Ask any cartoonist what he most would like to have. Would it be a syndicate contract, a hit comic, a movie deal…? Those are nice but what else is it that a cartoonist craves, that would secure his/her immortality in ink? Why a book of course. I know; I have had that dream too. I’ve been a working, full time cartoonist for 34 years and all that time it’s been there. Heck, since I was a kid making comics at the kitchen table I’ve imagined boxes and boxes of books, store shelves nationwide lined with my very own book of cartoons! I have also had a thing for self-publishing. I think it would be the height of coolness to be in total charge of your own publications.
Up until now I had never had either of those things. I didn’t have publishers knocking on my door, or agents working to get a deal. I was like most of the cartoonists out there without the resources to make that dream happen; wondering if print on demand was the only possible solution to seeing my work in a solo book. With self-publishing there’s also the issue of cost and the prospect of storing pallets of books and shipping and the list goes on. It starts to resemble Sisyphus and his rock rather than 101 Uses for a Dead Cat.
Then last year a week before Christmas I was sitting with a longtime friend at a sidewalk table at Mel’s Diner in Hollywood fretting about the plane trip back to Ohio the next morning. The first big snowstorm of the year was between home and me and my stomach was doing flips with the club sandwich I ordered. He said, “There’s a great new way to create books now without printing. You don’t need a lot of money to do it and you don’t need a publisher, printer, shipper or a distributor! It’s the latest thing called ‘e-books’.” You can create books without paper? That was interesting. No publishers? That was even more interesting. This sounded like a whole new thing to learn, “Don’t worry about that”, he assured me, “ I know how to do it and I’ll show you.” I filed it away in my ‘mental to do’ list and next morning hopped a plane home getting only as far as Memphis before the weather shut every airport east of the Mississippi.
A few months later I started going through boxes of cartoons looking for candidates for a cartoon collection book settling on a little over 80 cartoons that I grouped into five chapters, which a table of contents will list. TOCs are fun things to have for readers making it something you should consider. I resized the cartoons to a specific page size, gathered them into the project folder and listed them in order in the coded web pages. I wrote some copy for an intro and bio page, and then my friend guided me through the process of constructing an .epub file. On October 11th I uploaded my first valid ePub file to an aggregator who delivered it to iTunes, Amazon, Nook and Sony Reader simultaneously. An aggregator is an on-line service that delivers your .epub file to the book sellers, tracks sales and receives money which it will direct deposit to you. They also offer other services an e-author might need such as design, creation and marketing help. When you upload your book is when you also set its price that all the sellers will charge for it along with a description that they use in your book’s listing.
Within hours a little cover image appeared in the lists on the Kindle store and within a day it was there on iTunes! It took a couple of weeks for Nook and Sony to list it in their stores. As soon as I saw it there on Amazon I got a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. I didn’t expect to get that excited but I jumped in the air and shouted, “Yay!” I was a self-published author at long last. I was bona fide. My wife the librarian hugged me, told me she was so proud and reminded me that she still prefers the feel of a real book in her hands. I hugged her and told her that she is so five minutes ago.
Next time we will delve more into just what makes up an epub document. The answer may just surprise you... or totally put you to sleep. The choice is yours!