Back to self-publishing.
In order to succeed, you have to do your research! There are a bunch of books that can help you on this subject (I won't even bore you with the hundreds of titles that pop up), but if you want the abridged version, here it is:
Step one: Write the book.
Duh! Sounds obvious. But seriously, think about it, if you don’t have the book written, you can’t go on to step two. And we’re not just talking about having completed the first draft either. We’re talking about multiple drafts (I’ll go more into this in my next post).
Step two: Have someone critique the book.
You may have brought your book through three drafts already but may be amazed to find that it still has errors in it! That’s because YOU are the one who wrote it and YOU are the one who is reading and critiquing it. Your eyes will skip over errors your brain automatically fixes along the way. Having someone else—someone who doesn’t know what to expect—read it and critique it will remedy this.
Critiquing is usually a chapter by chapter review of your work. It helps make sure your work is where you want it to be. Does the story flow? Are the characters believable? Are there any errors in the plot? Continuity errors? Etc. The easiest way to do this is join either a writers’ group (your local library or book store, if not online, will have information on this) or a critique group. Check out: http://www.critiquecircle.com/ Just make sure your work is copyrighted (http://www.copyright.gov/) so nobody steals it. It’s just $35 and will save you a severe headache!
Once you’re in a writers’ or a critique group you can start the work. These groups usually operate under the metaphor one hand washes the other, meaning they will critique your work if you critique theirs. It’s actually fun. You’ll be amazed at the comments you receive, things you would have never expected. Often, members of your group will make valuable suggestions.
This is a MUST (or at least highly recommended) for any serious writer!
Step three: Have someone edit the book.
There are four types of editing: Developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, and proof reading.
Developmental editing: The editor reads the book and lets the author know what doesn't make sense, what needs to be tightened, what needs to be changed to fix the pacing of the novel, etc.
Line editing: The editor reads line by line, noting grammar mistakes, correcting passive sentences, and correcting redundancies and punctuation.
Copy editing: The editor specifically hones in on grammar and spelling.
Proof reading: The editor does exactly as it sounds: reads! He/she reads through the manuscript to make sure there are no outstanding errors.
As a self-publisher, you can do these editing steps yourself (critique groups can help take care of the first two), just do them one by one. But it's recommended that you hire and freelance editor to check your work. A simple search will bring up hundreds of results for different services. The only thing you have to be cautious about is price, which can range from $300 to $3,000!
Remember: High price does not mean better quality! You may bet it . . . or you may not. The best thing to do is research!
Let me be one of the first to congratulate you on the journey upon which you are about to embark! But be careful—there is a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to the world of self-publishing. This includes editing, formatting, designing a cover, getting an ISBN number, and a whole bunch more. Future posts in the “self-publishing” section of my blog are dedicated to those authors who have decided to choose this method to put their books out into the world. The posts are designed to give guidance, offer advice, and shine light upon the path I have already taken so that nobody following behind will trip.
The first thing to remember is that self-publishing is not free. You, the author, have to put up the money to have it done. Consider this an investment. But also remember that the word “investment” is just a synonym for “gamble,” because that’s exactly what the world of self-publishing is . . . a gamble. There is no guarantee that your book will sell, no matter how good it is or how much money you spend in advertising. I’m not saying this to turn you off. I’m saying it to give you a clear impression of what is at stake. “Making it” in the world of self-publishing, as it is in the traditional world of publishing, is all about luck, but with self-publishing the author risks losing whatever $ they invest.
With that said, you’re going to have to put some money up front. Just be careful not to throw it away. You have to spend money to make money, true, but that does not mean that you have to spend your money unwisely. For instance, if you pay a cover designer $500 to design a captivating cover, or a web designer $500 to design a kick-ass website, remember that that’s $500 (or $1,000 if you pay for both) in sales you have to make back before your book can start earning you money as an author. This is called the break-even point. If you have to do it, then do it. If you can’t afford it, don’t worry, there are other, cheaper ways, to get done what has to be done.
The best thing to do before putting out your book is to sit down and create a budget. Knowing how much you’re able to invest, and on what, will help you more than you can imagine. Also, do this for time, too. Time is very valuable (we’ll get into why later). Don’t forget to include marketing into your budget. A lot of authors forget this. Next to writing your novel, marketing it is the most important tool. Just think, how can anybody read your novel if they don’t know it exists?
Here are some easy ways to cut cost:
One of the best ways to do this is to find competent and talented people who want to make a name for themselves in their industry and are just starting out, like you. In today’s world, everybody knows somebody. Talk to friends and family. One of them has to be an aspiring artist. And if they aren’t, then I’m sure you can find someone who can draw, or operate a camera, or manipulate photography in Photoshop. Taking that person on to design your cover art in exchange for a photo credit (an honorable mention for their services in either your book or on your website) will be beneficial to the both of you. You, because you’ll be saving a whole lot of money. And them, because their artwork will be displayed every time you advertise your book. And if the artist has a website and they include your cover art in their portfolio . . . free advertising for you, too! It works both ways! One hand washes the other!
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a professional website, and you don’t know anybody that can help you . . . make one yourself. Believe it or not, they are not that hard to make. Today, there are plenty of user-friendly web services that allow the user to work with templates rather than tricky html or css code: www.webs.com www.wix.com www.weebly.com And for a small price you can host them on a private domain name: www.EXAMPLE.com
Another way to save is to market your book yourself. There are plenty of forums and web tools (www.librarything.com www.goodreads.com www.dailycheapreads.com www.facebook.com www.twitter.com www.kindleboards.com) that let you connect with readers and other authors around the world. The Kindle boards, especially, allow you to take a look at other indie authors and see what methods they are using. A lot of indie authors—and here’s your chance to network!—will be more than happy to tell you what they’ve been doing to market their books. Everyone’s in the same boat and the seas are rough out there. Why not work together to navigate your way to your destination instead of trying to throw one another overboard and risk the chance of sinking? Therefore, the Kindle Boards are a great source to get to know other indie authors. Check them out, find an author in your genre—or a different one—and introduce yourself. As the old saying goes, a man’s wealth is not measured not in gold but by the number of his friends (actually, I forgot what the saying is, but sounds pretty good, right?).
Lastly, let’s look at time. I asked you to factor that in earlier because between formatting your novel, designing a cover, putting it into print (either electronic or hard copy), and marketing it you are spending time which you could be writing another. Don’t spend too much time on each task. Like money, time is very valuable. Dedicate a lot of it up front, while getting the book out, but then taper it off until you can balance writing and marketing. Just like writing, you’re never going to stop marketing. You must set time aside each day (or every other day) for it. If nobody knows about your book, nobody will buy it!
Bottom line, if you budget your time and money wisely you should not have any problems. You will be one step closer to your goal of getting your novel (and future novels) out into the world!
So, you wrote a novel. Now what?
Well, obviously the next step is to get it published. But how do you do that? Is it hard? How long will it take? How much money will you make? By the end of this post, you’ll have all the answers.
Just like in real life, it helps if you know someone in the publishing industry. But don’t worry, if you don’t, that’s okay! Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
There are two methods you can go about publishing your book. The first is publishing in the traditional manner through one of the Big Six publishers (Random House, Penguin Group, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins). The second is self-publishing.
Let’s take a look at the traditional method first:
In order to get published by one of the Big Six publishers, you have to first (almost 99% of the time) find a literary agent to represent your manuscript. The agent’s job is to sell your manuscript to a publisher. Today, these publishers won’t even open their emails or snail-mail submissions if they’re not sent by an agent. Bummer, right?
To get a literary agent, you have to look online at http://www.agentquery.com/ or in a book like Literary Marketplace (available at Barns and Noble and other retail locations) for an agent that accepts submissions in your genre. There’s a different literary agent for each genre of writing. Crazy, right? So, if you write Fantasy, you need to find someone who represents Fantasy. You’ll only be wasting your time if you submit to an agent that doesn’t represent your genre.
To submit to a literary agent, you have to “query” them, which is just writer jargon for sending them a synopsis of the novel, the first few chapters, and a little blurb about yourself, along with any possible writing credentials (magazine sales, etc.) you may have. Be alert, and don’t be lazy! Don’t just change their name and send every agent the same little query package. Each agent will ask for something different, and what they’re looking for can usually be found on the “submission guidelines” on their website.
Can you query more than one agent at a time? Again, check their guidelines. Most of the time, this is a yes. If not, it would take you FOREVER to find an agent. If they don’t address this question, do what you did back in school and assume that you’re allowed to. You only have to be careful when an agent asks you to send them the full manuscript. If this happens, and you would still like to query to other agents just in case, let those other agents know that your manuscript is being considered elsewhere.
So, how long does it take to get a literary agent? The honest answer is, it’s like winning the lottery: it varies. It could take months. It could take years. Agents receive hundreds of query submissions per month. Therefore—and this is the sucky part—a lot of them don’t care so much if the writing is good as opposed to if the author can sell themselves. If the author already has a massive following on tumblr, blogger, twitter, facebook, etc. then the literary agent will see the work as “sellable,” as will the publisher, and those authors will probably get published in the traditional method. (Check back for future posts on marketing tips.)
NOTE: A real literary agent will NEVER charge you to read your manuscript. If they do, they’re fake! Check to see if they are a member of the AAR http://aaronline.org/Find If they’re not, they’re probably not that good anyway.
If all goes well, typically a new author will receive a $5,000 advance for their book. Then the book will go into print. If it sells, it’ll stay on the shelf and probably sell to paperback (you get more money for that, too—a lot more!—not to mention a royalty per each copy sold), but if it doesn’t it’ll be taken off the shelf.
The second method to get published is through self-publishing.
In the past, self-publishing was frowned upon. It was considered the losers’ way out. Self-publishers were even called “vanity presses” because of it. However, with the advent of the digital revolution (Kindle, Nook, basically any e-reader) that’s all changing. Today there are over a million indie authors! And they’re selling their books like hotcakes!!!!!
Here’s why so many new authors are choosing self-publishing over the traditional model of publishing: More money, total control over book rights, and less headache. When an author publishes a book (for example, let’s use a paperback that sells for $7.99) through one of the Big Six publishers they only see about $0.70 cents for each copy sold. Sucks, right? That’s because there are so many middle men. There’s the publisher, the literary agent, the marketing dept., and a few others who have to take their cut. Then whatever’s left goes to the writer. And when the writer publishes through them they don’t even own the rights to their books anymore. The publisher does. Which means that the writer has no control over pricing, sales, etc. Plus, you have to deal with the editor, the copy editor, the line editor, the cover designer, as well as the marketing department. All of whom you might bump heads with.
Yet, when you self-publish, the author is allowed to maintain all rights over their work. They are also allowed to set their own price, design their own cover art, and market their own book. If they publish their book for $7.99 through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) or Pubit! (Nook) they get $5.59 for each copy sold. Amazon and B&N only take out 30% for each electronic sale, which is much better than the 70% the Big Six’s are taking out!
If the idea of doing all the work yourself is daunting, or if you want a paperback/hardcover copy of your book, there are some companies out there that will help you for a price. Just remember, and here’s the main difference between the two methods of publishing: The traditional method pays you for your novel. With self-publishing, you pay them. The only way you can avoid paying is if you publish through KDP or Pubit!, both of which are absolutely free (KDP and Pubit! only take a percentage for each book sold, no upfront costs).
are two companies, among many, that will edit your book, help you design a cover, and will publish it as both an ebook and a paperback/hardcover. They’ll even make the paperback available through Barnsandnoble.com, Amazon.com, and any book store (the book stores won’t stock it on their shelves like they would stock a book from a Big Six publisher but a customer could still walk in and order it).
Just be careful, though, because by going through one of these companies you are creating a middle man and will force the cost of each book you print to rise. If you want to avoid them, you can go straight to a book printer/print on demand distributor like www.48hrbooks.com or www.lighteningsource.com that will do the same thing without that middle-man cost. You just have to do the legwork yourself.
So basically you have a bunch of options. The traditional method is very time-consuming, you get a lot of rejections, and it’s not for the impatient or the light-hearted. But you don’t have to pay any upfront fees, and they do all the marketing for you. If you don't mind the headache and think you wrote the next Twilight series, or if you think you're the next J.K. Rowling(you might be, you never know) then by all means this is the method for you. But if you think you may have a knack at marketing, are goal-oriented, and want to maintain all the rights to your books, by all means go the indie rout and self-publish! As the saying goes, the world is your oyster!