I loved the experience of writing my first story and the complete freedom of independent writing. However, drafting the 80,000 words or so was somewhat anticlimactic, like clambering out of the sea to triumphantly cross the finish line in celebration, only to realise I wasn’t participating in a swimming race but an Ironman triathlon. There was still the 180-kilometre bike ride, and the marathon left to run.
I’m a newcomer to the world of book writing and started with no knowledge of the process. I began by submitting forms to traditional publishing houses like Penguin, Gill and Hachette. I thought that was the best and only way to make my book a reality if I didn’t want the grief of distribution. A month later, there was still no reply. I started digging online and realised how naive I was to think I’d get a reply, least of all, a positive reply. I also discovered that even IF I were successful in my pitch, it would take around two years or more until my work would be on the shelves. This timescale didn’t suit me. Also, I’m not one to leave my faith in the hands of others. That’s when I committed to self-publishing as an independent author.
Self-publishing is more accessible now than it ever was. Independent authors no longer need to gamble on ordering hundreds of paperback copies at scale or worry about storage, packaging and delivery. Print-on-Demand services, like IngramSpark or Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), look after the printing and distribution, subtracting their fees from the purchase price – no overheads or logistics for the indie author to stress over. You could solely publish in e-book format and not concern yourself with physical books at all if you want.
This decision meant I was no longer just the writer. I was the writer, funder, project manager and business owner. Juggling my new roles, I had to find an editor, graphic designer, photographer, audiobook producer and some beta readers.
Going the indie route means you’re in charge of quality control of everything and paying the bills too. You’ll need to decide who to hire, the book (trim) size, cover texture and appearance, type of paper, the font type and size, how many lines you want per page, how indented you’d like the text, etc. You’re responsible for the look and feel of the book, as well as the words on the page. All the moving pieces and decisions can be overwhelming, but now that I’m out the other side, I’m proud of the creation I can hold in my hand. I got to that fortunate position by avoiding shortcuts and hiring the help of professionals.
The main challenge was getting my writing up to industry standards. To help get me there, I hired inkwellwriters.ie. First, I got a high-level professional Structural Edit on my first three chapters. As a beginner, I needed some early encouragement or an indication that it was worthwhile continuing. This editing stage highlighted some terrible writing habits early doors and gave some food for thought with the rest of my story. I recommend paying for Grammarly.
Once I completed my story, I got a professional Structural Edit of the entire manuscript. There was a lot of refining to do after receiving the constructive feedback.
A few re-drafts later, I felt comfortable sharing my work with my Alpha Reader – my girlfriend. Time for more revisions before finding a free Beta Reader on a Facebook Beta Readers page. I also hired a second Beta Reader for around €120.
After another re-drafting round, it was back to inkwellwriters.ie for an in-depth professional Copy Edit. After the Copy Edit, there was more fine-tuning before hiring inkwellwriters.ie once more for a final Proof Read.
Whilst the editing was in full swing, I had a photo-shoot for the cover and hired a graphic designer to ensure a high-quality outer shell. I also reached out to a targeted list of papers, magazines and reputable people who might endorse my book, seeking a quote to add to the cover.
Next up was the interior work. I’d spent months crafting the Word document, only to discover my formatting was lost once the designer transferred it into Adobe InDesign. Countless reiterations were necessary after exhausting rounds of quality control checks.
I then signed up to KDP, created my publishing house, purchased my ISBN and barcode from Nielson, and it was eventually time to order my Advance Review Copies (ARCs). I needed to post ARCs to the potential endorsement candidates. Before it reached the public domain, I also required copies to share with my immediate family and people directly affected by my memoir.
After further feedback, I deleted some of the story and reworked parts. Errors from InDesign were much more glaring in paperback. The designer and I had to give additional attention to get the formatting to the highest specification.
It was then time to secretly hit ‘publish’ and order an Author Copy to see the real deal. I wanted to test the ordering process and product before any announcement. Although available globally, it took Amazon around three weeks to show my book as available in Ireland, my main market. I had to contain my excitement as I hounded KDP for a solution. I used the time to review the Author Copy once more and made some further corrections before re-publishing (free, quick and simple process). Then, one day, it was available in Ireland, and I could announce that Marathon Man: My Life, My Father’s Stroke and Running 35 Marathons in 35 Days was out now!
Since launching, I decided to try to get my book on shop floors. Booksellers tend not to do business with their rival – Amazon. To achieve presence in book shops, I’ve had to ask KDP to release my ISBN to IngramSpark. Self-publishing through KDP and IngramSpark seems to be the recommended optimal approach to maximise online and in-store sales.
Now I just need to learn about marketing, metadata and how to use Facebook and Amazon ads…
(c) Alan Corcoran
About Marathon Man:
MARATHON MAN is an uplifting story of an extraordinary achievement – all the more inspiring given that the author was an inexperienced long-distance runner and only 20 when embarking on his mission to run 35 marathons in 35 consecutive days. Alan Corcoran’s response to the shock of his dad’s stroke, was to get active, create positive from negative and raise money for charity. Alan faced many obstacles along the road – beyond the sheer physical endurance challenge of running 1,500 kilometres around Ireland. He candidly submerges the reader into his world with an endearingly light touch, showing how through sheer perseverance, you can achieve your objectives. Alan’s Irish humour, positivity and pure determination shine through this 2021 sports memoir. Whatever your challenge, this motivational book will show you that you can succeed.
Order your copy online here.