The world of self-publishing has exploded over the past ten years. A decade ago, any author that was self-publishing was thought of as an ego-maniac without enough talent to attract a legitimate publishing contract. Now, thousands of authors around the world are using self-publishing services to earn their living!
So, what about you? Are you stuck on taking that first step? I understand. I’ve been where you are. My first attempt at self-publishing came over ten years ago with a mid grades novel I still need to relaunch. It was dreadful. The story and characters are great, but the book needs updating and rewrites, and the formatting didn’t hold up. But, I did it.
Then, no one came. I think I sold 8 copies of my masterpiece. So, I backed away for years, afraid to take the chance. Meanwhile, I started freelance writing for a living and learned a ton about what it meant to produce a finished product. I started writing and publishing books for clients and I realized, over time, that it’s not that hard to get your books out there into the world, but you have to do the work. So, here are the three main phases you’ll go through, and some help for learning more!
Phase One, Finishing the Project
There are a lot of frustrated authors out there with a finished/unedited, or half finished book somewhere in their hard drive. Maybe they even shared it with someone. At first, they had a lot of hope that they could make it work, but then, over time, they became discouraged. Sound familiar?
After 15 years of teaching and directing theater, and 10 as a writer for hire, I have discovered that my creative work goes through three phases, almost every time.
- Inspiration: I find a story idea, or a character I’m excited about and it won’t let me go. So, I work, feverishly, maybe even write the first draft, but eventually this initial push wears off and I lose momentum. Sometimes this is as far as they get. (Even now, with 14 published books)
- Death of Vision: This stage comes in almost every project. It can come before it’s finished and shared, or with a bad review early in publishing, but at some point I almost always end up calling myself an idiot and saying my work sucks. It’s okay!
- Sheer Determination: In my theater days, I had tickets sold, and actors counting on me to finish the project. Now, I have bills to pay and a family that needs me to succeed. In this stage, I just have to muscle through. I just have to finish it, to finish it and see if it works or not.
In the end, I typically find my inspiration again and share my work. With me, it’s almost an addiction to getting people to read my work. Early in life I discovered that I love an audience and that helps too.
Phase Two, Editing and Publishing
In this phase, the work is complete but may not be ready for public consumption. Most aren’t. There are two schools of thought, one is that all of this first draft is trash. The other is that if you follow your vision, the story is finished, and just needs polish. I typically fall in the second camp.
- If you can afford it, hire a professional editor to proof read and point out weaknesses.
- If not, get White Smoke and learn to use it well. Expect to be notified of every typo, so take your time and polish the text until it is as error free as you can make it.
- Publishing is the last step in this phase, turning it loose in the world.
If you’ve never published before, it’s not that hard. There are some things you need to know, but if you’re computer savvy, most publishing sites provide a lot of help to learn the ropes. Or, you can check out Indie Pub Academy’s Master Course on self publishing. It’s reasonably priced, and has a ton of great information in it!
Phase Three, Promoting and Marketing
This is the toughest part of the entire process. Getting an audience for your new story. If you choose Amazon, pick the right category and get some good reviews to get you started, they will do a lot of the legwork for you! In fact, I have a friend who pays his bills from his sci-fi writing, and has no website, no email list, and no blog! Just Amazon.
- Promoting is the early push to get the first readers. If no one has said, “Stop talking about your book” you probably aren’t pushing hard enough.
- There are a ton of free tools out there, but not all of them work, and most authors agree that paid promotion is tricky too, so it becomes a game of trial and error to find what works.
- You need a step by step plan to apply to each book as you produce it, so you know you haven’t missed anything. It’s a lot of moving pieces.
Here’s the kicker. When I talk to working authors, and my own experience backs this up, they say, you’re best promotion and marketing is your next book! In fact, those that earn a living from it, almost all say, they started seeing good sales between their 8th and 10th books. So, ready to get started? Check out this blog!