Something I desperately wish I’d had when I started my writing/publishing journey a few years ago was someone who knew a thing or two about self-publishing. Hell, maybe even some wisdom on drafting a manuscript, too. I was green as a pea, had no idea what I was doing, and made a billion mistakes in the process that could have been prevented had someone shown me the ropes. That’s what this post is going to be about. I’m hoping to be that version of a writing Yoda for any of you aspiring authors out there who come across my blog.
First of all, my biggest mistake when I started was writing the beginning of my story on an iPad. I didn’t have an actual computer at the time, and I eventually had to use my sister’s until I bought one for myself. On top of that, I had had no notes written down about the story, and I didn’t have great forethought for developing the characters. I just kind of went with the vision I had in my head, and that led me to a TON of editing in the future. And the book I’m talking about is actually Jump Start My Heart. Had I formed some type of plan beforehand, I could have been saved from a giant load of work I had to do afterwards. So this is lesson number 1: Put every detail of the story – meaning character names, back stories, descriptions, and places you want them to go – down in a notebook before you start. And when you have everything planned out, THEN you go and grab that laptop.
The second mistake I made was using the wrong software program. I was using a PC which had Microsoft Works on it, and it was only after I looked into publishing on Amazon (which is the site I use for publishing all my books) that I saw you need to have Microsoft Word in order to create a Table of Contents for Kindle formatting. It was a hard, $80 pill to swallow at the time, but before, when I had been trying to move my manuscript over to another free program that supposedly offered the same amenities as Word, I lost my book.
Yes. It actually FREAKING DISAPPEARED IN FRONT OF MY EYES.
I had to call my aunt and ask her to call my computer savvy cousin while my sister and father tried to find the missing document. Cut to me having a panic attack on my porch, using a brown paper bag and everything, we were eventually able to get the thing back before my sister’s computer deleted it permanently. So, you see how important this is. Had I done more research, or hell, just sucked it up and bought the stupid program, I wouldn’t have had all of that chaos. And also, if you start your manuscript on the program you plan to save it on, it’s a whole lot easier. Because as I discovered, bad things happen when you transfer documents. (side note: always make backup copies of your book, no matter at what stage you’re in, on a CD as well as a USB drive. Trust me, having thirteen backups and looking paranoid to your friends is better than having a panic attack and almost passing out lol). So tip number 2: Do your research, and if you’re really serious about self-publishing, look into buying the right formatting programs to fit the digital retailer you want to sell on.
My last and biggest mistake was publishing a book I wasn’t a thousand percent happy with. Don’t get me wrong. I love the story I created, but looking back, there were so many editing and grammatical errors that I missed that it made me sick to think I didn’t put out my best work the first time. The number one way to have your book look professional is to have a clean and easy to read layout. Meaning you read over that thing a hundred times if it means you find every little error. And along the way you’ll find little things to add to a scene or a character, making it a touch more interesting and layered, and you’ll find that not only the structure/layout was improved, but so was the story itself. So, for my third and final tip, I give you this: Don’t put out a story with a ton of flaws just because you want to call yourself an author. That was where I went wrong and I ended up having to re-edit THREE TIMES because of it. You make sure that that story is everything you want it to be before you let the world have a chance at it. The quality of not only the story, but the way you present it, represents you as an author. You want the readers to come back for your other works because they saw the care and detail you put into the first one they read. It can make what was once a three star review possibly turn into a five, just by taking the time to make sure your book is clean, organized, and edited to perfection. And better yet, if you can afford it, have someone edit it for you. Or have a friend read the book before you publish it and give you feedback. It thickens your skin to criticism and gives you a great perspective from an outside source.
(TIPS THAT DIDN’T MAKE MY TOP 3)
Book covers: There are hundreds of graphic designers online who can offer you packages to make you a digital book cover for your novel. And if you’re like me and have a background in design, then you can choose to make your own. Amazon.com is nice enough on their KDP website (featured here) to give you the dimensions they require before you start the cover. I also like Pixabay for stock/royalty free images, and PicMonkey for free text designs when I create my own book covers. Also, the best covers are the ones that best represent the book. It can be a single element from the story that you incorporate into the cover, and it’ll be fine. The simpler the design, the better. Your eye is naturally drawn towards an image you can clearly see rather than something busy and loaded with colors.
Managing your copyrights: Now this is one I had a hard time getting information on, but it’s worth it in the end, because this is arguably what I was most worried about when I published my first book. You don’t want anybody stealing your book and claiming it’s theirs. Especially if you have zero documentation showing that it is indeed yours. To prevent this, you go to the Copyright office and register your book. Now I know that sounds daunting, but it’s really quite simple. For a sum that depends on the technical aspects of the book, you can go to the official website (linked here) and register your book. That means that if anyone ever claims ownership of your work, you can wave a government official certificate in their face and scream “Oh, hell no you don’t!”
So…after that long winded post, I’m hoping that you all have a better idea of what you’re getting into. And if this didn’t sway your decision to become a self-published writer, then you have the stamina it takes to be one. But seriously, though. I didn’t write this post to scare you off. I just wanted to give you the information I wish I’d had when I first started. It truly is an awesome, frustrating, wonderful, horrible job, being a writer. But if you love writing a good story, and have the ability to do it, it really is a rewarding job; especially when you get to the end of your book and get to write those two coveted words: The End. You have the guts to do something only a small portion of the population is capable of, and in return, you make a lot of peoples’ days brighter because of it.
I thank you all for reading this, and if any of you have questions for me that I didn’t already cover, then by all means leave a comment down below and I’ll be sure to give you a response.