Happy Friday the Thirteenth! (Happy birthday, Grant!)
I feel like I should be posting a ghost story or something, in honor of the day… but instead, I’ll post something equally terrifying: stepping into the world of self-publishing! (cue creepy music). Just kidding, it’s not that scary, I promise!
Yesterday we talked a little bit about how one might go about starting the process of getting one’s manuscript traditionally published. Today’s post might be a bit more helpful, as I have more experience in the discussed arena.
As promised, today’s post is about the 2nd option you have once your manuscript is finished.
2. You can decide to self-publish (or become an independent or “indie” author).
Pros: You can publish your book the second it is ready. There is no waiting time. You retain control over things like picking the cover-art, the title, and all the rights to the book. You don’t have to write query letters and can spend that time working on your next book.
Cons: There is a lot of major effort involved (as you are the only one promoting your book, and you have limited resources). Forward movement will be incredibly slow (if you put in the work, you will eventually see results). Most indie authors don’t see any real results until they have at least 3-4 books out. Also, it is completely up to you to make sure your product is as professional as it can possibly be.
If you decide to go this route, there are numerous companies you can use to get your book printed. I recommend that you try to find a good “Print-on-Demand” company, and not a vanity publisher. It is possible to get your book created for free; Createspace is one such place, and their products are very nice and feel like quality books, so don’t get scammed into paying hundreds of dollars to do this! (I use Createspace myself, but I know other authors who use various other companies… I don’t know all the pros and cons of each company, but I’ve been pretty happy with the ease of use and the resulting product). The customer help is also pretty good.
Things you will need to do if you go the self-publishing route:
1. Get your book professionally edited. If you have a friend or two who is excellent at catching typos/grammar/punctuation mistakes and is willing to do this for free, GREAT! If not, do a little shopping around – and you are sure to find many editors who can help you polish your manuscript. Readers can be very unforgiving of unprofessional-seeming products. They will not look past your typos and incorrect use of punctuation or awkwardly worded sentences to see the beautiful plot or characters beneath. So, yes, editing is extremely important.
2. Get professional cover art. This, you will probably have to pay for. However, cover art can make or break the sale of a book, and is worth every penny. You can shop around a bit for this and find someone who does work you like (again, if you have extremely talented friends/family willing to do this for you, that is fantastic and a completely viable option). Cover art is the first thing a potential reader will see of your book (after title/author name on the spine), and while one should not “judge a book by its cover” most readers do just that.
3. Create a website/author facebook page (or book-facebook page)/twitter account (personally, I have not yet ventured into the world of twitter, but I hear it’s helpful).
4. Also, if you are not already, get involved in the Goodreads community (goodreads.com). This is a great place to discuss books, promote your own book (but don’t go overboard or spam people or grab every opportunity that presents itself to talk about your book, because people will throw rotten tomatoes at you… not really, but they will disregard you – or worse, warn all their friends about you). The best way on goodreads to promote your book is to make sure you only post about it in the appropriate threads and then make sure you take part in other discussions about other books. Oddly enough. Goodreads also gives you the opportunity to offer giveaways of paper-copies of your book, which is a great way to get more visibility and a few reviews.
You can find bloggers there who are doing author interviews, are willing to exchange reviews for a free copy of your book, and various other marketing ideas as well.
5. Reviews! If you can manage it, try to give away some copies in return for reviews on goodreads/amazon. (Be warned, you will probably only see about 50-60% return on this investment, as you will give away 10 copies and only actually receive 5-6 reviews). This is not something to be discouraged about, it just happens.
So… what did I do when I had just finished my first manuscript? (Well, I pretty much set it aside and went back to college… then I wrote book 2 the next summer… rinse and repeat). However, when I was ready to get down to the real business of publishing, I was not sure which route I wanted to go. So, I bought a copy of the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents and started sending out queries (you can read more about that experience in yesterday’s post). Eventually, I decided that I could either spend the rest of my life writing query letters, or I could spend the rest of my life writing books. It wasn’t a hard decision. I decided to go the Indie route and have not regretted it at all.