So…here you are. You’ve taken that big step. You’ve written a book. We’ll assume at this point you’ve done all the necessary celebrating: you recorded your webcast of viciously marking through that line on your bucket list, poured out a bottle of champagne (or at least sparkling white wine) with your loved ones and kissed your dog for the first time since you started working on that monstrosity.
Many people think that the writing is the hardest part, but that is often not the case. Think of all the books you’ve ever hated and let it sink in: those are published pieces. Those made it through editors, agents, printers, just to name a few sets of eyes that looked over them. And despite how terrible they may have been, thanks to the work of design and marketing, they made their way into thousands of homes, hands and bookshelves.
Turning water into wine is easy. Getting everyone to drink it? That’s the hard part.
Now, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:
· Do I want an agent? Do I want someone to tell me what’s wrong with my book and take a cut of my profits once they start rolling in?
· Am I in a place financially where I am looking for one large income (the fabled, glorious advance, whispered about in shadowy corners) rather than small royalties over time?
· Should I look for someone else to do the nasty work of publicizing and marketing for me so I can focus on my Craft?
· Do I find the rags-to-riches stories of Stephen King, JK Rowling and John Grisham appealing?
If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” there’s nothing wrong with that. You want to do traditional publishing, so go ahead and stop reading here. Grab a copy of the Writer’s Market off Amazon and get cracking.
But if, instead, you are interested in maintaining creative and financial control of your work, making more money per copy and starting a personal, involved campaign of your own…self-publishing may be right for you.
Now, my goal in this article is not to lie to you. Self-publishing is hard work. Even though there’s no one there to tell you to change your piece because of this or that, there’s also…well, there’s no one there to tell you to change your piece because of this or that. There’s also no one there to hold your hand or lay it all out for you. That’s why the core of self-publishing is going with your gut and making educated, thoughtful decisions on what you’re doing.
Here are a few how-to tips to help you get started.
1. Know Your Stuff: nowadays, self-publishing is a new, popular way for artists to share their work with the world. People have done it well, others have done it poorly. Look at as many examples as you can of both worlds. Do what works. Avoid what doesn’t. Also, learn all those words of the trade: copyright, ISBN, retail price. Get comfortable with understanding what these mean.
2. Avengers, Assemble: get a group of five people whose opinions you value and who will be honest with you no matter what. Offer to buy them dinner or babysit their kids or make them a mixtape. In return? Ask them to read your manuscript. Give them a realistic amount of time. Then, compile their notes on everything and go through your manuscript five times. Then again, reading it out loud. Doubt it’s perfect? Do it again. This step is a must; you will never catch everything on your own. Trust me.
3. Weigh the Options: there are many services available for self-publishing your book, including Lightning Source, Createspace, Lulu, and other, smaller publishers. The ones I’ve named are print-on-demand services, which are the least costly and most convenient way of selling your book and getting convenient payment for earnings. If interested, you can find countless independent publishers who can be paid for a run of copies, but these are usually quite expensive and end up with you getting 1,000 copies of a book. Do you have space for that? Because I don’t. Read the agreements and compare the services that each company can provide. Which leads to the next point…
4. Avoid Packages with Publishers: it sounds nice, right? “Pay x amount and we’ll do all the work you didn’t want someone else to do.” By figuring out a budget and putting out feelers for other creative-types, you can do anything that these packages can for a fraction of the price. Book covers don’t have to look brilliant, but if you want a really great one, find a graphic designer and offer to reformat their resume. You can write, they can design… it’s Let’s Make a Deal, indie-style.
5. Social Media – It’s What’s For Dinner: Twitter, Google+, Facebook, GoodReads, Tumblr…it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the immense yogibogeybox that is Internet communication with would-be fans. Determine early on what you are comfortable using and which you think would speak more to your audience. Going for the geeks? Twitter and Wordpress. YA crowd? Tumblr. Friends, family and writers you’ve connected with personally? Facebook.
6. Time Management – It’s a Good Thing: planning book tours, creating ads, putting together press releases for local papers…it is so damn easy to find yourself only doing these things forever (author’s note: you will be doing these things yourself, you know). Because you’ve got to make that book sell, right? Well, right, but you also need to keep writing. Put together a calendar and commit to it. Allow yourself only a certain percentage of your day (no more than 50% total, I recommend) for marketing. The rest of it? Work on that sequel or prequel or not-at-all-quel. Because once all those people read your book, do you know what their next question will be?
“When is the next one coming out?”