Wednesday, 16 May 2012

What I learned along my self-publishing journey.

I said I'd reflect on the process of self-publishing, so here are my thoughts now my book is Far Away in the big wide world.

First - I must stress these are personal opinions. There will be those who can weave a path through the technology without coffee and chocolate - I salute you. I can't. There will be those to whom marketing is second nature - I am still rubbish at it. But, for what it's worth, here goes:

Self-publishing is not easy, but it is possible. Every time the formatting had hiccups or I lost pages of text, I reminded myself that other people managed - and so could I. I might have to read the instructions many times, get the techy stuff translated - but I did it. Of course I felt like giving up at times, but that's why god made chocolate.

The biggest problem is formatting. Your lovely manuscript, that looks so pristine on the page, is quickly mangled the minute you try to change the format. And change the format you must (unless you had the presence of mind to think as far ahead as publishing when you began playing with your first draft). You don't have to like it - but you do have to accept it, and then settle down to untangle it. Then - just when you think you've got it right, it will tangle again. Tantrums are allowed, but only if they give you the energy to try again.

The ebook - in some ways this is more straightforward, as you can read the whole thing on your computer screen. But, though this make formatting blunders obvious, typos are much harder to spot. And the one thing you want to avoid, if at all possible, are typos and major grammar problems. (Which is why I would alway advocate a copy editor, even if you are only producing a small ebook - if you are going to invest your time and effort into this, it is worth the cost of making this the best book it can possibly be.)

Once the formatting is sorted (which can take days) it's relatively easy to load the whole thing onto Kindle - but wait, you need a cover.

And a cover for your print book. Trawl through all the advice-blogs; you don't need me to tell you how important the cover is. If you don't have a wonderful son-in-law to help, it is worth paying for this, too.

And then the print book. I won't go over the Createspace v Lulu debacle. Suffice it to say that the process for a POD book is similar, though the formatting is different (of course). And you get a proof of your lovely book to hold, and smell, and wave at people, and remind you how clever you are writing all this ... and then you have to read it, looking for mistakes. Yes - you really do. I know, you've read it so often your eyes bleed at the first sentence, but this is the last chance to find typos. (Someone suggested reading it backwards - which worked for me. I meant I didn't skip bits because I knew them too well.)

And then the marketing. Sorry, I have no advice on marketing. Even the thought of marketing can bring on a fit of the vapours. If anyone wants to chip in with marketing - or any other thoughts on your self-publishing experience - then please do. Maybe someone will have found it easy?


  1. I believe anyone who wants a quality product needs to invest in some outside talent. For example, I definitely needed a professional designer for the book interior. However, you still need to look over that person's shoulder. I checked every line of the book and found plenty of glitches (ranging from weird symbols that slipped in, all the way to a blank page) that would have gone through without my involvment.

    Wish I could add something of substance regarding the promotion side. I've been as active as I know how to be but see no clear correlation between that and sales. I keep reminding myself it's a marathon and not a sprint.

  2. Marketing is still a relative unknown to do all the self-promotion, getting yourself 'out there' and all for a small movement in sales. I think Twitter, Facebook, Blogging etc do help, which you already know! Without seeing you commenting on someone else's blog post and then following you on Twitter I wouldn't have known about your book, and I'd have missed out on a wonderful read!
    But I have no real idea about marketing outside of the writing community (where we're all preaching to the converted!). I'm planning to put a Book Trailer on You Tube at some point, thankfully I have a techie daughter!
    It's a hard slog being self-pubbed, but rewarding whenever someone appreciates your work!

  3. Steve - I agree. Recognise what you can't do, and get help with it. But there are things you can learn - I knew I could learn the technical stuff, if I persisted. But would never have the skill to design a cover. And I still think a copy editor is essential.

    And I'm glad I've not the only one who throws up her hands in dismay at the prospect of marketing!