…how to become self-published.
Last week we had a look at what it means to be a traditional author; one who publishes through a publishing house that subsequently does most of the work for you. Today we’re going to examine the fascinating world of self-publishing and what it takes to be a good self-publisher.
Before we get started I’m going to add a disclaimer – I am self-published, and proud of that fact.
My decision to choose this path was a deliberate and informed decision. Before I even got anywhere close to hitting a ‘submit’ button, I had done in excess of three months of research, analysis, and assessment. I did not choose self-publishing because it was an “easy” option. Contrary to what some people may say to you or believe it’s hard work when done correctly.
IF YOU CARE ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE PUTTING OUT INTO THE WORLD – AND YOU SHOULD – EXPECT TO WORK YOUR BEHIND OFF AND ALWAYS BE ON CALL.
The world of self-publishing moves at a very quick pace, new technologies are emerging all the time, and no-one else is going to do this stuff for you.
Not only are you going to have to be a writer, you will have to be an accountant, a marketer, and a CEO all wrapped into one. So if you are seriously considering this option, that likely means you’ve got a lot of learning and good old fashioned sweat ahead of you.
I think it’s important from the get go to understand that self-publishing when done correctly is hard work. There are no quick fixes or short cuts if you want to put out a quality product for your readers.
I’m not going to tell you how to get rich quick, or how to pump out twenty books in the space of two days. That would be a waste of my time and yours. If you’re here taking the time to read this and the other publishing articles I have been running, I’m going to take a wild guess you care about informing yourself and being the best that you can.
Still interested after that little wake up call?
Good, then this option may just be right for you.
What is Self-Publishing?
The description in this case is on the box. As long as the work is on sale and available to buyers, and the rights to reproduce it haven’t been bought by a third party (most likely by a traditional publishing house) you’re a self-publisher. In this instance the phrase “on sale” also includes offering it for free either permanently or as a promotional tool.
In short, when a writer decides to forego the traditional publishing industry and process, and publish a manuscript for themselves, it’s self-publishing.
Why Should I Self-Publish?
You shouldn’t. Wait, what?!
Let me qualify that statement. If you have the slightest doubts about your ability to commit, learn, adapt, and keep multiple hats on at all times, this genuinely isn’t a great option for you.
DOING JUSTICE TO YOUR WORK SHOULD BE YOUR STARTING POINT.
When you lovingly craft something like a novel over weeks, months, or years you have a duty to yourself and your readers to give it ample chance and opportunity to flourish.
Let me put it another way.
What was the point of you agonizing over your manuscript if you’re not going to care about packaging and promoting it?
Even if you get lucky enough to have buyers for your pièce de résistance, if it looks awful because you didn’t take the time to give it a decent cover or blurb, how are you going to feel when those readers give you awful reviews because half the text is in neon pink ARNPRIOR font, and the other half is sdrawkcab with triple line spacing?
On the other hand, if the above example fills you with revulsion and an overwhelming urge to red pen an entire book, then you’ve got the right attitude at the very least. With that comes the advantages of self-publishing.
You should go this route if you:
- Like the idea of being in total control of your manuscript from start to finish.
- Think you can more justice to your work than a publisher could.
- Want to keep the majority of the profits for yourself.
Those three sum up the advantages pretty neatly. There are a few other benefits too, but those are the big ones that get bandied around. Notice however that the first two points have the effect of generating a lot of work for you.
The payoff for all of that is point three – you see the majority share of your profits instead of a royalty that would make you weep in anger and frustration. Earning a living wage from fiction writing has been notoriously difficult up until recently. The financial impetus to self-publish shouldn’t really come as any surprise when you consider that authors have been traditionally paid anywhere from an insulting 3% of sales, through to a (still piddly) 15% if lucky.
Yes, It’s Okay To Want To Earn Some Money
You may come across a rather bizarre concept in your research as you read the back and forth between self-publishers and traditionally published authors.
Money doesn’t matter, the art of the craft does.
Writers as a group can be very impractical at times. In fact, I would dare to say it’s one of the few groups that actively suggests they don’t deserve to be paid their real value.
Don’t allow people to tell you it’s not okay to want to make a living wage from your writing – that’s just crazy bananas! If you’re anything like me, the concept of suffering for your art is self-indulgent elitist poop. When bills have to be paid, I think we’d all prefer to have some money in the bank to draw upon, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The industry has, and continues, to change significantly. The new publishing model is (rightfully) starting to place the author on top of the pile. When that means more writers are able to produce enjoyable work for everyone because they have the time and resources to do so, I can only see that as a good thing.
So How Do I Get Started?
Obvious point is obvious, but don’t use all this research as a form of procrastination. You need to finish that manuscript before you can publish it, and it’s surprising the number of writers who simply don’t get around to completing their stories.
Make sure you would be proud to have your name associated with it.
There is a huge misconception with the naysayers of self-publishing that books produced this way are total rubbish. Sure, you can just write words on a page and then hit a submit button. There are plenty of people who do that. If however you’re actually interested in maintaining a long term career and a living wage, you need to slow down once you’ve completed your manuscript and go through a number of steps.
Remember we’re discussing self-publishing quality products here, not burning through a silly get rich quick scheme that won’t do anything for your career.
- Put your first draft aside for a period of time.
- You need to be able to come back later and look at it with fresh eyes.
- Join a writers’ workshop or critiquing group.
- Look at your local area meetings and you’re bound to come across some groups that you can fit into to.
- Alternatively join an online community of writers and have them critique your work. Personally, I am a fan of the Scribophile community.
- Revise your work after gaining some feedback on it.
I’m going to say something a little controversial here:
If this is the first book or two in your self-publishing journey, the cost of hiring a professional editor needs to be weighed with the potential income you’re making.
Don’t get me wrong, I seriously advocate the use of professional editing, but you need to weigh your initial outgoing costs with the likely return. If your work earns good money you should always improve it via professional edits. Editing should be your first major development cost once you’ve got yourself up and running. Don’t skimp on it.
Until you have a little bit of market savvy and presence however, think long and hard before you spend money that you may not have.
Moving on swiftly before I am lynched for saying that!
- Look around for a genre appropriate editor with good credentials.
- Be very cautious about entering into an agreement with someone unless you know exactly who they are, what their professional credentials are, and how they do business.
- A reputable and established freelance editor will give you clearly defined rates measured by the page or word.
- Alarm bells should ring if someone requests the full sum of money for their services up front. It is more usual to see a request for a deposit up to 50% of the estimated cost of the edit.
- Agree the terms of engagement with them, and send them your manuscript when it’s ready to go through this stage.
- Review the suggested edits, and make changes where appropriate.
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT BETA READERS.
WHETHER YOU CHOOSE TO USE THEM DURING YOUR REVIEW PROCESS OR POST EDITING IS UP TO YOU. HOWEVER, REALIZE THESE PEOPLE ARE POTENTIAL BUYERS AND REVIEWERS. GIVE THEM THE BEST PRODUCT THAT YOU CAN AT THAT MOMENT IN TIME, WHILE STILL ALLOWING YOURSELF THE ABILITY TO EDIT IN RELEVANT FEEDBACK.
The time has come to do the aesthetics and ‘hooks’ for your book.
You’re going to need to get graphics for your cover, create a catchy and enticing blurb, and format the contents of the book so that you don’t end up with the neon pink disaster we discussed earlier.
- Book Cover
- There’s a real science and art behind creating good book covers. The cover is the first impression a reader is going to get of your work, and it has to grab their attention and entice them into looking deeper at your product.
- Unless you’re really certain of your graphic design abilities and aesthetics don’t try to do a book cover for yourself. There are many places you can head to hire a good designer, and it doesn’t have to cost a ridiculous amount of money either. Just type book cover designer or something similar into your search engine and you’ll get a lot of results.
- Options you could use also include sites such as Fiverr.com if you’re looking for a cheap but good cover, 99designs.com to run a design competition for your cover at a higher price point, or Freelancer.com.
I’ll talk about book covers more specifically in another post and look at some of the industry specific companies I’ve used in more detail. At the end of the day there are many places to go and get a cover, you just need to find a designer you can work with and who takes your idea and elevates it, or can create an idea for you that blows your mind.
Write your blurb. The blurb is the second chance you get to encourage someone to hit the purchase button.
Here’s what not to write:
This book is about overcoming adversity against all the odds. The main character, Sam goes on a journey where he kills dragons, and rescues a princess called Mary. They fall in love, get married and live happily ever after.
*yawns* If you saw that on a blurb would you buy the book?
Instead, we want to tease a scenario and allow people’s imaginations to run riot. They should walk away after reading your blurb and think to themselves, “Hmmm, I wonder what happens? I should buy this book and find out.”
Finally, we need to format the contents of the book to avoid the dreaded walls of texts, and silly pink unreadable mistakes. There are a bunch of tools out there to help you with this, but your starting point should be to read the submission guidelines for the publishing platform you want to use.
As an example let’s take a quick look at Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing information. Follow their rules for submission and you should have a legible document readable on Kindle devices.
As with much of this process there are many programs out there designed to make your life easier. For a start check out Calibre and Adobe InDesign. Both are highly recognized tools that have really useful applications for the book author.
Book formatting is dependent on what programs you’re using and where you intend to submit to. The scope of the topic, like that of a detailed conversation about book covers, is too wide to cover in this article, but I will try to write a more detailed article regarding it at a future date if people want to know more.
Yay, we finally made it! Now you’re ready to publish.
Formatted, beautiful book at the ready you can now head over to the publishing platforms you’ve decided to sign up with and submit your book.
Author platforms, to name just a few, include:
Congratulations you just became self-published, now have a drink and get ready to do a lot of promoting for it.
IN CONCLUSION, BEING SELF-PUBLISHED IS INDEED HARD AND INTENSIVE WORK. IF YOU’RE THE KIND OF WRITER WHO THINKS THIS IS STILL THE OPTION FOR YOU, THEN I WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK.
It’s an exciting time to be a writer, and you have options that our predecessors could only have dreamed about. Use them to enhance your work and develop your skills, the results will show for themselves.
As always feel free to comment below and let me know if there’s anything you have questions about or would like me to cover in greater depth. Until next time!