It’s been a long time coming. Book three is nearing its time for publication. Obviously the biggest part of getting a book published is writing it. But after that, there are still more things to get in line before you hold your final product up in victorious pride for your achievement. After publishing my first two novels, the process is getting better. Below are ten of the often unanticipated steps that must be taken before you self-publish your book.
1. Tweak What You Have Written
For many successful writers, the key is in the re-write. As I move along, I will often change significant parts of my novel to something I believe works better. Rarely do any of my chapters get away from some sort of re-write or tweak. That is on purpose. As the story progresses, plot-lines get more complex, characters become more defined, and the resolution can seem downright impossible. So we go back and fix continuity errors, clarify missing information germane to the story, develop our characters better. Your first write is not the masterpiece you think it is. You’ve written a novel over the span of a year. Great! Major parts of it are more like brain dumps of ideas hobbled into a partially coherent jumble of story lines. Trust me, I know. That is where the refiner’s touch is needed. We need to have the courage to look back over our masterpiece and slash, hack, and unfold concepts and character arcs until it flows like a seamless fabric. Having beta readers is a great advantage for this.
Often we get emotionally tied up with our work. This is our baby in a sense. We gave birth to it over several months. We want to think it is perfect. However, it is only the first step to producing a work that will be appreciated by others. If we really want to be the best author we can, we will need to invite feedback (even constructive criticism), change what doesn’t work, and strive to make it better.
2. Hire a Professional Editor
Having a professional editor is expensive . But it is necessary if you want to write a quality book. You may have made an A in English grammar in high school. That is not real preparation compared to the rigorous correcting a trained editor will provide. Sure, you could make sure there are no grammatical errors and your sentences are technically correct. However, a trained editor can make your words shine. They can find better ways to word things so your story pops in a linguistic way.
One thing you may wish to keep in mind, there are two types of editors. There are copy-editors that clean up your wording and grammar to make sure everything flows well. Then there are the content-editors. These tend to be the ones our creative energies are naturally at odds with. Their job is to change things around so the story is excellent, and fits within a good reader demographic.
You may end up wanting to employ one of each to make sure your work is amazing. Fortunately, an inexpensive workaround for content editors is to find an engaged group of beta-readers who will give you feedback. This will put more work on your tweaking, but it’ll be worth it.
3. Conceptualize Cover Design
Once your manuscript is in the hands of the editor, then you’ll want to turn your attention to what your cover will look like. People do judge books by their cover. If it doesn’t look good, they won’t give it a second glance. In today’s market, you are going to have about 8 seconds to catch someone’s attention. I’ve noticed many fantasy novels have trended toward sex women on the cover showing some bit of cleavage or mid-drift. It makes sense. It’s an easy sell. They’re appealing to the baser senses of their demographic.
If you are not an artist and don’t have the programs or skills to do photo editing, you may want to hire a graphic design artist for the cover. Come up with an idea you’re considering, tell them, and let them go to work. You can have them check in regularly with their progress and help direct what you want it to look like. I follow the Tim Ferriss podcast. He often advertises 99 designs. You pay to have your work represented. Their community will compete for the contract. You pick the one you like the best and they get the commission. Another thing you can do is hire out the cover design through your createspace account. This will also cost money.
4. Determine Specs of Cover Size
Whether you are designing your own cover or you’re having someone else do it, you will need the exact specifications to make the cover. Createspace gives very detailed guidelines for what you need. You have to account for bleed over spacing, spine width (based on a calculation of page thickness x page #). You will also want to have the words on the back cover written. If you plan to use an portrait, you’ll need to accommodate space for that as well as a space for them to put the bar code. This part of the process requires a great deal of attention to detail.
5. Get ISBN #
If you want to have distribution and have your book legally published, you need an ISBN #. Some vanity publishers include it in their price. Others charge a fee for it. Createspace offers it for free when you register your book. It’ll need to be included with the bar code (usually provided by them), and it will need to be entered on one of the beginning inner pages.
6. Format Manuscript to Right Size
When you write your novel in Microsoft Word, or Mac Pages, the default format it 8 1/2″ X 11″. Almost no book on any shelf (except large print and coffee table books) are that size. They are normally 6″X9″ or 5″X8″. That means you’ll need to go into your word processor and change the paper size to match the size you select for printing. Then you’ll need to go through and match up the chapters, set the location of page numbers, put your name and title on the corresponding pages, set a table of contents (optional), put a title page, put a copyright page, maybe put in an “about the author page” at the end. The formatting has to be exact if you want your book to look professional and compete with traditionally published books.
7. Upload Manuscript & Cover in Proper Format
Once you’re done with formatting, you need to upload your manuscript & Cover to the place you are publishing. It must be in the formatted paper size and fit all the criteria. I use createspace, so they usually take about 24hrs to examine the format and let me know if there are any points that fall outside the necessary parameters. If there are errors, then I go back to my work, fix them, and upload again. This can happen several times, especially if you don’t really understand formatting and what they are asking.
8. Register as E-books
Once you are formatted, then you have to determine if you wish to make your book available in e-book formats. You’ll need to format it for each venue: Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Etc. Each one will need their own ISBN and be uploaded to the appropriate site. My first novel is registered for the Kindle and for the Nook. My second one is only for Kindle, as it seems the Nook is slowly going the way of the Dodo.
9. Proof Copies
Once the self-publishing algorithms determine your manuscript and cover fit within their parameters, there is still another step in the process: order a proof copy. This allows you to look at a physical print. You can see if the cover came out properly, whether the title and description on the back are centered. Does it look like a professional style book? Then look at the pages on the inside. Do they look professional and consistent? Does chapter 5 start half way down a page? If you find errors, then it is time to go back to your file, make the necessary corrections, then upload it again and repeat the process. (Note: I upload in PDF format now, as it doesn’t alter the page layout like Word does).
10. Spread The Word
The book is ready. The cover looks professional. The interior looks great! You’ve tweaked and professionally edited the manuscript. You’ve formatted it. Your beta readers love it. Time to start marketing. If you market through online venues, you’ll need some capital to get it started. You can also go to local bookstores to see if they will sell on consignment, they take a cut. Tell your friends and anyone who would be interested. Look for local book fairs coming up and see about renting a spot (bring some copies to sell).
So once you have written your book, there is more to the process. I hope you have found this post helpful in knowing what to expect. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.
At the TM Williams Author site, it is my goal to expand your mind with the power of words.