City of Brotherly Death takes on New Life
Some time ago, the Blood Moons and Nightscapes book Tom and I collaborated on had run its contract. So I had in mind to publish my share of the stories through the Night to Dawn imprint. Steel Rose and its sequel, Blood Moon Rising, have been my major focus these last several months, and an editor is reviewing Steel Rose now. So when I started putting together my anthology, I saw it as a quick stop-off between my magazine and my works in progress. Then I started going through the stories that were published by The Masque Noir, The Vampire’s Crypt, and the Fading Shadows magazines. I want to take this time to thank Margaret L. Carter, Ginger Johnson, and Rod Marsden for giving these stories a home.
I had fun playing with these tales, tweaking them, and in some cases, coming up with new spins on them. Particularly “Garden of Souls” and “One Last Favor.” All of them take place in Philadelphia, my home town. I spent several months trying out different titles without success. Then I got to thinking, since we have a lot of revenants and zombies, William Penn’s beloved Philadelphia has become a city of brotherly death. Hence my title.
So what did self-publishing mean for me? It meant I didn’t have to rely on a publisher’s timetable or their choice for a cover or editor. It also meant responsibility. I had to handle my own distribution, buy the ISBN’s, and handle my own formatting, editing, cover, and marketing. If you don’t have the skills to do those things, then you hire a team to handle the jobs. I was ahead in the ballgame because I’ve been publishing books for other people.
Dreamstime and Getty Images have great looking cover images for a reasonable price. Designing a cover isn’t my strongest suit, though, and those companies couldn’t help me with that. You have to pick the right size font and color for your title to stand out and look good. NTD illustrator Teresa Tunaley does just that. She took over titling the covers that she illustrated for the NTD books. Lulu and CreateSpace are user-friendly sites for self-publishing, and they have illustrators who can do covers, too.
If you format the interior yourself and work with Lulu or CreateSpace, find out their requirements before you begin. I found this out the hard way with the NTD books. For a 6 by 9 inch trade paperback, for example, your front and back cover dimensions should be about 6.125 by 9.25 inches. Not more, and not less. All print and images should be ½ inch away from the border to avoid getting cut off during manufacturing of the book. Your chapter headers should be about 1/3 way down the page. More important, your headers should be at a consistent level in all chapters. It is best to stick with Garamond or Times New Roman fonts.
I’ve been doing the formatting for the NTD books, including City of Brotherly Death. What helped me was looking at some of the trade paperbacks in a bookstore to get ideas on setting up title page and chapter headers. Each time I begin a new chapter, I count spaces from the top of the page. If you’re new at formatting, Word software can prove a formidable foe. If formatting makes you nervous, Lulu and CreateSpace have people who can format the book for you for a fee.
Your first page should be the title page – Title, author, and the name of your book company. To look professional, you should treat your writing like a business and that means creating your own publishing company. The next page will have your masthead: your editor, ISBN, illustrator, contact, and copyright information. This is the spot where you mention “Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental, etc.”
I would never self-publish any work without consulting an editor because no writer can see their own mistakes. So a good editor is a wise investment. Alas, so many self-published books turn out badly because of multiple typos and lack of content editing. If money is a constraint, a lot of editors will find a way to work with you. Belonging to a writer’s group will help. Perhaps someone there can refer you to a reputable editor.
I confess to major jitters, and my buddies at the Bucks County Writers’ Group assured me this is normal. Judicious use of Mylar balloons and time spent with my friends helped me to get through that. The book has gone live, and it’s available on Smashwords and Kindle. I’m actually having fun promoting this book, thinking of Philadelphia being overrun by zombies and revenants. I’ve posted my webpage with illustrations of scenes from some of the stories at http://bloodredshadow.com/about/night-to-dawn-magazine-and-books/barbara-custers-night-gallery/city-of-brotherly-death/.
One thing does concern me. If William Penn gets a whiff of the tales I’ve been spinning about his beloved Philadelphia, he might come and haunt me.