In January 2018 I released my first book, SUN NIGHT about my brother and I growing up in Panama. It was a project that took three years to complete, but about 40 years to be ready for. The last chapters were the ones that took the longest and were the most difficult to complete. I finished writing the book in May 2017, but that was just the beginning.
Even though there were a lot of items to check off the list to get the book published, I felt organized internally in my mind. I think it helped to have that instilled in me since I work in the design industry where one has to show clear results within a deadline. One of those items in my list involved working with Sam Hubbard, my good friend and editor of the book. Having edited previous books in the past, I trusted her to give SUN NIGHT the appropriate love and attention required. Imagine being a first time author, and showing your work to someone that is an avid reader and editor. Sam took my book and gave it the care it needed. It wasn't something that could be rushed. Something I learned since early on. I was so excited to release the book, that I couldn't wait for all the round of edits.
And there was so much more. I didn't only write the book, I also created the cover art and laid out the front and back cover, laid out the interior of the book for both the print and electronic version, in addition to the marketing and website design. I also learned how to sell the book on Amazon, Apple and other book stores, as well as taking credit card payments. It was all exciting, but at times mind-blowing. It was a lot of work, but I never questioned myself that I could do this.
The cover art is a paper collage that represents the rays of the sun starting in the center in white to yellow, orange, and red toward the outer rim. The collage is actually an important element in the story and I felt it needed to be something I created. The work for the cover started a year earlier. I never created any concepts. I had concept the design in my mind for such a long time, that once the work was complete, it turned out exactly how I had expected or visualized.
Once I finished writing the manuscript, I began to lay out what the cover would look like, creating a total of 10 versions. It was evident that it would be a formal design based on the composition of the collage. I tried so many different typefaces for the title, but only a few seemed well to represent the feeling of the story. They were Perla and a cursive script. While I loved the cursive, it felt too playful for the tone of the story. I went with the more formal Perla. The cover was not embellished in any way, however the letters were made to look as if the collage elements were glued on the board over part of the letters to make the title more inclusive of the overall design.
As a first time author, I decided to create a simple back cover using a darker hue borrowed from the front. The short synopsis and author bio were laid out with corresponding photos. This was done intentionally to make it easy for anyone to get a clear feel for what the book was about in addition to learning a little about me without taking away from the story summary.
The layout of the gut of the book was quite a challenge for me but I did a lot of research. I quickly learned that there wasn't a specific rule but most books were laid out in a simple manner. I took my time laying out each page of the book to ensure that everything not only looked visually pleasing, but also following appropriate writing styles. I took part of the collage cover and created a partial sun ray design in black and white that was used as an illustration at the beginning of each chapter.
I researched several options to publish the book, and decided to self publish in order to save time. This meant that I would have to pay for the production and create all the marketing on my own. I worked with Blurb.com to get the book produced in two versions: a hard cover and a soft cover. Blurb's platform also allows authors to launch the book with the Ingram marketplace, a worldwide distribution system for books. This allowed for the book to appear on Amazon, and any online book store. A marketable way for me to reach to prospective interest for the book was to create a website. I produced the site using Squarespace.com because they offered the ability to charge credit cards and help me manage the book sales process. Their templates are also very easy to work with and easily viewed on different platforms.
The day I released the book, January 31, 2018 to be exact, I had such a mix of emotions. I was scared, sad, tired, but also excited, anxious, and happy. I was worried that people would judge me because I wrote a bad book, after all I was a first time author and wrote a book in English, my second language. I was also incredibly worried about negative feedback on Amazon and other sites. But above all, it felt freeing to release the book to the world. It had been such a long process, it felt like a huge achievement.
I released the book with a Facebook announcement, I was literally shaking. I didn't expect many people to actually take notice but interestingly, everyone supported my project. For many it was a total surprise, but for those expecting it, it was welcomed news. I was surprised as well by the amount of people that purchased the book at first. Thank you to all those who have supported my dream.