A few tips on self-publishing the Great American novel

“One of the results of the explosion of technology has been a delightful democratization of the publishing industry. People are now able to publish successfully without having anything to do with traditional publishers. This new breed of authors has opened up the gates of possibility. It is the dawning of the age of the Citizen Author!”

~ Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry
in “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published”

A friend asked me about the experience of getting published, and I thought I would share my advice here for the benefit of other hopeful authors.

I believe the book publishing industry is in the midst of a sea change much like the one that enveloped the music industry in the past decade. The gate keepers are losing their grip on the Pearly Gates of Publishing Paradise.

Landing an agent and a juicy book advance are still appealing goals for any writer, but they are not the only avenue to getting published if you have perseverance, a willingness to learn new things and an ability to promote yourself and your work.

Tip No. 1: Seek feedback and polish.

Edit yourself. Then ask critical but kind friends to edit you. And then hire an editor for your work. Every writer — even the best ones — can use a good editor. It’s an investment you can’t afford to skip.

When I finally finished my manuscript last summer, I created a 58-page book proposal (an epic feat as almost as involved as writing the manuscript) and sent it off to 20 agents.

I got 13 polite rejections. Only one offered any useful feedback.

This could mean my writing is so bad, it’s not even worth commenting on. Or it could mean it didn’t fit into a neat little mass-marketable box. I believe it’s the latter.

Tip No. 2: Research. But not forever.

After 13 rejections, I could have continued to polish and submit my manuscript. Or I could have overhauled it completely. Follow your gut. If you believe in your work, you’ll know what to do.

I chose to research my self-publishing options. Many exist. And a lot of companies will help you jump through the hoops (and there are many). I probably spent too much time surveying the field, but it’s worth your time to find news stories, read the blogs of self-published authors and check out the websites of the various platforms.

At some point, you must simply jump in and start somewhere. The worst mistake you can make in self-publishing is not following Tip No. 1. If you have a clean manuscript, you’ll be steps ahead by the time you choose and use a platform.

Tip No. 3: Forge ahead and be willing to learn as you go.

I decided to go with Amazon which allowed me to publish a paperback with CreateSpace and an e-book on Kindle. Formatting your book is no easy feat, even if you’re a wiz at Word and an expert with a design program (I used QuarkXpress). Proof, proof and proof again. You will get sick of seeing your writing but don’t neglect the details. If at first you create a mess, you can always revise or unpublish.

Because the cover of a book is so important in attracting readers (as important or perhaps more important than a title), I invested in an artist to create something special for my work. Play to your strengths — you might be able to paint, draw or photograph a great image, but it might be worth hiring an expert to design the words.

Once I figured out Amazon, I realized I could tackle Barnes & Noble’s Nook (PubIt!) and Kobo (for iPad). I’ll write more about each of these options in future posts.

It gets exciting at this point, but don’t announce anything too early.

Tip No. 4: Promote like a madwoman (or madman).

You have more options here than you did in choosing publishing outlets. Make a plan and work a little every day. Figure out who might be interested in your work, and play to them where they’re at (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, libraries, newspapers). Again, play to your strengths. If you hate Facebook, it’s a waste of time to create a fan page you never seem to update. If you can’t write a press release, don’t bother with newspapers.

Keep your expectations in check. As it’s said, 90 percent of success is showing up. The other 10 percent is luck. Good luck.

Monica Lee is author — and self-publisher — of “The Percussionist’s Wife: A Memoir of Sex, Crime & Betrayal,” available in paperback from Amazon for $16.95 or you’ll find it on KindleNook and Kobo (for iPad) for $9.95. Kindle versions of “The Percussionist’s Wife” are also available in English from Amazon in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and India. The hardcover is available from Lulu for $32.95.


One thought on “A few tips on self-publishing the Great American novel

  1. Pingback: Week in Review – 9th September | Barefoot Basics

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