Happy Indie Story, Part Four: Putting It Together

ABLMPartyPosterA vision’s just a vision if it’s only in your head…

One of my all-time favorite show tunes is Stephen Sondheim’s Putting It Together because every single word about the state of art and commerce is spot on and resonates across generations. It was true when Sunday in the Park with George opened on Broadway in 1984 and it’s true now.

I’ve always been partial to the Barbra Streisand version from her Grammy award-winning The Broadway Album because it’s the song I used most often to drown out my parents’ nightly arguments when I was a kid. While they screamed at each other downstairs, I was up in my room daydreaming about being the long lost daughter of Streisand. I listened to Babs sing the lyrics to Putting It Together like they were motherly advice, a lullaby for my ambitious, restless soul.

Every little detail plays a part, having just a vision’s no solution, everything depends on execution…

Whenever it’s time to pull a project together, I always return to this song. The song becomes an anthem, reminding me that every decision, detail, interview, press release, etc., is important. The song is a reminder that my novel is not only my creation, but it’s my business, my company, and I’m the CEO. Therefore, I need to know what I want on all fronts. Others can advise me, but, at the end of the day, it’s my book, and no one knows it like I do.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve made several decisions about the final layout, size, printing, and marketing for A Boy Like Me. For example, I’ve made the call on the size of the book, the font style, and who to approach for reviews, customizing each letter to each reviewer. When I thought I couldn’t stand to research another reviewer, I pushed myself to research five more.

Do the letters to reviewers come directly from me, the author? No. Do I have people helping me? Yes. Do I have people who would do this research and customization for me? Sure. But I do the research because no one knows my book better. No one is more excited about my book. No one will go the extra mile longer and harder than I will.

And the decisions that need to be made always go back to knowing the book. A Boy Like Me is a YA novel so it should have a YA look and feel. For example, the font is slightly larger than average.

To choose the book’s size, I returned to the novels I love. One of the most beautiful indie press books I’ve seen in years is Lisa Borders’ The Fifty-First State. That book has been by my side on my desk through the whole process of putting my novel together. From the cover art to the back layout, The Fifty-First State is a shining example of what beautiful work can be done by an indie press.

I also love a book that can fit inside a small purse or when I see someone waiting for the bus with a book in hand. This is more likely to happen if your novel is smaller. These are the reasons I went with the more intimate 5.25 x 8 size for A Boy Like Me.

Every minor detail is a major decision, have to keep things in scale, have to hold to your vision…

After spending years writing a novel, it’s very important to celebrate the book’s release. What kind of launch party to have is another decision that must be made. Like all writers I love bookstores, but I want to dance so I approached the nightclub Machine about having a party there. Machine is an obvious choice to have a dance party for an LGBTQ book, but I didn’t choose it for that reason. Machine is the performance home of the Gold Dust Orphans, my favorite Boston theater group. Machine is also the home of many great memories and now I’m going to add one more.

The major advantage of going an alternative publishing route with your book is that you run the show, you’re the CEO. Although all the choices and all the decisions can be overwhelming at times, if you constantly return to your book and hold to your vision, you won’t go wrong.

2 comments

  1. Cynthia Johnson

    I also return to Barbra and Sondhiem: I don’t know why I’m frightened, I know my way around here… Here’s to your fabulous launch and the inspiration that comes from great vocalists and songwriters.

  2. Cynthia – That’s a great lyric, too! And what comes next is so true:
    The cardboard trees, the painted seas, the sound here…
    Yes, a world to rediscover
    But I ‘m not in any hurry
    And I need a moment

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