Jennifer Jett Prezkop
Another year has come and gone, and my mostly finished manuscript is still sitting on my desktop. Working full time, juggling side projects and managing daily life have pushed writing down my priority list over the last 12 months. If you’re like me, 2017 represents the chance to change that. This year, I have my sights set on self-publishing, and having a plan to get me through the process will be key.
Below, I have shared the steps I have compiled for how to self-publish in the next 365 days. These are based on the input of published authors and experienced editors from a variety of genres. I encourage you to follow these steps or do some research to come up with your own—either way, make sure you have a plan in place so that self-publishing in 2017 is a goal met instead of another year lost.
1.) Finish your manuscript.
If your manuscript isn’t finished, you should be writing instead of worrying about what to do with an incomplete novel. If you’re struggling to get the manuscript finished, make it a point to sit down every day and write.
2.) Begin building your fan base.
Author Eric Vance Walton says it’s important to have an established fan base before your book comes out, and he recommends building a following by blogging and writing regularly on social media. Nina Mizner, who self-published several science fiction and romance novels, believes it’s never too soon to create your social media accounts. Gail Ingis, author of Indigo Sky, best connects with her fan base through weekly blog posts that share personal content.
3.) Polish your draft with edits and rewrites.
When you’ve finished your first draft, you’ll have to go back through the draft several times to cut unnecessary scenes and address problems like too much internal dialoging and telling where you should be showing. Award-winning author Eric Fritzius recommends reading the manuscript out loud, preferably from a printed page. “Nothing brings out errors better than seeing them on a printed piece of paper, and doubly so for hearing them come out of your own mouth.” This is not in lieu of hiring a professional editor (see step #7).
4.) Find beta readers.
Once you’ve polished your draft, pass the manuscript off to at least two beta readers who will provide honest, constructive feedback. If your mother or best friend is only going to tell you how amazing your novel is, don’t pick them for beta readers. Your best possible novel emerges only when people give you constructive criticism—and when you are willing to take it.
5.) Research self-publishing options so you can choose the medium that is right for you.
According to Sandi Rog, an award-winning author, ghost writer and editor, there are several options for indie authors, depending on the format they choose. For instance, Amazon provides Kindle Desktop Publishing for e-books and CreateSpace for print. Other options include Ingram Spark, Lightning Source, and Whitaker House. It’s important to research each company’s policies, costs, and offerings to protect your novel and yourself.
6.) Review the feedback from your beta readers.
Once you receive your beta readers’ feedback, review their comments and address their concerns. This will require another round of rewriting and editing on your part.
7.) Hire a professional editor.
“You could hire your high school English teacher or a college student to edit more cheaply, but they are probably not aware of the different style guides and which one is appropriate for your type of writing, nor may they be up to date on the latest conventions,” cautions Sandy Tritt, founder and CEO of Inspiration for Writers. “A professional editor knows exactly what to look for and how to correct it. Just remember: once something is in print, it’s forever. Make sure you have it perfect before publishing it.”
8.) Hire a cover designer.
“People say don’t judge a book by its cover, but people do, and it’s what will likely get your book into a reader’s hands,” says author Sandi Rog. The cover is the first sales pitch you give to readers and, for that reason, it needs to be the best possible.
9.) Do a final edit on the proof.
Before publishing, order a proof of your novel and perform one more edit. When you find errors in the proof—yes, WHEN—mark them with red ink and dog-ear the pages with corrections to be made. This ensures you won’t miss any final changes that need to be made. Remember: this is your last chance.
10.) Create your marketing plan.
Author web sites, blogs, social media accounts, newsletters, reviews, special promotions—there are dozens of ways to get your book’s name out to the masses. Do some research to determine which methods are best for your novel.