This post begins a new series here on Book View Cafe: The Author’s Alphabet. Each week, I’ll be posting another letter of the alphabet, selecting a word that starts with that letter, and sharing my view of what that word means to me, as an author. Then, the fun begins — you get to comment, question, poke, prod, and otherwise get involved with the discussion.
So. A is for Author.
I’ve been an author nearly all my life, beginning with the stories I told to my stuffed animals, when I was supposed to be a good little girl, sound asleep in my bed. I started to write those stories down in first grade (in pencil, on wide-lined pads of paper), and I graduated to ink in fourth grade. I first used a computer to store my writing some time in the early 1980’s, and I’m inseparable from my MacBook Pro and my Scrivener software today.
Throughout all those changes, I thought I knew what it meant to “be an author”. I developed characters. I placed them in a specific setting. I determined events that happened to them (“plot”). And I related all those details in entertaining ways, gradually honing my narrative skills so that I could classify my stories by genre (most often, fantasy.)
To some extent, that’s exactly what I do today. I created Jane Madison, a librarian who finds out that she’s a witch. Most recently, in Single Witch’s Survival Guide, I placed Jane on a farm in rural Maryland. I had her open a school for witches, a business enterprise that gave rise to many humorous events (and a few romantic ones). Jane’s story is a fantasy and a romance.
But an author’s work is never done.
Once upon a time, I would have finished telling Jane’s story, and I would have sent it to my agent. He would have read it and commented on its suitability for the market. He might have asked for some changes, and then he would have reached out to the vast network of editors who work at a variety of publishers, primarily in New York. While he did his work, I would do mine, writing Jane’s next adventure.
I still sell books using that model, the “traditional publishing” model. But Jane’s story is being independently published. Self published.
For Jane, my work is only beginning, when I finish writing her story. I need to line up editors, to read what I’ve written, and to tell me what works and doesn’t work. After I edit the manuscript to take into account those opinions, I need to line up a copy-editor, to check for grammar and spelling and punctuation mistakes, and to track the continuity of my work.
While those professionals are hard at work, I need to find an artist to capture the essence of the book and reduce it to a single cover design. Here’s the cover for the new Jane Madison novel — which I’m sharing for the very first time today!
Other authorly duties continue — I write the back cover copy, so that readers know what they’re getting into if they buy the book. I select the “metadata” words that computers use to help classify the book. I tailor my autobiography, to include with the text, and I write up a list of acknowledgments, to thank all the people who helped the book come into existence.
But my author hat stays on, because there’s more to be done. Once I’ve completed all my edits, and I’ve entered all the copy-edits, I have to format the book, preparing it for publication. I create a single master file, but I specialize that file for various sales venue — here on Book View Cafe, along with other vendors. (The specialization includes precise links to other books for sale in those venues.)
My job as author continues. I have to obtain an ISBN (International Standard Book Number, the unique number issued to each book, to help keep catalogs straight). With all of the bits and pieces of data on hand, I have to upload the book to various sales sites, following each vendor’s rules for what information they want displayed in what way.
And even then — even after the book is published — the author’s job is not completed. After the book is “in the wild” the author has to track it, make sure that it is selling as well as it possibly can. Authors might tweak prices. They might purchase advertisements. They do all sorts of marketing and publicity to let readers know their book is available for purchase.
And then, the author sits back and does it all again. Because there are always stories to be told. Always new words to get down on the print or electronic page.
Book View Cafe, of course, helps with many of these authorial duties. Our professional editors and copyeditors carry the day. We have cover designers and ebook formatters, members who assist with ISBN wrangling and metadata selection. Book View Cafe folks pitch in for posting books to our store, and they are always, always, always available for advice and consultation.
I used to imagine that when I was a professional author, I’d spent my time huddled in a garret, crafting words day after day after day. Now, I find that “author” means completing many more tasks. And in a year or two, this entire post might be outmoded, as new tools come into play, as “author” comes to mean different things.
But that’s the job for now. Is it what you expected? Is it what you want to do? Are you an author today?