4 Self-Publishing Lessons Learned

I first published The Grey Heir in June, 2013. Sitting here, on this cold October morning, sixteen months later, it feels like an appropriate time to reflect on what I’ve learned and share my new-found wisdom so that future generations of self-publishing authors might tread an easier path than I.

There’s only one problem: I read most of this advice in other authors’ blogs before publishing and I still didn’t listen.

Why should you listen to me when I didn’t listen to those who came before me?

Because what I’m about to share with you isn’t advice. It’s please-for-the-love-of-god-do-this-or-you-will-waste-a-lot-of-time-and-emotional-energy wisdom.

1) Pay for Editing Services

Failing to pay for editing services is the single biggest, and most common, mistake that new indie authors make.

Yes, there are several different kinds of editing services and, yes, they are all expensive (especially for young authors), but do it anyway. As an author, there’s little worse than having fans point out grammar or spelling mistakes to you.

The good news is that editing services come at several different levels, which have different price points.

  • Substantive Editing – examines a work as a whole to address consistency, pacing, or developmental issues. When authors bless their editors, it’s usually because of good substantive editing.
  • Copy Editing – corrects grammar, repetition, style, and use of jargon.
  • Proofreading – fixes grammatical problem like verb tense, comma placement, word usage, spelling, and capitalization.

Obviously, the first two forms of editing are the most expensive (and useful).

However, if you’re on a budget (as most self-publishing authors are), you might be able to get away with using good beta readers (at least a few of which should be fans of your genre and not members of your family), many drafts, and a proofreader.

It’s this last part that I didn’t do at first, then went back and corrected. Get a proofreader, get a proofreader, get a proofreader.

If you want to release a professional novel, this really isn’t optional. Do it.

2) Know What Goes Into Cover Creation

Cover creation involves two separate skill sets.

First, illustration – the images that actually go on your cover. I’m actually very happy with my cover art, which was done by Holly Anderson. Holly also did my character sketches, which appear every fifth chapter. I have nothing but good things to say about working with her.

Second, digital editing/typesetting – oh that’s right, your cover needs words on it doesn’t it? No problem, I thought, I took digital imaging in college. I can just do it myself!

Bad idea…

Okay, full disclosure, I did eventually create a cover that I’m happy with, but it took many drafts to get there. In fact, the only reason I have as professional a cover as I do is consultations with three different graphic designers.

All I’ll say is: if you do decide to do the digital editing yourself, consult with a professional and be prepared to do several drafts. If you have the money, it would be much easier to hire someone to do it.

3) Print Editions Are Not Optional

Many indie authors will tell you that it’s a good idea to publish in as many ways as possible. After all, why limit how your readers can access your book?

I’d like to take that one step further: don’t release your ebook until the print edition is ready.

Although some authors find great success selling their book on the interwebs, I’ve found that I really only sell books when I’m talking to someone in person and that the probability of making the sale goes up exponentially if I have a book in my hands.

As a nice side benefit (though it probably won’t feel this way at the time), releasing two versions of your book simultaneously will slow the process down.

“WHAT?” you might be screaming at your computer, “WHY WOULD I WANT TO SLOW THE PROCESS DOWN?”

Because unless you’ve hired a professional editor, cover designer, and formatter, your book probably isn’t ready for publication.

I know that’s hard to hear. I wrote a very passionate, though misguided, article on that subject (in fact I wrote two), but that doesn’t make it less true.

Releasing a book prematurely is just a bad idea because (among other things)…

4) You Won’t Be Able to Promote It

I don’t mean you will get bad reviews (though that’s certainly a possibility). I mean you literally won’t be able to bring yourself to promote your own work…or at least I couldn’t.

I couldn’t in good conscience put real effort into selling my book until I thought it was as good as I could make it (something that happened only in the last couple months).

I don’t know if you’ll have this problem, but self-promotion is hard enough when you’re selling something you’re passionate about. It’s so much harder when you aren’t 100% behind your book.

So, please just wait, save your money or raise it on GoFundMe or Kickstarter, then pay for the services you need to release a professional book.

I promise it will save you time and heart ache.

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