“How do I know that I’m doing it right?” This concern underlies every question my writing students ask about self-publishing. I respond with a variation of “if you published your book, you did it right. Fix it later if there’s a problem.”
It might be useful to share a VERY simple process I’ve developed over many years of writing books; I teach it to my students.
Firstly however let’s look at the biggest challenge facing self-publishing authors.
Self-publishing today: your biggest challenge is YOU
Sadly, you’re your own worst enemy.
We all are. I’m not immune — I find new ways to torture myself and procrastinate each and every week. I tell myself about things I “must” do, but most of these “musts” are simply new ways to procrastinate.
We all have 24 hours in each day. Depending on how long you’ve been writing, it may take you between an hour and two hours to write a thousand words. But a thousand words of new content every day might not be possible for you. Perhaps you can only manage 500 words, or 200 words. That’s OK.
Set a word count goal for yourself. Keep the count low. You should be able to achieve this goal even on your worst and busiest day.
Self-publishing in six steps
Here’s the process.
1. Get an idea, write a blurb (description)
As soon as you get an idea for a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, write down your idea. Expand on the idea to 300 words. Look on this description as a mini-outline. It stops you wandering off-track later, once you start writing.
You may or may not use parts of this initial blurb later, when you publish.
2. Expand on the blurb: create a quick list outline (or two characters for fiction)
Without thinking about it too much, spend five minutes writing a list of what you intend to cover in the book if you’re writing nonfiction.
Writing fiction? Create two characters — just a job, and an attribute:
- Bored accountant — for the mob;
- Self-confident female surgeon.
You’ll find that the job plus attribute quick character-creation process sparks ideas. I had no idea that the “bored accountant” would be working for criminals, that just sprang to mind.
3. Write, while developing a more extensive outline
Start writing. When I write fiction, I focus on the major scenes; I want to know what these big scenes will be by the time I’ve written 10,000 words.
With nonfiction, avoid doing research until you know the slant/ angle you’re taking on your topic.
4. Create a title, order a book cover, research keywords, start marketing
Do these basic self-publishing chores as soon as you can. However, avoid letting any of them cut into your writing time.
Tip: use premade covers unless you’re writing a series. (They’re cheaper.) When writing a series, get good covers, and make sure that the covers will identify your series instantly, at a glance.
4. Revise: re-vision — promises kept?
Your biggest challenge is ensuring that your completed book lives up to the promise of your blurb.
For example, let’s say you’re aiming for a Lee Childs/ Jack Reacher suspense novel. Read what you’ve written. Did you achieve that goal? If not, start revising. 🙂
With nonfiction, have you differentiated your book? Does it serve its audience? If you’ve written a “me too” clone of other books on the topic, revise.
5. Send to beta readers: edit, and edit again
Once your revision is done, and you’ve done some light editing, whip the book off to your favorite beta readers. While you’re waiting for them to get back to you, start your next book.
Then take your betas’ comments on board, and edit. Twice.
Edit once to ensure that there are no boring bits. The second edit is to make sure that there are no stupid bits. Fact-check yourself.
Do a final proof, and…
6. Publish it — ready or not
Upload it to Amazon. Going wide? Upload your book to the other major book retailers as well.
Start your next book while you’re revising/ editing etc your current book
Write your next book, following the same process, while your current book’s being edited.
Here’s why you need to do this.
If you’re enthusiastic about the book you’re currently writing, you won’t be overwhelmed by comments from your betas — or by your editor, if you’re going the traditional publishing route.
In your first few years as an author, even the kindest comments can throw you off track. Aim to be so engrossed in your new book that you’re insouciant about the book being edited. Eventually your “it’s done, I don’t care” attitude will be real.
Use this simple self-publishing process. Keep moving forward, and have fun with it. 🙂
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