Today is the official "On Sale" date for Uncommon Counsel, and two weeks from today, June 5, is the "Publication Date." What do these dates mean? After all, the book has been available on various online retail outlets for some time now. Today is the day that Ingram, the book distributor, will start taking orders for fulfillment. Sites like Amazon or Barnes and Noble have offered advance sales, but they have had to hang on to them until today. Now those advance sales (ten as of this morning) have been queued up to be printed so that they can arrive on the publication date two weeks from now.
What this means for me is that last night I uploaded the final edits to the novel. The PDF files for the paperback cover (front, spine, and back), and the internal contents, and the JPG cover image and EPUB contents for the electronic version. These were processed and then approved by me this morning so printing of the released book can start.
These aren't the first physical copies, however. I've had those for about a month now. "Advance Reader Copies," also known as proofs. They are produced identically to the finished product, but with an earlier draft version of the files I uploaded last night. I printed 35 of these. More than I needed, but not a lot more. Why so many? Because of the incredibly important "beta readers." These are people who have volunteered to read the draft version and make comments and note problems. I was blessed to have about twenty-five such readers, and they are worth their weight in gold. Not only did they catch a whole raft of errors that escaped me and my editor (though doubtless others remain), but they gave me direction that will help shape my future writing. Each of them that returned comments will get a signed copy of the published book as a thank you, and it is far less than they deserve.
If you decide to pursue publishing your writing, I can't emphasize enough how important it is to get eyes on it first. Be selective, too. Don't just select friends. You're looking for meaningful criticism, not empty praise. Find people who read a lot, or, even better, who write or edit. Find people who are subject matter experts in the areas your book covers. Find people who read the type of book you wrote, but also those for whom it is a stretch. Ask all of them to please be critical. And then listen to them. Thank them for the time they spent and the comments they offered, especially the ones who tell you what they didn't like. They are the ones who will make you a better writer. You may not agree with their points, that's your prerogative, but if they have issues it's a safe bet that others will have the same issues, and you'd be well advised to consider them.
Now that I have those comments and have incorporated those changes into the final publication form, I've submitted the book for professional reviews. These reviews will be essential for marketing, but are only meaningful if they come from respected sources. There are plenty of "reviewers" who will give you a rave review for a fee, but that sort of review is meaningless and can do more harm than good. Good reviewers have a track record of fair reviews and make no promise of a good one. They charge a fee, too—after all, you are asking someone to spend several hours reading and then commenting on your work—but they do not guarantee you will like what you get. Kirkus is probably the most well known reviewer of books, and I submitted mine there. OnLineBookClub is another, and I submitted it there, as well. I'll know in a few weeks if they like the book. Hopefully you'll get to see the results here soon. Either way, it's money well spent. The criticism that will undoubtedly come is pure gold, and will make me a better writer if I'm smart enough to take it to heart.