Last week, I answered some questions about how to get ready to release your book out into the wild. As I did, I realized it might be easier just to go through the process, pointing out things that work for me and things that don’t. Then I remembered this week was one of those weeks where time is in short supply. So I did what any procrastinator would do: I checked our archives to see what we have on the topic. Holy crap, even things written a year or so ago are out-of-date. So here’s the quick version. I’ll try to do a more in-depth over the course of the next week or so and put it up in the Road to Publication tab.
It’s that simple. Without a story, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a short story or full-length novel, you have to write. So put butt in chair and get to work. This is actually a good time. NaNoWriMo starts in a couple of weeks and that’s an excellent motivator.
It doesn’t matter how you write. You may be a plotter or a pantser. You may write before your morning coffee, during your lunch break or before bed. It doesn’t matter when or where. All that does is putting words down.
Second, finish what you write.
Yes, I know. I know. That seems obvious. But you would be surprised the number of folks who want to be writers–and those who are–who find reason after reason not to finish a project. The thing is, if you don’t finish, you have nothing to publish. So push through that middle of the story blech so many of us seem to suffer from when writing the first draft. Find whatever tools work for you: you don’t have to write your story in order. You can write the ending first or the middle. There is no one right way except for finishing.
Third, beta readers.
Some of you may have an alpha reader who sees your work before you finish. They are sort of your sounding board as you write. Beta readers,however, see the finished draft. They are the folks who will tell you if the story flow works. They will let you know if you left someone hanging off the cliff without resolution. Some will be your technical experts who will let you know if the science (or magic or whatever) of your book “works”. If you are lucky, you will have one who is very good at spotting spelling, grammar and punctuation errors.
Word of warning here. Many of those who claim to be the latter aren’t. You will need to have your own copies of Words in Print, Chicago Manual of Style, etc., to check what they say. Oh, and a good dictionary and thesaurus. Don’t take someone’s word for your grammar errors, etc., unless you know they understand what they’re talking about.
Also, when you ask for beta readers, if you do it via social media, expect a lot of folks to volunteer. Also expect that you won’t hear back from a number of them after you send out your mss. There are all sorts of reasons why and it doesn’t automatically mean they hated your book. So don’t go down that rabbit hole.
Once you get the comments back from your beta readers (and be sure you give them a deadline on when you need their input back. Also, if you are looking for a certain kind of feedback, let them know) go over what they said and input your edits. Here’s an important warning. Just because one beta reader says they don’t like something or something doesn’t work, don’t automatically change it. They might be right but they also might be wrong. Sarah taught me early on to follow the writing rule of three. If three people say basically the same thing, you need to consider it. But if it is only one person, unless it is something that falls into their area of expertise, look at the comment but do so with questions in mind. And don’t be afraid to ask them to explain in more detail why they said what they did.
Five, publication date.
No, we’re not to publishing yet. But, as you are finishing your edits and finalizing your cover, you need to consider when you are going to release your book–if you haven’t already. I try to go into a new project with a tentative publication date in mind. If you don’t already have a date, now is when you need to do so. There are several reasons for it. The first is so you can start doing regular promotion of your new work. You want to be able to tell folks when to look for your book. The second is if you want to take advantage of the pre-order option offered by Amazon.
Six, to offer pre-order or not.
One of the advantages to being part of the KDP Select program as an author is the ability to offer your new titles for pre-order. Titles can be listed up to three months in advance of their release date, iirc. You need a cover, title (duh, blurb, price, etc. In fact, you fill out everything you would normally for a book to be listed. The only difference is you do not have to upload your interior file–yet. Once you do all that and once it is approved, you are on a countdown to when you have to upload your final interior file. The deadline for that is approximately 3 days before release date. The nice thing is if you go to the book’s page on your dashboard, you will see the countdown and know exactly how long you have.
Why offering pre-orders is good is simple. You have an actual order page you can link to on social media, in blog posts, etc. That lets readers know your book really is coming and, if you’ve got a good cover and a good sounding blurb, leads to sales. This also lets you promote your book on certain promotional sites like Fussy Librarian, etc., if you are conducting a paid promotion campaign.
The downside is that if you blow your deadline, you will be prevented from taking advantage of the pre-order option for a year. All those pre-orders will be canceled and you will have to work hard to win them back. So you need to weigh the benefits with the possible negatives.
Seven, have a good cover.
Some authors have a cover before they finish writing the draft. Others wait until the book is finished to do a cover. Some make their own and others hire them done. Again, there is no right way to do it save one: your cover needs to signal genre (and sub-genre) and draw the eye. And, before someone says that isn’t important in this day and age of Amazon, it really is. Even when you look at an Amazon product page, the first thing that will draw your eye is the cover. If it doesn’t “read” genre or if it looks like I drew it (trust me, you don’t want me drawing anything), the reader will automatically have a negative impression. If you’re lucky, your blurb will be strong enough to overcome that impression, but do you want to run the risk?
Eight, put the story away for at least a week (preferably at least two) and come back with fresh eyes.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. You need a break from it so you can see what is actually on the page and not what you thought you put on the page.
Nine, decide where you are going to release your book.
This can be done anywhere along the process and goes hand-in-hand with pre-orders. Most of the self-publishing platforms only allow pre-orders if you are exclusive to that platform or if you go through a third party aggregator. The truth is, most Indies are exclusive to Amazon because it is the main platform for books today. However, it isn’t the only platform. You can release your work through B&N, Apple, Kobo and others. Each “store” has its own requirements (like Apple requires uploads to come from an Apple product using a certain OS or higher unless you work through a 3rd party like Draft2Digital).
If you go wide, you can do it yourself, assuming you have the right equipment, etc. Or you can go through a third party like Draft2Digital. The upside to using D2D or one of its competitors is you upload your book one time, price it, blurb it, choose where to release it and then they do all the rest. Of course, they charge a percentage of your royalties to do so. Because of that, you do need to make sure you understand their rates and their payment schedule. You also need to keep on top of what you are being paid and when because they are at the mercy of the stores reporting to them and sending them money.
Ten, final edits.
Before uploading your book to Amazon or wherever, go ahead and convert it to your favorite ebook file format. Then download it onto your Kindle or iPad or whatever. The reason I recommend this is so you can not only catch formatting problems you might not have seen in your doc file but, for whatever reason, a lot of grammar, punctuation and spelling errors seem to stand out in this format that might have been missed in the doc file.
Read it through. Highlight the errors or make note of them somehow. Then correct your doc file and repeat.
There is another reason for doing this. When you are ready to upload your file to Amazon or wherever, you can upload in various formate. But, if you upload in the non-native format, you are relying on that store to convert your manuscript. If you upload a MOBI or ePUB file to Amazon (or ePUB to the other stores), that conversion becomes much less intrusive and you run a lower risk of something going wrong.
Even then, before hitting the publish button, you need to download the “converted” file and look at it on either a dedicated e-reader or through the app. Do not rely on the emulator on the product page because that is not exactly how the book will look when it is purchased and downloaded.
Also, Amazon will create a list of possible misspellings as it converts your book (or prepares it for publication as they call it). Pay attention to this list. Often, the words aren’t really misspellings–this is especially true if you write science fiction or fantasy. But I have had it catch an occasional misspelling everyone who had had eyes on the manuscript missed.
Okay, that’s the very fast, down and dirty list of steps. Each step has its own steps. Let me know what you want more information on. You can get some basic information from the Road to Publication links but be aware much of that information is out-of-date now. We will be updating it was we get time.