It takes a village to raise a child. Similarly: writing a novel is never the work of one person only. We all know how every book ever published by traditional publishing houses has months of work behind it by editors of different responsibilities, designers, and illustrators. Additionally, publishers often have a dedicated team of marketers working on photo shoots and Facebook campaigns. But what are the options self-publishers face when deciding to publish a book? Do you have to do everything by yourself, or are there dedicated ebook publishing services helping you along the way? And the most important question of all: You wrote a book. What now? Read our article to learn the steps of the self-publishing journey. What are the necessary and recommended steps? How to make the most out of your publishing experience?
With more and more authors every day deciding to self-publish, a guide like this has become increasingly necessary. Please note that we’re only outlining the steps; for details, please check the recommended reading after each main chapter. If you are at the beginning of your self-publishing journey, come and join our Facebook group to exchange ideas and experiences.
If you are not yet sure whether self-publishing is the right fit for you or don’t know the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing, check this article.
(Article was updated on July 16, 2018.)
1. Write a book!
I assume that you have already written one. But if you still haven’t, what is stopping you? Beginners often struggle with self-doubt (doubting the originality of their ideas or their writing abilities), lack of perseverance or writing techniques. Sometimes you are just not sure whether your idea is worth exploring. Many writers keep drafts in the drawer for years and keep coming back to them. There is no easy way of writing a book: it is hard work, the first book can often take years – and a lot depends on your genre and experience. Nobody can write your book for you. (Well, we all know this is not true, but let’s leave ghost-writing out of the discussion for the moment.)
1. If you need help writing
For many aspiring writers, it is only a bit of nudging that’s missing. Although National Novel Writing Month only runs in November, their resources can be used every month. Additionally, NaNoWriMo is far from national: writers from all over the world join in for community support, pep talks and the chance of being traditionally published.
If writing 50,000 words a month is not your cup of tea, there are always free and paid webinars to sign up to. I have attended a writing school before, and I could certainly see why it works for some people. But I also saw that there is no such thing as the best writing school. When choosing a writing school or signing up for a webinar, one of the most important things to keep in mind is what is your goal. There are different courses for those who are struggling to give their ideas a form and to those who need some expert help with production and marketing.
Dave at the Kindlepreneur has a comparison of four popular writing schools. If you would like to have a taster session, Chandler Bolt has a short free course on how to write and publish a bestseller in 90 days (full disclosure: this is an affiliate link). He also has podcasts and a blog with some useful resources. As in all cases, it mostly depends on you and your personality what do you take home from a webinar like this: what counts is how you implement what you learn. If you are still struggling: go and get some inspiration and write that book! The world needs it.
2. If you need help writing
If are still writing, you need to get the best writing software available. But which is the best software and how to find it? Check the following article.
2. Get that book edited!
Once you have your first draft ready, you’ll have to finalize the content. Read your book, then read it again, and again. Before you pay for an editor or proofreader, please do your rounds of self-editing: you’ll spot more mistakes than you’d have first thought. It also helps if you find a ‘first reader’, a beta; please make sure that this person is not your mum.
1. Find a beta reader
A beta is somebody who offers to read your book free of charge and give you some extremely valuable feedback. A beta can also help with developmental editing, scrap useless storylines and become your best friend. Or your worst enemy. It is not easy to find a good beta; or a group of betas! Our advice is to start looking in the writing community, simply because writers read with a different set of eyes than most ‘normal’ readers and are more aware of common mistakes in your genre. Writers are also happy to help other writers – this is why I love this community!
Her main points are:
1) Do some reader profiling before you send your book to betas. You can’t just send your book to people and hope that they’ll like it. Think about who your ideal reader is (age, gender, interests, favorite writers) and look for betas in this group.
2) Create relationships. You can’t ask a complete stranger out of the blue to read your novel and analyze the mistakes. Establish a presence in the group your ideal betas usually hang out, follow them on social media and comment on their posts.
3) Offer to be a beta. This is just common sense: you can’t ask for something and offer nothing in return.
4) Be specific. What kind of feedback do you need? Do you have any specific questions you want to get answers to?
5) Do not rush them. It is possible that a beta will never get back to you: maybe they have never gotten around reading your book in the end, or they have read it but decided not to write anything. Do not pressure them, and never, ever post anything mean on social media. This is not a service you have paid for but a favor.
6) Accept criticism. Your betas are there to help you and improve your work. If you have received devastating criticism on your book, learn from it. I know from experience that it is very difficult to accept that your dear ‘baby book’ is far from perfect. But hey, don’t give up! Nobody starts out creating a masterpiece, but everyone can write one.
You can look for your beta in writing groups like Writers Helping Writers or at Goodreads. You can also join our new facebook group and look for a beta among PublishDrive authorpreneurs. Read more about beta readers in the following.
- What is a Beta Reader and How to Find One (Fanni Sütő – PublishDrive)
- How to Find a Beta Reader (Jane Friedman)
2. Find a proofreader or editor
Editors are responsible for turning your manuscript into a bestseller. They use a thick red pen (or rather the Track Changes feature in Word) to kill off all spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, streamline the sentences and find that word you were looking for but never found. A good editor is ruthless when it comes to inconsistencies in your terminology or style but respects your will as an author. Your neighbor who majored in English or your nephew who reads a lot are not necessarily good editors.
There are different depths an editor goes to for different prices. Usually proofreading is the cheapest, offering a very thorough reading for misspellings, striking grammar errors and unnaturally sounding sentences. Line-editing or copy-editing is deeper, the editor looks for stylistic errors, can reorganize sentence structures and can make suggestions within a paragraph. Developmental editing is usually the last stage: a developmental editor gives suggestions regarding the storyline and works closely with the author to create the final version of the story. Many authors decide to use both a line-editor and a proofreader for best results: four eyes see more than two. PublishDrive is offering editing services to authors, connecting them with great and experienced freelancers.
3. Cover design
You can find a professional cover designer or do it yourself. Don’t take this lightly: you only have a few seconds to grab somebody’s attention. Forget your elevator pitch: it is your cover that has to be good enough to make your possible reader stop scrolling and actually read your blurb. We mostly write about commissioning or creating a cover for your ebook, but the steps are similar if you are thinking about print distribution as well. Actually, good news: this is the last step before your book is ready for publishing.
- Create a Professional Looking Book Cover for Free (PublishDrive)
- How to Commission a Cover Design (Jericho Writers)
Your book deserves a beautiful layout; yes, even your ebook! Most ebook publishing services offer free ebook conversion: just upload your doc or docx. You can also format your ebook yourself. By doing so, you take total control over your layout.
- Prepare your Manuscript for Ebook Conversion (PublishDrive)
- I don’t have an ebook. What to do? (PublishDrive)
And it is time to finally send your book to the stores! Find a distributor you are able to trust. Depending on your needs, there can be multiple good options.
Sending your book to the stores does not mean that you can sit back and relax – sorry! To make sure that your hard work pays off, you have to market your book.
- How to Promote an Ebook – A Step-by-Step Guide (PublishDrive)
- The Secret of a Successful Book Launch (PublishDrive)
7. Learn and grow: The self-publishing journey never ends
There are many steps between a novice and a bestseller author. Join our Facebook group to get daily industry updates and exchange experiences with other authors. And, of course, discover this blog: we hope you’ll find something worth reading.
Want to know more? Join our exclusive free webinar in August!