Let Me Tell You a Story…
Welcome to my new website! It’s been months since I wanted to do this, but here we finally are (better late than never, I suppose.)
I am Kyree S. Williams. Most people know me as the guy who can tell you anything about a given make or model of automobile, but I am also known as the guy who has a fantasy novel out, and more recently, the guy whose fantasy novel is finally available in print.
What people don’t know is that between those two instances, the book was entirely rewritten—from cover to cover.
When I was fourteen, in 2007, I had just finished the final chapter of the esteemed Harry Potter series (I know, I know). Putting down the book, I said to myself, “I’m going to be a writer. I’m going to be just like J.K. Rowling. I’m going to make millions (so that I can afford my Bentley), and I’m going to do it in a month.” Now anyone who’s ever tried to break into any kind of industry knows just how hard—and rare—such a feat is. And indeed Ms. Rowling’s story is an incredibly phenomenal one. As soon as I said this, I rushed to my laptop and began banging out what was ultimately utter nonsense. But it wasn’t long until a coherent story appeared. Of course that story is far different than what I ultimately ended up publishing. Originally my main character was one of a set of sextuplets. And his name was Keiko. And it wasn’t a series.
The main thing that took me so long with getting the book where I wanted it was that I couldn’t seem to develop a writing style for the type of book I was writing, which was fantasy. I knew that in order to captivate readers, it had to have a certain type of language. The other thing I knew, from being an avid reader of said genre, was that it had to be dynamic. I couldn’t sound like I was narrating; be it a calm scene or an epic one, I had to place the reader right in the center of action.
But the sweet spot was when I finally developed a love for writing. It was then that everything began to flow naturally and I knew I had something…at that point I was a writer, not a hack.
Yet, as I will soon explain, this did not save me from certain embarrassment.
So November 2011 finally rolled around and I drew the first book in the series to a close. It was unedited and untested, but I had a definite rigid structure for the novel.
Still, where did that leave me? After already having waited five years to see my goal come to fruition, I did not want to spend an additional and indefinite amount of time in novelist limbo while I waited for some major publisher to pick me up. Fortunately by that time, the indie revolution had rolled around. Independent publishers everywhere could have their work distributed to readers in a matter of moments in electronic form; moreover there were several affordable (and by that I mean free) print-on-demand options, essentially cutting out the infamous middleman that is known as the publisher. When I saw Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform, in particular, I was unsure of its nature. I did not want to be fleeced for the rights to my book. But after consulting with a friend’s father, whose business is in publishing, he assured me that there was no risk in it and that it made no mention of signing over anything.
At that point I got excited. While the book was still being edited, I anxiously waited around to get it to the market. I was so proud of myself. Finally on February 2, 2012, I got the work back from the editor and, in the course of five hours, I got the layout for the e-book done and published Stirling on Amazon’s KDP, Barnes & Noble’s PubIt and Smashwords, to much fanfare. I even made it free on Smashwords for the first three days in hopes that I could have a dedicated fan-base by the time I released the book in the summer of 2012.
But then I stepped back and took a look at it. I don’t know what the equivalent term of buyer’s remorse is for publishing, but that is what I had. The main thing I saw that was flawed was the cover. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but that’s got to be the worst principle to go by in publishing. Consumers do purchase things on aesthetic first impressions, or at least to determine when they definitelyaren’t going to purchase something. Why else is there such a thing as “curb appeal?” Why else are there so many divorces? And how else does Apple sell so many products? So I took a look at my then-current cover forStirling, the first image in the gallery above. And I redesigned it to be more eye-catching.
Only I went in the wrong direction. My new cover (the second image in the gallery) was eye-catching in the sense that if you saw it you might say something like, “I’m definitely not going to read this. It offered no real insight into the genre or content of the book; it was merely a nod to the fact that space-travel was an element in the novel…because I couldn’t come up with a better cover idea. And the worst part of it was something my famously-on-point mother pointed out upon seeing it (Mom, don’t you get tired of being right all the time?) She said, “That 3-D thing you did…I can barely even see what it says now.”
Now readers, how often do you see a book title in offset 3D perspective? Never. Why? Because it’s a bad idea.
But I didn’t know that at the time. And, as sons often do to their parents, I ignored my mother’s comment.
And by then, sales had trickled to a definite drip. The few sales I got were by meeting people who were impressed with the novelty of a 19-year-old that had written a novel, and ultimately they weren’t even from the demographic the novel targeted, which was Young Adult. Now that my book didn’t have an attractive price (free) to boost its place in the market, how was it to do well? Certainly not with a shoddy, third-rate cover, while being sold by a new novelist who had no other books to his name and had not done any real publicity beforehand.
But here’s the kicker. When I began to really delve into the writing of the second book in the Stirling series, I referenced the first book in order to get the details right in the new book. Only the details weren’t right in the first book. I found plot-holes, character-name-screwups, plot inconsistencies, logical flaws, a couple of grammatical errors, and, worst of all, a large part of a chapter missing. Half of it wasn’t my fault because the selling venues’ publishing services all had inherent publishing flaws. But my mistake was that I’d only had it copy-edited when it really needed the full service…
I was selling the kind of product you’d have wanted to sue the manufacturer for…
When I realized that, I sort of stopped talking about my novel. Until I could get it fixed, I really didn’t want people buying it. I quietly and successfully got it off of Amazon but it took forever and a half (as in it just disappeared a couple of weeks ago), and Barnes & Noble to this day has not removed the old version. Then I set about going in and fixing every little error I found. And rather than entrusting the online services to create a properly-formatted digital book file for users, I took things into my own hands and created one from scratch. But in doing so I found places to improve the plot and to redistribute which facts were disclosed to the reader at what times.
What emerged, then, was an entirely new story.
And I was infinitely more proud of this story than the last–so much so that I did have it edited entirely, for plot inconsistencies and everything else that could be structurally wrong with it, as well as copy-editing.
But there was still the matter of the cover. No way was I going to put the same, stodgy old cover on it. That wasn’t, however, to say that I learned my lesson. As you can see by the third image in the gallery (the horrid blue number), the message still hadn’t sunk in. It didn’t sink in until late summer, when I realized that none of the books that were selling had hideous covers like the ones I had thus far put out.
That was when I started looking for an artist. Now realizing that my cover could go beyond my own art skills, I began dreaming up all sorts of exciting possibilities, which in itself was an ordeal. I decided that I wanted something in a comic-style of art, something that displayed my main character in an action scene. And, several mishaps and unprofessional artists later, I met the incredible Daniel Gracey (whose website you can find here). He was professional and friendly from the start and was willing and eager to work with my tight deadline. I set up a deal where he would do the covers for both books 1 and 2 in the Stirling series (as by that time book 2 was about ready to roll out.) And he did an excellent job. That last image you see is his work on the first book’s cover, which turned out far better than I had envisioned. I couldn’t be more proud to have my name on it!
The truth is, despite what I might have told some of you who had been pestering me for this, that was the reason I had been waiting to release a print copy: I wanted a nice cover. It was bad enough that I had published the shoddy ebook; why have my mistakes eternized in pulp and ink. But now that I had it, I was able to both update the ebook and create a print version; the latter coming out just a couple of weeks ago. I also now have this website, and one for theStirling series, putting me in a considerably better spot than I was in earlier this year.
So, just to review, what did I do wrong?
1) Quality Control: Even though I had waited so long to publish my book, I should not have rushed the quality control process. Now if your goal is to fleece customers and make a quick buck, then go ahead and put out the shoddiest, lamest product you can, but if you are going to put your name on something, it needs to be something of an excellent caliber. (This, ladies and gentlemen, is probably why the infamous Yugo was named after a country and not someone’s surname, as so many car brands are…)
2) “Shelf” Appeal: Somewhere in my mind, even when I was still new at this publishing business, I knew better than to release the book with that hideous cover on it. Yet I did it anyway. I ended up having to hire an artist anyway and I probably would have made more money had I done it sooner than later. Ah, well…
3) Publicity: This one is perhaps the most important. “Kyree S. Williams” and “The Stirling Series” should have been registering on websites everywhere long before the book actually came out. I should have had the websites, the Twitter and Facebook pages and the PR all done by then. I should have built up an audience of readers frothing at the mouths to get their hands on my book by the time it was released.
And yet I am still proud of myself for publishing the novel. It taught me, perfectionist to a fault, to actually get something finished for once rather than letting it linger forever in the being-worked-upon stages. It allowed me to say that I crossed off one of my major life goals. It got me a whole network of new friends, acquaintances and resources.
But it’s like they say: when you know better, you do better. I’ve learned from my mistakes. And you should too…