Recently, I published my debut novel, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. And while writing the novel was a challenge in itself, I have to say that I was not as prepared for the publishing process as I thought that it would be.
I knew that it was going to be a challenge, but I can’t say that I thought that the process would be this difficult, cumbersome, and time consuming—-and every other adjective that falls in line with this experience.
For as long as I’ve been working on this book series, I had told friends of mine that I wanted to start my own publishing/media company (check) and to publish my own works (check). I wanted this long before the self-publishing platforms were so accessible and available to everyone who has written a book. My friends thought that I was crazy—-especially those who worked in publishing. They said: No one who was a serious author would dare consider self-publishing, the process alone was too much for a writer to sort through; why torment yourself?
And I might have been a little naive as to how much work was really required of me. It was already a daunting prospect but I was determined to do it. And besides, I can be pretty stubborn and defiant when I want to be. So, I did my best to follow through with the promises I had made to myself.
First, I researched the publishing process by reading lots of articles and books. Through my research I discovered the best program for an indie author to create publishing files is Scrivener. I transferred all of my Word and picture files into this program and was immediately impressed with the program. Scrivener is a godsend for writers because you can organize and maintain so many files and documents related to one project in one place.
Prior to using Scrivener, I had multiple files across several folders that I would have to scour through whenever I needed to find something. Now, I can literally drop it all in one file and it makes my life easier. I wish I had discovered it earlier, but I look forward to writing my other projects using this program.
After taking the time to arrange my files in Scrivener, I then compiled them into one larger file and sought out the help of an editor. I realized, much too late, that my novel was a lot longer than I originally thought. I had about 1000 pages and I needed to get it as close to 500 pages as possible.
My editor, Joan Russell, and I worked to break it down and condense it as much as possible. In the end, I cut it down to about 700 pages, but found that this was too long to publish and had to cut another 100 pages. (Only after several weeks of submitting the manuscript through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing did I realize this…Sigh.)
I did all of the e-book and print book formatting myself using Scrivener after watching various videos on YouTube and the Literature & Latte website (the website for Scrivener). With all of that help, it was still quite the process and a lot of it relying on trial and error. I’m not the most patient person in the world and this process definitely tried my patience on many occasions.
For the book cover, I found a great designer on Fiverr, who designed the book cover for me (see the picture above). I created the book summary and my personal photographer, Sonja Johanson, took the author’s picture of me. We had our little photo shoot one Sunday afternoon, on the street where my main character, Diamond La Rue, lives.
Due to budget and time constraints, I published the e-book first and then the print book on Amazon through their Kindle Direct Publishing service. A few weeks later, I published the e-book and print book through Ingram Spark, essentially recreating the process a second time. The process took several months all together.
My advice to authors who want to self publish and are doing it for the first time is simple:
Be prepared for a long and arduous process. There are many steps to the complex process of publishing. I suggest meditation and prayer before you begin working on it each day.
Read as much as possible about self-publishing and watch as many videos as you can about the process of publishing. I bought books, read articles and watched videos on YouTube, Reedsy and Literature & Latte. I’ve also joined the discussion groups for indie authors on GoodReads.
Make a checklist and take one task at a time. Make sure not to skip any tasks and to complete each one as best as you can. This is your legacy here as a writer and you want your works to be as professional as possible. Most readers expect the worst of self-published books and authors, so you don’t want to prove them right!
Keep notes of how you completed each step and the process that you took. You never know when you will have to go back to make a change or to re-do a task that you have already done. Do not assume that you will remember how to do something you did months ago. (I learned this the hard way!)
Stay positive and remain committed. It is a process but you will get through it. I worked on the publishing of my novel every day after work for a few hours per day. I cut down on watching television, cleaning and any other hobby that I had to stay focused and to keep on track.
If at all possible, market yourself as an author and your book, while you are in the midst of the publishing process. I did some of this minimally because I was so unfamiliar with everything and I had to push back my publishing book date so many times. But on future projects, I will not hesitate to do so.
Best wishes to all of my writers and authors out there!