s someone who spent his entire life with a love of reading and writing, even going so far as to minor in writing in college, I knew someday I would seek to publish a book. Ultimately, it took my youngest son as inspiration for me to launch my first series. Then the million-dollar question, how do I get my book in front of the world? As a stay at home father of three at the time, I decided to go the route of self-publishing. Along the way, there were many questions, many pitfalls I had to avoid, and an abundance of things I learned. I’m going to try and help direct your compass, by looking at some of the biggest hurdles I faced.
1. Write about what you know!
This may seem obvious, but sadly it can be a common pitfall for writers and this philosophy applies to both fiction and nonfiction alike. If you are passionate about a subject or idea, that excitement will translate through to the page and make the experience more enjoyable for the reader. Often people will write, or tailor what they want to write to what they THINK an audience wants to see. All that ends up coming out of it is a story or information that lacks direction and impact. If people are buying your book, it’s because they want to enjoy reading the story, or to learn as much as they can from what you’re trying to teach them. Your lack of passion, will directly affect their enthusiasm.
2. Writing should be fun.
While writing is most certainly a job, it should never feel like work. Writing a book, no matter how large or small, takes a lot of effort, but it should never feel like a chore. If it begins to feel that way, it’s time to step back and reassess. Not every subject is going to appeal to every person, just like not every story appeals to every person, but what you’re writing about should appeal to you. As such, what you’re writing should be a labor of love, something you want to show the world, and something you’re excited to revisit and complete. This isn’t to say you won’t find roadblocks in your writing that you need to overcome, but if you’re forcing yourself to write, that’s a clear sign something is wrong. Maybe it’s the wrong material. Maybe you took a wrong path. In any case, step back and assess what you have before moving forward. It’s okay to take a break and step away, it’s never okay to force it.
3. Don’t be your own editor.
Let’s face it, you’re writing this book because you know the subject matter or the world you’re creating so well, you want to share it with the world. You may even be an expert in what you’re talking about, but you may need some guidance along the way, and once your work is finished, you’re absolutely going to need someone to look it over for you. You’re going to see your work so much, and read through it so often, glaring errors will slip past your eyes because in your mind, you’ll see it as correct, even though most people will easily pick up on the mistake. Find a friend or colleague that you trust to do a thorough job, and ask for help, but remember their time is valuable, so even a gesture of a cup of coffee or lunch on you, can go a long way to get a few yeses for help. Which brings us to our next item…
4. Free Labor – You get what you pay for
Unless you’re talented across many platforms, you’re GOING TO NEED HELP with at least a few aspects of your book. Whether it’s copy editing, a cover, or illustrations, you WILL need help. The idea of getting something done for free is excellent in concept, but you truly get what you pay for. If you want to produce a professional product, you need people who are going to approach it in a professional manner, and this means offering compensation, and exposure IS NOT compensation. There is nothing more insulting to an artist or professional than asking them to donate their money or time for exposure. You wouldn’t ask the grocery store to let you take home a weeks’ worth of groceries in exchange for showcasing how good they are, don’t ask the same of an artist or professional. Make sure whatever compensation you’re offering, matches the work you’re asking them to put in. This could be a straight cash for services agreement, a small percentage of the book sales, even capping at an agreed upon amount, or in the case of my book series, where my artist puts in an excessive amount of, an equal partnership where we split all profits evenly. Whichever way you go, make sure to respect the artist or professional, and offer them what their work is worth. It will not only benefit everyone financially, it can build a working relationship you can lean on for years to come.
To Sum Up
These first four steps are a great start to the process of self-publishing and by the end of them, you should be ready to get your work in shape for publishing. The next big hurdle will be navigating the maze of publishing choices and figuring out where and how to distribute your book, but don’t forget to stop, take a breath, and reflect on the hard work that got you here.