If there was a hard and fast rule to self-publishing, it would be that there is no hard and fast rule. Everyone has a different end goal–a different means to their finishing line. One person’s mud and mire is another one’s fast track. Keep in mind that this list is not in order of importance, because the priority of one aspect over the other is entirely subjective. The two big exceptions to this are the first and last. They’re pretty much set in stone, as you will see. Ready? Here goes.
- Write a book. See? This is non-negotiable. To publish a book you must first write one. How long or short it is depends upon the writer’s preference. However, there are some loose guidelines to categorization. More on that later.
- Edit and revise the book. This is a no-brainer. Unless you are a genius (and that’s not always a guarantee) you will not come out with master prose right off the bat. At least, your beloved manuscript will need to be honed and manipulated to fit where the message is conveyed in a succinct and readable manner. We all have our faults. Mine happen to rest mainly with generic description words and “it.” I strongly suggest an automated editor. My personal poison is AutoCrit, but you can view a comparison of services HERE. When that’s done, move on to #3 or #4.
- Get constructive criticism. CONSTRUCTIVE is the key, here. Find those alpha/beta readers with a quick eye for those “it” repetitions, that lost skeleton key you forgot to find later, and other grammar and continuity problems. If more than one person points something out, it is worth revising again. Remember, this is your body of work and your reputation on the line. Keep it yours while allowing others to help you improve your manuscript.
- Hire an editor. There are expensive ones and cheaper ones. New ones and old pros. Gather references and ask people for recommendations. Vet your potential editors until you are 1000% comfortable requesting their services. Fiverr is a good place to start. I wouldn’t be very good at this freelance thing if I didn’t at least mention that I have recently opened up to editing and proofreading services. Email email@example.com for information.
- Format. Format. Format. There’s nothing more ear-burning than to read through the novel you published months ago only to find all the errors you didn’t bother finding before you hit the Publish button. Run Spell-Check a few times while you’re at it. Spelling errors are one of the most common turnoffs for readers, so set your book apart from the “Don’t Read” stack by following this simple step.
- Cover design. You can design your own, buy a premade, or contract with a freelance artist, but however you go about this step, make sure your cover can compete. I always recommend writers go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and browse the listings for their specific genre. What stands out? What is attractive? What looks childish or cheesy? Obtain a good grasp of the covers that sell and keep those in mind when creating or selecting your own cover. Despite the quote “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” readers most certainly do. This is not an area in which to skimp.
- Marketing. This is the most time consuming part. Build your audience before, during, and after the book is finished. Start up an author page, a Twitter, a Facebook, whatever. Put your name in front of the eyes of many before your book even hits the shelf. Prepare. Don’t oversell yourself, but instead spend time networking and communicating with others and they will, in turn, reciprocate. This is a good way to gain exposure with cross-promotion. Writing a book about dragons? Have a contest to see who can find the coolest dragon picture on the World Wide Web. Is your book about romance in Seattle? Start a discussion of the best hangouts in the area, or sight-seeing must-do’s. Interact using the substance of your book more than just “BUY MY BOOK!” posts. Be proactive.
- Publish. Ultimately, you have the moment in which you upload the file and press the OK button. Do a digital proof, or order a paperback copy. I have learned through experience that the digital proof will work only if you are patient enough to scan every individual page. If you are like me, a paperback copy is a much better idea. Read through and mark the pages up, make any necessary changes, then re-upload. Take your time because the moment you start rushing you will miss something important.
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If there are aspects I missed, feel free to comment below! Need help with your manuscript? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to grab your assistance. Good luck, and get that book written!