Yesterday we posted part one of an interview with a self-published author that MBT had the priviledge of coaching this past year. Read that post here:
Today is part two of the journey.
SMW: Dennis, you’ve written a delightful Christmas novella, South Pole Santa! Can you take us through the history of this story and help us understand how you went from idea to finished product?
Dennis: The first draft was a really rough draft. Bear in mind it was already December and I was only starting to write the story. So I really hurried to get the first draft done and I completed it on December 7 and it was about 10,000 words. You and I discussed did a couple of days later and I’ll never forget that first phone call about this story and how enthusiastic you were about it and in particular you really liked the elf character who is that point was named Marvin and had only a very minor role in the story. You really liked the idea of an elf who wanted people to be on the naughty list, and by the time I finished the first edition he had become of course one of the two main characters in the story. I uploaded the first edition around December 15 under the name “Reverse Santa Claus.” By then it was about 15,000 words and I was very pleased with it especially considering the quick turnaround times. I charged $.99 for the story But I didn’t do much with it besides that.
Sometime after the holidays, I think it was sometime in February, I found myself continuing to think about my story, and feeling that there was a lot more that I could do with it. So I came back to you and you said yes we could do a lot more if I were willing to put the time in but it would probably take a few months. So I asked you for a roadmap which you gave me and we got to work, and we finished the draft of the second edition I think in about mid-July. By the time we finished the second edition all of the main ideas were in the story, though of course I still had to go through the copy editing process. I had also hired an illustrator who had created six full-color illustrations. I think the story at that time was just under 30,000 words, and it was still titled Reverse Santa Claus. My intention was to create a Kindle edition and the paperback edition using CreateSpace.
After you and I finished the story editing process I started the process with CreateSpace of creating a paperback book. My idea in using CreateSpace to create a full-color paperback version was really just to get something that I could use for promotional purposes to send out to people and if I ever did get on television I knew I would have to have something to show. So it was never my intention to drive a lot of sales with the paperback version. I think that process cost about $300 and it turned out to be extremely worthwhile because it really solved one of the problems that’s inherent with the Kindle for authors. With the Kindle, it’s extremely easy to modify the text so you’re never really finished writing the book. That’s not true with the print version so I found myself going over the book again and again and again, using the writing skills you had taught me over the several months we had worked together, with the idea that once it got in print it would be written and finished forever. The word count came down to about 25,000, I took out a lot of passages that slowed the story down, I took a lot of stuff out of narration and put it into dialogue and I added a few little things that I believe makes the book a lot more fun. I also retitled the story “South Pole Santa – Back to Christmas” which I think is more appealing especially to kids who might be apprehensive about the idea of a Reverse Santa Claus.
Next I did the audio version (which I will go into more detail in the next question) and then the book’s Facebook page and website. As I write this I am just at the point of beginning to promote the book.
SMW: Yes, let’s talk about the Audio Version. You did something very creative and added an audio recording to your product list. How did you do this?
Dennis: That was a late development. It came about because in about early October I thought about the fact that I personally never read books, I always listen to them. And I wondered if I could get my book up on audible.com. So I started researching it and I found that there were any number of firms who produce audiobooks. I also learned that audible.com will itself produce audiobooks through its Audible Creation Exchange (ACX). ACX really is an exchange were authors post their book online and solicit auditions from narrators. Authors can offer either to split the revenue with the narrator, or they can pay the narrator a fee per finished hour (pfh). Typical pfh fees are $200-$400. One finished hour is usually equivalent to about 10,000 words, so my book would be about 2.5 finished hours.
I posted my book and listened to about 30 auditions. I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for so I went to audible.com and listened to everyone who had narrated A Christmas Carol and found the version of that story that I like the best. By sheer luck the narrator that I like the best – Simon Vance – was available through ACX. He’s one of audible.com’s most popular narrators, and he agreed to do my story, which I guess means he liked it. The producer finished the story, I paid him (since I went the pfh route), they uploaded the files to ACX and about two weeks later, yesterday afternoon (November 17 2012), the book became available for purchase on audible.com.
The audio version is my favorite version of the story. Simon Vance dies a really great job of bringing the characters to life. As I mentioned above It’s also the version that most easily lends itself to families enjoying the story together.
SMW: I loved working on this book! But, for people who haven’t had a book coach before, can you tell us how MBT assisted you in the process?
Susie, this book just would not exist without My Book Therapy. I am so glad I brought the story to you! I remember thinking when I sent you my first draft of the story that I had really gotten just about everything out of it that I could. When I compare the first draft of 10,000 words that I sent you last December 7, with the final draft of 25,000 words, they are almost 2 completely different stories, and the second one is orders of magnitude better than the first.
At a high level, you recognized Marmel’s potential as a character, and because of your suggestions I had so much fun with him and he really does make the story. Anyone who reads the story will see that. You also gave me ideas for a number of scenes that really filled out the story and of course every time we talked about the story you stressed “storyworld! Storyworld! Storyworld!” You found a lot of places where I could help the reader see how I envisioned the story’s setting.
So My Book Therapy is a crucial part of whatever success I have with this book.
SMW: Aw. Thanks. YAY! So, what advice would you give to aspiring authors who might want to consider self-publishing?
First of all, don’t try to do it without a professional editor. You can get good ideas from friends and family, but they can’t do for you what a professional editor can do. If you have a good idea for a story get a professional editor to make sure that you get the most out of your idea.
As you can see from my answer to the above question, I recommend My Book Therapy wholeheartedly.
Also recognize that getting a book from the point where you have the idea to the point where it is really ready for the market is a long and time-consuming process. You’re really going to have to work hard at it. Think of it almost like taking on at least a part-time job.
SMW: It’s taken about a year from start to finish – I’ll be you’re excited to see it hit the shelves! How does someone buy South Pole Santa?
Amazon.com as a Kindle e-book at this link:
Amazon.com as a paperback at this link:
Audible.com as an audiobook at this link:
Also, my website is: http://www.southpolesantastory.com/
My Facebook page is: http://www.facebook.com/#!/SouthPoleSantaStory?fref=ts
SMW: Awesome. Go out and get the book – I definitely recommend the audio version, but if you would love to just snuggle up and read to your family, then pick up the book. The cover is delightful – (Matt Jones does fabulous work) and the illustrations really add a keepsake element to the story. It’s a keeper.
Have a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend!
P.S. To check out our book coaching services, click here: http://www.mybooktherapy.com/slide-2/private-coaching-services/