Tips for Writers Thinking of Self-Publishing – Guest Post

We’ve decided to go the traditional route with our novel and are currently querying agents (as you may have guessed from our trip to the Writer’s Digest conference in New York a few weeks ago), but we know that many of you are considering the self-published or indie publishing route. So when self-published author Darlene Jones asked if she could do a guest post for us here at Girls With Pens, we knew exactly what we would ask. Could she give some practical starter tips on things that writers considering self-publishing need to consider? Take it away Darlene . . .

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Darlene Jones self-publishingI did all the things writers are supposed to do: joined a writers’ guild, attended workshops, participated in a critique group, had a few short pieces published, started a blog, sent out queries to agents, received rejections, and built up a thick skin.

At the Willamette Writers’ Conference (August 2011), my writing partner and I heard much rumbling about self-publishing. We agonized during the drive home. Self-publish? Oh, but the stigma. Our pitches were successful, so should we wait to hear from those agents and then decide? What to do? What to do?

I got a two paragraph response from agent number one—to say “No.” I opened the next email, which was from my writing buddy. She’d received a rejection from the same agent. Two different genres and two very different writing styles. Both professionally copy edited. The rejections were identical except for our names.

That was it. Self-publishing here I come.

Tips from my experience:

Make the decision to self-publish.

This is the biggest step, and you must be committed to going that route. Self-publishing is as hard or harder than going the traditional route.

Set yourself up publicly.

I already had a blog and was on Facebook. I joined Twitter and Goodreads since they were the social media sites most often mentioned in my research as good for author support. I also built a website using Webstarts, who I’d worked with before. Be sure to choose a user-friendly platform if you want to be able to revise it as you go without a web guy.

Research.

I spent over a month trolling the Internet, reading everything I could find on self-publishing. John Locke’s “How To” was a must and reading that really inspired me to “go for it.” Many of the sites I visited were ones recommended on Twitter, so follow other self-published authors there.

Make lists.

Make a list of websites to go back to when your book launches—sites where you can ask for reviews or interviews. I’m still adding to that list as I find sites. I also have a long list of marketing ideas and a long list of personal contacts to announce my launch to.

Hire professionals to help you.

I already mentioned I’d had my work professionally copy edited, but there are other professionals you’ll need to hire.

Unless you are a total computer whiz, I think the headache of formatting isn’t worth it. Concentrate your energy on writing and marketing.

You must also have your cover done professionally. Look at the covers of other self-published authors to find a good graphic designer. I was reading an author site and liked his covers. I contacted the artist he listed, and we emailed back and forth discussing possibilities. The deal was cemented for me when she refused a deposit, saying, “You’ve worked hard on your book. You should see my work and decide if you like it before we talk money.” I also wanted to work with her because she could do the formatting as well as the cover

Decide where you’ll publish your book.

By now, with all your research, you should have some idea of who you want to publish with. I went with Createspace for the print version, and with Amazon Kindle and Smashwords for all other formats. I chose these largely based on advice from speakers at the Willamette conference. All three have been very good to work with. The instructions on their sites are easy to follow, and their support people were prompt in answering any questions I did have.

Be patient. This all takes time.

I launched my book a couple months ago. I’ve had wonderful support from family and friends. I’m doing guest blogs like this one, and I have people lined up for reviews. I believe my book deserves readers and hope that I can market well enough to attract those readers. But I don’t expect overnight success. Gaining readers takes time.

Self-publishing tipsWant to know more about Darlene? You can find her on her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter, and you can check out her book at Amazon or Smashwords.

How many of you are considering self-publishing and how many of you want to traditionally publish? What’s your number one reason for your choice?

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8 comments on “Tips for Writers Thinking of Self-Publishing – Guest Post

  1. I am in the process of doing exactly what Darlene has done. The only reason mine is not up there yet is becouse I am waiting on my copyright. Thank you for this post. It really helped me alot. I would love to see a post, with a list of marketing tips and ideas. 🙂

  2. The only thing I’d add to this is to start asking for and getting reviews, way before the actual publication date. Many review sites have waiting lists, but often give preferences to ‘preview’ material. If it’s listed as a ‘forthcoming’ title, well, that increases the hype a little.

  3. Pingback: Tips for Writers Thinking of Self-Publishing – Guest Post | | The Writing WenchThe Writing Wench

  4. Pingback: C. Roth Hobson » Man am I Glad I’ve Never Gone to a Writer’s Conference

  5. I’ve had multiple times I thought my book was complete. Walked away for six months and came back to realize how bad a draft I had. As a debut novelist, I’m petrified of putting something out there that isn’t ready to see the light of day. Because my own instincts have been wrong (a case of not knowing what I didn’t know), I am hesitant to go the self publishing route. How did you know your manuscript was ready to be published?

    • Just as a thought, I would say that this is a spot where critique partners and beta readers can play a really important role. While they aren’t foolproof, I think it is helpful to get a range of opinions from others in terms of “readability” and whatnot.

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