Self-publishing - Oh, the horror!

October 31, 2012

Hello fellow Junkies,

For the people who read this blog, I assume you're fans. If not, you're just passing through which is okay, too. Whatever the reason for checking in to read this post, I'm glad you did. So, let's talk self-publishing ... (I'm totally hitting my head against the desk right now) Where to start with self-publishing. I guess the question to ask would be why did I do it?

Well for me, and like a lot of other authors I suppose, self-publishing was a way of getting my book out there. I worked for three and a half years on the first book and after crushing rejection after crushing rejection, I just couldn't take it anymore. Those frilly-worded rejection letters got damn depressing. Nobody was willing to take a chance on me. Was it because my work was terrible, or could it have been the query letter?

I followed all the rules with writing a query letter to an agent:
* Preparation;
* Formatting;
* The three paragraph rule (pretty much if you can't sell your book in 3 paragraphs, just give up);
* What to write, what not to write;

My favourite section was paragraph three--author bio (in particular write about your achievements/awards/previous publications) Yeah right! It's like trying to get a job without any relevant experience. It just ends up on top of the reject pile.

But still the rejection emails (and one letter) came rolling in. But believe it or not, it only made me more determined. If ever I felt like I should just throw my hands up into the air and give up, I would just look at a friend of mine (also a writer) who had given up with the first rejection. Yes! Rejection is crushing. Yes! You start to think that maybe you wasted a hell of a lot of time BUT I'm not in the habit of giving up if I really want to do something.

So when I stumbled upon amazon.com's amazing KDP program, there was suddenly light at the end of the tunnel. I had an outlet. I had a way to get Indi and Rhett's story out there. But don't be fooled into thinking that getting your lovely finished product up on the WWW was an easy task. After pouring your heart and soul into the story, after all the blood, sweat ... err, you get the idea. After all that, you still have to just sit on it. Let it simmer for a week or two. P.S. Hardest two weeks of my life! I'll tell you a secret, but this stays just between you and I. The temptation to change things in that two weeks is the reason Half Blood took three and a half years. There are eight, count 'em, EIGHT different versions of the book.

So you've waited your two weeks and you're ready to sit down and start the editing process. You read your story again. And again. And again. If you're really thorough, you'll get it printed out and go over it on paper. You'll find silly typos like 'his' instead of 'him' (guilty as charged) the tense problems which sounded fine while your fingers were flying over the keyboard, but are just plain ol' wrong when you're reading it back.

Once you think it's polished, you might go that one extra step before you get some trusted friends to look over your manuscript. You may want to consider paying a proofreader to go over it with a fine-toothed comb.

FACT: You can read and re-read your work, but you will always, ALWAYS miss things. (also guilty as charged).

A professional proofreader can set you back anywhere from between $200 AUD (bargain) to well over $500 AUD depending on the length of your manuscript, what you want done (straight proofread or an edit) and how tight your deadline is. The more you want done, the more it's going to cost you. Luckily with Half Blood, I had a friend give me mate's rates for the edit/proofread. It still cost $250, but it was worthwhile knowing that I hadn't left any his/hims in there.

After two weeks, I got Half Blood back from my proofreader friend who had gone to town all over my paper. I swear I never want to see the track changes features ever again in my life (also not going to happen) <sigh> So, instead of accepting all (which would have been the smart thing) I went through the entire thing picking a choosing what I wanted to keep or reject. As an author, it's your prerogative to do that. Some things that were picked up and circled for potential change were just plain stupid. (choice of vocabulary namely). As an author, you are free to stipulate any spelling variations you'd like to keep. I think I drove my girl mad with my American spelling even though I'm Aussie. There's just something about spelling arse as ass that somehow makes it look way better.

Okay, so your story looks swank. It's got swagger. Now it's time to see if everyone else thinks it's as awesome as you do. Choose 2-3 trusted friends who enjoy reading in the genre you've written in. If you ask a drama reader to reader a horror, that's not going to work (but you already knew that didn't you?) I also found that it's a good idea to choose people who you know will read it right away, not those friends who are like "Oh., I've been so busy lately," or "I completely forgot!" Those kinds of friends suck for critical readers. Choose them wisely and make sure they're going to be honest with you, too!

Having a critical reader for your work is opening yourself up for criticism. Criticism is good! Open up and embrace it. Learn from it. Grow with it. If they tell you your characters are unbelievable, or hard to connect with, it's not a personal shot at you. It's the truth. So do something about it now while you still can. I've got two amazing people who read over my work, but it took me a long time to find them and nobody else can have them! <grins>

Okay, so your baby has been read and re-read, it's been preened and fluffed by a proofreader, it's been looked over carefully by your critical readers. Now your heart is in your throat and hammering hard. You've clicked into the amazon KDP site and asked all these questions about rights and royalties and hooks. You've been asked to select a cover for your book. If you don't have one, the good thing is you can use one of theirs. Granted it's not all blinged-up or anything, it's a cover all the same and you can change it later once you get your own cover organised. If you like, I can write another blog about selecting cover art later. Just put it in the comments!

So you've uploaded your manuscript, and made sure the formatting is correct (amazon has an awesome free download to lead you through this), decided on a price and whether you want it be a worldwide availability or restricted just to certain countries, and you scroll down to the bottom, click the 'I agree to these terms' box and click the publish button. You sit back in your chair panting like you've just run a marathon, wondering frantically what you've just done.

Congratulations, you've done it. You've self-published! It's takes up to 48-hours to go live, and once it does you'll like you have OCD the amount of times you check your dashboard to see if anyone has bought any copies yet. But let me tell you, seeing those numbers there rising tightens something in your chest. People are actually reading your stuff.

And isn't that exactly what you wanted to happen in the first place?

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