Lessons Learned and Where I Am

Lessons Learned and Where I Am

As we prepare to launch Insomnia Publishing’s newest release, First Favor (the third Sam Archer book), I am kind of reflecting some on the things I’ve learned about editing, publishing, and writing over the last few years. While I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front, I’ve been very busy on the life front. And on my career. This is likely to venture into the personal, so you are going to learn a bit about who I am and what my life is in this blog. It’s not really about writing advice, but maybe you’ll learn something? I don’t know.

Over the last couple years, I’ve been re-thinking my approach to editing, writing, and publishing. I’ve been giving deep thought to what I want, what I need, and what direction I want to take. Both with my company (the aforementioned Insomnia Publishing) and with my editing. I’ve spent a couple years studying editing and really giving deep thought into what services I provide, what my price points ought to be, and whether or not I am over- or under-charging. What kind of editing I do, and how I want to approach things in the future.

I also started writing the first book I’m publishing. I started Fallen in the middle of last year and finished the last draft of it earlier this year. I signed a contract with my own company (I have an in with the acquisitions editor) and have my novel in editing. Seeing the editing process from the other side with another editor has given me some insight into the “user” end of the experience. Though I will say my editor is a delight and very easy to work with. We are old friends, so there’s no sting or distrust there.

I also am switching software for my typesetting. Given the outrageous costs of Adobe, I was still using CS3 to work on my book covers and typesetting. It still works, of course, but I run the perpetual risk of losing the software and my ability to do the work if I lose the key and install disks since it’s no longer supported, and Adobe really doesn’t like the fact that I’m still using it and not paying the astronomical fees to update. Or paying monthly for access to their software. Which, frankly, is just abhorrent to me. I am, maybe, old fashioned in the sense that I prefer to buy my software and not rent it.

In doing that switch, I am re-visiting how I do my cover art and typesetting (I’m now using Affinity’s suite). While I’ve read reviews that it’s not as good as Adobe is, I can say with certainty that it’s a far cry from using CS3 (a software suite from around 2005), so anything it doesn’t match up to with Adobe certainly outstrips what I had. This has changed my work flow and made me faster and given me more versatility with my covers. It makes things easier to design the way I see in my head, too, which makes all the difference. For example, I had to re-typeset First Favor Sunday night into Monday after realizing that the file had un-typeset itself. A page had been deleted somewhere, and the manuscript was a disaster as a result.

While I was working on it I figured out some ways to make my life faster, make things more efficient. I’m always adding things to my process and learning new things while I work. Which, honestly, is one of the things I like best about this line of work. There’s always a way to refine what I’m doing, smooth things out, discover new details of the programs I use. It’s a never-ending process, and I love learning more in order to be better at my chosen vocation. I could list these little shortcuts, but I expect most of you would have your eyes cross if I discussed it. Typesetting is a highly technical field mixed with wizardry and a love of fonts. I am, in fact, a horrible font nerd at this point in my life, and I could probably spend a solid half-hour babbling about fonts, readability, and qualities you’re looking for in one if prompted. Or, if you’re unlucky enough to meet me at a cocktail party, unprompted.

In addition to that, I’ve been working on better ebook formatting and trying to learn how to embed fonts to let me use chapter headers and dropcaps. For example, in First Favor, I use a dropcap on each chapter in the same font as the chapter headers and the title page (and the cover). It’s “Chapbook” in case you were wondering. (I am sure you weren’t.)

I do like Chapbook.

Lessons in editing are a different kettle of fish than typesetting and cover design, of course.

Over the last few months I’ve done some book coaching for some lovely clients, both of whom need different things. I’m not going to get into their requirements because that’s personal, but it’s given me a different perspective on what I do. Walking someone through the process of writing their book and encouraging (and holding accountable) my authors is very rewarding. I love seeing them blossom and develop and meet goals. I’ve not done writing coaching in a formal way before, but I’ve been working with authors in my Discord group regularly. It’s not as detailed or as intensive as coaching, but I pop in, give lectures almsot every week, encourage folks, and we have a lovely community going.

Beyond that, I’ve been spending a lot of time in several groups for editors, talking amongst each other and discussing everything from comma placement and hyphenation to regional dialect. It’s a fantastic and fascinating thing to see and learn from. Some of these folks are veterans of over fifty years. Yet others are brand new to the profession and are drinking in the opinions and views of others. Also, different disciplines have such different perspectives. These things I’m always adapting into my own editing and learning.

Then we come to my writing.

I’m at a point where I’ve got an editor working on my book. This is my first time working on a novel with an editor, and I am finding the experience instructive and interesting. Also having finished a novel and working on my cover for real, preparing the typesetting, thinking about marketing… I think it’s going to teach me a lot about that part of the business. While I haven’t been on the author side of things before, I have been on the publisher side enough for long enough to make a good go of it, I think. I also have some phenomenal authors I am close with who are brilliant at it, and who I am going to be whining to as I learn to do this myself for the first time.

What this will teach me, beyond the satisfaction of publishing my own books (which has been a lifelong dream), this will make me a better editor and better publisher. And I am all for it. I look forward to this. I mean, also, I’m publishing a book, so the child in me who started writing as soon as they were old enough to hold a pencil is squealing and dancing. No, really. Child me did ballet.

If there’s an actual takeaway from this ramble, it’s that no matter how long you’ve been working in the field, there’s always something to learn, and exploring other angles of the same industry can provide a lot of insight into how to approach things. I’m not saying authors need to be editors. In fact, I think that (unless you have training) it’s a terrible idea. However, studying the thing from multiple angles can give you a whole new appreciation for the industry you’re in. I love learning, and every new milestone just tells me just how much further I have to go.

By the way, to plug the aforementioned novel my company is releasing, I’m really excited to introduce you to the third book in the Sam Archer series. Written by my good friend, Dr. Joseph Weinberg, this is the best book in the series yet. If you haven’t read them, you’re really missing out. The series is like a crossover between The Dresden Files and Constantine, insomuch as Sam is a man with no powers facing down a world of things so much bigger than he is. His voice is fantastic, the stories are wonderful, and I am kind of biased, but he has great cover art. (Spoiler alert: I did his cover art.)

See? It looks pretty awesome.

First Favor comes out June 15th, 2021 and is available for pre-order from Amazon. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, you can find Pipe and Pestle also on Amazon for $3.99 for the ebook.

If you enjoyed this blog post and want to give me a thumbs up, feel free to visit my ko-fi and leave me a tip! A few tips is a tank of gas, a cup of coffee, or a cheeseburger.

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