For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a published author. When I was in fourth grade I came up with my pen name. I’ve written something almost every day since I can remember… from journals and letters to short stories and novels. The idea of self-publishing didn’t really come until recently. While in elementary school I could have never imagined being a fifty something in the year two-thousand-teen-something where self-publishing became an option. But here we are.
I’ve published my third book and still feel like an amateur. It’s humbling. Sure, it’s a dream to be published in a traditional sense, make the ‘big bucks’, but practice is key with anything. As Doris Lessing said, “You only learn to be a better writer by writing.” It’s not easy but in today’s modern times, if you really want to be a published author, there’s no reason you can’t be with a little money, some motivation, a good story and a thorough editor. Going through all the motions will allow you to explore writing as a true career or an expensive hobby; either is okay.
Like with music, there’s good reads and not-so-much out there specifically with independent authors. Based on my personal experience, here are some pitfalls you can avoid in the self-publishing arena and ensure you are putting your best work out there for your readers.
- Don’t buy into companies like iUniverse or other ‘assisted self-publishing’ companies. They will charge you HUGE amounts of money to tell you what you should already know; the real work begins when you type ‘the end’. These companies will promise you step by step instructions but you as the self-published author will still be doing all the marketing work. With the money you would have spent with their company you would be able to provide every library in your state a free copy of your novel plus several local bookstore giveaways. Trust me when I say, they can’t offer you anything you can’t do for yourself.
- Edit, edit and then edit again. If you haven’t reread your book so many times you’re completely sick of looking at it, then you haven’t edited it enough. I’m only half joking here. The more eyes on your manuscript, the more feedback you get, the better your final product. Take your time and be thorough. Trust me on this. (smh)
- Marketing – most do-it-yourself publishing advice tells you to establish a social media following and write blogs. To that I say ‘meh’. Sure, you should have all the socials but fair warning, they are time thieves. On top of that, for a novel writer, a blog can be a tiresome chore snatching creative juices from you and cause timeline crunches you just don’t need in your life. I’m super happy you’re reading this blog but for real, I’d be happier if you were reading my books, lol.
- Do giveaways. There are mixed emotions about giveaways but I say do it. The reason is simple, the goal is to get the book into the readers’ hands, and you need reviews. Like it or not, reviews are the driving force for your Amazon and Google searches not your social media ‘likes’. Giveaway what you can afford, it’s a great advertising tool. (and with Kindle, a copy of your book may only cost .99-an affordable review!) Goodreads charges now for their giveaways so be sure to give away enough books to make it worth it.
- Consider audio – A good narrator can turn a three-star book into a five star! So… I don’t know about you, but I listen to most my reads on iTunes, Audible or AudioBooks. Doing an audio book can be intimidating but if you hire someone through ACX who will do the reading and producing, you can concentrate on writing and marketing. They’re reasonably priced and you can even find one that will profit share with you. Go easy on them though as they will put in multiple hours in on reading your book and if you don’t have fantastic sales, they may end up working for you for less than minimum wage. It’s worth the extra cost to have the extra media option available for those audiobook junkies like myself.
Self-publishing is fulfilling! Holding your book in your hand with your name on the front and your story in the pages is so amazing I’m having a hard time finding the right word, it’s surreal. That one moment is worth all the hard work. Once you’ve written your book, edited, and edited (and edited) again you’ll be a positon to start marketing. Be sure to at least consider audio and don’t be afraid to give your work away in exchange for reviews. Not everyone has the fortitude, talent or time to write a book; you’ll never know if you’re that author until you give it a try.