I wanted an excuse to change out of my old yoga pants every now and again. I wanted to actually have something to say when friends asked me what I was up to these days. I wanted a paying job, and since offers weren’t exactly piling up, I set my sights on the decidedly unglamorous world of self-publishing.
I’d been working on my fantasy novel, The Unmapped Lands, for several months. The story, which is told from the point of view of a strong-willed, sarcastic, and somewhat unhinged witch named Alanna Rye, involves parallel universes, captive demons, magic, mayhem, and more foul language that is strictly necessary.
I knew I was creating something that would engage and entertain others, but I also knew that I quite literally couldn’t afford to wait and try my luck with the traditional publishing industry. Publishing the book serially online seemed like a great way to improve my financial situation and build a loyal readership.
4 tips to help you self-publish a book
Ask for advice + feedback
I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of wonderful people online, and I knew I could count on them to give honest opinions. I outlined my plans, which involved publishing installments of five chapters in length every three weeks, on my blog and requested feedback. The response was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging (did I mention my friends are wonderful?).
Research your options
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and Lulu were the two services that seemed the most promising. While I’ve heard plenty of great things about Lulu, I wanted to reach the widest possible audience. Amazon’s high profile and popularity appealed to me.
Their security options and the variety of free Kindle apps appealed to me, too. Amazon seemed to offer the best of both worlds—more exposure and protection from pirating—so I decided to stick with them.
Get (kind of ) tech-savvy
After reading through the Kindle Publishing Guide, I uploaded the first section of my book. The step-by-step instructions were easy to follow, even for someone as technologically inept as me. I wrote the product description, designed and created the cover image, and set the price.
Having total control over the way my work is presented to the world can be nerve-wracking for a perfectionist like me, but it’s also one of the most satisfying aspects of self-publishing.
Get over your self-promotion fears
Now came the hard part. How am I going to promote this thing? I thought. I’m an artist, not a salesman! Well, I had no choice but to ditch that attitude, and fast. Here comes the most important piece of advice I can offer to anyone thinking of self-publishing: ask for help.
Ask family members, ask friends both online and off, ask your roommate’s cousin’s friend’s aunt who runs a book club. Ask your little sister to post a link on her Facebook page where her 900 friends will see it. Ask your Twitter and blog followers to help spread the word.
The worst anyone can say is no, and you won’t get far without those who say yes. It takes time and a lot of work to gain a following, and every link, mention, and review will help you gain credibility as an author. If you’re not comfortable with the idea of putting yourself out there in a big way, self-publishing probably isn’t for you.
Now that I’ve got you good and scared, go forth and publish! The traditional publishing industry will never die. You won’t hear me making any clichéd statements about new frontiers and waves of the future in regard to self-publishing online. But it’s definitely an exciting new way for creative people to share their stories.
If you think it might work for you, you have almost nothing to lose by giving it a try, and I, for one, can’t wait to read your book.
Have any of you self-published? If you have, please do us a solid and leave your best tips in the comments!