The one thing you are the least prepared to do as an aspiring/unpublished/soon-to-be self-published writer is to spend money you probably don't even have. And once you have that settled, the second thing is to figure out how to spend it wisely.
There is something a bit scary about handling your finances when it comes to your work. You have no certainty that all your efforts will eventually pay off and that someday - hopefully sooner than later - you will have a return on your investment or at least, have your money back.
While there are many things you will be able to do - or at least learn to do - on your own, you will still have to invest a little just to make sure that your work looks professional and thus gives your book its best shot.
- Editing & Proofreading
This step is probably the most expensive one - depending on how much you intend to spend on marketing. I had a hard time finding a company or even a professional that was affordable, professional, and that wouldn't need six months to do it.
I ended up working with Scribendi and I went for the Manuscript Editing service which overall, I was pretty happy with. They charge you based on the length of your manuscript and I had mine back a week later. They also provide you with honest feedback; you can actually choose how honest you want them to be I guess to avoid a bruised ego but I would advise you against it. There's no point in spending that much money then and the good thing about having a complete stranger reading your work is for honest feedback.
Finally, keep in mind that people will always be harder on self-publishing authors and that you are both the writer and the publisher here. You have to take care of everything and the devil is in the details. Poor editing and proofreading could lead to bad reviews and end up being a disaster for future sales as other potential readers may rely on those reviews.
- Book Cover
How many of you picked a book simply because the cover caught your attention? If you think about it, there are only so many reasons why people end up buying a book; you're a big fan of the author or you've heard about the story and you know you'll get the book no matter what it looks like. In that case, you're in for the content of the book. But what if you're an unknown author? Just like when you meet someone you've never seen before, first impressions matter.
I think it is even harder for self-published author as people still tend to see us as the cheaper version of an author and that despite all the success stories that have emerged in the recent years (Tracey Garvis Graves, Amanda Hocking or even Lisa Genova to name a few). Readers and critics will probably be harsher on you and just like poor editing, an unprofessional-looking cover can seriously damage your book.
So my advice is that unless you are a professional or have some serious illustrating skills, you should spend some money on having your cover designed. I was absolutely terrified by some of the quotes I got back at first but after some research, I came across a great, affordable book designer and I ended up being really happy with the results.
There is a lot to cover about picking a book designer and choosing your cover, so I have written more about the process in the next article (Step #4).
Basically, copyrighting your work means that your creation is legally protected, it is your own and that if someone tries to steal some - or all of it - then you'll actually have power to take action against them.
Registering your work is actually much easier and quicker than I thought. For some reasons, I had this idea that it would take a ton of paperwork and just as many stamps but it really didn't. I even uploaded my book instead of mailing it. It will cost you $35, might save you a lot of trouble one day, and you can even do it all online at www.copyright.gov.
First of all, I am - and will probably always be - a poor social media user which is a huge drawback when you have to promote your work. It's not that I don't like it, it's just that I have this weird love&hate relationship with it. I like the idea that social media like Facebook or Twitter is to make friends and not a marketplace. Obviously I am not stupid and I know this is the way most brands do their business now but I'm not necessarily comfortable with the concept. Yet, I had to give in and figured I would give it a try. Needless to say that it didn't work out as I had no idea how to engage with people I don't know and in all honesty, I'd rather be writing stories. I started looking for ways to gain more followers but the answers just put me off some more.
Secondly, I had no idea where to start. There are so many companies and individuals ready to help you market your book, promising sales boosts and other instant miracles that it is hard to tell one scam from another. I did pay for some promotion on social media but I never even made my money back. I also sent copies of my book to influencers but I had the hardest time getting reviews which is what really matters.
And last but not least, the task was just overwhelming. I kept spending money but nothing was really paying off so I decided to do things differently - my way actually - and while this might remind you of a Frank Sinatra's song, this is when I finally started to make wiser choices with my marketing strategy.
There are more in-depth information about my own marketing plan detailed in this article.
Although self-publishing can look like a daunting task, there still is one great thing about it and that is that you will find out that you possess more skills and discipline than you thought.
And that my friend, is free of charge.