Self-Publishing: It’s More Work Than You Think
It seems to be a common attitude within the writing community that self-publishing is somehow less valid as being traditionally published. I think that attitude is why the self-publishing movement is still growing. Too many people are mired in a way of thinking that unless it’s done “the old fashioned way” then it’s of no value. Well, if everyone published that way, there would a lot fewer authors in this world. Let’s discuss that, shall we?
Self-publishing has created a lot of new content that likely would never have been published before. Admittedly, some of the things that were self-published probably never should have been put into print, but that’s not the case with all of it. There are some excellent books out there by self-published authors. Authors who have done things the right way and made their books both quality works and presented them in a professional way. There are a lot of steps involved with doing it the right way. It’s not easy and you need to take your time to do it right. Otherwise, your book will be lost amongst all the others that fall into the category of poorly produced self-published books. Those are the ones that give the rest a bad name.
First and foremost, you have to write a good, solid story. Nothing will ever cover for bad writing. If the product itself is bad, no amount of pretty wrapping paper will fix it. You might get a few initial sales based on good cover, but once a few people read it and the negative reviews start coming in, those sales will vanish. Writing a good story builds trust with your readers and makes them want to return again for future books. Well-written stories will be the foundation on which your writing career is built. Bad writing will only mark you as just another badly written/produced self-published author. No one wants that. It makes all of us look bad, even when you’re doing everything right.
Next, editing is crucial. Poor or non-existent editing can kill what was otherwise a well-written book. Take the time to have your book property edited. It is possible to edit it yourself, but it’s always better to have another set of eyes look at your manuscript. Fresh eyes see things you might have missed. Also, you know exactly what you were trying to say. Does someone else? Let another person take a crack at the manuscript and see what you might have missed. Editing services are another possibility, but good ones are expensive. I see editing services offered on Facebook and other social media, but be careful and check them out before you pay them to edit your book. See if they have a good reputation. What do their previous author clients have to say about them? Have they ever actually edited professionally before? There are websites you can check, too. Predators and Editors is a good one as well as Writer Beware. Both of them have listings of the good and the bad in the industry. Do a little research before you pay anyone. It’s just good advice. Also bear in mind that it could take more than one round of editing to fix issues within the book. Food for thought.
Once your manuscript has been well-written and properly edited, you need to start looking at the internal pieces of the book. There will be certain extra pieces that you will need. You’ll need a copyright and disclaimer page. Look at the front of any book and you’ll find an example. You’ll want to put something together like that just as a legal disclaimer and to claim the work as your own. You also might want to look into an actual copyright, but that’s different. It’s also not free. If you can afford it, I’d definitely recommend it. It just protects your books from intellectual property theft and gives you legal grounds to stand on if someone tries to use your work without permission.
You’ll also want to add in title pages, table of contents, dedication pages, author bio/pic, a forward if you want one and so on. Look at several different books and see what all they have inside their covers before you decide what you want in yours. Some of it is crucial and others are up to you. But give it all serious consideration before you decide to add or remove it from your book. A thing to remember to add to your bio is your social media links and where to find you. This helps readers connect and to find more of your work. Connecting with your readers is of paramount importance in this digital age. You can get near instantaneous feedback for your writing and how to improve it. That’s something that writers who do things the old fashioned way have to wait months or even years for.
Interior layout is next. You’ll want to set your page size for the document to fit whatever your print edition page size will be. That’s just for starters. You’ll also have to adjust your margins based on your page count. The page count has a huge impact on the margins for print editions. If you don’t know how to do this, there are a number of free guides you can download and use in your formatting. Some of them are directly from Amazon, themselves. You’ll also have to set line spacing, font size, indent, page breaks, chapter headings, table of contents, and print versus kindle layout. Yes, they are quite different. There are services that will do this step for you. I don’t know what they charge. If you need help, feel free to contact me. I can either talk you through it or maybe offer additional help, time permitting.
Once the interior is done, then you need to look at a cover. You can use the free Amazon cover creator program, but you get what you pay for. Hiring a good cover artist is neither cheap nor quick. Covers take time. You might want to start kicking around the cover concept while you’re still in early story development just to be safe. There’s an old saying, “Never judge a book by its cover.” Well, that’s a great saying but when it actually applies to books, literally everyone judges the book by the cover. That’s what it’s there for. The cover is your first chance to grab their attention and pull them in, making them want to read the back cover and hopefully, the interior, too. There are cover artists that advertise on social media all the time. Do a bit of research and look at what they have to offer and their style before you decide. After all, you want the art to fit your writing. Choose wisely.
The back cover blurb. Wow, that’s a tough one. If you think writing the book is bad, wait until you have to figure out how to describe that book in two to three paragraphs. Back cover blurbs need to grab the reader’s attention and do it quickly. You have to sell that book in those few paragraphs. No pressure there, right? Take your time and get input from friends and family on the back cover blurb. Don’t just bang it out in ten minutes and slap it on the back of the book. Invest the time and thought into making it as good as it can be, because it represents your novel. It represents you. You’ve got to grab their attention and drag them into the book, making them want to read more. Make sure you edit the blurb just as thoroughly as you did the book. Errors on the blurb are magnified and will turn off a reader.
Once you have all of this done, then you’re ready to think about uploading the manuscript to your platform. That’s an entirely other kettle of fish and I won’t go into it on this blog entry. I’ll save that for next time. Stay tuned.
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