Self-publishing guide to becoming an author

So you got the itch, huh? You think you have what it takes to put out the next best selling novel or script. The writing world is a lot like playing the lottery. Each time you buy a ticket, there is hope that this time you will be the number called – instant success. Writing a book is quite the same, many will try, fewer will succeed. Don’t get discouraged because the odds of your instant fame are not in your favor. This does not mean there aren’t some really amazing books out there from unknown authors. Trust me, there are countless amazing books out there. If you have the urge to write a story, your story should be out there for someone to read.

Let’s assume you have written your book. You’ve edited what you can. Now, you are ready to get your book out there for your new found success to come your way. The market is changing as technology allows for novice writers to produce, market, and sell their own work in the growing field of self-publishing. You can wait around to locate the perfect literary agent or you can skip ahead to the self-publishing and get your work out there.

EDITING – Editing your work before publishing. You can hire an editor – many desire a minimum of $0.02 per word. With most books word count coming in around 60,000, that brings your total cost to about $1,200. If you don’t have that kind of doe hanging around, you will need to lean on your English degreed friends/family to donate their time to your work. If you don’t have that kind of connections, there are new sites similar to grammarly.com These are more affordable ways for you to edit your work without having to pay per word or bother your friends/family.

 

PHOTOS – Author photos are another step in the process. People like to see who the authors of their favorite books are. Here you can easily throw out some money by paying a professional photographer for a session. Professional photographers are paid to make you look the best you can. They come with professional editing software and a keen sense of capturing your best angle. A session with a good photographer can run you around $300 on average. If you don’t have that kind of funds available, you can get with friends and family members to set up photograph sessions with them for next to nothing. Friends/Family don’t have time, then you are going to be doing it on your own. This means you need to understand the basics of your phone’s ability to capture and edit your own photos. Be sure to have a solid background. Professional attire comes out the best, but casual is cool too. It all depends on your goal of presenting yourself as an author. Again, this is your world, do what you want.

COVER DESIGN – Here you can hire a professional artist to draw a book cover. Or you can google search an artist. There are other options that come with the packages on self-publishing sites too. It all matters how deep your pockets are. If money isn’t a problem, you won’t have a hard time finding a person or company to create you a beautiful cover of your novel. If you prefer to save money, you can use the free cover designs the publishing site has to offer. This is all about how you want your book to look to your audience.

PRICING – Many self-publishing platforms have a price guide to help you figure out the appropriate price to attach to your book. Just because you want a million dollars per book does not mean you will find a market for it. It is best to follow the guidelines to generate your prices to keep yourself inside the market. Don’t want to go out too cheaply nor do you want to overprice your work. Neither side is an exact science. The great thing is many of these platforms have done the market research in your field to help you gage your prices appropriately. But like anything in this market, you don’t have to follow any rule other than the minimum amount required by your platform.

AUTHOR NAME – What is your author name going to be? Some authors use their own name. While others use a pen name. It really does not matter what you do, just as long as you stick with it.  Take JK Rowling, best known for her harry potter series, who also writes under the assumed name Robert Galbraith in her crime novels. Rowling is not the only author to do this, Stephen King writes under Richard Bachman. And the list continues on.  This is not to say, don’t do it. This is to say, it is okay play with your pen name in the literary world. You can create and drop names as you see fit. In the world of make belief, you are the creator of your own reality. You will need to decide before you publish, however.

WEBSITE – Next, you will need a website. You can choose to go as high end as your bank account will allow you. There are awesome readymade sites like Wix, Squarespace, and/or GoDaddy. These hosting sites offer a premium already built site that is easy to navigate for the novice author. They do come with a monthly or annual service charge. And, if that is not in your budget, sites like WordPress, blogger, and Facebook offer you a way to host your author’s site for free. Most authors have a facebook page, WordPress, and a site. That does not have to be the way you go right off the bat. You can ease yourself into the online world. You don’t need a master’s degree in I.T. to do this, either.

SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE- After you have created your online landing page, picked your author’s name, edited your work,  and got your image perfected, you are ready to self-publish your book. Self-publishing has a couple different platforms for you to pick from. You can go the Amazon Kindle Direct way. Or check out Createspace. There are many more self-publishing platforms for you to pick from. Each offer you are little something different by way of getting your work published. You may want to spend time doing research to land on the best platform for your style of the book. Take your time here, because once you publish on a site, that site has first rights to your work. Something you may not fully understand as a novice. You will come to better understand the fine print on these sites as you begin to gain in popularity.  When in doubt, google it. You need to care more about the fine print of these sites than you do about getting your work out quickly. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. I cannot stress it enough.

MARKETING – Marketing your book is another aspect of the self-publishing world that is up to you. You can hire a professional marketing team to help you launch your book. You can plan readings and schedule book signings across the country. You can do this on a small scale by using sites like, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Linkedin, youtube, etc. You can use social media to launch your book promotion and gain fans. This is a much more affordable method for promoting your book rather than hiring a professional marketing company and dishing out the heavy price tags. There is also taking out ad space on google and facebook. These two companies are known for their reaching markets. You will pay for it, but it may be something you want to invest in. If you do this more as a hobby, you may want to use what is available as offered at the beginning of this paragraph. The direction you go in is really up to you in the self-publishing market. You can also google some information on the various platforms for marketing and select the ones that make the most sense to you.

LITERARY AGENTS – at this stage in your writing career, your concern should not be on hiring an agent for anything. Since you opted to go the self-publishing route, you have the double duty of doing all the things an agent or agency offers. Since you are relatively unknown in the literary world, it is a good option to have self-published. This helps you to learn the world of publishing at a slower pace. Perhaps after this book, you do seek out an agent for your next book or series. It is a good rule for locating an agent by looking at the acknowledgment page inside your favorite author’s book. It is often there where they thank their literary agents. Understand many agents have strict rules on submitting new works. You will want to follow their instructions. You can also find an agent by googling. Again, because you self-published the agent may not be interested in this book but it does help you provide an example of your literary talent. If this is a dream of yours, don’t stop because you read in this article a roadblock. Do whatever you feel is necessary to reach your goals.

Ugly aspect of putting your work out:

LAWSUITS – Yes, you can be sued for writing about a person. You can be tangled up in a lawsuit whether you are a successful author or a struggling writer in the literary world. That is why it is HIGHLY advised for you to stay away from writing about people you know.  You are going to have characters in a story unless you write about houses or places in a non-fictional manner. It is not a problem to make a character similar to someone you know. But, you have to think what a judge would believe if a suite were to be filed.

As a writer, you know, people are way more boring as characters than they believe themselves to be. In fact, the average character is usually built from the combination of ten people rather than solely off one single person. That being said, if you do base your character on a person, you need to worry about having that person’s written approval before you publish a book. Trust me, if a person says they give you permission, then your book becomes the best seller, you open yourself to a lawsuit from that same person. And, without a written consent form, you have nothing to provide the conversation happened where you received approval. It is best to CYA (Cover Your Ass).

Let’s say you don’t get their approval. You have a longtime buddy, Jason Waxler, who is 6’0 tall, green eyes, sandy blonde hair, and a guy’s guy personality. Your character is named Jason. That alone does not make Jason the real person have a lawsuit against you. What makes Jason’s case is when you make the character named Jason, 6’0 tall, green eyes, sandy hair, and a guy’s guy personality.  A judge will review Jason’s argument based on the information you provided in your novel of your character Jason. It is then that the judge may rule in Jason’s favor. Now, Jason may not win a monetary value, but he can win in stopping your book from being published. Plus, the legal fees that are going to come with the lawsuit – it is just not worth it. DON’T USE REAL PEOPLE IN YOUR STORIES WITHOUT CONSENT, PERIOD.

INTERNET TROLLS – They are out there. Don’t think for a second they are not going to attack you because you are new to the world of writing. They will. With the way many bookselling platforms work, readers have the ability to comment on your work. A good rule of thumb is to NOT look at the comments. They are only going to offend you. Many people read books for the titles, cover design, and information provided on the back of the cover. They do not read books based on the comments. Think about how you pick a book, it rarely has to do with the comments left by another reader. And, trust me, they are going to get nasty.  Some people leave awesome comments that build you up as a reader. You may read from a stranger it was the best story they have ever read. At the same time, you may read from a stranger they stopped halfway in because it was not the kind of book they liked. That’s the gamble we take as authors. DON’T READ THE COMMENTS is a good rule of thumb to have.

STALKERS – these people exist. They don’t always exist in the fictional way our minds would like to portray them. They aren’t always creepy men looking to take out a weak female. It is men and women who equally get stalked by men and women. Sometimes it is jealousy based. Other times it is a mental illness. Other times it is an obsession. There are many reasons a person becomes a stalker. The problem is with putting yourself out on any public form opens yourself up to becoming a victim of a form of stalking. Your best way to protect yourself is recognizing the signs before it is too late. Keep your literary life separate from your real life, if you can. Don’t launch sites where you provide your residential address and times when you will be home/away from home. You don’t need to give every aspect of your life online. You can keep some things close to your chest. Even this is not foolproof, just be careful – stalkers are real and really scary too. The police can only do so much to protect you. Known your rights and stay smart. People do die from stalkers – you are not invisible.

REJECTION – Not every story written is a good one. The odds are you will write twenty books before becoming a household name. That means, your book numero uno is nineteen more books away from you becoming a known author. That is okay. You write for the love of the story, right? If you cannot handle rejection, you probably should not publish your book. It is going to happen. Your book is not writing for everyone. There are favors of books. Yours will find its place in the literary world. Grow some thick skin and get your stuff out there.

After you have done all the above, you are officially an author. Amazing right? You did it. Give yourself a pat on the back. You went from having an idea to seeing it through. Good job! Writing a book is simple, publishing one separates the children from the adults. Good luck on your adventure. Remember to enjoy the ride. And, welcome!

 

 

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