I said I was going to do this, so here is the first in a series of posts on what I’ve learned in the process of self-publishing my first novel, Waking Woods. I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not a world renowned author. I’m still learning as I go, building an audience base, and hopefully a readership. We’re in this together. Here, I hope to collect a smattering of the things I’ve picked up over the process of taking my novel from a completed first draft to what you can find on electronic shelves all over the internet (and some real shelves in special places).
First of all, the decision to self publish is a difficult one for a number of reasons. Maybe, in your case (like me), you’ve slaved over a manuscript for months (years?) and you’ve failed to find literary representation (or chosen not to seek it out). I queried several publishers and literary agents upon the completion of my novel, and received some encouraging rejections, and some blatant form rejections.
My decision to independently publish may have been partially out of despair, but I think what truly galvanized my decision (and one reason that I think a lot of indie publishers are finding) was the freedom inherent in having complete control over my project. I spent 3 years writing my novel; I didn’t want to surrender it to the first shot at traditional, big six publishing I could get. With that would come money, yes, but also changes (many would be good; but what about the non-negotiable changes that suck?). Having complete control means a lot of things:
- Hard work. Writing the novel is difficult, but editing is difficult too. This, for me, was probably the most joyless aspect of post-production. Beyond editing, expect to put in a lot of foot work and seat work if you’re going to pull it off. You’re going to need to talk to others (beta readers, editors, cover designers, and more) if you’re going to pull together a complete product.
- When all is said and done, you have had a hand in everything. The cover is something you love (maybe you designed it, or at least participated in its inception), the book design is beautiful, you haven’t had to censor yourself, and you get to set a fair price for your product. Personally, I did everything as far as designing the book goes: I did the cover and the interior design myself, and I completely formatted the electronic ebook as well (I’ll cover the details in future articles).
- Any success (or failure) you have is based on your own ability to attract readers, be it with clever marketing, personal appeals, or (most importantly) irresistible storytelling. Most likely, it is a combination of these things, and probably many others.
If you want to write a novel, do it. Writing the novel is the biggest step. After that first huge step spanning from “Once upon a time,” to “The End,” you’ll find yourself taking a million little steps to turn that novel into a book. I’ve taken many of those million steps. Check back here to see what I’ve learned, and how I can help you turn that walk into a run.