After 30 years as a writer, I decided to self-publish! Of course, all self-publishing sites make it seem so easy, and give the impression you’ll be a rich and famous author with all the cards in your deck in no time at all. I am laughing only because this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Oh sure, you can go to one of those companies that does it ALL for you, spend a few thousand and, Voila! you have your book, but I am poor and on disability. I had NO money at all to spend on publishing. In my quest to be a self-published novelist, I made a LOT of mistakes (including thinking it would cost nothing to get my book published). Hopefully, you won’t make the same boo boos.
- Thinking I “knew it all.” No one knows it all. But, having spent so many years in traditional publishing, I was sure self-publishing would be a breeze and I would know what I was doing. Wrong! In the beginning, I didn’t even know where to go, much less what to do once I got there. Who to choose to publish your masterpiece is up to you. I eventually was led to Amazon Createspace (because I was accustomed to paperback publishing). And that led me to Kindle Direct.
- Formatting for self-publishing. In traditional publishing, it’s all the same; you format every manuscript you write in the same manner. All agents and editors expect your manuscript formatted in this way, whether you are printing or sending a digital copy. All of a sudden I found myself having to take my manuscripts and turn them into formatted books. This is a lot more complicated than it sounds. Back in the day when many of my manuscripts were written (but not published), it was necessary to place two spaces after every period, every sentence needed to be double spaced, using a 12 pt font of a common nature (like Times New Roman). I used Createspace’s template creator, removed the formatting, then had to copy, paste and reformat all over again. And of course I wanted it to look pretty, and professional, so I grabbed some traditionally published books by big names and learned. Again, much harder than one would imagine. E-books…fo’ge’abou’it! I could not for the longest time figure out how I was supposed to format an e-book, so I scraped up what cash I could and paid to have it done. I am finally learning, and now doing it myself, but still going about learning.
- Covers. This is an area where I was told over and over and over, through articles, other writers, designers and courses, get a professional! The thing is, I was creating e-book covers for authors since e-books first came out. Thus, I have always created my own covers. Yet, still I made mistakes in this area. Fortunately, I belong to a Facebook group full of professional designers. Though some were rather cruel on some of my first mistakes, most were quite helpful, and I paid attention. Another learning curve! Now, I create covers for indie authors on tight budgets, because I know what it’s like to be poor.
- Editors. Editors are extremely expensive! I did this myself as well, and when people read my books, they are amazed at the lack of grammatical mistakes. Don’t be… editing is an ability with which I was born! I was always an A+ student in English. As for editing for content, beta readers love to get free advanced copies of books from authors they read. They give me feedback, catch possible plot holes and keep me on track. My feedback, reviews and track records tell me that I am pretty darn good at doing this myself, but could still use a tad bit of “an editor’s eye.” I agree. But, once again, no money=no expensive editor.
- Marketing! This is the BIG one!! This is the area where I did everything wrong! I am still struggling with marketing. Of course, I thought I would get my book up on Amazon, tell a few people on social media, and Voila! Instant fame. Ummm… no! I maxed ALL of my credit cards and got nowhere. I planned to take ALL sales from my books and use it to market, all the while building my list of books. That’s not happening either. See, it’s a catch 22… if you have no money for marketing, then you can’t market. If you don’t market, you sell no books, and around and around it goes. And when LIFE interferes and suddenly you find ALL your royalties (as few as they are) need to go to an external source, rather than back into marketing, well…. Quite a dilemma occurs. So far, the only answer I have come up with is to WRITE more books, publish more and do what you can for marketing! Which, for me, is not much (even though I am on a time limit to make a LOT more money from my books before I can afford to use the excess royalties for marketing). Yeah, it’s complicated! Ok, pay attention, because I have spent FAR more money than I have to learn this: Book Tours are a GREAT way to get started. If you want to grab a fast audience, get yourself going on a cyber book tour with a giveaway, guest posts and GREAT descriptions of your books! The problem with tours and other such marketing ploys is they are only temporary. But, they can give you something with which to start! From there, however, you will need to learn to market SMART. This, I am still learning and will be for another post later on. HINT: Learn Facebook marketing!
Those are my 5 biggest mistakes and learns. I will elaborate more as I continue with my own lessons. If I make a faux pas, I will try to explain how you can avoid the same.
Oh…. and make sure you have a cat!! Cats are terrific muse-enhancers. Trust me! The BEST writers have cats.