What I Learned About Self-Publishing

While I began writing novels back in 2005, the experience of actually publishing and marketing my book in 2015 was completely new territory!

I’ve been thinking for a while about all the different things I had to learn in order to get The Jacq of Spades published, and I thought that those of you who are writers (or interested in getting started) might like to see it from the perspective of someone who decided to go for it.

Editing for the market – I think this was the most difficult thing for me. I have the best developmental editor ever, and he pushed me relentlessly. More feeling, more description, more steampunk!

I feel very fortunate, though, because you really have to get into a zone to write a good story and I feel that now I know what that feels like. There’s something deep down you have to find in yourself to get a book just right. A lot of people don’t do that and it shows.

Alpha and beta readers – one thing I learned is that when you think your book is done, it’s not done. It’s very easy to burn out your good ‘beta’ readers and have no one left for the final read. None of my family wants to read my story anymore. But now I know more what a good story looks like from my point of view and I save the ‘final reads’ for when it’s really close to the end.

Hiring editors and proofreaders – You need someone who is not you to look at your book with a critical eye as far as grammar, punctuation, style, and so on. So you need to find an editor, and if you don't know one personally you could pay a lot more than you need to.

Join a large online writing group – editors are often also writers. Forward Motion is the one I joined back when I first started writing in 2005 never intending to publish, and some of the people there I’ve known for a decade.

Make friends with people who do this for a living. Not just so you can get a good deal (which I have), but so you know who is good and who just talks a big talk, who you can trust and who will just blow you off. There are all kinds of people who claim to be editors. When you find a good one, pay them for their work.

Hiring and working with a cover designer – I looked at well over twenty cover designer websites before I settled on one. I love her work! If you like the person’s style DO NOT micromanage them. And speak up if there’s an element you don’t like – they are working for you.

Doing a cover reveal – plan it out, don’t just decide today to do your cover reveal. I like to do my cover reveal once my pre-order links are up, so I have somewhere to send people.

Collecting a launch team – I’d say only do this if you already have a following. Otherwise it’ll be crickets. A launch team takes a while to set up so if you're determined to have one for your first launch you need to start yesterday.

Indiegogo/Kickstarter – again, if you already have a big, enthusiastic following, do it. Otherwise it’s a waste of time.

Book Trailer – I don’t know if they sell books but they’re fun to do and can really help you visualize the themes in your story.

Formatting my book – if you’re doing an ePub (iTunes, Nook, Kobo, etc), you need to read the Smashwords formatting guide. It teaches you everything you need to know … then you won’t have to hire someone to do it for you. Then it only takes a few changes to have your manuscript Kindle-ready.

Publishing – Love CreateSpace. Love Smashwords. Love Kindle. I’m adding Ingram for the expanded distribution to bookstores but if you want to go that way do it EARLY – they take forever to set up. And you want to set it up after you have your final files done - because they charge a fee for any changes. But it’s great to be able to tell people they can order your book from bookstores.

Amazon vs the rest of the world … No, I’m not on KDP Select. I prefer to keep my options open. If I wanted to chain myself to a company I’d have gone the traditional publishing route. But I know others (my mentor, for one) who swear on being exclusive to Amazon. You have to run the numbers for yourself.

Blogging – I think if I were to do this over I would have started way sooner on this website. Get a domain, and get an email list of your own going that you can send updates and information to.

Social media – ditto to the blogging. Start earlier than you think you have any right to start.  This is not the time to be shy. Join groups or take online courses about your book’s topic. I took an online film noir course and not only did it help my book a great deal, I made friends with everyone in the class on Twitter!

Social media probably won’t directly sell books, but it does show people you’re a real person, not a bot. It gets people to look, to visit your website, to share with their friends, and so on. Fans are what you need!

Offline – if you’re not in an offline writing group, get in one. Make friends with the librarians. Find out how to get your book in their system. Make friends with book sellers, make a list of the local conventions on your topic, budget time and money to go to them. If people can’t see your book, they often won’t buy it, but if they can touch it and look through it, often they will!

Reviewsgetting reviews is a whole other post. Start as early as you can.

I’ve learned a lot so far! And I feel as if I have a lot more to learn as well. I’ll keep you posted.

Is there something specific you’d like to know about? Contact me.

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