A Book is Never Done (it's published)
My release date for STILL BREATHING is November 17. I finished rewriting it (at least in what I thought was its finished form) some time in May. I tweaked. I spell checked. I grammar checked. I reread. I re-rewrote. I had others read it. I listened. I final checked. I declared it done. I felt pretty much at peace but I worried about what the professionals might say. I reminded myself that I, too, was a professional, but that didn't do much to alleviate the pressure I felt.
The day I dreaded arrived. I sent the draft to a highly recommended professional editor (22 published books, 20+ years in the editing business) for a developmental edit. I lived in fear and trembling for weeks until she arranged for a phone conference to deliver her verdict. Mercifully, she absolutely loved all the elements of my story, my open, my arc, my finale, my characters, my setting, the length, everything. What a relief! No changes were needed to the structure or the flow or the characters. She suggested a line edit to gently tighten the writing and transform some of the "telling" into "showing." I hired her for the line edit and July turned into August. In the meantime, I approved the cover design for the e-book and prepared the materials needed for the back page of the paperback and the dust flaps of the hardback. Once the line edit was delivered I spent a few weeks evaluating her work and making changes. I agreed with her 95% of the time. I remember when I was done I felt slightly euphoric about my new lean manuscript.
A nervous email arrived. My publisher was concerned that I would miss my release date because there was so much left to do. I sped up my process. I approved the covers. I delivered finished drafts to the formatting company. I updated my accounts with Amazon KDP for the Kindle version and paperback, I set up accounts with Ingram Spark for the hardback and for expanded distribution with the paperback, did the same with Draft2Digital for wider distribution of the e-book (they reach B&N, Kobol, Apple, and many others). I filled out an application for Google Play. I refused to panic. I could see a path to my release date.
And then the endless little problems started. The font for the chapter titles seemed too large. The drop cap was three lines tall instead of two lines. I was warned that while drop caps are cool in print books they can create weird results in digital versions on older readers. And if I wanted to keep that nice little graphic swirl for scene breaks, I would have to embed it in digital versions as a "decor." A what? Oh, and that's also an up-charge.
I suddenly noticed tons of fresh minuscule issues somehow hidden within my carefully checked text. Why did my characters furrow their brows so often? How could I overlook the period at the end of a sentence? Each typo had to be addressed in a rigidly formulaic manner so the formatting company could be certain they fixed the right thing in the right place. The first ten corrections were free but after that $. Updated proofs were now flying into my mail box and new corrections flying out. Each version had to be rechecked, and on and on and on and on.
Suddenly, I stumbled upon a major problem I didn't even know existed---the dash. Only there's not one, but three! The hyphen, the en-dash, the em-dash---each different, one with spaces, two without, and like the three bears, one was short, one medium and one long. Who knew? And, of course, I'd used the wrong one most of the time. Horrified by how many dashes I'd peppered throughout my novel, I despaired. I kicked things. I wracked my brain to devise a simple fix but it was too late for easy answers. Yes, I was able to smoothly fix it within my own draft in Word but that didn't matter. The files that mattered resided with a company on the other side of the world who required each change request to be documented and tabulated. Let me just say, the experience was hell, and not belabor it further.
I finally had the cover files perfect. The text files were close enough to perfect to approve. I paid my format and cover companies. It was October. My publisher added panic emojis to her emails. I uploaded all the various files to the distributors and breathed out slowly. Everything was good. All I had to do was wait for the physical proofs to be delivered to my doorstep. My email dinged. Ingram Spark's computer reported an incompatibility problem with my hardback cover. It didn't fit. What? Impossible!
I'll spare you the two weeks of back-and-forth irksome emails and phone calls. In the end, a tech actually looked at the cover file and said, "Hey, it doesn't have dust flaps." Yep. I had mistakenly uploaded the paperback cover instead of the hardback cover. Stupid me.
It's late October right now and I'm waiting for a shipment with the final proofs for the paperback and hardback. I can't wait to click the "publish" button. My eyes are bleary and my thoughts are jumbled from fatigue but I think I'm gonna make it. Of course, there's a hundred marketing things I should have been doing all through September and October instead of troubleshooting the publishing but you can only do what you can do.
I remind myself that selling books is a marathon not a sprint. Unfortunately, I hate running of any kind, so that metaphor does little to make me feel any better.