It’s becoming a more common thing these days with the explosion of e-readers and the ease of being able to publish digitally. The downside to it, is the people who have realized it’s an easy and quick thing to do and race to get their work out without taking the time to make it the best they can. That makes the rest of us look bad.
So what needs to be done before you self publish?
Obviously, you need to write a book. If it’s fiction, make sure it’s got a proper beginning, middle and end. Make sure there’s conflict and resolution. Make sure your characters are well developed and speak accordingly (right kind of language for their age, the location, the time in history, etc.). Make sure it’s properly formatted. If you don’t know what I mean, pick up a fiction novel you have laying around the house. See how dialog is broken out rather than wrapped into a paragraph. Check out section breaks and chapter breaks. These are things that readers are used to and it will make it easier for them to follow your story.
When you think you’ve got a good rough draft, find some people to read it. Family and friends are okay, but know that you ought to have some others (internet friends or whomever) to read through it so you’re sure you’ll get good rounded feedback. Have them look for plot holes and unanswered questions. Let them be frank and tell you if something doesn’t work, if they don’t like a character, etc. While you’re the author and you get final say, take all the comments and suggestions seriously and see if you need to make a change.
Once you’ve had readers, get back to editing. Edit, edit, re-write and edit. I can’t stress it enough. Yes traditionally published books can have a mistake or two (we’re all only human, right?) but we as self publishers/indie authors need to take extra care to try and catch all the typos and grammatical errors because we’re more under the microscope about such things. Do yourself a favor, hire an editor (if you can afford it) or a proofreader (normally a cheaper route). I don’t care how many other people have read it or how many times you’ve gone through it. Things have been missed. A good editor and proofer will bring up things your other readers have not. They will suggest cutting lines and/or scenes to make your story flow better. They will tighten up the work and polish it to make it shine. I promise you, it’s worth it.
When the editing is all done, it’s time to format. As discussed earlier this week, it can be time consuming and frustration, but it’s super important. I’ve read self published books with weird spacing and strange typeface. It’s very distracting and takes away from the story. Take your time. Get it right.
Another thing to spend a good amount of time on, is your c over image. Please realize that just because you’re artistic enough to be able to write a novel, that doesn’t mean you’re artistic enough to make a professional looking book cover. Yes, there are exceptions out there and feel free to try, but remember, people are most likely going to first be attracted to your cover, and if it looks amateurish, they may think your writing is as well. There are plenty of artists out there who are looking for work and looking to build a client base for that sort of thing, so take the time and search some out. If you see indie books with covers you especially enjoy, drop a line to the author and ask who did their cover. They will more than likely be happy to pass along the name and contact info.
Alright, you’ve got the finished product. You’re good to go, right? Well…yes and no. You’re good to upload your work to Amazon or Smashwords, but now you’ve got to put on your promoter hat and start marketing yourself and your book. That can be a full time job in itself. Be careful not to cross the line of being obnoxious tweeting and posting every twenty minutes to buy your book. Do some online research and see what works and what doesn’t. There are giveaways, blog tours and all sorts of other options. Explore them all!
So there you have it, the steps to self publishing, more or less. As you can see, to do it right is not a quick and dirty job. It’s time consuming work, but it’ll be better in the long run and you’ll be helping yourself to get more sales and helping your fellow indie authors by putting out a quality product. I’ll thank you in advance for that!