So You’ve Decided to Self-Publish Your Novel? Now What?

Many authors and freelance writers are taking the decision to self-publish, and as a result, self-publishing has become a boom industry, with authors across a multitude of genres and industries publishing their works directly to Amazon, Lulu.com and a variety of other publishing channels.

The traditional publishing industry was up in arms about the form in the beginning, and self-publishing’s legitimacy was rightly called into question. But there have now been many examples of authors who have made a success out of self-publishing, and as long as the quality is there, you can too.

Here are some statistics that recently appeared in Publishers Weekly, that were pulled from The Author Earnings Report, which is compiled by Hugh Howey – one of the most popular advocates of self-publishing and a success story in his own right – and features a quarterly update of author earnings across 120,000 genre titles in traditional and self-publishing platforms:

  • The Big Five traditional publishers now account for only 16% of the e-books on Amazon’s bestseller lists.
  • DRM (digital rights management) “harms e-book sales at any price point.”
  • Self-published books now represent 31% of e-book sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store.
  • Indie authors are earning nearly 40% of the e-book dollars going to authors.
  • Self-published authors are “dominating traditionally published authors” in sci-fi/fantasy, mystery/thriller, and romance genres but — and here is the surprise — they are also taking “significant market share in all genres.”

Great news for authors who don’t want to shop their manuscript around to agents and publishers, wasting months and even years of legwork, right? Yes, but that doesn’t mean that you should take short cuts in order to get your novels and eBooks out into the marketplace without ticking all the boxes that a traditionally published novel would have to. Here are a few of those boxes for you:

Professional Editing

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

One of the reasons that there was stigma towards the self-publishing boom originally was that people were releasing novels into the world that were either poorly edited or simply thrown to the wolves without the TLC that a good novel needs.

Ask any successful author what you need to be a good writer, and before they talk about talent and luck, they will almost certainly say “a good editor”. It is too easy for writers to take a look at their work and become blinded by ego and passion, therefore publishing their novels too early, without the much-needed second pair of eyes.

Self-publishing authors should seek out a professional editor to vet your manuscript and point out inconsistencies, overwriting, poor character development and the merits of the work. If a professional editor who has no emotional commitment to you is singing your praises and delivering constructive criticism about your work, you know you’re on the right track.

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Professional Proofreading

There are professional editors out there who will also provide proofreading services later on down the road, when you’re ready to publish yet need that final check over to ensure that all the spelling and grammar, formatting and sentence structures are all on point. These are almost as important as editors, and for the same reason: A second pair of eyes on your manuscript is essential. Authors will always miss something about their own work, and professional proofreaders are trained to look for these errors in manuscripts.

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Book Cover

The cliché is true: People judge a book by its cover. Whether we like to admit it or not, the vast majority of people will have their heads turned by something attractive before they think about the beauty within. Anybody who tells you otherwise is trying to impress their boyfriend or girlfriend who might be within earshot.

Book sexism is everywhere, and is the reason that it is worth shelling out for a professional book cover that sets the tone for your novel and becomes part of what makes it sell. If you’re writing a romantic comedy that is fun, modern and a bit raunchy, your cover should reflect that. The same goes for any genre: Take a look through the Amazon bestsellers for each genre and you’ll see a trend in covers that capture the audience’s expectations of the genre.

Take a look at the pic below. This is what comes up when you conduct a Google Images search for “Romantic comedy book covers”. There pattern is there: Bright colours, big text. Fun and vibrant:

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Book Marketing

The importance of marketing cannot be understated, and although it makes some people roll their eyes and consider a Bill Hicks-style rant about the form, it is worth stating that marketing is no longer a dirty word designed to sell people crap they don’t need. With the aid of social media, marketing is now a cool way to find an audience and put your personality across. The selling part is just a bonus, or at least it should be.

Self-publishing authors who detest the likes of Twitter and Facebook like a sickness aren’t going to be lectured into using these marketing forms by me. There are enough examples of authors and eBook creators who have sold hundreds of thousands of copies without them. But they shouldn’t rule it out, and should shop around for any publishing services that might take care of some of the marketing for you. Take a look at Book Baby’s Book Promo offer as an example of a superb service that will do a lot of the leg work for you.

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A Budget

You didn’t think that self-publishing was going to be free, did you? In order to get the best book covers, pro-editors and proofreaders, and to be able to put some cash behind the advertising and marketing of your novel once it’s published, you’re going to need deep pockets. That isn’t to say that you can’t get some incredible services at a reasonable price, but if you have the funds to hand, it is worth paying for the best.

You can easily spend between £200-1,000 ($337-1,685) on a book cover, and in some cases it can go a lot higher than that. If you have a graphic designer buddy, maybe you could ask them to help out. The same goes for proofreaders and editors. If you have the connections, you might be able to save yourself a great deal of cash. Just don’t cut corners and skimp on quality, because once your novel is out there, it can be a cruel marketplace if the standard of writing and production isn’t there.

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Do Your Research

With all these services, it is essential that you shop around and do your research. Use Google to conduct a search for book cover designers, proofreaders and editors, and make local searches via the search engines if you want direct contact with the people who are going to be working with you on your novel.

Social media is another way to conduct research. There are freelance editors, cover designers and marketers who give great rates and have all the skills and expertise you need. Type in the service you need into the Twitter or Facebook search box and see what comes up. You won’t believe the number of people and services there are out there if you are prepared to look.

Self-publishing is on the rise, and as long as authors are willing to put in the legwork and create professional standard books for the millions of readers out there in the world, there is no reason why writers shouldn’t go it alone. It isn’t an easy option, but it is legitimate, fun and a fast way of getting your work out to readers on your own terms. “Revolutionary” is a word that is almost as overused as “genius”, but it is fair to say that self-publishing fits the term nicely.

4 thoughts on “So You’ve Decided to Self-Publish Your Novel? Now What?

  1. Victoria Jones says:

    Daley,

    Thank you for this valuable information. I am in the beginning stages of self-publishing my first memoir/devotional book. I am finding that it is important to have a good editor to assist you with your writings because you cannot see everything. For me, I am personally not good with the grammar aspect, but fortunately I found an Editor/Author who will eventually assist me in this process. There is so much to learn and do, how did you accomplish this when you first self-published? My writings are a combination of poems, essays, and quotes. If you have a combination of writings, how did you decide which ones would be the best to use? Thank you for any wisdom or advice you can offer another writer starting out in this area.

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    • Daley James Francis says:

      Hi Victoria, thanks for your comments! The editor and the book cover are the two biggest points for me. If you want to be a professional, you should hire professionals to make your work the best it can be! I’ve used two pro-editors and two pro-proofreaders for my debut novel, and they were invaluable. The same with my book cover. Professional all the way! Best of luck with your novel 🙂

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  2. Jackie Crawford says:

    Fantastic article! The opportunity to self-publish is one that is available to everyone, but I don’t think people really know how to go about it or what questions to ask. There is a very helpful book out there called “Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook” by Helen Sedwick. Her website, http://www.helensedwick.com has a lot of really great info along with more about her and the book. She a business lawyer AND she is also a self-published author; it’s definitely a book worth checking out for other self-publishers. Thanks again for the article, it’s pieces like this that help give people confidence in being able to publish on their own!

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