Phoenix Comic Con and the Struggle of Independent Creators

Azra is taking a break from his parenting blog this week to allow me to speak about something that is near and dear to my heart: Independent Creators.

Phoenix Comic Con is this week. It is the biggest show we (Five Smiling Fish and Hellbat Publications) do all year. We worry, we prep, we stress about having the right product and enough product to sell to the hordes of people turning out for the event.

It’s really hard to do when you are an independent creator. You have to somehow capture the imagination and the attention of passersby enough to make them stop and take a closer look at your wares. That’s why so many people do fan art: popular characters and stories already told have a HUGE fan base. That ironic picture of Harley Quinn and that reimaging of Stitch is what draws people in.

But what about your own original ideas? What about your original characters and story lines? In all the madness of pop culture today, it seems that originality is only good for twisting what is already popular into a new product or image. It’s disheartening when your original creations are passed over for yet another super hero logoed item.

So many creators that attend Phoenix Comic Con and other events like it hoping to build their fan base. They want to connect with the public and have their work known and appreciated.

It takes a lot of work and even more courage to put your creations out for public consumption. Believe me.

I tell you this to highlight the struggle these local artists and businesses go through. In our instance, the crafts we make, the plush, the perlers, the tails, the ears, the keychains. . .  all of it was a way to pay for our real dream: creating our own publishing company and getting our books out.

Now, we are fighting to get our original content out there and create a fan base.

It’s almost like screaming into the void.

 So while you are out having fun with your friends and showing off your elaborate and impressive cosplay design, stop by artist alley and take a look at some original creations. Compliment what you like, maybe even buy a piece. Most importantly, go and look and recognize all the work and all the guts it takes to make something original and put it out there to see.

                Happy Hug an Indie Creator Weekend!


                PS- Five Smiling Fish and Hellbat Publications will be at AA529 and AA531. Stop by and say hi!

Publishing A Book AKA: Emotional Rollercoaster From Hell

Azra kindly let me take over the blog this week (don’t worry. He’ll be back next Tuesday). I’m in the final stages of publishing Legend of the Strega and, let me tell you, I am so ready for it to be done. At this point, I am just tired of waiting. I’m not a particularly patient person and this part of the process always has me on edge.

If you’ve ever published a book, you understand.

For those of you who haven’t, let me take you through the steps that has been this book and you can get a glimpse of what indie authors all over the world have to deal with.

1.       Write the story. This is the biggest part of writing. You HAVE to write! If you finish a first draft, you statistically closer to publishing the book. So many people give up on this very important first step. Legend of the Strega took about 2 years of me fiddling with it before it was ready for someone else to read.

Time: 2 years

2.       Editing your story. I am SUPER lucky in that I have amazing friends who aren’t scared to tell me what they really think. When I think my story is ready for public consumption, I send it to them first. They. Rip. It. Apart. Which is great because I know every criticism they have will only make the piece better. It takes me some time not to be salty about it (average is 3 days), but in the end, I know it is for the best. For Legend of the Strega, this process took a little over a year. This is because they had other obligations and timing was off. I also record the story in audio form for my husband to listen to. He is another one who gives me the hard line criticism that’s bound to make me not want to look at him. Again. In the end, it just makes the story better.

Time: 1 year

3.       Once all of the edits have been put in, it’s time for beta reader feedback. These people are amazing. They represent your general audience and read your story in order to tell you what they think as a reader. They are the ones that can tell you if that joke on page 54 is actually funny. For an author just starting out, these people are hard to find. Sometimes you have to bamboozle them into reading your story (sorry, Brad). Legend of the Strega was lucky to have someone really want to read it; a good friend of mine who already had a TON going on, but decided to help me out anyway. This process took about two months.

Time: 2 months

4.       Line Editing. It’s a good idea to have someone who knows grammar and sentence structure better than you look over the words you’ve committed to paper. A good line editor can make or break a book. For Legend of the Strega, my line editor (LOVE HER!) gave me a window of 15 days all through which I bit my nails in anticipation. Was it horrible? How many edits did she have to make? Why is it taking so long if I know how to write? Wait. Maybe I don’t know how to write. I can’t start all over! I have to get this project done! What if I have too many commas and she thinks I’m a jerk now? GAH!

Time: 15 days

5.       Now, your line edits are in and you’ve deleted all of the excess commas and adverbs. It’s time to format your word document into something resembling a physical book. If you don’t know what you are doing, be prepared to spend a LOT of time on Google figuring out how to eliminate widows and orphans. Also, pagination, embedding fonts, page breaks vs section breaks, alternating headers, adjusting the margins for the gutter, converting to the right kind of PDF, and if you have pictures, making them happen. This is one of the most frustrating parts to the process. You are tempted to just settle for what is fine. Don’t. Summon up the patience to make it exactly what you want. It will be worth it. I’ve spent the last weekend doing this for Legend of the Strega.

Time: 2 days

6.       Cover Art and ISBNs. The size of your cover art depends on the size of the interior. Most places will help with a template. I get my art locally. Depending on their timeframe, you are looking at a month to three or so. Luckily, my artist kicks ass and had my cover art and title logo done months ago. All I had to do was send him the template and he formatted it for me. ISBN- I bought mine through Bowker. It is fairly simple to generate a barcode from their website. I sent that on over to my artist and he made it all come together beautifully. The art process took about three month’s total, even though I did the initial art part while Legend of the Strega was being edited.

Time: 3 months

7.       Submitting your interior and cover files into the distributor. Each distributor is different. Mine is fairly simple. They have a style guide and will let you know if your files are messed up. The thing is that the process takes 2-3 business days. This is the part I am at. Waiting for the system to send me an e-proof. I’m so ready to be done! There’s just a couple more steps though.

Time: 3 days

8.       Getting your e-proof and ordering your print proof. Once the system sends you the e-proof, go over it with a fine tooth comb. Seriously. Make sure everything looks good, no pages are missing, etc. If there are things wrong, you have to go back to formatting and converting to PDF. Not. Fun. However, if it is right then you can order your print proof! I really recommend this step. Ordering the print proof is a good idea to have it in your hands so you can see things that are not visible on the computer screen. Like, are your gutters too wide? Did something cut off mid-sentence? Is your cover art the right color? When you get your proof, give yourself at least two days to go over it. Take your time and make sure it’s right.

Time: 4 days

9.       If all goes well, then you are ready to order your first print run (YAY!!!) and wait for the shipping (#$%*@!). Depending on how much you want to spend, shipping can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 weeks. The good news is that after that, you are done waiting and you can get out there and make the world read it!

Time: 6 weeks

Total time for Legend of the Strega:  3 years, 7 months, and 6 days.

It’s worth it.