Lessons Learned on the Amazon Path

Amazon-eveningNo, I have not been on vacation to the Amazon recently, though I wish I had – except not right now during its rainy season. I’m referring here to the unexpected twists and turns on the path to the CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) arms of Amazon.com  as I completed my journey toward publication of Adventures of a Chilehead.

I wrote about early details of this project in three posts in June: “Chile or Chile? Check it Out,” “Lessons Learned”, and “Story Album to Memoir.” In July that early manuscript flowed through email to a team of beta readers. After incorporating their sage advice about need for further detail, spots that needed an edit and more, I thought final layout as all I needed to do before the book was ready for publication.

That predictably became complicated, and pressures of preparing for classes I was teaching in September resulted in setting the project aside for more than two months. When I reopened the project in late October, I was stunned. I read a paper copy of the manuscript and realized it still needed a lot of work. Here are a few of the lessons I learned (or relearned) in the process:

Wine, cheese and stories improve with proper aging. This is not news to me. I often open story files I haven’t looked at for months and years and see dramatic improvements I could make. We get too close to our work to be objective. Setting it aside and immersing our thoughts in something else for a time allows us to return with fresh vision and perspective.

In the future, I’ll schedule in these breaks before final publication. I always underestimate the time required anyway.

Expect unexpected glitches. This time the unexpected glitch was a section break meltdown in my print version of the manuscript.  Since this was a print document, having the precise type of section break (odd page, next page) was not as important as having some section break to control page header changes. I did an end run and arm-wrestled that gator to the ground. Then, after all was said and done, I checked online and found the solution.

In the future, I’ll turn to Google right away. 

Proof-read in many modes. Again, this was not news. But sure enough, a paper printout looked different from anything digital. When I read the.mobi file proof from the KDP site, I found several more rough spots that needed further sanding. When I ordered my print proof copy, I filled it with flags. Not until I saw that final print version did I realize I’d failed to check for stragglers (those stray single words at the ends of paragraphs) after reducing the margins by .2”. As long as I was making those changes, I found even more opportunities for improvement.

In the future I’ll print a paper copy of the final pdf version before uploading.

Remember that stories of any size are always a work in progress – like life itself. At some point it’s time to realize it’s as good as it’s going to get. Click the Publish button and get on with it. You can go back and make changes later if you want, but at some point it’s time to turn loose and move on.

So, it’s done. My path finally led to the river. You can purchase your copy of the Kindle version of Adventures of a Chilehead: A Mini-Memoir with Recipes on Amazon right now. The print version should be ready for orders by December 6. I had so much fun writing this book, I hate to see it finished, but it is time to set it free and hopefully watch it soar. I’ll tell you more about some of the elements that made it such fun very soon.

Write Now: If you are working on a story that’s driving you nuts, set it aside. Let it age for two or three months. Pull out an unfinished story or project that’s been sitting around for a few weeks or longer and work on that.  Your old story will sound fresh to you and you’ll quickly find ways to improve it. Meanwhile, your problem story will stir around under the radar and reemerge with fresh energy.


KathyPooler said...

Sharon, thanks for sharing the valuable lessons learned in your publishing process. Although I know it is hard-earned and you spend a lot of time "wrestling " it all into submission( no pun intended!), you make it seem so easy. And I know it isn't. Kind of like the golf pros making golf look easy when it is anything but..

Sharon said...

Kathy, I swear it was wrestling -- mud wrestling, I think. Learning to use Styles is not that difficult, and diligently applying them takes attention more than skill. But keeping track of all the little details requires a patient, attentive personality (not my major strength, although I do lapse into OCD mode now and then).

The times that truly age a person are the ones when Word jumps track and breaks the rules. This doesn't happen as often as it used to, but it happens. That's when the arm wrestling sets in. Unless you stay cool and search for solutions in a timely manner...

My dilemma is that as I solve these problems, I find other tiny wording issues that may not be wrong, but aren't as smooth as they could be. A layout service can't do this. And editors don't do layout. At some point we must own our work.

sherpeace said...

Thanks, Sharon. I am learning this as I go too. Everytime I decide I am ready to publish, I start to notice problems with my writing. It is good to know I am not alone on this solitary journey.

Sharon said...

Hey Sherry, congratulations for acquiring the additional wisdom it takes to recognize those spots that looked great earlier, for the patience to fix them, and the courage to hold off on publishing until your story is the best you can make it. You are far from alone. It's just not always easy to find fellow tribe members.