Publishing for a Living, Part 2b: The process
In December 2010, I decided to follow my dream of being a writer. I knew nothing about how to publish, or about the industry itself. All I had was the ability to write, a dream, and the feeling that I wasn’t happy with where my life currently was. Then, in January 2014, I self-published my first novel.
I now know how common publishing terms are defined, the general process of traditional publishing, the general process of self publishing, and what expectations are reasonable. So, for anyone else who is trying to become an author, I decided to share. Consider this a short guide for beginners: If you've no idea what the self publishing process looks like, welcome to Publishing for a Living 102. It's a constantly changing world, so much as I'd love to say this will always be accurate... well, it's more or less accurate now.
Part 2b, The Publishing Process (for self publishing fiction while following the best practices):
Step 1: Write a manuscript. Finish it.
Step 2: Edit for plot, voice, pace, and other non-typographical problems.
Step 3: Edit again.
Step 4: Ask someone to help you edit again (a beta reader). Make the edits that were suggested. Or at least most of them.
Step 5: Edit again.
Steps 6-13: Repeat steps 2-5 as often as needed. Then go back, fix your math, and edit again.
Step 14: Fix all grammar and typographical errors that you can find. This will save you money and help in finding a willing professional for Step 16.
Step 15: Research for a good editor. The better what you have now, the better price you can get, and/or the more willing others will be to trade services with you. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Also, don't expect it to be cheap. Do your research and find someone who comes well recommended who is a professional who has worked with your genre. Figure out what you'll have to pay, and what services, exactly, are included in your edit.
Step 16: Hire (or arrange a trade of equivalent services with) a professional editor.
Step 17: Start writing manuscript #2.
Step 19: Begin building your platform if you haven't already. (Note: This is probably the latest you should wait.) Build a website. Start connecting to readers on Twitter, Pinterest, FB, blogs, and every other social media you're willing to invest time in. This process should be about making contacts, not about blatantly marketing yourself.
Step 20: Send your manuscript back for another round of edits. Revise again.
Step 21: Create a good blurb. Create several. Get feedback, get proofing. Decide which is best for marketing.
Step 22: Research good cover designers. Look at their current work and see if the current covers are professional quality.
Step 23: Hire a cover designer (or arrange for an equitable trade of services). Again, this is not cheap. $250 is generally considered a good rate, although there is a wide range of prices. Include cover sizes for the major retailers (Smashwords, Amazon, Kobo, etc) and for print cover.
Step 24: If you think your manuscript is publishable at this point, determine a date for publication. Recommended is 3-6 months from this time period. Release your cover.
Step 25: Convert your file to be compatible with all major formats, e-book and print. (The Smashwords guide is a great place to start for e-editions).
Step 26: Upload files to e-retailers. Select the appropriate release date. Add good blurbs. Decide if you want to go with the auto-ISBNs, or purchase your own. Select your price point.
Step 27: Register your copyright with the US government. Don't hire someone else to do this for you. It costs $35. Total.
Step 28: Continue building your social media platform, updating your website, and doing various pre-publication marketing you want.
Step 29: You're published!
Step 30: The road doesn't stop now. Keep marketing, keep publishing, keep track of your sales, learn how to interpret sales figures, play with your blurbs, figure out what the best new practices are...
Congratulations, you’re published!
(Step 31: Hopefully manuscript #2 is now ready to begin the publishing process. One-hit wonders are rare. You probably won't make profit off your first book in your first year... though there are exceptions.)
Optional steps: Join writing groups, enter contests, take writing classes, attend conferences, write a career plan, bribe friends and family into putting up with your rants, decide traditional publishing is easier and go that route, take up belly-dancing, form support groups, join a critique group, join a blog group, create an anthology with writers of similar books, print bookmarksSuggested steps to not take: Start Twitter-spamming with ads, be rude to anyone, take up streaking with the name of your manuscript painted over your body, sacrifice a goat on the alter of a made-up book god, condescend to readers or other authors, refuse to revise, lock yourself in a tower and make your family feed you by a system of complicated pulleys, publish before revising, publish without editing, tell everyone they're doing publishing wrong because they're taking another path, expect to be an instant millionaire, spend more than you can afford, hire a vanity publisher...