Friday, February 1, 2013

Self-Publishing: What Six Months Has Taught Me.

In July, I sat down to start writing my first book, with the full intention of self-publishing. I knew my topic was too niche to catch the attention of a big publisher, and I liked the idea of handling every step of publishing myself - from outline to edit to marketing.

It's me a long six months, and I am now finalizing the layout of my book in preparation for submitting the file to a POD publisher next week. I'm not done with my self-publishing journey yet - far from it! But I thought I'd share a bit of what I learned over the past half year.

Have a plan. No matter what step of your journey, have a plan for it. Have a plan for a schedule to write your book. Have a plan for finding (and paying!) an editor. Have a plan for marketing. Always, always, always have a plan. Your plan will not last - but having one means knowing what you need to do, when you need to do it. A huge step up over floundering and guessing.

Do your research. Self publishing is easy. Self publishing well is hard. The interwebs are littered with self published books that are shoddily designed, poorly written and ill conceived. Don't let yours be one of them. It is also littered with well written, clearly thought out, awesome books that no one has ever heard of, because the author had not plan for marketing. Don't let your book be one of those either. There are dozens of great resources to help you learn how to design and publish a professional looking book. And more resources for learning marketing and branding. Use them.

Expect problems. Whether the editor you want turns out to not be available until spring, you comp crashing halfway through the third chapter, or your .epub file gets corrupted the day after you upload it to your website, something will go wrong. Possibly lots of somethings. Expect it, allow for it, and deal with it.

Get Scrivener. Seriously. If you have a choice between paying a cover artist and getting Scrivener, get the program and make your own cover. The hassles you will save yourself with the ability to save your file directly to a .epub or .mobi file (instead of going through the MSWord hell of formatting for conversion) are uncountable. And the clear, professional look the automated conversion gives you avoids some the most annoying formatting problems of most ebooks - like extra paragraph breaks on every page.

Hire an editor you disagree with. I had a chance to work with two editors. One said that my book didn't need my help, just a few issues with wording here and there. The other marked up practically every sentence. He wasn't commenting on grammar or content - he just had a very different approach to style. I nearly went with the editor who was going to leave my writing alone, but the other guy was cheaper. I figured I could ignore the suggestions I didn't like and I couldn't really afford to pay more than I absolutely had to. And you know what? My book is better for it. I ignore his suggestions as often as I take them, but having an editor with a very different approach to style ( he is a devotee of Strunk and believes in using the fewest words possible. I grew up on Hodgeson-Burnett, Burroughs and the Brontes, and tend toward a slightly more verbose style.) has given me a different perspective on my own writing, and helped make my work more readable, while keeping my phrasing and ideas intact.

I hope you find my experience helpful, if you'd like to share what you have learned of self publishing, let me know. Good luck with your own journey. I'm off to wrestle with page layouts.

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