I’m a self publisher. My book, Dirty Little Secrets came out September 2016 and my new novel, Little Idiots, has just been released. One thing I’ve always striven to do is make certain my books are as professional as possible, and that I’m not skipping any steps that a storefront publishing company would use. I read a lot of other self published authors, because you can often find some real gems out there, but what I’ve found is that so many of them skip those steps. You only write one draft? You had your four year old create your cover design? You don’t need no steenking editor?
The truth is, if you are skipping these steps, if you’re rushing your books out to press, then your book is going to suffer for it, regardless of how good the story idea might be. A writer friend of mine was asking what steps I take when I start a book. With that in mind, here’s the pipeline I use. It is too easy to publish a book now, and because of that, there’s so much crap out there. Strive to not take the easy road. Write, format and publish your book as if you were Simon and Schuster.
Write a first draft – don’t censor yourself and don’t “back edit”. Just let anything and everything come out of your word processor. To me, this is the most fun, and creative part; what I call “the diarrhea of the word processor” stage.
Write a second draft – this is the stage where you actually find your story out of the mess you created in the first draft. Look for the characters who don’t add to the story and get rid of them. Delete scenes that go nowhere and story-lines that you started and never came back to.
Write a third draft – This is your clean up stage.
Build a beta reader team (I shoot for 10 people) – have them review your book, and help find errors, mis-spellings , create a questionnaire to understand which parts of the book worked for them and which didn’t. Which characters do they relate to? It’s ok if they don’t like your characters; my characters are typically very unlikable, but are they believable? That’s the important part.
Write a fourth draft – this is based on feedback from the beta team. Remember, you don’t have to make all of their suggestions, but you do need to listen to them with an open mind and consider every comment.
Hire an editor – Yes, a real editor. There are some great editing writing tools out there– my personal favorite is Pro Writing Aid. I’ll run my story through several of their incredible reports to clean it up quite a bit, but remember, NOTHING can take the place of a professional editor. As amazing as Pro Writing Aid is, after I’ve run it through its paces, my novel still gets sent to my editor.
Hire a cover artist – Hire someone good; as far as eventually selling the book, this is what will bring you the most readers (especially ones who aren’t already fans). Avoid “Photoshopped” covers; Most people aren’t as good at Photoshop as they think they are, and the covers look generic. Unless you are a really good artist, hire someone to do this. For my first book, I did the cover myself, because I wanted it to be CG and I have a degree and much experience in CG. For my next book, I am going to hire an artist. Keep in mind, I am an artist, great at sketching, but I can also be honest that my style does not fit into what is needed for my book cover.
Set a publishing date – At this stage, I set and announce a publishing date; something realistic, because you don’t want your readers to lose confidence when you keep missing publishing dates that you’ve announced.
Format the book – Use publishing format standards. Be careful, there are tons of answers on what the “true” format should be, and many conflict with each other. Research carefully, because the format for one genre may not be the same for another. Get other books in your genre to see how they are formatted. At a minimum, you will likely publish your book in paperback and digital download. These two require different formatting, so at this stage, I create two copies of the book, one for paperback and one for digital, and I format each according to the media requirements.
Now for the hard part; selling. People can give you advice, but consider it just that– advice. No one has a tried and true secret to selling. What works for their book, may not work for yours. Get creative. What I have done previously is harangue my readers for reviews on Good Reads and Amazon, I’ve left adverts on horror (my genre) message boards; reached out to other authors to partner up on promoting each others’ books, blog and podcasts, book signings, conventions, FB, Twitter, book giveaways. You should pretty much start promoting your book around the beta reader stage, and continue promoting it through every subsequent stage.
Keep in mind, All of this is the MINIMUM that you should do. My last book was fifteen drafts. My play had at least fifty drafts.
Don’t get upset if you don’t sell too many copies, especially on your first book. This is the learning stage. Every mistake you make on the road to publish your first book is a wonderful thing as long as you learn from it, and incorporate those lessons into your next book. And don’t forget that the real accomplishment is that you completed your book; good job! Most writers never get that far. Now, keep writing. The key to developing a fandom around your work is to publish, publish, publish. With each book, you’ll pull in new readers who will discover you for the first time. As you publish new books, those readers will recommend you to their friends. Numbers raise the odds in the self-publishing game.
Christopher Minori is the creator and co-writer of the cult play The Texas Chainsaw Musical! and author of the comedy-fantasy novel, Little Idiots and the horror anthology, Dirty Little Secrets. He encourages writers, fans, and other artists to reach out to him via email, and makes an effort to respond to every email he receives.
Originally posted on MinorJoystudios.com 3/10/17