We are mid-way through the working week! Time for a guest post. This week’s guest is the lovely Nicolette Stephens who is talking to us about self-publishing. So whether you are heading for the Self-Publishing path or you’re still unsure, check out the advice below.
You’ve finally finished your novel, now what?
The path from writing to publishing is a long one, but it doesn’t need to be difficult. Over the last couple of years, I’ve worked with a great bunch of South African authors on a project that has taught me so much about the process of self-publishing.
Chasing Dreams Publishing has released two Jozi Flash anthologies, and the third is due for publication in January 2019.
Here are some tips and tricks gathered from my experiences:
The Editing Phase
One of the most important things you need to do with your writing is to send it out for feedback. Beta-readers are your best friend, and so are editors.
Let friends and family read your work, but be sure to send it to strangers as well. They will offer constructive criticism more readily than the people closest to you.
Make Conservative Changes
Conservative changes are those that have been suggested by the majority of your readers and your editor. If you’re self-publishing, and you’ve hired an editor, remember that you have the ultimate say over the story you want to tell.
So don’t feel obliged to make changes just because they were suggested. The only essential changes are those made to spelling and grammar, and even the latter can be questioned if it relates to writing style or character dialogue.
Get More Feedback
Once you’ve made the changes, and if your timeline permits, get more feedback on the edits. Return to the original betas, but find fresh eyes as well.
Timeline for Editing: 3 to 6 months.
The Design Phase
Although there are some amazing free programmes out there for designing book covers, I really wouldn’t recommend skimping on this aspect. As you can see below, I designed the Jozi Flash 2016 cover myself.
I was on a tight budget, it was a last-minute project, and I thought it would be a once-off. When I decided to do a second anthology in 2017, I knew it needed to be better. The artist I hired for it was amazing, and the cover is a million times more polished than if I’d attempted it myself.
The cover is the very first thing readers will see, so hire someone whose work you love, and don’t be afraid to ask them for changes if you’re not happy with the initial design. That’s what you’re paying them for.
Formatting for print and ebooks are two very different things. Creating a PDF from a Word document is fairly straight-forward, but saving that document in a Mobi or ePUB format is going to leave you with random spacing, widows and orphans, and more issues than you could ever dream of.
Calibre is a great programme for ebook formatting, but it takes some time to learn to use, and some basic knowledge of coding is required. I’d recommend taking that time to learn it, but that may just be because I’m a control freak and like to do things myself. If you’re not, budget to hire a professional.
As a reader, there’s nothing more frustrating than reading a book that’s poorly formatted.
Timeline for Design: 1 to 3 months.
The Marketing Phase
Writing to “Market”
The greatest thing about self-publishing is that you’re not limited to the constraints that traditional publishers stick to. They know what makes them money from readers, and they stick to the tried and tested formulae.
The freedom in self-publishing is that you can push the boundaries of the so-called market. There are limits to this – there’re only so many readers who will accept reading a book that jumps between 20 character POVs for example.
But you have the ability to experiment and play with ideas that challenge the status quo, and that’s exciting!
Social Media is your friend
This is a big one. As writers, we tend to gravitate away from social media, but it’s become an amazing tool to find readers and create your own market. Be careful of the way you use it though.
If you’re just starting out, choose your favourite platform, and develop that first. Then expand. Blog tours, Twitter and Facebook are some of the best ways to spread the word about your writing.
One of the best ways to promote your book is through a blog tour. This is an online “tour” that can range from 1 day to a few weeks, with dozens of different bloggers participating and promoting your book.
Make sure you have the time available to spread the word on social media about the posts. Better yet, hire a professional to host the blog tour on your behalf. If you have a blog, take part in tours! It drives traffic to your site and forges connections with other authors and bloggers.
Timeline for Marketing: From start to infinity. You’ll never stop marketing your book.
One final note I’d like to mention is that self-publishing doesn’t need to break the bank. There are a lot of things you can do yourself, but the two things you shouldn’t hold back on, are cover design and editing.
The first is the initial impact of the book; the second is what leaves your readers wanting more. Figure out how much you have available to spend, and allocate it accordingly. And if you need a little extra time to put it together, don’t feel pressured into getting it out sooner rather than later.
Rather spend the time to make your novel one that wows readers on all levels, than just publishing for the sake of saying you did it.
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About Nicolette Stephens
Dreams and storytelling have always been a part of my life, and as a writer, I know the pitfalls involved in trying to publish.
This led to the creation of Chasing Dreams Publishing, where I aim to help other writers share their stories.
There is nothing more exciting than seeing a story unfold on the page, and even more so when it gets published!
After years of working in the corporate world, I decided it was time to strike out and fulfil my dreams of writing full time.
On a daily basis, I’m inspired by people who chase their dreams (whether or not they’re related to writing), and this inspiration translates to my stories, workshops and writing groups.
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Big thanks to Nicky for being a guest and sharing her advice on my blog. Do check out her links and if you have any questions for her, please leave them in the comments below.
I’ll be back tomorrow with another Blogger Series post. See you then 😀