Sunday, January 22, 2012

Christian Authors: Assessing Your Skills

After I graduated from college many years ago, I took a job as a math teacher at a middle school teaching inner city students. I did this, not because that was my training during college, but because it allowed me to avoid the Vietnam War. At the time, young men were being drafted to go to Vietnam, yet school teachers were exempt from the draft. I was not trained to be a teacher, but the school district thought I was qualified – I was not.

After a year of torturing the poor students, I took a job as a landscaper where the only thing I could torture was plants and my fellow workers. I learned a great deal in those two years, and that is the basis for my part-time work as the caretaker of my church's Gethsemane Prayer Garden.

I then started my professional career working for a small consulting engineering company in Syracuse. It had been a long winter with minimal income from unemployment, so I decided to pursue what I had been trained for in college: civil engineering. My first responsibilities were to climb down sanitary sewers during rainstorms so we could measure the depth of the liquid at the bottom of the sewer – and then write about it. Our purpose was to find out where the excess water was coming from.

Today I am in semi-retirement, working fewer hours as the director of the computer department at a smaller company, and spending more hours at home where I can write what I believe God has called me to write. My job climbing down sewers lasted four years and then I was moved to the accounting department where they had just purchased their first computer. Small beginnings.

Not all writers have the where-with-all to become independent self-publishers. For me, God has given me the skill as a computer programmer so that I can more easily handle the many nuances of this information age. The publishing industry is very different from that of writing, especially for fiction writers. If you find setting styles in Microsoft Word or writing your own HTML to be a challenge, possibly independent self-publishing is not for you.

With my previous books, I hired a person to design the cover and prepare the PDF for the printer. With my current series entitled Proverbs Untangled, I have chosen to design my own cover and prepare my own PDF. That means learning Adobe's Photoshop, hardly a product for the faint-at-heart. I also will have to learn Adobe's InDesign to help move the completed MS Word documents to a properly configured and better formatted PDF. I have much to learn about layout and I am excited to do so.

I am such a nit-picker about the aesthetics of the manuscript, and this too is essential as the reader will be able to quickly determine that something is wrong. I believe God gave me the nature to pursue quality in this manner, but I realize I need the eyes of others to help me see what I don't.

Understand that you will make many mistakes along the way as an independent self-publisher. Subsidy publishers rightfully earn their money by helping those with weaker computer skills, and for many this is really the only viable choice. Writing and publishing are viable for me because God has prepared me and I am now moving towards full retirement from my regular job.

I'm excited about where God is taking me and I remain open to hearing His voice of direction. He has enabled me with both the financial means and the fortitude to become a self-publisher. I was able to purchase Adobe's Creative Suite package which is quite costly. Now my goal is to get this series of books into the market for $50 each. We'll see. There are eBook versions and the inspiration to put it into multiple languages and alternate Bible translations. God knows the plan and I believe He will provide the way because He gave me the vision to pursue this.

That is the most important part of self-publishing. Is God really in this? If you have heard His voice of direction, what is stopping you?

For other articles about self-publishing in this series, see:
Index of Self-Publishing Articles by Thomas B. Clarke