Self-publishing has come a long way in the last few years and offers a great alternative for those of us that can’t seem to make our manuscript fit into one of the boxes created by big New York publishers or even smaller digital publishers. Our story may be too cross-genre, too short, or too edgy to be taken on by a literary agent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it should sit on your shelf collecting dust. We live in a time of varying tastes and just as many options for each of those tastes that the likelihood of your story not having an audience is almost implausible. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to craft your story and hire professionals to help get you there, but it does mean that if you can’t seem to get anyone to open the traditional publishing gates for you, consider publishing your manuscript yourself.
I’ve self-published four books and have learned something new every time. Some of my biggest lessons: Research what similar books look like (sadly, thinking out-of-the-box doesn’t usually equate to more sales), hire a cover artist (I know you think you know what looks best…but somebody probably knows better), whatever you’re thinking of for your marketing budget anticipate spending at least twice that amount (in effort and money), and if you want to play ball like they do in the major leagues—create a schedule.
It goes without saying that most of us would prefer to spend our free time sipping mimosas and getting massages versus adding more work to our already full work schedule.
“Writing a book is supposed to be fun and fill the creative void that my day job will never,” you say.
“Yes, but unfortunately it will also never just spring to life, “ I rebuttal. “Not even with the help of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Toothfairy.”
That’s why in an age of “multi-tasking” and having to play more roles than the comedians on Saturday Night Live, it’s more important than ever to schedule for everything we are trying to get done, including getting our book out to the world.
Here is the schedule I created for my latest manuscript, The Need (click on the image below to enlarge).
1) If you’re planning on entering contests, or sending your book out to beta-readers, allot at least three extra months to the editing phase;
2) Make sure you have given your editor(s) and designer(s) plenty of heads up about your schedule and make sure they are available during those months when you will need them;
3) Make sure to sort out your Library of Congress of Number, ISBN number, barcode, and copyright at least two months before your book proof review;
4) Make sure you have a good understanding of your print-on-demand and e-book creator’s technical requirements, you don’t want to waste time sending them files they will reject; and
5) Be thinking about marketing from the moment you start your first draft. I like to keep my fans in the know even as I write my first draft, but if you don’t feel comfortable with that, start your social media efforts and have your website up and running at least eight months prior to your release date. And when you’re ready to pitch, make sure to give your reviewers at least three months to turn your book around (even longer for some of the real popular blogs).
So…it’s April, 2014, and according to my schedule I should be uploading final PDF files of The Need to Amazon’s CreateSpace, except I’m not. Why the delay?
As I was getting ready to start the design phase of my book, I decided to throw a wrench in everything and send out a few query letters. To my pleasant surprise the manuscript has garnered some agent interest, so I’ve decided to put things on hold for a bit. I’ve also decided to attend and pitch The Need at the RWA national conference this year.
Nothing wrong with making adjustments to your schedule, or even making a U-turn, as long as you treat your book project like any other priority in your life. Always keep your eye on the prize.