I read a blog recently that brought up some great points about self-publishing. Their primary advice was for authors to get an editor. I agree with everything they said, but I wanted to add a few things of my own.
First of all, I hate the term, “aspiring author”. If you’re writing… you’re a writer. If you’ve published a book, you’re an author.
First tip: Write something people want to read. Know your target audience. I feel close to my target audience because I read the kind of books I write. I love the paranormal/dark fantasy romance. I read that genre myself. I’ll tell you a secret, when I first decided to write a romance novel, I spent some time on the Amazon romance forums. I didn’t say much, but I did listen to what they said, what they liked and didn’t like, etc.
Important advice here: Never, ever tell anyone you’re an author unless you’re on an MOA (Meet Our Authors) thread. But for learning about what readers of your genre like and don’t like, the reader threads on Amazon are great.
Second tip: Get people to read your story and give you feedback. These are called beta readers and they are worth their weight in gold. Tell them you want to know what they think. Were there places in the story where they were confused? Listen to them and do what you have to do to fix the problems they had while staying true to your story. Yeah, it’s a balancing act.
Important advice: Don’t just take your best friend’s word for it that the story is “good”. In high school band, when we were playing in front of judges, my old band director used to say… “Remember folks, this audience isn’t just our families, they are real musicians, so play like a real musician.” My daddy, who couldn’t carry a tune in a syrup bucket, always assured me that I sounded great. I always smiled and appreciated that thought, but… the band director sometimes said otherwise. I listened to my daddy with my heart, while I listened to my band director with my ‘musician’ mind.
Third tip: Understand character and story arcs. Premise, theme, etc. Brand new author like I was? Buy books on how to write books. If you can find other authors to meet with, get in there and discuss these things. Fill out character sheets and know your characters like your children because they are. Learn about POV, what it means and how to use it. Make a real effort to know and understand your craft. There are tons of books out there and classes on how to write and what all this terminology means.
Hint: everyone seems to use their very own terminology… so don’t hesitate to ask what they mean by that word.
Important advice: Know what you want the reader to take away from your story. Have a premise and a plot. Would you read your own story and enjoy it?
Fourth tip: Know your genre.
Mysteries are written differently from romance stories which are written differently from horror stories. Lots of books on the differences in genre also. Do your potential readers like ebooks? Then you better publish an ebook. Do they prefer hard copies? Then you better have hard copies available.
Note: romance readers like ebooks. That way we don’t have to explain to our grandchildren why that mostly naked man is on the cover.
Pay an editor and story doctor to go through your book. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Get several beta readers to read the story and pay attention to their feedback. Get someone to proofread for you. If you have to re-write the story 37 times… do it.
Important advice: Yes, you need to pay someone to go through your story. If you can, pay more than one someone. Make the book as professional as you can.
Love your story. Write about something you love. If you truly enjoy what you’re writing, it will show through.
You’re going to read it until you’re seeing it in your sleep. Craft every sentence and paragraph. You will go through your story many times. Don’t be an “it will do” author.
Important advice: When someone gives you some feedback, respect it. You may not agree, but they are probably telling you the truth. You can always choose to ignore their advice or parts of it.
Use something to track word usage. Scrivener does it for you, but there are other programs available. People will get tired of the same word or phrase used on every page and the writing comes across as amateur.
Remember, this is not a high school paper, but rather a labor of love.
Cover art – If your book is about a beautiful girl in the desert, don’t have a picture of a jungle on the cover. Make the cover represent the story. Otherwise people will think you tricked them.
Pay attention to your book blurb! I hate to read a book blurb and still have no idea what the story is about. The whole reason I read the book blurb is to decide if I am interested in the story. Don’t try to cheat or trick potential readers with the cover or the blurb. I am a booklover. To this day, I cannot pass the section of paperbacks in the grocery store or pharmacy without stopping to oogle them. I’ve always decided which book I was going to buy by reading the blurb. The exception being a handful of authors whose books I buy without even reading the blurb. I know they write good stories and the kind I like. Now I have a kindle and seldom buy the paperbacks anymore, but I am still unable to pass up that section of any store. I become very irritated when I read a blurb and still have no idea what the book is about. It is no trouble for me to pass on those ‘mystery’ books.
Note: I think nothing breeds ill will like a misleading book blurb. I bought a book recently, it sounded like the very best kind of action/adventure. It read more like a cook book. No, I didn’t finish it and I feel like the author cheated me either intentionally or otherwise. I won’t buy another one of his books.
Accept that everyone in the world is not going to like your story. What people like is purely subjective. Target your marketing to the people you think will enjoy the kind of story you’ve written.
Self-publishing is not “easy”, nor is it “free”. Be prepared to pay editors, cover artists, etc.
Please, please, have at least one editor go through your story. Oh yeah… already said that. Let me say it again, have at least one editor who knows what they’re doing go through your story.
Self-published means no deadline except what you set. Why would you rush to publish a story with problems? Strive to put out the very best story you can.
There is an audience for pretty much everything. Remember, good stories, well told … never go out of style. Keep writing and best of luck.