Self-publishing – what I’ve learned (so far!)

This blog is about historical fiction – but as an independent author and very proud to be one, I’d also like to share some experiences of my self-publishing journey as it happens.

‘The Black Hours’ isn’t published quite yet, but it’s getting close. And only two months later than I’d planned. Two months longer than my well-planned, well-detailed, completely OCD schedule said it would happen. And that’s not because I spent loads of time on Facebook, watching Jeremy Kyle and cleaning the oven (although I did spend more time on these things than I should have. Except the oven). It’s not down to procrastination, laziness or tea and biscuit breaks. It’s because self-publishing your first novel is a hell of a lot more complicated than you could ever imagine.

But please don’t let that put you off. Complicated doesn’t necessarily mean difficult. It just means fiddly and frustrating and time-consuming. Don’t believe all those stories you hear about people having no money for rent so they sit down and write a few erotic novels and stick them on Amazon, making a fortune on the way. Take these tales with a hefty pinch of salt. For a start, royalties don’t get paid instantly even if you do sell – CreateSpace pay the month after the royalties are earned, and KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) pay 60 days later. So if you want some money for Christmas, and you’re just starting out, it’s highly unlikely you’ll have any money until well into the January sales.

Don't assume the money will roll in instantly.

Don’t assume the money will roll in instantly.

Even if your book is ready there are lots of things to take into account. Before we even get to the content, you need to think about the cover. Have a look on Amazon. Look at all those books. Look at all those awful, awful covers. Some of them are really beyond belief. Ok, so I know that not everyone can pay a professional to do the job for them, and writers aren’t necessarily good at the visual side of things, but this is important. You’ve spent time on your book. You care about it. Isn’t it worth a decent cover? Think about it. Your book needs to stand out; your potential readers need to have the right impression of you. If your cover looks shoddy, why should they bother with your book? The one next to it, above it, below it, they look far more enticing. You wrote your book to sell it, didn’t you? Then you have to make it appealing. Consider whether you can afford to hire a professional. There are lots out there and they can be reasonably priced. Have a look at the KDP and CreateSpace forums for recommendations. Or try the Goodreads site: http://www.goodreads.com/

I had edited ‘The Black Hours’ thoroughly. My trusted readers had read it thoroughly. My husband, an experienced journalist, editor and communications specialist, had read it thoroughly. It was ready! Just had to be formatted for KDP and CreateSpace. That wouldn’t take long, would it? Well, it does. Especially if you’re using Word. Word has its own, completely illogical rules that you won’t be able to fathom. Your book will get formatted eventually, but you’ll upload it and check it and check it again and then again and then again (with several more uploads) before all the widows and orphans are gone (you’ll find out what they are), before you find some random post on the CS community explaining about pagination, and before your book looks as professional as it really needs to before you send it out there to compete with the thousands of others available. You may well, by this point, feel like this:

frustration pic

So then you’ll have your KDP version ready, and you’ll upload your CreateSpace version. And then you’ll realise that you need to order a proof copy to make sure it’s all ok. And that these come from the US, cost money and take a while to come (you’ll pay about £15 to make sure you get t as quickly as possible). Only then will you realise that what you should have done is sorted out the paperback version first, ordered the proof and then worked on the Kindle version while you were waiting. Store that away for the next time.

So your proof arrives. You’re so excited; here is your book, at last. You take a photo and put it on Facebook and bask in the congratulations for a while. Then you start reading it. And realise that, despite all that checking and editing, there are loads of commas that shouldn’t be there and there are spelling mistakes. How did you miss them?! Well, it’s because you get used to reading on a screen. If you’ve been working on a novel for a while and you’ve read it through a lot, then it seems that your brain sees what should be there rather than what actually is there. The commas and spellings drift past. And some that your readers have been pointed out get missed. You realise then that your precious book won’t be on sale yet, and that lovely first copy ends up battered and scrawled on with pages turned over. Like this:

004

So you order a further proof. And then you wait for it, with your fingers crossed that you found all the gremlins and that it won’t take too long to come and that you’ll make back the postage costs.
So, before you start on your self-publishing adventure bear a few things in mind:
• Don’t think you can publish in a few days, or even weeks, especially if this is your first book. It takes time and if you don’t realise that to begin with, you’re going to be very frustrated (like me!).
• You cannot proof enough. Accept that. Read and re-read and get everyone and his aunt to read for you too. If you don’t have anyone that you trust to pick up mistakes, then consider paying an editor.
• Be prepared for your first proof copy to need alterations. If you have a timescale, factor this delay in.
• Remember that self-publishing isn’t free. Well, technically it is but that’s if, as well as being a writer, you are also a proof-reader, an editor and a graphic designer. And also someone who is confident enough to think you don’t need to see a real proof of your book before you approve it. You will need to invest some money in your book.
• Read all the advice you can find – there’s lots of it out there. Keep your feet on the ground and be realistic. And have faith through all the frustrations and re-drafts and edits and endless uploading. You will get there!

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