5 Steps to Self-Publishing Crime Fiction

By the end of 2020, indies made 85% more sales on the self-publishing platform PublishDrive. Despite the ongoing uncertainties in our economic landscape, self-publishing as an industry has performed well. For that, we can thank the drastic shift to online modes like ebooks and subscription reading apps.

Whether you're an aspiring or veteran crime fiction writer, self-publishing is the way to go. I go over 5 steps to get that done.

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Step 1: Writing Crime Fiction

The first step involves, yes, writing your crime fiction story. If this is your first attempt, here are the most common tropes that make up this enthralling genre:

  • Suspense that arises from conflict. Decide on the main issue of your story. Maybe that’s solving a murder mystery or going against an international mafia.
  • Use of red herrings. These are clues that intentionally mislead your characters and readers.
  • Sense of urgency. Crime fiction tends to incorporate a lot of action. Choose a timeframe that creates high stress and heart rates.
  • Blurred lines. This genre is not particularly for the faint of heart. And motivations are not clear cut (just like the cold reality of life). Perhaps your lead character is feeling compromised morally, legally, or even romantically.

Here’s an informative video on story structure:

If you haven’t already, plunge yourself into some of the world’s favorite crime fiction books. Fully understand the ins and outs of your chosen genre:

  • The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn
  • Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (any of her books!)

If this is your first time writing a book, ever, recommended go-to's:

Step 2: Editing Your Manuscript

After completing your first draft, go back in and edit the heck out of your work. I suggest finding a professional editor. Costs start at $10 per 1,000 words. You can find plenty of editors on marketplaces like Upwork.

Try to assemble a group of critique or beta readers too. Ask your network for feedback. Or post in online forums like Reddit's Writers group to swap critiques. You want your manuscript to be close to perfect before packaging it for the public.

Step 3: Designing Book Cover

This is the fun part. When self-publishing, there are two main book files to have ready: 1) your main manuscript and 2) your book cover. I strongly encourage you to hire a professional for your cover design. (Even better if your person is well-versed in crime fiction.)

If you're under a tight budget and there's no other option but for you to take care of the design, alright. A few pointers:

  • Read up on book cover requirements and best practices.
  • Try Canva, a free and easy-to-use tool for amateur designers.
  • Look at bestselling titles under your genre. Any similarities? ↓

Step 4: Formatting Your Book

There are three main types of book formats in self-publishing: ebook, audiobook, and print-on-demand. (To reach every audience you can, consider providing your book in all three formats.)

An ebook is your electronic book for reading devices like the Kindle or Nook. To prep your ebook, it takes formatting your manuscript in a docx file then converting it to an epub or mobi file. You can outsource this part to a professional or DIY. See this guide on formatting your ebook. Here’s a free ebook converter.

Audiobooks are the fastest-growing segment in publishing right now. To develop your own, you'd need to hire a narrator who can record themself reading your book out loud. Divide mp3 files by chapters. Read more about creating an audiobook.

With print-on-demand (POD), you no longer have to order a ton of print books in advance. Your book gets printed and shipped only when a customer places an order. This is a popular choice for self-publishers where the printing and shipping logistics are taken care of by many POD integrated stores like Amazon and Ingram. Read about POD requirements.

Step 5: Uploading to a Self-Publishing Platform

We're already on the last step! The best thing about self-publishing is how quick and easy it is to get published and start selling. With traditional publishers, it can take up to years to land a contract. On our side, the entire self-publishing process can be accomplished in a matter of months.

With your formatted book files plus cover design, all that's left is to upload them. But where? With many options to choose from, here are the best self-publishing companies to know:

Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing): This channel is a must for indies. Amazon is the leader of digital books, capturing 60% of the online book market. However, the KDP store requires you to sell exclusively to them for the first 90 days. That means missing out on the other 40% of the market. (You can get past this by self-publishing on a platform like PublishDrive. I share more below.)

Barnes & Noble: The U.S. loves Barnes & Noble. And it’s fairly straightforward to self-publish on their website and Nook store. That’s a reach of millions of readers. Unlike Amazon, exclusivity is not required.

Apple Books: With the reading app pre-installed on every Apple device, you don’t want to miss out on getting listed here. In 2020 (despite the pandemic), published authors selling on Apple made 29% more sales via PublishDrive.

🌟 PublishDrive: As the all-in-one self-publishing platform, you can reach thousands of stores like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books. Unlike other places, you keep 100% of the royalties you earn with stores. Skip all the exclusivity constraints with an aggregator like PublishDrive. 

Any crime fiction publishers?

If you’rethinking about pitching to crime novel publishers, here’s a list for that. The traditional route does take some patience where it can take two years or more to publish – just know that.

Crime fiction publishers accepting submissions:

What Next?

Now you know what self-publishing crime fiction requires. Pretty breezy, right? As an authorpreneur, your job doesn't stop after hitting publish. To build a sustainable gig, it takes continuous efforts to maximize your reach with a foolproof distribution and marketing strategy. Check out this guide to marketing self-published books.

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