Anyone can publish what they write, but if you are serious about trying to sell it, you should invest in it in several ways, before you do.
Why? Because publishing is forever. A print book sold is permanent. Sure, you can recall an ebook and substitute an updated version, but how many people take the time to replace their old one? Most people never re-open your book once they decide they are done, whether that is at the words “the end” or when they get fed up with errors or poor writing. Only a few people re-check and re-read, and they only do it for those rarest of authors, the ones whose books they love so much or find so useful that they reach for it over and over again.
You won’t be that author if your book sucks.
Don’t be the go-to when your reader runs out of toilet paper. Don’t be the ebook deleted from a library because it annoys the reader to look at its childish cover art another time. Do these things up front, instead:
Friends, don’t make people read your crappy first draft. OK, maybe on your first book, and then only people you really hate. Scratch that. Only people that love you enough to say, “Wow, awesome,” and pretend they made it all the way through. Please, please, please go through it at least three times (initial draft, first pass-through for finish-out, and first edit) before you subject it on the world.
Then, have a few trustworthy but gentle people in your life give it a quick read to see if it is worthy of calling in chits. Make suggested changes that you buy into.
Then, and only then, should you ask writing groups or critique partners to wail on it. Consider their suggestions. Incorporate the good ones.
And then set it aside for a month or three, enough time to give you emotional distance. Go back to it and re-edit.
Guess what? I’m so scared about putting smelly poo out there that after I’d done all these steps, I paid for a manuscript consult with a book editor. Yep. And it was worth every penny.
Once you believe it is the best you can possibly make it, it is ready for…
Once your manuscript is ready – really, really ready – you need a professional editor, someone to clean up your words, sentences, and paragraphs. You really do. I taught writing in grad school, and I critique for lots of people, but I am not qualified to critique your manuscript. If I’m not, then I doubt your best friend Joey is either.
If you know a professional editor and can swap services, then knock yourself out. Otherwise, expect to spend around $2000 on editing for your novel. Less if it’s on the slim side. This is an area where you pay now or pay later. Don’t skimp. Find someone great. You can even hire mine.
Good covers sell; crappy covers say “next please.” And your readers will see the covers reduced to the size of a thumbnail on Amazon.com. Here’s the size of a thumbnail, of a book by an indie author that I’m reading right now.
It’s a good book, not a great book, and, IMHO, the cover is pretty good, not great. Want more of my opinions? Run away fast if you don’t.
Here’s an indie cover I think is great, although I haven’t read the book:
Here’s an indie cover I didn’t find compelling:
Which books would YOU buy?
Expect to spend $200-500 for cover art, unless you can trade favors with someone with skills. You can be the judge of my covers: http://skipjackpublishing.com/authors/pamela-fagan-hutchins/. I spent $250 apiece on them. Half of that went to the artist who did the image, and half to the graphic artist who did my text and layout for the print books. The contact info for my cover image artist is linked in SkipJack under Partners.
I chose to use original art rather than stock photos or graphics, because I was doing five nonfiction books with obvious interrelated pieces. I wanted them to strike a familiar chord with readers that had seen one or more of my other books. For my novels, my covers will be much simpler, and they will be based on photography rather than digitized art. I am sorry, but I can’t release any of my novel covers yet, so you’ll have to come back in six months to see how they turned out.
I’ve already opined on formatting software. What I haven’t mentioned is how important good formatting is to the success of a book.
For ebooks, some elements of formatting won’t be within your control. Page breaks? Not relevant. There are none. Font size? Your reader can change it. Same thing with the color of your page or text. But how your do your Chapter Headings, where you put your “other matter,” like “About the Author” and “Other Books By” all counts, a lot. So do images, bullet points, indents, spacing between paragraphs, and footnotes. I’ll blog some time in the future with specific tips on what works best for each of these. For now, just know you will need to invest the time to do it right, and not just schlep up whatever you had in your draft manuscript onto the internet. *Shivers*
If you’re doing print books: All of the things that mattered for ebooks matter for print, plus a lot. Now you do have page breaks, page numbers, and actual paper, binding, and covers.Your font matters – pick one that is readable, not nifty. The size matters. Don’t go tiny to save paper. You have a million and one decisions to make that affect readability and thus purchase-ability, and they also impact the cost to you. Again, this merits a whole blog. I’m just throwing out a warning now: don’t phone it in.
Tune in next week for more of my lessons learned and opinions on indie publishing. Because I want to help you skip all that jack, too.