Once upon a time, in a galaxy not too far away, writers everywhere dreamed of one day holding their own published novel in their hands. They dreamed of fabulous stories, sprung from their own minds, gracing every shelf of every bookstore coast to coast. They dreamed of fame and fortune. They may have even dreamed of movie deals, action figures and theme parks.
Ah, but if only a publisher would recognize their genius and print their book!
Well, all of this dreaming has finally become a reality for many. The self-publishing movement definitely provides the means for thousands, if not millions, of writers out there to get their work into print. That’s a good thing, right?
Separating the Wheat From The Chaff
It could be a good thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing. It’s also a very bad thing. Since anyone can publish a book, anyone can publish a book. This includes books that would normally end up in an editor’s slush pile. Now, instead of having the publishing houses acting as a filter, we all get to do that for ourselves too.
Taking a chance on an indie book is a gamble. You may have just wasted your money or you could have found the most brilliant new author on the face of the earth.
The only way this new trend is going to overcome the stigma of “all self-published work is crap” is if each and every one of us make sure we produce our absolute best work.
As an independent author/publisher, you’re going to have to work twice as hard to be as good as the pros already on the shelf. That’s an overwhelming thought, isn’t it? So much goes into the creation of a novel. You have to write it, have it edited, have it designed inside and out, market it and monitor sales.
It’s enough to make you want to stop before you’ve started!
Now, take a step back and breathe. There is a way to do this and you don’t have to do it all at once or alone.
First Things First
When you started writing your novel, you took the time to plan out the whole structure. You did character backgrounds, you researched your setting, you made chapter outlines and did a lot of groundwork before you even set fingers to keyboard. A sure way to fight overwhelm and make post-production go smoothly is to take as much time to planning your next steps as you did with mapping out the book.
Here’s a brief checklist to get you started:
Get Thee An Editor. The biggest and most important tip is to have your work professionally edited. You cannot do this yourself. I guarantee you, you will miss things. Important things. You’ve been working so closely with the manuscript your eyes and brain fill in what you think should be there. Let someone else have a look. They’ll catch what you won’t.
Purchase ISBNs. If you’re going to produce a printed book, you’ll need an ISBN for each version. This means one for a hardcover, one for paperback and one for each digital format. For $250, you can buy a block of ten.
Set Up Your Accounts. Setting up your titles may take some time. For example, it takes up to 24 to 48 hours for Amazon to approve and post your Kindle edition on their site. If you’re launching the book on a specific date, take this into account and get your book on there far enough in advance. The same goes for Barnes & Noble’s PubIT!
Watch Out For Too Good To Be True. As with every new trend that comes along, you get the scammers. Self-publishing is rife with them. They offer what appear to be great deals on getting your book published by tempting you with free copies and other author services, when they’re really charging you an arm and a leg for practically nothing. They’ll take charge of your cover, give you crappy interior design, keep your files and a number of other things that aren’t so kosher. Before you sign on the dotted line, shop around and ask lots of questions. Read blogs like Michael N. Marcus’ Book Making for the low down on the scam artists out there.
Hire A Designer. A Word doc exported to PDF does not a novel make. Unless you know and understand how to properly lay out a book with the proper tools, hire a professional designer to do your interior and cover. The only way you’re going to get that professional, polished look is from someone who understands how to create it.
Order A Proof! Checking your work is very important. Seeing a printed version of your work is very different than reading it on screen. You definitely need to order a proof of your finished book before releasing it on the world. Make sure the cover is how you want it, that the image and text isn’t blurry or pixelated. Check the inside pages. Does page one start on the right hand side? Are all the chapter heading consistent? Does it all look right? If it doesn’t, now is the time to make changes. You may end up going through several proofs before you sign off with your final approval.