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Beginner's Guide - hints and tips and links to help you self-publish your first book.
6 December 2013

Debbie Flint and her first novel, Hawaiian Affair Debbie Flint and her first novel, Hawaiian Affair @debbieflint

 

It’s gone so fast, this last few weeks! And now it’s December 2013. Time has flown, and it’s been a big year for me – not only finally finishing my first ever romance novel, and self-publishing it, (Hawaiian Affair) but also finishing and publishing my second (Hawaiian Escape) six months later. Can’t quite believe it myself!

But how do you begin? Then when you’ve done it, how do you get it ready to publish? Then how do you self-publish it?

With so many resources out there, I’m going to pass on the ones that I used. Hope they help and good luck!

If you like, add a comment to my blog below if you’ve self-pubb’ed your own novel, and include a link so others may see what you’ve done!

Best wishes

Debs

X

Ps for more RiWiSi go to my regular blogs each Friday on qvcuk.com – or follow the blog tab (above) on this website. Not so much ‘Read it Write It Sell it’. More : WiPi-PiSePi-Ma :

 

WRITE IT, PROOF IT, PREPARE IT, SELF PUBLISH IT, MARKET IT – SELF-PUBLISHING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS

Well, as my second book, Hawaiian Escape, hits amazon – (my racy rom-com - nb it’s racy but not SUPER-steamy like the first one!) time to share some tips! So many people have started asking me about self-publishing their own books, that I thought I’d do my ‘resources’ blog again here, with a few more bits added, so you can begin!

Read up on how to do it, go to courses, writing festivals, workshops, residentials for your genre etc . Look at –

Arvon Foundation – tons and tons of options each year for residential courses in the UK for all genres and formats – fiction to screenwriting, poetry to comedy. UK-wide. Grants available.

-          www.arvonfoundation.org

Writers’ Workshop – excellent resource just look at their site – almost everything you need. And google to find others like them

-          http://writersworkshop.co.uk/

Cornerstones – a literary consultancy – google to find others like them. But their site is helpful even if you haven’t written your first one yet.

-          http://cornerstones.co.uk/

Find an association to join/ research/ get help from eg for romance the RNA have been a fabulous resource for me –

-          http://www.rna-uk.org/

 

Writing holiday – my first one in 2009 was in Tuscany with a prolific romance writer – it was here:

-          http://watermill.net/

-          Google others

Authors’ own websites and blogs, twitter and facebook – find them, read them, learn from them, communicate with them. One of the absolute best IMO is from Joanna Penn –

-          www.thecreativepenn.com

Local resources – find out locally what writers’ groups exist, or form one, even if you just do it all by email, don’t wait for someone else to lead you thru it. Local college courses  could be a good first step, even to set up a support group with like-minded local people. Local libraries often have talks. Go to them. Or just read. Loads.

Caution – the traditional route of finding an agent who then finds you a traditional publisher to get your books into bookshops, is almost disappearing. Nowadays, agents are more and more using self-publishing successes as their slush pile. And more and more publishers are publishing ‘digital first’ – ie, ebooks. But to track down agents and publishers, for your info, buy Writers & Artists’ Yearbook.

If you don’t do some of the above, you’re not ready to self-publish.

Once you have, read on!

 1.       Where to Begin – WRITE IT!

-          Write your first draft – for yourself. Authors call it the SFD (shitty first draft – yes it’s a thing). And write it to the end. If you need help on structure etc, go to a course (as above), buy a book, (PLENTY online), google for info – ie, do your homework. Unless you’re just writing to produce a book for your own fun or for family. Please take time to hone your skills a bit before just blasting out a novel – if you want to get it right and save yourself tons of time and disappointment and unfavourable reviews. Rather than just beginning to write, learn about the little things like not ‘head-hopping’, ‘show don’t tell’, creating conflict and compelling character arcs etc; many don’t know and it shows - don’t be one of them.

-          Then edit it – and edit it well. Do this second edited draft for the reader. Proof it and correct it. NB When I learned that you use left brain to edit, right brain to create, it changed how I write. Don’t stop mid-flow to correct punctuation, change a line or a word – just WRITE IT. THEN edit it. Two different mind-sets. But you can’t edit a blank page, so finish writing it first! You’ll be amazed how many people state they’re writing a novel but never finish. But at least it’s better than the ones who never start.

-          There are tons of books on how to structure, plot, do dialogue, create narrative drive, follow character arcs, put your babies thru hell, know your characters, etc etc – google them, buy them, use them. Romance? Try Kate Walker. Crime? Try ‘the Writer’s Handbook to Crime Writing.’ Etc. etc. etc.

-          Read up on websites like Alli – the Alliance of Independent publishers (self-publishers) – their regular newsletters and updates are full of handy info. And not just about writing it.

2.       Once it’s written PROOF IT.

-          A self-published book is perfectly capable of standing up alongside the best nowadays – unlike the old days when ‘self-publishing’ meant it was too awful to get a publishing contract so someone produced thousands themselves. But only if it looks professional.

-          BUT no one will continue to read you if there are mistakes – punctuation, spelling, grammar – no excuse nowadays for any – so GET IT PROOFED.

-          Find a proof reader friend/s (several are best) or pay an expert (ask around, or google to find one – Cornerstones have reasonable rates eg £400 for your avge length novel for a simple pass.) Most great self-published successes now use professional editing and proofing and cover creation as a matter of course. And beta reading…

-          Ask some ‘learned colleagues’ to beta-read for you. ‘Learned’ means they know at least some of what you know about how to write, so they know what you want from them. Friends and relatives are sometimes fine, but more likely, can often be next to useless - either too harsh or too sycophantic. Beta reading by a true reader of the type of book you are writing, counts most, I believe. I have a beta group of my own on facebook with a couple of dozen lovely ladies who kindly read my work when I’m, writing, and talk about hols and cats and cakes in between times.

3.       When it’s proofed – PREPARE IT.

-          Build your book for kindle and Publishing your Book to Kindle are two FREE ebooks on Amazon, by Amazon. Get them, use them, try it. Or find a ‘techy’ person who can do the ‘hard’ bit for you (it’s not that hard – anyone who can work their way around facebook and use Word quite efficiently, can probably do it). OR You can pay a fortune to an agency or an association or a company or an individual to do it all for you, your choice. Or you can read the books above, (with their pictures of how to do it – eg which part of word you click on to embed fonts etc, ) and do it yourself. Plus, for inspiration, find a self-pub author who has done it and see if they have done any tips or blogs about their own story – see Emily Harvale’s below.

-          Pay to have a professional cover designed – preferably by someone who knows how to do book covers – ask an author who they used etc. It’s an art, it’s a science, it really does make or break your book. Don’t do it slapdash if you want to really sell online. Remember your eBook is going to be seen in thumbnail size mostly, so keep it simple. Tons of resources around to help you get this done. Eg this one as food for thought.

-          EXCEPTION – if you only want to experiment or do this for fun or create a few copies for friends and family, then KDP (amazon) has its own ‘build your own cover’ section – and templates you can follow to create your own cover using your own photo.

-          https://kdp.amazon.com/

-          Go to KDP. Look around, familiarise, experiment with the upload process with something else you’ve written. Follow their ‘how to’ guides. It’s STRAIGHTFORWARD but it’s not simple.

-          Not just amazon – smashwords, i-Books, Kobo, Nook, Sony eReader etc etc also offer a place to upload and sell your titles – do your research with other places online where you can publish your book. I stick with kindle and amazon (amazon’s ebooks all use kindle/app) because it’s easy to find, and universal. Plus most smartphones, tablets and even computers (android, apple, windows) have KINDLE APPS now – for free. But there are other services available but if you use them it can mean you lose out on some of the amazon-only benefits. But big authors often don’t care about that so they do make their books available on many different ones. Your choice. Think about it – prepare yourself.

-          Prepare your social media platform – essential, (even if some older eBooks say it isn’t and it doesn’t sell copies.) In our experience it is, and it does, slowly but surely. Plus if you are one day going to approach a publisher, none will take you seriously as an author if you’re not willing to build your platform on eg Twitter, and Facebook and your own website. Do a blog. Set up an email newsletter subscription service on your site (see article below). Start communicating with other authors – it’s a fab support network believe me. Writing is a solitary life – tweeting etc can be a companion as well as helping spread the word when you finally publish. But google info about how best to use it – be a human, not just a selling machine.

-          Goodreads  (as at end 2013) is becoming all-powerful, now it’s part of amazon, and reaches readers who are in that valuable position to click thru and buy. Or google other sites like it. It’s basically a reading group online, worldwide.

4.       When it’s prepared, SELF-PUBLISH IT

-          Use the above books free from amazon for kindle, and then…actually do it. Or pay someone to upload it, it’s up to you.

-          Ebooks - https://kdp.amazon.com/  as above – lots of help is available there too, as you go through the steps. BONUS – unlike trad publishing, where authors can wait ages to get sales updates, you are the publisher – so you can then see daily updates on kdp on your sales units and weekly and monthly royalty figures. Easily.

-          Paperbacks - https://www.createspace.com/ - same as kdp only this creates your paperback appearing on amazon. Then they get linked (amazon are currently looking at this being one service in future but currently you do both separately with two separate uploads as they are separate companies). In case you didn’t know, Createspace takes your upload to create a paperback. Your upload, including a specially (professionally) designed paperback cover in pdf - for the correct size book and the right number of pages ( I use a professional designer who is not too dear - many good designers are around £100 or less; ask for recommendations from an author whose covers you like) ; and when it’s all proofed (that’s a process in itself!), your book magically appears on amazon. Then if one person wants to order ONE book, they print ONE book and send it within 3-5 days (or so). Incredible huh? And the fee you pay them as a publisher for doing this? Nothing. And the cost of the book? Depends on the length but typically a normal novel will be around £7… I know! So do it.

-          Author page - https://authorcentral.amazon.co.uk (for uk, also do one for .com) – this is as it sounds - all the info about you as an author. Look at other people’s pages for inspiration. At present, once your page is up, they will ask you to then go pinpoint your books and claim them so they appear on your page - you have to just locate your self-published book and tick a box. Then it appears on your page.

-          Royalties etc – there are several things you need to do if you want to retain all your US royalties so read thru on kdp and createspace carefully and if in doubt, just contact their ‘help/contact us’ and ask. Or google to find blogs with more info about it. For US royalties they will deduct 30% at source if you don’t register an ITIN number, which you have to obtain via the US Embassy – I went to the one in London, paid the pharmacy up the road £3 to keep my mobile and car key fob (as their metal detectors won’t allow them in,) went thru security past the men in guns, through a nondescript, ordinary office building to the correct little dept., and got a nice, friendly man behind the desk to help me fill in the forms and then they send it off and you wait. Through the letter box 6-8 weeks later, I got the form which had my ITIN number. I then put it on the relevant parts of the relevant forms available on kdp/createspace/ and filled in the gaps in the account settings on kdp and createspace online, to register to not have to pay the US tax. You may have to send off hard copy to America. All the info is online – just google it. It’s not hard – it’s just ‘the unknown.’ Find out about it, then it won’t be unknown and scary. If me and my pals can do it, you can. NB eBook pricing incl’s 3% VAT in UK so when you set your price on kdp it will be net. If you want it to be 99p, your price you set on kdp should be about 96p or 97p or thereabouts.

-          ISBN’s – kdp and createspace will provide you one for free during the upload process. So don’t worry about getting your own if you’re amazon only, which many people are, because of the prevalence of Kindle in the eBook market. But if you want to sell elsewhere and you want to buy your own, research them on Neilsen here http://www.isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk/controller.php?page=158. I paid about £240 for 100 numbers but then I have to contact them after to file them along the way, as I use them with Nielsen so they keep them on record,. You’re also supposed to send off a copy for their library. It’s all online – or email them – you get a human being not a faceless help desk, which is nice.

5.       Then the hard work really begins – MARKET IT!

-          You have to.

-          End of.

-          Unless your publisher does it for you, if you’re lucky enough to get one. A tiny fraction do get one. BUT even publishers expect author participation now - most want the author to be proactive and help do their own marketing- that’s almost every author who is on a mid-list and below, and even some above. (NB even huge authors like Jackie Collins and Stephen King have/are self-publishing some titles now – for the control and increased royalties etc. But unless you’re them, or you’re absolutely unable/unwilling and your publisher says that’s ok, then you have to market your book.)

-          This topic is a complete thesis in itself, so do your research - as above. Eg, buy :

-          How to market your self-published book – misc titles by Joanna Penn.

-          And sign up for some of the dozens of weekly newsletters and blogs, follow your fave authors for their tips, or join associations, writing services, etc etc, and be pro-active, building your potential readership for when the time comes to publicize your own work. And then research how to do that without ‘pee’ing’ people off.

SO - This is a great place to start if you’re brand new to self-publishing and have no idea where to begin – it’s hardly scratched the surface but it includes some of the resources I’ve used. Do feel free to also read my RiWiSi page each Friday for more hints and tips. Any questions, do kindly ask them on the comments segment below. I write a new update with more tips and hints each Friday.  If you find any good resources or links to blogs etc, do let me know, I particularly love big self-publishing success stories. Maybe I’ll be one too, one day. Or maybe you will!

And to see my own work, go here!

Finally, don’t forget to read. Reading others’ work is life-blood. And can inspire. @julie_cohen, another mentor of mine, who runs fab courses, says the top two rules about being an author are -

  1. Write
  2. Read

There is a list of ten – ask her about it and about her courses. She’s great! And without Julie, my first two novels would not be what they are. Fast forward your own writing ability by consulting with mentors – it works.

Thanks for reading and I wish you all the best of luck!

Luv debs

X

Ps sign up for my newsletter, letting you know about my new titles or when a new RiWiSi update is out, on my home page, here.

Other resources –

-          Getting Published by Harry Bingham (who runs Writers’ Workshop)

-          From Pitch to Publication – by Carole Blake (top London agent from Blake Friedmann.)

-          12 Point Guide to Writing Romance – by Kate Walker (top romance author)

-          5 Marketing Myths you Need to Forget – by Joanna Penn, guest blogging

-          How to Build an Email List to market your book – from TheCreativePenn.com

-          On Writing – by Stephen King – fab autobiographical account of how to be a writer

-          And one last one from me – a guest blog from a successful self-published author, and one of my first mentors, Emily Harvale, a Self Publishing Success Story. Aug 2013

Also each week, see my QVC blog with a regular fiction focus on Read it Write it Sell it –

http://blogs.qvcuk.com/debbie_flint/

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