I was recently talking to a friend who said, “Sometimes I feel like I fail at life.”
I went on to agree with her, saying that when I pictured where I would be at this age it wasn’t exactly here. “I envy you,” she went on to say. I laughed.
“You envy me? Why? I envy you!”
“You know what you want to do. You want to write. You’re working on your writing, you’re getting your website set-up, you’re talking to all these authors, and let’s not forget…” She got louder as she sensed me trying to interject. “You’re already self-published.”
I faltered just a little and mumbled about how it wasn’t really all that. I think the fact that she’s going through culinary school is amazing. I would never have the patience and dedication to do something like that. I guess to us, it seems some days like the other has the better deal. Then I realized that it wasn’t fair to my writing to say that it wasn’t a job.
Writing is fun. Writing is great therapy and great for stress-relief. I encourage people to read and write all the time. Journal, blog, write poems, write essays, write letters. You get the point. Writing doesn’t always have to be a profession. But when you want to be an author, when you want to get that book into print, writing the book is only part of the job. The hardest part is publishing that book. Publishing is a business, and it isn’t an easy one.
However, I did learn a lot from the experience and I met many great people. I read and researched all the ways I could do things better. I learned about the process from talking to other self-published authors who had already had books out. When I finally decided on my next steps, I decided I would do self-publishing again. Here’s a little of what I’ve learned and my perspective on things.
- Self-Publishing is essentially doing all the work yourself. You have total control but you’ll do twice the work. Traditional Publishing is letting a publishing company do a lot of the work for you, while you focus on primarily on writing more material.
- Marketing/Promotion is still a responsibility that an author has, no matter what published route they choose.
- When you self-publish you choose when your book is published. With traditional publishing you may have to wait several months.
- You earn higher royalties with self-publishing than you do with traditional publishing.
- Traditional publishers have more connections in the industry than a self-published author. They know who to talk to when something needs to be done.
- With Self-Publishing you’ll have to invest a little more money because you’re doing more things yourself.
If done well, self-publishing can be just as successful as traditional publishing. There are pros and cons to each approach and you should research for yourself when making your decision. Writing is not a career where you get rich quick or make a ton of money. That only happens for a lucky few. If you want to be an author, then your main desire should be to tell a great story. You can make money, but first you have to put in a lot of work.
How about a look at my personal checklist? Since I’m self-publishing there’s going to be different steps listed here than if I was going the traditional route. Note: This is just an outline of what you should do. Read The Naked Truth to Self-Publishing for specifics.
- Write a first draft. – This is where business comes in. You can’t sell a product if there isn’t one. Since I mentioned culinary: You can’t open a restaurant without any food or any knowledge of how to cook. We’ve all seen the disasters that creates on Restaurant Impossible.
- Get opinions on your draft as you work through it. – Writing a book might not be as difficult as publishing it, but it’s still hard work. Keep going. Ask for opinions when you get stuck. Don’t give up and don’t let your inner critic win.
- Finish your first draft. Then write your second. – Nothing is perfect the first time around.
- Hire a professional editor/proofreader. – Editing is a business too, which means this will cost you money. If you’re on a budget or don’t have much money, you can do what I’m doing and save up a month at time. Since I’m self-publishing there’s no rush to get the book out. Some people get an editor before the second draft. Also, if you’re not sure about an editor ask for references or if you can, ask for referrals from other authors you trust. I list a few editors on my For Writers page.
- Take their suggestions and rewrite, rewrite and rewrite. – You want your book to be in the best shape possible before you publish it.
- Hire a formatter. – Again, something that costs. Formatters make the insides of your book look pretty. They also make sure that your pages are correctly formatted for things like Createspace, Smashwords, Kobo and iTunes. You can format your pages yourself if you’re confident that you know how and want to save money.
- Hire a cover designer. – I had two my covers designed before the books were finished. It’s okay to do this if you know enough about your book and where it’s going. Be sure you want to publish them. I recommend someone like Najla Qamber Designs or Berto Designs.
- Get a website going. – This is something else I did in advance. There are lots of different options for setting up a website. Many cover designers often do blog and website design, too. Consider spending a little money to get them to make your websites look good. Or you can do that yourself if you know how. It all depends on your preferences.
- Publish!- Once you’ve decided on a few things, like do you want to do e-book, paperback or both? Do you want a hardcover? An audiobook? Look into ways to publish them.
- Get it Copyrighted– You don’t want to skip this. It’s important. Your copyright page will probably be in your book before you get the actual copyright.
- Set up a blog. – A blog can be part of your website or you can set up a completely independent one like I did. This is something else I did in advance, because I wanted to get people familiar with me before I put a book out. Plus, I felt like I had things to say.
- Set up stuff like Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads – You want people to be able to converse with you and tell you how much they enjoyed your book.
There’s the how and why to publish. Here’s a few things that I want to mention.
- Engage with others. Use Manners. Don’t be disingenuous. – I know having a “me first” seems okay, but it isn’t. You’ll never get anything out of life that way. When you go on twitter or anywhere else, be interested in talking to other people. Make a friend. Ask them questions. Encourage their efforts. The writing community is an open and supportive one, and you’ll be surprised what you can learn in one conversation.
- Don’t get too caught up in one aspect. – Meaning don’t focus so heavily on your book covers or website that you neglect to finish your book. A great book is the first step to a great career. The book is what matters. Speaking of that restaurant again: You wouldn’t want to open your restaurant and only have a breath-taking décor or a beautiful table-setting. Your customers are going to expect amazing food to eat as well. Without the food you don’t have a business.
- When Speaking To Authors, RE: Use Manners. They are people, too. – People are often shocked that I have legitimate conversations with authors. It isn’t that hard. Be courteous and respectful when you speak to them. You might want to ask them for something. Be open about what you might be asking them for. If they say no to you, say thank you and move on. Don’t take it personally. They’re people too.
- Your Readers Matter. – Once you publish, don’t forget who buys your books. Readers can be extremely loyal and instrumental to getting the word out about your work. Do giveaways. Say thank you.
- When one book is done, move on to the next one. – The more books you have out there, the better you’ll be.
I could go on and on about everything you would need to do to get ready to publish. There are many ways to do it and not every method works for every person. I am still working on getting my books ready and I hope they’ll be received well. Until then, I am slowly working on building the other elements.