Self-published author Frank DeAngelis has always had a passion for music. He was the music director for WWLI-FM (Lite Rock 105) in Providence, RI from 1987-1989, immersing himself in soft-rock and adult-oriented top 40 hits from the 1960s to the 1980s. But Frank’s love of music from those decades (’60s -’80s) went beyond his job, and he’d often found himself researching musical facts for work and himself.
After leaving Lite Rock 105 in 1989, Frank’s research continued. Over the years he’d compiled a treasure trove of facts about artists, producers, songs, and trends in the music charts. And since he’d never been able to find one book with all the information gathered over the years, he decided to write his own. That book is The History of Top 40 Singles: 1970-1989. He followed it up a year later with The British Are Coming…Again!, which documents the British bands from the 1980s that invaded the U.S. Hot 100 for the second time since 1964.
I recently had a chance to ask Frank about his experiences as a self-published author.
What made you decide to self-publish?
When I began bouncing around the idea of writing about top 40 singles back in 2015, it was more as a hobby and creative outlet. I came up with several ideas for different types of music-related books, and after searching on Amazon, I discovered a void in books about top 40 singles from 1970 to 1989.
I began writing my first manuscript without imagining it ever being published! And since I do not consider myself to be a full-time author, I decided to try self-publishing, as it could be done at my pace.
What was your biggest obstacle when you started self-publishing and why?
The biggest obstacle was learning the format and requirements for the manuscript. The actual writing was enjoyable, as I have a passion for the material. I utilized several tutorials available on YouTube that provided step-by-step instructions on formatting the manuscript.
What do you use for page layout and why?
I wrote the entire book in Microsoft Word, using the guidelines provided by Createspace to set up the margins, page size, page numbering, font type, and spacing. They provided specifications for Word, which I was already comfortable using.
Did you design your book covers?
No, a friend of mine is a Graphic Design professor at Johnson & Wales. I gave her the title, synopsis, and general idea of what I envisioned. She designed four completely different examples, from Goth to futuristic to sublime to flashy, and together we took pieces from each to create the final version.
We based the final cover for The British Are Coming…Again! around an image of the Union Jack flag that she had created in grayscale. I felt that the grayscale image was too “dark” and incorrectly set the tone for the book, so we opted for the traditional colors of the flag, and she designed the lettering, spacing, and formatting aspects.
There are a lot of printing options for self-published authors, which do you use and why?
I went with Createspace. Their instruction manual was clear and descriptive in terms of the requirements for the page layout and book cover, and the uploading and editing processes were very well guided. Turnaround time for approval and release was less than one day from when I uploaded the book and cover. Also, Createspace directly uploads the information for both e-book and print versions to Amazon.
How do you convert your titles to e-book format?
That was the easy part – after completing the formatting in Word, I simply printed it to a PDF. Createspace reviewed the PDF for margins, ensuring that all pages conformed to their printing specifications. Within one day, I received an e-mail that my book was ready to upload. Just hours after uploading, the book was available for sale on Amazon in both print and e-book!
How do you balance writing and publishing? Do you have a schedule?
I did not establish a hard deadline or allot a specific amount of writing time per day or week. I found that I had to be in the correct mind frame to enjoy what I was writing. All of my other daily activity had to be completed before I could devote my full attention to the material. There were weeks, sometimes a whole month, where I did nothing. Other weeks, I wrote something every day and night. At the beginning, I learned that if I wrote to keep “on schedule” or for a deadline, the output was not as good – it felt forced, and the writing became a chore. The best work came from being able to fully concentrate in the moment, with my mind free of all other obligations and concerns. From start to finish, this book took about eighteen months to complete. My first took about fourteen.
Do you hire a freelance editor? Also, how many times did you go through your manuscript to find typos and such.
I did not hire an editor or reviewer. I re-read the entire manuscript six times, each time concentrating on a specific aspect. First was for spelling, second for accuracy of the information, third for grammar (sentence structure, run-ons, tense changes, punctuation), and fourth to ensure that common references between chapters agreed. Then I put the draft aside for a few weeks and read it from start to finish with a fresh perspective as a complete project. After a few weeks, I re-read the entire book in one sitting, concentrating on overall flow.
How do you go about promoting your titles?
As the material is directed at a specific audience – i.e. people interested in music from the 1970s and 1980s – I sent copies to two disc jockeys that host nationally-syndicated radio programs for those genres. I did notice a slight upswing in sales the week after one DJ gave me a mention. I also have a friend who works for an area monthly magazine that features local artists, musicians, and authors in its Arts section. I received a nice mention and write-up, including a picture of the cover!
My next step is to contact several music blog writers. The potential for creating my own blog is also a possibility – I just have to work out the time requirements and overall concept.
Would you ever consider using a traditional publisher?
Once I have a few more publications, I would consider bringing my body of work to a traditional publisher to market as a complete series or product. When I first began writing back in 2015, it was all experimental. I didn’t know if I would enjoy the process or even be able to complete the project! Self-publishing was the best option at the time, allowing me to work at my own pace and publish when I felt the project was complete.
I’m still writing for my own personal enjoyment – although I would be lying if I said that I did not love the fact that others are reading my books! I have already begun my third book and am constantly thinking of ideas for the fourth, fifth, and potentially sixth.
What is the one thing you wished you had known before starting to self-publish?
I wish that I had known from the start that I was going to self-published my first book. I had already completed the first chapter when I decided to self-publish, causing me to pause to learn the procedures and requirements for self-publishing. Because of that, I had to effectively re-write the first chapter and re-format the Word document. Lesson learned: always research all aspects of the entire project before commencing!
You can get both Frank’s books on Amazon.
I’d like to thank Frank DeAngelis for taking the time to answer these questions. As always, leave your questions and comments in the section below.