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So you want to be a published author?
By M. Villaruz

No one really writes a book these days. Well, I have two reasons why I say this. First, people don’t write anymore on paper using a ballpoint pen with the occasional crossing-out of words for correction; they now type their thoughts into a word processor with the occasional pressing of backspace key for deletion. People like to broadcast their thoughts, however trivial at times, which makes writing seemingly synonymous to twittering or updating shout-outs in Facebook. Some of them manage to write passionately and regularly and often use online blogs to house their well-written stories. It’s all good. I always resort to e-writing if only I want a faster delivery of my messages. Second, no one writes these days, and at the same time, no one wishes his book to get published because publishing is a costly and tedious process that may take months or years. In the past, you initially had to agree on a very large number of print run before a publishing company would entertain you. This brought on the additional problem of storage space for your unsold books.

Together with my English teacher and a friend Eliz Reyes, I attended Dr. Isagani R. Cruz’s talk on self-publishing on the fourth day of the five-day 31st Manila International Book Fair at SMX in Pasay City. Dr. Cruz has written and published a lot of books. By his own admission, he is one of the highest paid biographers in the Philippines, along with Butch Dalisay. (Incidentally, Dr. Cruz was the publisher of De la Salle University Press when Eliz was the director. Another teacher of mine, Alain Padilla, was then the editor-in-chief of the university press.) Actually, Dr. Cruz’s session was a part of the seminar organized and sponsored by Central Books, a popular and premier publisher of local law books, administrative codes, annotated reports of the Supreme Court, Republic Acts and their Implementing Rules and Regulations, etc., and whose bookshops are frequented by law students and lawyers alike. Central Books has ventured into entrepreneurial publishing, making its presence more felt among rival publishers. Thus, it promoted self-publishing in the seminar.

A company spokesperson talked about the easy process of on-demand publishing (another term for print on demand (POD) using state-of-the-art technology that could print out a book in just 10 days! A classic package, which costs P9,500, already includes two proof copies, posters for marketing, and many others. But two of the most significant items that are already part of that reasonable fee are the registration of copyright and getting an ISBN (yes, that number indicated in the bar code at the back cover, and which makes any publication internationally recognized). These tasks could be daunting and tiring for a writer who doesn’t have a publisher. Exactly, that issue was addressed by the seminar entitled “Central Publish on Demand.” Two sessions were set that day; I was able to attend the second.

Dr. Cruz’s talk focused on writing a book as a gift. He presented steps you should follow to be able to write a book and get it published. He also stated the oft-mentioned reason of writers that prevents them from actually writing: no time. “When should you write?” asked Cruz. “Anytime as long as it’s the same time,” he added. Setting a schedule for writing, he said, should be no different from attending to your job. When you are at work, for the whole duration of it, there is nothing that can disturb you. While you are busy writing, naturally your phone keeps on ringing; your text messages remain unanswered; even your Facebook postings are put on hold. You have to place a sign on the wall that says, “It’s my writing time.” This is the same discipline Dr. Cruz wanted everyone in the audience to adopt when writing. Once the schedule is set, you also need to determine where you should write. “Anywhere as long as it’s the same place,” Dr. Cruz opined.

He shared valuable tips on writing a book as a gift to your loved ones. In summary, here are the practical ways that I carefully took note of:

1.   Idea – what do you want the audience to feel after reading?
2.   Research – from Google to your favorite library, if you have one, or if you can find one in the city.
3.   First draft – start anywhere in the book, not necessarily page one. This has got to be one of my sources of mental block. What do I write first; where do I begin?... I often hear myself asking. With that advice from Dr. Cruz, now I can freely start anywhere my mind leads me. 
4.   Factual checking – save the original file thrice. Retain the original version unedited. Use the second, third file for editing. 
5.   Second draft – You ought to start on page one on this draft
6.   Language checking – correct grammar and style; read as much of the manuscript aloud as possible.
7.   Copyediting – hire a good editor who can suggest changes in organization but remember, Dr. Cruz stressed, you always have the last say. It’s your book.
8.   Final draft – it’s when you decide on the title of the book, subtitle if any, and other information you have to put on the first few pages; author/s with contact number or email address; dedication and epigraph, foreword, preface, acknowledgements, and introduction – if you want to.
9.   How to prepare for publishing – this was followed by a series of tasks not worthy of your time. A quick change of slide occurred putting emphasis on the last slide.
10.   Publishing your book –send to Publish on Demand – the simplest way of getting your book published, according to Dr. Cruz. This innovative way saves you from doing the tasks outlined previously.

There you have it—the ten pieces of advice on writing a book as a gift and getting it published. Of course, there are other available information on this topic on the Internet, but with the proliferation of spurious online information, it behooves you to simply follow Dr. Isagani Cruz’s easily doable admonitions.

Notes: Dr. Isagani R. Cruz writes a Thursday column, “Mini-Critique” in The Philippine Star. This broadsheet has also published Ms. Eliz Reyes’s article detailing her experiences in teaching one of her well-loved literature classes.

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