I often hear from people who want to write a book but don’t know how or where to begin. Or from people who have already written a book that’s ready for publication but don’t know how to get it published. I recently began a new blog series, Writing and Publishing Tips From Authors Around the World, to help writers.
The seventh contributor is U.K. and France author Diane Dickson and she’s here to talk about self-publishing.
Self-Publishing by Diane Dickson
There are so many of us I think who for years and years scribbled away with pencils, pens and typewriters turning out our stories. Then we sent them off, double spaced, single sided etc. etc. and of course we included the stamped and self-addressed envelope that we hoped wouldn’t come winging back with the rejection slip.
There followed a few weeks of tingling excitement – will they – won’t they and then, when that stretched into a couple of months there was the slowly creeping admission that actually, No they won’t.
Does it sound familiar? I did it for quite a while, I had one piece (a poem) accepted and published in a genuine, honest to goodness, made of paper book and that made me smile for a while but for the vast majority of us it was all pretty much hopeful slog with disappointment at the end of it.
Then came Amazon, the Internet and Kindle. Joy, bliss – freedom. I embraced it with great leaps of delight. Back then, you couldn’t upload a Word file and there was a lot more frustration and hours and hours of trial and error. But, once you had mastered it you could actually see your book, in print and in e-ink. It had cost you the price of a couple of proof editions and that was all. You were published!
When I self-published my first couple of books I think that in many ways it was more exciting than it is now. In those earlier days, if you did a free offer on Kindle you could quite literally sit in front of your computer and watch the download figures rise. This was because there were so few books on Kindle I think and I was lucky enough to have my first novel in very near the start. That doesn’t happen any more. Yes, if you publicise really extensively you can watch the sales rank rise but it’s slower now than it was back then.
Having said that, it has given readers and authors so much freedom. The giant publishers no longer dictate what we will read and there is no longer any need to sweat and worry about whether or not your manuscript will be accepted. Kindle, Nook etc. will put your work in front of the electronic globe and Createspace, Lulu and so on will give you the precious copy for you to donate to your local library. I am delighted to have been a part of all of this and have been an advocate of self-publishing for years and years.
The technical side of it is much easier now and really with patience and a big glass of wine I think that the majority of writers who can format a document and read instructions should be able to produce a reasonable Kindle book which should in turn make a decent hard copy and vice versa.
A couple of tips – Make sure that you have a clean manuscript. No tabs, use the reveal codes button to check your line and paragraph spacing and use headings (I only use Word but I think most word processing software is very similar). If you use headings this will help you to make an interactive table of contents.
A table of contents
A copyright page and links to your other books
I think that they are essentials and all are perfectly possible to achieve if you refer to the wonderful Kindle Formatting Guides and if necessary the help team at KDP who, in my experience are really great. Take your time and most of all enjoy it.
A cover is probably the trickiest especially if you have limited resources, technically and financially. I have been lucky in that I have a very talented daughter who has done some of my covers for me but others I have made myself using a very old version of Microsoft Publisher. I would suggest that keeping it simple and clean, using your own photographs and taking hints and tips from the book covers on your shelves is the way to go if you have to do it yourself. I have seen though that Susan has published an article by Tabitha Sterling who is much more knowledgeable than I on this subject.
So there we are. Anyone can self-publish, can’t they?
Well … …
Yep, it had to be there didn’t it. There is I think something else that is far more valuable and that is an honest friend, no not your mum, your sister or heaven forbid your partner. But that person who told you that Pink dreadlocks were not a good look for you or that Billy from accounts might be drop dead gorgeous but he only asked you out this weekend because his wife was away with the children visiting her mother.
Have that “someone” read your work and listen to what they say. It’s exciting to think that you can get your book out there in front of the world but if it is littered with grammatical and spelling errors or plot holes that King Kong could get lost in it’s not going to do your writer reputation any good and that in turn will spoil the chances of not just your first book but all the ones that come after.
Do you need an editor? This may be quite contentious but I am not convinced that you do. If you take your time, rope in some long suffering people who you know read many, many books and you have read the work, over and over and have read it aloud (this is a great way to see if the dialogue works and helps you to pick up on flow and pace glitches). Then you can “do it yourself” well, you and your army of helpers!
Right from the start I made the decision that I wouldn’t pay out any money to third parties for my books. (Actually that’s not true. Right at the very start I fell for a scam that had me paying for a review and once I realised that I had been duped that was what hardened my resolve on that score) It’s not that I’m stingy, it’s just that I write for fun and it’s no fun for me wondering if I have just wasted some of our hard earned dosh on some scamster. So, it’s polished and honed and beautiful. Now comes the hard part. Yes, really. Marketing. It’s truly very difficult. Unless you are lucky enough (like a certain lady with a penchant for all things Grey with whips and handcuffs) to have a contact in the publishing world, marketing truly is the hardest part. Tweeting, messaging, liking, blogging, nagging you have to do it all and, if you are like me and find it difficult to push yourself forward, it is embarrassing.
As time has gone on getting people to just see your book has become more and more difficult and so for me – and I am sure there are cleverer people who can be much more helpful here – if you want to show your baby to the world, flush with pleasure when you receive a nice review and those lovely little electronic payments from KDP etc. and that is in itself enough, then self-publish and enjoy it.
I have loved it from the start and still do. But, if you are expecting to press the publish button and become an overnight multimillionaire hmmm, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that you would need to be either very lucky or so talented that it was always in your stars that you would be a household name. Having said that, do it – do it anyway because it’s fun and if you don’t do it you’ll just never know.
Diane M Dickson
Born in Yorkshire in UK and moved over the Pennines to grow up in Liverpool I then spent over twenty years living and working in the Middle East which was wonderful. With my husband I spent time in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Abu Dhabi.
We now spend our time partly in the Dordogne, France and partly in the West Midlands in England where we can be near our son, his wife and our two delightful grandsons. We also have a daughter and son in law located in the beautiful city of Bath. Angela is a very talented illustrator and graphic designer and has done most of the art work for my books.
I have always loved writing and reading. My self-published books cross many genres but there is a rather heavy leaning towards the dark and dreadful.
As a lover of short fiction I have joined four other short story writers to set up and run a short story site which you can find at http://literallystories2014.com/. Here you can read my own stories but those of many other authors and all free.
http://www.amazon.com/Man-Lost-Manbag-Found-Himself-ebook/dp/B00F63Z3Y4/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 Also in paperback
http://www.amazon.com/Grave-Diane-M-Dickson-ebook/dp/B00BVQXXWY/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 also in paperback.
I also have one title published by The Book Folks