll offer to pick it up if sales look promising.

That system makes a lot of sense. In the old days, people would submit proposals or manuscripts to publishers, and a few interns or low-level editors would wade through the unsolicited work in the slush pile, looking for something worth reading. Even if they found something, there was no telling if it would sell.

In the new system, is the slush pile (because they make publishing easier than anyone else), and tens of thousands of ordinary people are picking through it. Every day, someone finds a little treasure in that big heap of junk, and they blog about it, or tell their friends. If other people read it and like it, the book gets some buzz and starts selling. Then a traditional publisher might pick it up.

This is crowd-sourcing applied to a big-data problem. Amazon is now the minor-league farm system for the big league publishers. And Amazon itself is now also one of those big-league publishers.

So now the book is out there, and the next task is getting people to read it. People in publishing tell me that books sell mainly through word-of-mouth. If a few people read it and like it, they recommend it to friends. And if the friends like it, they pass the recommendation on. A lot of that word-of-mouth happens online now, through blogs and customer reviews, so that’s where writers and publishers focus their marketing efforts.

I was a little nervous when I started reading Amazon’s author forums and saw all these posts from people who had worked for months on a title and then had zero sales to show for all their effort. One guy asked what he was doing wrong and posted a link to his book. The first response was, “Umm… You published the entire book in capital letters. Why?” The author replied, “I thought it would make it easier to read.” Really, anyone can publish on Amazon. Anyone.

There’s quite a bit of self-published work out there that shows some real potential and achieves modest sales. Amazon lets you read the first few chapters of these books online, and I often browse through the beginnings of self-published works in genres that I don’t normally read. What I see repeatedly in the books with moderate sales is that the author has some real talent, and there is something really compelling about their story, or at least about one of their characters, but the author didn’t take the time to edit out the dreck and develop the promising parts.

My years in the software world showed me again and again the importance of execution. Anyone can have an idea for an app (or a book, or a movie). Only a small percentage of the people who have the idea will actually try to make the thing. And only a small percentage of those who make it will actually put in the hard work and the extraordinary amount of time required to do it well.

Bad ideas will fail; and good ideas, when poorly executed, will fail. The best you can do as a creator is to bring your vision to reality as fully and as faithfully as possible, and then put it out there and see if anyone cares. In the end, maybe no one will care. But you still have to.