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  • Hetty Crane

Learning to Make & Publish a Book

It's hard to remember exactly when my writing partner and I started writing our first book, Daram. It really was ages ago, possibly even thirty years, but sometime in the mid- to late 1980s. We started by simply entertaining ourselves with the story, written in letters in small segments, taking turns, back and forth, in the days when mail used to take weeks to travel across country.

I'm not sure exactly when the writing became serious, that we decided we really did want to make this a 'real' story, and a 'real' book. The details in my mind are hazy, but let's say it was somewhere around 1990. And so we began in earnest to write and write and write, and we put our work together, and by the time I was brave enough to show the work to our editor, we had a pretty ginormous book. In fact, his first comment, very kindly meant, was, "Do you realize this book is longer than War and Peace, and you're not even finished the story?'

And so began the process of editing and chopping it down, and rewriting, and then rewriting some more. It was a learning process. Our editor kept saying, "You know, you don't have to go into every room. Let the reader do some of the work."

When we finally finished the book, then came publication. After rejections from one publisher and two literary agents, we decided to take matters into our own hands and self-publish. It was not that we were discouraged by rejection (okay, we were a little), but self-publishing is also a great time saver, in that had we pursued trying to get published by a large established publishing company, we would have had to spend a long time going through the process of submission (that is not a fun word) and rejection (an even less fun word), and we had spent long enough creating the book to begin with. We are late bloomers as writers.

At long last we published our book in 2015, approximately thirty years after we began to write this story. But what we discovered as we made the journey from writer to publisher is that it's a lot of fun. It has been a journey of delight, working on the book, collaborating, and creating characters and a world that took on a life of its own, and then designing the final substantial shape and style of it.

Self-publishing gave us complete control over our story. I got to design the book cover, not once, but twice, as we tested the market and discovered what would appeal to readers. I also got to use Victorian drop capitals in the text of the paperback, a salute to all the wonderful Victorian fairy tale books I read as a child and that helped instil in me a love of fantasy writing. And as self-publishers, we could play with the back cover blurbs and not take ourselves too seriously, because primarily we want the book to be fun.

We uploaded the manuscript and within a relatively short time, the real solid physical object that we call a book arrived by post. That was the most fun of all, actually holding the story in solid book form for the first time.

Now we are also learning how to market the book, which is entertaining also: designing ads, reaching out to readers, sharing our story world.

Daram is fantasy writing, but it reflects some real observations, here and there, about life, and how and why people do what they do, while hopefully diverting and amusing the reader, giving the reader an interesting world to visit virtually. I think the highest compliment we received from a reader was that when she was getting close to finishing the book, she put it off for a few days, not wanting the story to end. Nor did we, so we wrote the next book to continue the story. When that same reader got to read Varashti, she said that reading the second book was like meeting up with old friends. We couldn't have asked for a better compliment.

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