Now, I'm still learning the ropes and not about to say that I am a success story just yet. Beyond the challenge of holding down a job (or three) and actually writing and completing a novel, the challenge to get anything out into the world is, well, challenging.
If you're self publishing, you're likely to be embarking on a huge undertaking and learning curve.
The good news is that there's a lot of great information around if you look for it.
I don't have any intention of reinventing the wheel, or taking any credit away from the deserving people I'm about to cite. They've helped simply by sharing the information they have, so I'm going to on share.
What I will say is that if I'd known thinking about these 8 things before I sat down to write would've made things a bit easier, I definitely would have.
In addition to everybody that has supported and really encouraged me I would say that these resources/writers have been a wonderful help to me. In my mind they're among the best that you'll find on the web.
So if you're interested, click on the read more break and see if you've already taken the following things into consideration.
Who is your target audience? Who is the person most likely to enjoy or get something out of your reading? What kinds of things interest them? What kinds of publications do they read, what blogs and social network pages do they follow? These are key considerations you should be making from the outset. Doing so will help inform every other decision down the chain.
Check out: Alex Hemus has some great articles that any aspiring or current writer should read, and a very useful mailing list to join. Check out his post about considering your audience here.
This won't affect you if you haven't written a long manuscript, but when it comes to self publishing, you will have to adapt your Word document to one of the pre-prescribed formats/templates that dominate self publishing and the publishing industry. These will technically alter the length of your book when it comes to pages.
As a general rule of thumb anything around the 400 page mark is going to be fine, but go a little over that and you'll find that your production costs are going to soar. Services like Createspace and Lightning Source charge per page when it comes to printing a book after a certain number of pages.
To give you an idea, I had a 360 page Word document. When it came to formatting, it turned into a mammoth 540 page book - so printing each copy of the paperback is more expensive than I had anticipated.
Just keep your length in mind, as it will dictate the price you set to cover your costs.
Joanna Penn is the go to Guru when it comes to self publishing. If you haven't already discovered her articles, start with this one and its considerations about length and production.
If your intention is to only sell via Amazon, Createspace, Amazon's self publishing system, can automatically assign you an ISBN. That will mean both your ebook and printed book can comfortably be sold across the Amazon network, or resold elsewhere with Amazon the constant middle man.
But if you want to get your ebook or paperback into stores or onto online retailers other than Amazon's (including Kobo and ibook) then you're going to need to supply additional ISBN numbers that are not Amazon 'owned'.
There's a lot of talk online about the pros and cons of ISBNs, but as an author, for a reasonably small outlay you'll have your own ISBNs that you can then use for the different formats of your books across the different formats. Your ISBN is like a registration number that you take out in your home country. In my case I registered them in Australia and bought a start up pack which gave me about 10 isbns. Plenty for the different formats of your first book and possibly even your next - and the control of being able to decide how many different ISBNs are attached to your book.
If this is your first experience writing, remember that the whole process will also inevitably working with designers, and the following site generally offers great insight into the design process. This article however is a great explanation of how ISBNS work.
You need a brilliant editor like mine. You need someone who knows what they're talking about, someone who will tell you you're talking crap and someone who will pull you up on your really long sentences and overuse of commas. And someone who will support you and your decisions. Like I had. I love you Lucy.
Your best bet is finding a reputable editor who specialises in the kind of writing you yourself are doing.
If you can't afford the going rates to pay someone to edit it, you could try a service like Fiverr where copywriters and editors offer their services at very reasonable prices. An alternative approach could be joining a site like Wattpad where you can share your writing with some pretty rabid readers who will more than happily give you feedback.
But you're publishing a book and need to be professional about it. As a result you should do what it takes to bring your best to the market.
Jane Friedman also has a great and resourceful site. In this article, she invites author Teymour Shahabi to speak about finding an editor. You might find it insightful.
5. FORMATTING AND CHOOSING A RETAILER/PRINTER
Style guides and requirements differ depending on the kind of system you are using.
There is software that your precious work has to be put through to be ebook ready, and yet more software that it gets processed through if you are planning on printing it.
For ebooks, many authors tend to use Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing for the Amazon ebooks, and Smashwords for nearly everything else. Or a software program called Calibre which you can download that spits out all kinds of ebook versions.
In my experience I was able to use my pre-formatted Kindle draft for Smashwords, only having to change the Contents page which works a little differently.
Don't forget, for most ebook software you shouldn't justify your text or number your pages, but for printed versions you will need to justify the text and consider page numbering too.
Giacomo Giammatteo and the ALLi crew are the holy grail of the industry for authors. You'll make better decisions the better informed you are and this article is a great breakdown of how the two biggest players in the industry work including cost scenarios.
You should also read and follow Karen Inglis who offers great insight into the self publishing world. More discussions from her direct experience at her very useful website.
6. COVER DESIGN
It's a competitive environment with so many great authors out there.
You need a strong image for your front cover that is going to work as a thumb nail, as a larger image and that is going to stand out and convey the message behind your book.
Much like editing, it's best if you invest and pay someone to do it for you, particularly because the cover software is not easy to use if you're not a designer.
Again, if you're on a really tight budget, scour the ads on Fiverr. A lot of great designers offer covers for peanuts.
When it comes to covers there's a lot to consider, and if you're printing your book, the results can differ across printers. If you're looking for an amazing designer I can put you in contact with mine. I adore him! But short of that, you can get some advice here.
The earlier you start promoting your novel the better.
This can be done via social networks and inviting your friends, fans and family to participate in the process. Share insights and photos with them, ask them for their opinions, and start doing your research a few months before publishing date. At the very least I recommend that you have a presence on Facebook (with a dedicated page), Twitter and Goodreads (with an author page).
There are other options out there too like Wattpad. A lot of bloggers and reviewers won't look at your work unless you get in really early, and once you're up and running on Amazon, other sites won't be very interested in what you're pushing unless you've already got some solid Amazon reviews under your belt.
And if you have a blog, do you have a mailing list for it? If not, get to it!
There's no one approach and the market is changing. It's hard to get your project out there, but start here to get the basic considerations churning around in your brain.
Believe it or not, this best falls under pre-promotion.
There are a lot of possibilities if you have the time to pursue them. I would say that you need to!
A lot of newbie authors offer reviews for reciprocal reviews. Just be careful to check the terms and conditions at whichever retailer you're dealing with. Most quite rightly frown on inflated reviews and on pay-for-review kind of scenarios. But there's no reason why you can't do your research and find the right kind of reviewers for your material so that they're ready to go when your book comes to market.
Get an expert's advice here.
Good luck. I really hope it works out for you! And I hope you get the amazing support that I've been getting, because it will help you continue when the going gets a bit tough. That was a Billy Ocean reference. Even though I always preferred Caribbean Queen.