Ten years ago I dreamed of being published the traditional way, vanity publishing aside, it was the only option available. With the ink still wet on my contract with a London literary agent, I was full of optimism.
The Flower Seller came close to securing a deal with a couple of publishers but ultimately I lost the slot to other more established authors with proven track records or the money men shook their heads. Other near misses with future novels followed and then the world started to change.
Last Christmas I read “Self-Printed The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing” by Catherine Ryan Howard http://catherineryanhoward.com/mybooks/self-printed/ and decided to leap into the unknown. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly. Burning bridges is never pleasant but in my heart of hearts I knew it was the right decision for me. How much longer did I wait for a trad deal? What if it never came? Better to regret the things that I have done than to regret the things I never had the courage to try. And so I began my journey through the dark forest of self-publishing. It was an unfamiliar and scary place full of traps for the unwary.
I was plunged into a whirlwind of new activity. There were so many new terms to learn, so many new skills to acquire, so much knowledge to soak up and try to retain.
Anyone familiar with Grand Designs on TV will know the format where the people building their houses set out their timescale and proposed cost of the project. I am probably not alone in smirking and thinking “Yeah it’ll take twice as long and cost twice as much…” And yet I made the same mistake with my own project.
What have I discovered on the way? That the self-publishing community is a friendly and encouraging group of people. I have found the Alliance of Independent Authors http://allianceindependentauthors.org/ phenomenally supportive and informative. The blogs and articles so generously written by Alli’s contributors have been invaluable to a newbie like me. As has the sage advice given by amongst others:
Catherine Ryan Howard http://catherineryanhoward.com/self-printing-posts/
David Gaughran https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/
Joel Friedlander http://www.thebookdesigner.com/
Kristen Lamb https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/
and Joanna Penn http://www.thecreativepenn.com/
They have all provided candles to light my journey and I am grateful for their generosity of spirit in sharing their knowledge. I hope in some small way the advice I give below will in turn help someone new who is at the start of their own journey. Paying it forward as the saying goes.
So what advice would I pass on to the next person taking the leap?
- Make your book the best version of the book it can be and don’t give in to the temptation to rush to publication too early. Hire an editor and a proof reader.
- Take time and trouble over your cover. Never underestimate the power of that thumbnail sized jpeg on the Kindle screen.
- Make a note of useful information in an orderly fashion. I became swamped by so much valid advice that it became too hard to take in. Learn from my mistakes – have a system.
4. You don’t have to learn everything at once and the world won’t end if you make a mistake.
5. Plan, plan and plan some more. Countries have been invaded with less planning than this project will take! Give yourself plenty of time. Everything always takes longer than you think. The book is the lynchpin but there are so many other facets of self-publishing, any publishing really, that need your attention, not least the building of a social media platform.
6. There is never enough time. I recall reading that Joanna Penn gave up watching television – I understand why!
7. Have patience with yourself. It’s better to do one thing well than ten badly but don’t be so hidebound by perfection that you never complete anything.
8. Believe in yourself and your ability to see the project through to completion. There have been many times when I have likened the business of self-publishing to fighting the Hydra. As soon as I cut off one head two more spring up in its place. It sometimes feels like a battle I cannot win and yet here I am one year on still going, still fighting.
9. There is never enough time. Did I mention that?!
10. Try to enjoy and celebrate the successes you will have along the way. The first time you see your completed cover is such a thrill. The first time someone tells you your book is on pre-order in Sweden as happened to me this week! You need the little pick-me-ups to keep you going.
My journey through the dark forest of self-publishing continues. My novel, The Flower Seller, will be published in June 2016. It’s gestation period has been long and often arduous. Today’s blog is the first in my Flower Seller Thursday collection leading up to publication on Thursday 2nd June #FlowerSellerThursday
It would be nice to say that in June I will arrive at my destination but does a writer ever do that? There is always the next project and the next. Write, publish, repeat is a mantra I have become familiar with on my first year’s adventures in self-publishing. Here’s to the second year and many more to come.
If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out on the journey to self-publication, what would it be?