I've taught a few workshops on self-publishing in the past and I often get emails from writers wanting some advice. The following information was posted over a year ago following one of these workshops and has advice for both traditional publishing and self-publishing. It also includes my own self-publishing team information.
I am going to try to break this down into simple bites and hopefully this will help anyone hoping to self-publish (or go the traditional route) to find the resources to succeed.
1. Write your book!
This will be hard to do, but write the darn thing. You may have to disconnect from your life for a few months, but warn everyone that you will be very selective about your social activities because you will be writing. When you are done with your manuscript it should be around 70,000 words when you're done (give or take). Most publishers do not want to see books that are over 100,000 words, but if you are already set on self-publishing you can push this number. Just remember: the bigger the book, the more expensive it will be.
2. Take a break!
Set your book aside and do not look at it for around two weeks. Go and reconnect with your neglected life. Have fun. Relax. And make sure to celebrate your huge accomplishment of finishing your book. Most people will never do what you just did. Be happy! Once your are done with your writing vacation, grab a red pen and get ready. This is the hard part.
3. Revise your book!
Print out your book and get ready with your red pen. Read your book and be prepared. You will both love and hate what you wrote. At some points you may pat yourself on the back because you did such a great job and at other points you may flinch with embarrassment.
What you are looking for as you do your read through:
- Punctuation and grammar errors. (below are helpful websites)
- Continuity errors
- Example: You have someone pick up an object, but later the object vanishes from the scene.
- Example: Someone's clothing keeps changing in the same scene.
- Example: You establish a "fact" in your book then disregard it entirely later on.
- Often repeated words or phrases.
- I am so guilty of this at times. It sucks. But use a thesaurus if you're not sure how to ditch your favorite word.
- Plot cohesion. Does your plot make sense? Does it have huge plot holes?
Once you're done marking up your manuscript, go back into your original document and make all the new changes. Then walk away from it for two weeks again. Repeat. If the manuscript feels solid, it is time to find a test group to read it. If it doesn't, revise again.
4. Build your author platform.
Create an online presence for yourself by establishing a blog using wordpress.com or blogspot.com. Create a facebook account just for your book. Blog about your dream of becoming a writer and your progress or about any other subject that connects to your fledgling writing career or your writing. Connect with other writers in your genre. Remember to be positive and attempt to keep a regular schedule (if possible) with your posts.
5. Get some Test Readers
At this point in the process, you will need a group of test readers. You can pick friends, but they should be friends that are willing to kick in your teeth if the book isn't up to par. They should be able to give you constructive criticism. You can also connect with a local writing group or find one online.
The website Absolute Write has a very valuable forum for all writers that you should check out. You can find a lot of support there and important information. I strongly advise all writers to join if you are just starting out.
After you receive all the feedback from your test readers and address any issues they pointed out, read through your darling one more time. If it feels solid, it is time to move on. If it doesn't, revise again.
Second Stage (If you are going the traditional route)
1. Make sure your book is in manuscript form.
2. Write a cover letter.
3. Create a synopsis.
4. Subscribe to Writer's Market so you will be able to find an agent or publisher
5. Compile a list of agents (or publishers) that represent your kind of book. Follow the guidelines to the T. Do not send your full manuscript if it is NOT requested. I cannot stress this enough. Follow the guidelines exactly.
6. As each rejection notice comes in (and you will get some), cross that agent off your list. Keep on going until your either find an agent or run out of your list.
7. Make sure the agent you sign with understands your novel and is someone you can get a long with.
8. Understand that having an agent does not mean your manuscript will sell, but your chances just got a lot better.
Second Stage (If you are self-publishing)
1. Be realistic with your expectations.
Sit down and write out your goals and aspirations. Determine how much time and effort you are willing to exert in making your dream come true. Be realistic.
2. Establish your budget.
Self-publishing will cost you money. If you have enough money to go to a turn-key company that will do everything for you (editing, cover, formatting, etc), and you don't want to deal with doing anything yourself, make sure you do plenty of research to find the right company for you. If you only have limited funds, you will need to work out your budget carefully. Editing will cost you the most money and is worth the investment.
You will spend the most money on a good editor and decent cover artwork. Do not scrimp on either of these items!
NOTE: If you self-publish, it will not matter how well your book is edited, you will still get criticized for the editing. I know people who spent a lot of money on a professional editor and readers still attacked the editing. It is an almost automatic response by readers when they see a book is self-published.
3, Publish Your Book!!
Once your book is in perfect order (cover, editing, interior), you can use Createspace to publish to all the amazon online stores. Createspace provides publish on demand publishing. In other words, someone orders your book and it is made just for them. Createspace also publishes Kindle. If you want to publish your book to all ebook formats, go to smashwords.com.
I highly recommend Createspace because they are affordable and you get more bang for your buck. But it will be up to you in the end.
Remember, bookstores rarely sell self-published or small press books. If you really want to see your book in a bookstore, you may need to work a consignment deal out with them.
Be creative and go for it. If you wrote a non-fiction book about a particular subject, attend shows or events that fit into that subject. Rent a booth and promote yourself. You may not make your money back, but people will begin to remember your name and may buy later. Pass out flyers, excerpts from your books, and be friendly and nice to everyone. Contact blogs or online blogtalkradio shows that talk about your subject. Offer to be a guest blogger or a guest on their show. Keep your blog updated. Post on your twitter and facebook. Connect with online groups that enjoy your book's subject matter.
My Publishing Team
Felicia Sullivan at Indie Editor
Claudia McKinney at Phat Puppy Art
Philip R Rogers at Art by Philip
Ashley at the Bookish Brunette Designs
Cover Reveals and Blog Tours (worth every cent)
Ashley at the Bookish Brunette Blog Tours
Note: Though I handle my own blog tours, Ashley helped me put my first one together. She knows what she's doing!
The Indie Author's Guide
Free Software To Use (Make sure you do the tutorials)
yWriter (the best writing program I have ever used)
Open Office (it's like Microsoft Word, but free!)
GIMP (it's like Photoshop, but free)