Last year I self-published my first real book - by this I mean a book that I physically launched and is in bookshops and everything. A book I have promoted and sunk time and money into; a book that I'll be spending the next 18 months focusing on continuing to push out into the world.
I'd played very small with an ebook prior to that experience. But Do Share Inspire was a complete leap in the self-publishing stakes. I'd been researching self-publishing for a while though, so I thought I was prepared for the experience... I don't think anyone is ever prepared for that experience.
I've subsequently self-published a second book, Write to Launch, which is a step-by-step guide through the self-publishing process. A succinct and approachable book, with resources to assist you through your own self-publishing challenge. Below are six key points I think every self-publisher needs to know.
1. You need a professional editor
Let me say that again, just so you are very clear - you need a professional editor! Please don't embarrass yourself by not having your work professionally edited; contrary to popular belief you cannot do this for yourself (not well anyway). Poor grammar and punctuation can destroy a great message or story - and don't get me started on spelling!
An editor can polish your work and make sure that it gives your reader an immersive experience. Your editor will also provide you with feedback on what might be missing or redundant in your book - trust me, you want a few people doing that for you.
But mainly, an editor is probably the only book professional you will have in your self-publishing process. You will experience a full range of doubts and fears when you put your creation into the world - having a trusted professional on your side helps.
2. Done is better than good
This comes from Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic - and is such a fantastic quote to remember.
Yes, you want to make sure it's 'good' work, and that it ticks all the professional boxes. But at some point you have to let it go into the world, that's what all the hard work has been for in the first place. It will never be perfect, so you need to accept that and publish it anyway.
The beauty of print-on-demand is that you can quite easily make corrections to the book after you've published it - without having 900 copies with that typo you didn't pick up, or lacking a sentence to add clarification.
3. Writing is the easiest part (well mostly)
I'm not saying writing is easy, but I think it's easier than marketing your book - it might even be easier than the myriad of decisions you have to make to turn your manuscript into a book!
Many writers are not designed to promote themselves effectively, and marketing is not a skill that comes naturally to a person who might have spent years working in solitude to craft their book. But people will not find you if you don't promote yourself - which means they will not find your book!
You need to be prepared for all of the additional responsibilities and skills required to be a self-publisher.
4. It's about the reader, not you!
This is true of writing your manuscript, but is even truer in the packaging and promotion of your book.
What will the reader get from your book? What value are you providing them? Why should they bother buying and reading your book in the first place? What is in it for them?
You need to give them reasons, that is your job. And it can be very difficult to separate yourself enough from your work to clearly do that - or to own the value and benefits of your book. You might require another professional to help you with some of these messages.
5. It's not a short game
Why would you only focus on the week of the book launch and maybe a month after, before moving onto the next bright and shiny thing? Even if you get a lot of hype for your launch, it's going to take a while to get your message out into the world - for a variety of audiences to learn about it and consider buying it.
Traditionally published authors might be on the promotional trail for years with their book, especially non-fiction authors who have put significant time into researching and writing said book. As a self-published author, you are likely to need even longer to get the same traction and publicity.
You should definitely be planning and writing a follow up book during this time, but you can't simply stop looking for promotional opportunities and pushing your book to a wider audience. Plan for and play the long game - don't push for the short-term "Amazon Bestseller" status and then move on, your work is worth more than that!
6. It's scary and exciting
Putting your creation into the world is terrifying and exhilarating. You will go through a range of doubts and fears - from believing your book is crap and shouldn't be sold, to fearing that it might be successful and what that would mean.
Make sure you have good support mechanisms around you to cater for the days you think you should give up. It needs to be more than your family and well meaning friends, although they play an important role. This is also why you need a marketing and launch plan, so you aren't making emotional decisions on the fly.
You can read more about my latest self-publishing adventure on the dinkylune blog, and subscribe for more content and freebies. And if you want to self-publish, check out Write to Launch, my latest book to help authors make the most of self-publishing options.