"Lessons Learned" by a Rookie Author
©By K.G.Lawton

In response to several friends, acquaintances and reader's questions, I have listed a few of the "Lessons Learned" during the writing and publishing of "The Recovery, An Adventure Novel". These experiences and lessons may or may not help you in your own budding authorship. If they do, then you're welcome. If they don't, then you just have to find out for yourself what works for you. We all have different goals and desires.


WARNING...
Here is the "I'm not responsible for your bad decisions" statement: Nothing on this website is intended to be any kind of substitute for competent legal advice you may need! Check your local phone book for the names of attorneys that specialize in copyright and publishing law... Especially if you are about to sign any contracts!!
There, with that out of the way, let's get back to .... "Lessons Learned"

LESSON NUMBER ONE: Your book will take twice as long to finish as you think it will. It will take time away from your family, your hobbies, your concentration and your energy. EXAMPLE: During the writing of "The Recovery", the first draft took about six months of intense keyboard time. Even though the plot and general outline had been in my mind for over twenty years, putting it on paper was not as simple as I had thought it would be. I type normally at about 80-90 words per minute, while thinking of the story I want to write. The problem comes when you stop to read it, and try to make all the parts fit together in a reasonable manner. You will be doing more "cut 'n pasting" than you think. And do not trust your word-processor's spell-checker!
 
LESSON NUMBER TWO: As soon as you finish your (reasonably complete) draft, spend twenty bucks and register it with the Library of Congress. It can be registered as "An Unpublished Manuscript", and when you get around to having it published in hardcopy it can then be issued an ISBN. Why spend the twenty? Very simple: Many low-budget (and some high ones!) have been caught pilfering an author's "copyrighted" work (That means you wrote it, you own the material in it's form you wrote as soon as you finished it... "Registering" it just puts the teeth into your copyright... $180,000.00 worth of damages right up front, if somebody plagerizes your work!). REGISTER your copyright, before you start passing it around trying to get it published!
 
LESSON NUMBER THREE: Edit your manuscript, for spelling, punctuation and flow. Ideally, this should be done before you register it. The only way to edit your manuscript is to print it off in at least 12-pt font, sit down with a cool drink (NOT alcoholic, ...Save that for when you're done!) where you have NO interruptions and can read the story just like a customer would. Be critical of your structure, and particularly alert to language usage, spelling and punctuation. I edited "The Recovery" at least a half-dozen times, the publisher edited it next, and when the Pre-publication Reviewers sent back their comments, one of them found where I'd used "loose" when I should have used "lose". Not fatal to a novel, but could distract a critical reader. Next novel, I'm going to engage the services of a professional English Lit Professor, and have her red-mark a printed draft for me! Could have saved me a lot of time and trouble and been in print three months sooner. When you have to make corrections with the publisher it takes a lot more time than it does to have it ready the first time!
 
LESSON NUMBER FOUR: OK, now you've written your book, booklet, instruction manual, kids' story book, or whatever it is. You've registered your copyright. Now you want to get it published. Maybe you want it published just because you wanted to write it for so long, and maybe you want to give it to family and friends for christmas, birthdays or something. Maybe you want it published just because you'd like to be a published author. Maybe you think the story is good enough to even become popular... Who cares why you want to have it published, it doesn't matter to anyone except you! Once you've made the decision to have your book published, you have to decide in what manner you're going to go about it, because there are several ways. Each way has it's own "candy & cavity" and each may or may not appeal to you. So, what ways are there to have your book published?
 
LESSON NUMBER FIVE: There are more ways than one to skin a cat (Now, don't you cat-lovers get all heated up, that's just an old saying. Besides, they used to mean a civit-cat. ..."skunk" to you city-slickers!) Today you can choose between several ways to publish your book, and hundreds of people and companies that want you to patronize their services. These are a few of the many:
 
(1)"Traditional Publisher" (where you pay an agent to present your book to the publisher) you will discover several things right soon after the rushing glow of the ego simmers down so you can read the page-after-page of fine print:
    You sometimes get a small up-front payment against projected sales, but it comes at a scary price:
    First: They own your book entirely, throughout this world and the next, on any planet or solar system you want to name, in the present format of the book or any subsequent format, printed, electronic, movies, comics, animated or real people actors, in any language they want to choose whether it exists now or is invented sometime in the future.
    Second: They may also have fine print in there that says if they don't sell all the books they print, you have to buy them back, or you may not, depending on the contract. Third: In the calculation of "sales" (that's how you get paid for your book) they may even deduct the cost of warehousing, storage, shipping charges, office supplies, promotional materials, and computer time figuring out all these things. In other words, your five-grand up front could be the last dollar you see, and you might even have to repay some of that if the contract has the right loopholes.
    Fourth: Remember what I said about looking up a competent attorney?. Oh, yes, there is no "time limit" mentioned for the publisher on the publication date... It may NEVER get published, or it may show up in a couple of years. It may be a "blockbuster", and you may never be mentioned as the author. (Hey, don't complain, they own it, you sold it to them!) Fifth: Many authors have signed contracts with agents or even publishers, to later find out the outfit went belly-up and they can't get the "rights" back to the book they marketed with the now-gone outfit. Sometimes it's a nightmare, other times (depending on the contract) they can just go find another agent or publisher. You can boil all this down to just one sentence: "Before you sign any contracts, hire a lawyer to represent you!"

 
(2) "Vanity Publishers" is where you pay the publisher to do a whole lot of things, like, edit the manuscript, design a cover, print & bind the book, then ship to you (or maybe they might even warehouse them) the books in the quantity you pay for (the more you print the less each one costs). The problem I saw with this method was it was quite expensive for the author and the vanity publishers seemed to have very little "investment" (if any) in the whole process of getting your book to the shelves. They make all their upfront money off the author, and may not even care about sales. Or, they may make a profit from subsequent sales. Many "family genealogy" books are printed this way, among others of course.
 
(3) "E-Publishers" (There are more coming on line every day!) are businesses that will assist you in getting your book available on-line in an electronic format, as well as available in hardcopy via the "Print On Demand" (or "POD") method. I chose this method primarily because my first objective was to maintain ownership of the story, and my second was to make it available to the largest possible audience for the longest possible time. In electronic format, a traveler can download a normal sized book into a laptop in about five minutes while waiting for a plane (or on the plane, if they know how to utilize the plane's phone system and have an interface) for less than the cost of a bottle of drinking water at the airport cafe. When Stephen King recently released a 66-page story in E-format, he had over two and a half million hits in the first few days. He collected the lion's share of the sales price. He didn't have to put up with any snooty agents, publishers, or lethargic publication lead-times, either! With an E-Publisher, if your manuscript is truly "ready to go" (no changes, no mistakes that have to be re-written, and you have a good cover or are happy with the publisher's cover design, your book can be in E-print in a week, or hardcopy traditional Print-On-Demand book form in 90 days or less. There are countless outfits that want to E-publish your book. Go to any good search-engine and tap in the words "E-publisher" or " Electronic Book Publication" or " Print On Demand Publishers "... A couple you'll probably find are 1stBooks Library or The Booklocker (Booklocker will give you a nice template (Word, WordPerfect, or PDF) to make your page structure come out in the proper format for text publishing!).
 
(4) Author Websites will E-publish your book for free viewing, and you can do the same thing yourself with the "server space" you bought when you purchased Internet Access from an ISP. Most ISP's include from 5-to-300 Meg. of server space with your access acount. If you have "free" (paid for with advertisements, etc) access to the Internet, there are countless places that will give you free space, some rather generous. One of the best ones I found was Tripod or Angelfire Both of which are part of the Lycos Network. All the Lycos family members will also give you free email which you can retrieve from anywhere you have Internet access. Another very good service you could use is Bravenet. Bravenet says right upfront that they do not claim any ownership to your website postings, stories, work, photos, images or anything else. Some of the other big "free" sites (not to include the Lycos family) actually claim total ownership of your work when you sign up with them. Read the very fine print, even though it goes on for page after dreary page! Sometimes "free" isn't so "free", right? I personally prefer my domain to be "hosted" where I can have a lot more flexibility on my site. After trying several, I found that Larry "Griz" Dozier gives me the most space, service and reliability for the least amount of expense.
 
(5) Use a "free" Email address for your reading public, so you may abandon it with not much trouble if you have to. This is for the simple reason that you may attract spam-spiders that harvest email addresses. Of course, if you start getting unwanted Email, you can block the sender and delete it off the server without ever having to read it, but still I only give my "real" Email address to family and friends. Some of my friends have had to abandon their Email addresses and reestablish others because of spam-spiders or porno-takeovers. When you write your email address on your website, don't use the "@" symbol, use the ampersand, the tic-tac-toe, a six, a four, a semi-colon and it will produce the "@" symbol. Why? To avoid some spam-spiders from harvesting your email address. If you want a more complicated formula for posting your email address ask me or search the net, there are a lot of them around there also. Be aware that every time you give your email address to some "partner" (advertiser) they may broadcast or sell it to every spammer on the planet. Check their "privacy policy", and be aware of what the say about their "third-party" partners if you want your email address to remain fairly useable.
 
LESSON NUMBER SIX:  Have you ever wondered how people (E-biz outfits, spammers, some crackers/hackers, etc) get people's personal information? Well, some of it they steal from big companies where you've registered it, some they buy from places you signed up with, but some of it they harvest right from your own computer hard-drive while you're hooked onto the Internet. If you'd like to get a shock, install a firewall on your PC, and watch how many Port probes hit you each time you are on the Net! You can get a good firewall with your major-brand Anti-Virus programs: Symantec ("Norton") has one, Panda AV includes a firewall, and you can get several others that are just straight firewalls without the AV feature, in case you have a straight AV program like WinCleaner (twenty-bucks at WalMart or download from the WinCleaner website). Some firewalls are free. Where to get a good one? Just type the word "firewall" into your browser address window, press the "GO" button, and the search engine will give you a list of possibles. Most are available as a free trial download, which you have to register (pay the fee and get a register-number) after 30-days or so to keep it working.