I typically encourage skilled authors with engaging, timely stories to seek representation for their novels in order to publish the traditional way. Getting a reputable press to publish your work likely means lower costs for you, larger audiences, and greater earnings from your books. Sometimes, though, traditional publishing just isn’t meant to be and the author must recognize that self-publishing is the most viable route for them. Perhaps the story’s scope is too narrow. Or maybe the writing needs some work because the author is just starting to get their feet wet. This should by no means be seen as a “concession” as self-publishing definitely has its perks – like more creative control and higher royalties. Not to mention the time it takes to publish your work is significantly less.
Are self-published novels worse than those published traditionally? Not always. In fact, sometimes indie authors do a far better job at crafting their novel and marketing it to readers than even some of the most reputable presses. There is a wealth of information for self-published authors on the Internet and in books. Don’t be overwhelmed! Even the most successful self-published authors have had to start somewhere. But where, you ask? I’ve compiled a short list of three things you MUST know before you self-publish your novel. It is by no means all-inclusive, but a great place to start.
1. Take Your Time – Traditional publishing can take several months to more than a year from the time your book is “done” to the time it goes to market. Because of the nature of self-publishing, it doesn’t have to take nearly as long. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t take time. Self-published authors should never upload first drafts of their work. Not second drafts either. Put your novel through the wringer before calling it done: that means three writing drafts at least, two or three rounds of beta reading, and at least one round of professional editing.
What about when the writing is done? Or while it’s being professionally edited? Do your research! Read books from successful self-published authors. Find your target audience. Make friends with other authors and readers. Develop the cover, blurb, and synopsis. Research keywords and how to properly price your novel. Create and polish your author website. Most importantly, spread the word! Start marketing your book and your author brand months prior to hitting “publish.”
2. Spend Money – Enlisting industry professionals can add credibility to your name and separate your book from the thousands of self-published books sloppily put together and uploaded by amateur writers.
You’ll need money for a professional editor (like yours truly), properly formatting your book for e-readers and print-on-demand (if you’re unwilling to learn these things or you don’t have time to), designing the cover for your book, and marketing (again, if you don’t have time to do it yourself). These services can add up to thousands of dollars. So…what if you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on your book? Be resourceful! Find skilled beta readers (and I stress the word skilled) to exchange editing services with you. Barter with a friend who happens to be a talented digital artist. Extend your network through blogging, social media, interviews, and book tours (virtual or in-person).
Still struggling with high costs? Consider developing a crowdfunding campaign for your book. There are thousands of people willing and anxious to support up-and-coming indie authors. In fact, authors who have sought my editing services have raised over ten thousand dollars through crowdfunding alone! I recommend pubslush.com.
Like all things with self-publishing, it doesn’t just happen. If you’re serious about funding your self-published novel, take your time to create a truly compelling campaign for your book, and TELL EVERYONE.
3. Practice the Art of Begging – Know that self-published authors have time, money (or both), patience and resilience. They are talented and resourceful writers!
I talk a lot about enlisting, partnering, bartering, finding… I use these words intentionally to tell you that you must be resourceful when finding people to support/buy/download your work. Tell your family and friends about your project. ASK for beta readers and reviewers. Not sure where to find reviewers? Either hire a PR company to develop a marketing campaign for your book, or contact “top reviewers” on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Trade reviews with fellow authors and run promotions to get more clicks.
In short, a writer who asks (ahem, begs) has a much better shot at “making it” in this new world of self publishing. You won’t get what you don’t ask for, but the opposite is also true. 🙂
Happy Writing (and Publishing)!
“The only way to avoid being miserable is not to have enough leisure to wonder whether you are happy or not.” | George Bernard Shaw