This is not by any means meant to be a comprehensive list of how to self-publish. But someone sent me a message on Facebook asking for self-publishing guidance, and I wrote, well, a lot. Like, a really long answer. And it occurred to me that others might like this information, too.
The important thing to remember is that there is no “one size fits all” in self-publishing. It’s a living, organic system that changes regularly. But some of the core steps remain the same. The goal is to produce a really good book, and that’s not something you can rush.
So here is my long-winded response to the person who asked for advice:
Okay, for starters you need to know *why* you’re self-publishing. Is it because you already tried agents and publishers and didn’t get anywhere? Or because you prefer to do it yourself? I was telling my writing group that you either invest time—queries—or money—self-publishing.
But what are you hoping to get in return? Is it about making money or are you really just looking to get your story out there? (They don’t have to be mutually exclusive, of course, but will you feel “successful” if you only sell a few copies? What will make you happy? It’s important to know.) I highly recommend the FB group For Love or Money. Lots of self-published authors there with lots of great advice.
Assuming you’ve answered these questions for yourself, you have to (a) write the book, (b) get feedback from critique partners and beta readers, (c) rewrite, (d) get more feedback, (e) repeat the revision-feedback cycle until the book is polished and shiny, (f) get it professionally edited, (g) get a cover made, (h) format the book, or hire someone to format it, (i) decide if you’re going to be exclusive with Amazon or “go wide” with other publishers—well, you’ll need to know this when formatting, actually, (j) build buzz, (k) set up a pre-order, (l) build more buzz, (m) finally release the book and continue to market it while writing the next one.
It’s a lot of work.
And I’d say definitely go ahead and start a blog, Twitter, FB author page—whatever social media you’re comfortable using and think you will use consistently. DON’T start a blog if you don’t think you’ll use it because a blank blog is worse than no blog. But you want to start sending out little tidbits, reaching out to other authors in your genre, maybe ask them for guest posts on your blog or ask if anyone is willing to host a post by you. It’s a trade economy. “I’ll post about your book if you post about mine.” Start getting your name out there, catch people’s interest so they begin to anticipate your book.
That’s for starters, anyway. If you have more questions, I’m happy to answer. And I can point you to more resources, too, like the 20booksto50k FB group as well. The boards on the Absolute Write forum can be helpful, too, but overwhelming.
All of it can be overwhelming, actually. Which is why I broke it into steps. Don’t be scared! (But it’s okay if you are; even after years of this, I’m scared every time I write a new book.) Deep breaths, and tackle it one item at a time. Or two if you want to multi-task. And remember there is a very supportive community out here. We love helping—and go on and on as per this message. Sorry about that.
On the flip side: don’t take anyone’s advice too seriously. You’ll only freeze up. Go with what feels right and natural to you and your process. It’s different for everyone, can be different for every book even. Try stuff and decide what works for you.
Hope this helps. ~MPL
I’ve had my best success as an author through self-publishing. Which isn’t to say I don’t love my publishers, too. I’m so grateful to them for taking chances on me and my work. But it’s a simple fact that my self-published books have done better for whatever reasons. So I’ll continue to self-publish at least some of the time. I judge whether to query or self-pub on a book-by-book basis.
Anyway, as I state, I’m always happy to answer questions if and when I know the answers. And there are many wonderful resources out there. You don’t have to—and shouldn’t—do it alone! Writing may be a solo endeavor, but publishing is not.