It’s an unfortunate thing that there’s a stigma associated with self-publishing. I don’t think most people look at a self-employed plumber and say, with a shake of their heads, “Gosh. I guess he must not be good enough to cut it at a big plumbing company.” Most of us, I think, are happy to support these brave, self-employed souls and others like them because a) they give you great service/products, b) they give you great value, and c) they’re living the American dream, man!!!!
Okay. So what about self-published authors?
We’re definitely living the American dream.
Great quality products? Not so much, sometimes.
Great value? Well, if you’ve just shelled out $14.95 for a book riddled with typos and grammar that would make a seven-year-old schoolboy blush, that’s not value. Not even remotely.
If you are an author and are ready to take full control of your writing career by taking the self-publishing plunge, do us all a favor — your fellow authors and readers alike — and make sure you work through the following list before you bless the world with your work.
Run spellcheck. (No, this is not a joke.)
I recently had the privilege of judging for a self-published writer’s contest, and I was absolutely stunned by what I saw. Not only had some of these authors shelled out for the entry fee, but they actually have their work out there. In the marketplace. Circulating in the sea of commerce…or at least floating with the aid of buoys. Please, for the love of all that is holy, run spellcheck on your book before you waste your time and money and your readers’ time and money.
Get an editor. (This isn’t a joke either.)
If you are well-versed in things grammatical and know your stuff, at least get a friend to beta-read for you. It’s really invaluable. You just can’t catch every inconsistency or flub. A literary (or at least literate) friend with a fresh pair of eyes will help you spot them.
If you aren’t well-versed in comma usage, or the use of capital letters, or when to use an exclamation point, then please (please) hire a professional editor to help you. I promise, it’s worth it. If you care about what you’re putting out there with your name on it, it’s worth it to make sure your product is top notch.
Editors can help you with content as well. Make sure you have someone who will tell you if your characters are flat, your plot redundant or boring, or your universe stale. Take your book to a critique group and ask them to help you improve your story. Be humble and accept criticism. It will make you a better writer and help you produce a better product for your customers (your readers).
Writing is a craft. It takes work. It takes practice. It requires study. Anyone can type words on paper; not everyone can write. If you want to be a writer, take some classes, belong to a writer’s group (even if it’s an online one), attend writers’ conferences, or just make a point to study your craft! Take your work seriously and readers will take you seriously.
Double-check your formatting (interior and exterior).
Make good use of your proof copy. Give it an honest read. Look for stuff like funky spacing, blank pages, or floating chapter glyphs that appear mysteriously in the middle of your text. Looking at the page — whether it’s on an e-reader or in hard copy — is part of the experience of reading. Give your reader text that’s easy on the eyes, and they will love you for it.
Similarly, have a cover that conveys your story. Covers sell books, so be sure you give yours the attention it deserves.
Have a marketing plan.
This would be necessary even if you scored a book contract from a publisher. You need to know how to get your book into the hands of your readers. Start contemplating venues for book signings early on in the process. Start tweeting. Get a Facebook page. Work on building a fan base. Think outside the box. Be creative!
Marketing, for many authors, is like Edward Rochester’s crazy first wife, locked away and never looked at or let out if it can be helped. Face the monster. It’s just part of the writing process.
Oh, I see.
You thought writing was an easy career. Effortless, as it were.
It’s not. It’s a lot of work. Beautifully rewarding work…but work.
Spellcheck and proofread your book.
Yes, I said that already. It’s that important.
Self-publishing and the ebook revolution are changing the face of publishing as we know it. Let’s follow the example of the savvy self-employed craftsman: put out a good quality product, make it a good value, and chase down that American dream!