Writing a book is relatively easy, right? You come up with a beginning, a middle, and an end. You add in some characters, maybe a plot twist or two to keep your readers on the edge of their seats. Slap a catchy title on the front, and you're done. Okay, maybe that's simplifying things a bit. But compared to getting your novel published, which can involve a long series of hoops to jump through just to ultimately result in nothing, writing the thing can seem like a piece of cake.
Sounds rough, but it's reality. That is, if you go the traditional publishing route. Enter Steve Luna and Clayton Smith, whose Dapper Press, launching December 1, will act as your 21st-century, completely digital guide through the seemingly daunting world of self-publishing, turning final drafts into novels that can stand "shoulder-to-shoulder," as Luna says, with those traditionally published books.
"This is where we really come in," Luna says about authors who approach Dapper Press. "They don't know what's involved in bridging that gap from 'I've written a book that I like,' to 'I think I can actually sell it to people if I can just get it up [online]."
Both Luna and Smith know all about the ins and outs of the self-publishing process. That's actually how they met in the first place. After they both independently self-published their own novels, they set out to find an audience.
Luna says he turned to the "robust" community of self-publishing authors on Facebook. He found Chicago-based Smith's collection of short stories, read them, and reached out. Digitally, of course, as Luna lives locally in Phoenix.
The two began talking and realized they shared common ground in their frustrations with the comparatively low standards for self-published books and the traditional publishing world, Luna says, where an author needs and agent, publisher, and a good amount of cash to even have a chance at getting their book in the hands of readers.
Eventually, the idea of Dapper Press was born, and the two set out to raise the level of ease and professionalism of self-published novels with Smith in Chicago and Luna here in Phoenix. Yep, Luna says he and Smith have yet to actually meet in person.
"The Internet kind of made the world very small, very possible," Luna says.
This simple idea really creates the foundation of both general self-publishing and Dapper Press. Luna says that authors often don't realize how easy self-publishing has become thanks to online services like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He adds that once you have a finished manuscript, you could really publish your book in an afternoon. Plus, it's free and completely in the author's hands.
"For me, that is the driving force of 'Oh, I can actually control this entire thing, instead of hoping someone sees the value in what I'm doing,'" Luna says. "I think that's been driving a lot of people."
And we're not just talking about ebooks. Luna explains that when an author uploads his or her digital copy of a book to Amazon, the book is only printed once it's ordered, allowing the author to sell the books one by one or in small batches.
But before an author even gets to that point, Dapper Press offers everything an author could need to turn their manuscript into a published novel.
Here's how it works: An author with a completed manuscript goes to "The Bar" on the Dapper Press website to choose what combination of services he or she would like.
To go along with the classy gentleman's speakeasy spirit in which Luna and Smith created Dapper Press, authors can choose from mixers (individual services like copy editing or proofreading starting at $0.003 per word), shots (mini packages for short stories for $200), or all the way to the full-blown martini, which includes everything from editing to cover design to marketing and pricing consultations starting at $1634.25. For now, Luna and Smith will be completing all services for Dapper Press, calling in some connections they have made throughout their careers as authors whenever necessary.
Luna says Dapper Press' most basic goal is to offer authors whatever they want all while keeping the process easy and full of "whimsy." C'mon, you couldn't honestly expect two authors to create this business without having a bit of fun along the way, could you?
But in all seriousness, Luna says Dapper Press aims to be fully customizable for their clients. Acting almost as a Chipotle for authors where they can come in, pick and choose exactly what they want from the offered menu, and leave anything else behind, Luna and Smith will also tell authors when they are not necessarily ready for the services Dapper Press offers if the novel needs more authorship before the editing begins.
"Really we know we're going to get people at all different places and all different stages," Luna says. "I don't know if I'd call it a new business practice, or just ethical business practice, just not to try to sell people something they don't want or aren't necessarily ready for."
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Although their original launch date was February 1, 2015, Luna and Smith moved it up to December 1 so they could offer help those who participated in National Novel Writing Month, during which authors accept the challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel during November. Luna says Dapper Press will be offering specific service for those who completed NaNoWriMo, but don't know what to do next.
And don't worry Phoenicians, Luna says even if he and Clayton decide they want to set up a physical office down the line, they will both remain in their respective cities with separate offices.
"There's no leaving Phoenix," Luna reassures. "And this is what the internet gives us too. We're able to be local and connected at the same time, which is kind of unique for small companies that have this set up where you reach out between people and you can kind of represent the connection on either side of the country and kind of combine your potential there."