Everytime I meet someone I haven’t seen in a while, they ask me “what’s going on in your life?”, as is customary.
Lately, I reply: “nothing much, I finished writing my first novel.”
They go all: “wow! That’s great! Can I buy it?”
And then I start a whole litany of why the book, although finished, is not available yet.
Writing the book now seems to be the easy part (it wasn’t). Getting it to people is a whole other kettle of fish. If you don’t have a traditional book contract with a publishing house, you have to figure out your own distribution and marketing devices.
There are great books out there that focus solely on this topic: getting your book out as an independent author/publisher. I don’t like the term self-published so much, as it’s got a bit of a taint, making it feel like an amateurish egotrip of a book, when in reality you’ll see loads of great writers who are self-publishing. So, independent publishing. If you’re not a judgemental person, feel free to read self-published whenever I use the other term.
Anyway, I wrote the damn book. It’s been a long time coming and now I can finally say I did it. So why can’t I just upload it to Amazon KDP (they independent publishing platform) and start collecting the money people will want to shower me with for my incredibly awesome writing skills?
There are a number of things you need, before you upload it, so you don’t burn your chance to make an impression. Be it a book or a person, a first impression can be powerful, and I learned a bit from my previous experience publishing ebooks.
The Review Process
I think I am an excellent writer. Really, there’s no point pretending to be modest in this regard. I wouldn’t be writing if I didn’t think what I do is worth reading. May not be to someone’s taste, may not be the best book yet, but it’s something I’m proud of, and you have to be proud of yourself and your craft. If you don’t love it, how can you ever convince anyone that it’s worth it?
But the one thing I don’t claim is to be perfect (see, I can also be modest!). I write and fall in love with specific sentences and chapters. I fall in love with dialogue and refuse to change it and think it is the single most amazing part of the book. If you’re that crazy in love with some words, you need an editor.
In the course of writing the book, you end up thinking it can do no wrong. It’s a baby. And you don’t see the flaws. Maybe with years and years of experience I’ll get to the point where I’m more detached and able to look at it objectively, but right now I love my book and I wouldn’t change a thing. That makes it hard to see when there’s a sentence that is convoluted, or a situation that doesn’t really add up. Enter the editor, someone who’s in charge of bringing you down to Earth and making you realize there are things to fix. There’s always something to fix.
After that, there’s a need for a proofreader. You could be your own proofreader, but from experience, I can tell it’s a terrible idea. You know the sentences so well you end up speed reading it even if you don’t mean to. You’ll skip over typos without thinking twice. A fresh pair of eyes is the best bet here.
You don’t judge a book by its cover? Maybe you try not to, but just like packaging on a product, a good cover helps you make a decision. An indie author doesn’t get the support of a publishing house, with cover artists that will work on your book and bring you a semi-finished product. You need to make it happen on your own. This is equally a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because you get to decide what’s gonna happen on your cover. And it’s a curse because you get to decide what’s gonna happen on your cover.
Seems like fun and all, but this is the business card of your book and, ultimately, it’s your public face. The book represents you and it can be maddening to try and do something that’s interesting, enticing, different, but not confusing and overwhelming for the reader. It feels awesome at first, but it turns into frustrating very quickly.
That’s why I decided to ask a real designer to make mine. I couldn’t trust myself to make a decent cover, after my two short stories collections. Both were made by me, to the extent of my abilities, and using my total lack of visual talent.
If you’re an unknown, like I am, and will be fighting against thousands of titles on Amazon and other ebook stores, you need to stand out, and you need to be instantly recognizable by your audience. There’s no point making a super sober and discreet book cover if you’re writing children’s books, for example. And I could not reach this balance, I needed someone to help me get my book looking the best it could. After all, I want to sell it. It’s not just vanity, this is my income now.
Thankfully, distribution has been taken care of by online sellers and ebook readers, so we can skip this boring part. But marketing is essential. If no one knows your book is available, how will they buy it?
This part is a work in progress. I am still studying exactly what needs to be done so that I can get the right (mostly free) publicity for my book, and how I can make readers aware of it. Right now, I’m glad I haven’t finished the review and design steps. It gives me more time to work out the marketing plan.
So, maybe, in the near future I’ll just print cards with a link to this post and give it to people who ask me when is the book available.