We are going to pretend that you have waited and waited and not gotten an agent, or got an agent who gave you nothing but crap contracts (which, in my case, is what happened). Now you have decided that you can no longer wait and it is time to self-publish. This is not a decision to make lightly, as I have previously mentioned. If you are the typical writer, self-publishing is going to take you WAY outside your comfort zone. Heck, even if you aren't the stereotypical writer (you know, major introvert who lives at their computer writing all the time because it is easier than interacting with the real world) self-publishing for the first time is really hard and will still take you way outside your comfort zone.
I'm going to take a step back and tell you what led me to self-publish. It was something I had been researching for quite some time. I had looked at it probably a dozen or so times over the last six years. I started seriously researching it two weeks before Christmas last year, when my employer let me go. Then the second week of January I got a contract with a "real" agent and figured I had made it, so I let it slide. Around May I got my first contract from said agent and it was a relatively new "house" who was offering to put All is Well out in e-book format and if it did really well in the first couple of months would then go to physical copies. The company looked a little shady and the quality of their website was enough to make me politely decline their contract.
A friend of mine, who is also a writer, had done some research after another friend of hers braved the self-publishing route. She had asked me to include this option and my opinions about it in my blog. I knew I hadn't given it proper research in some time and that there had been major changes, so I started researching. I kept telling myself that this was just to warn my blog readers against the idea. To be able to give you valid reasons why you should not self-publish. And some people are still touting the biggest one that kept scaring me off: Self-publishing is a death knell to any serious career in writing. Yet with people like John Locke and Amanda Hawking out there, I was beginning to doubt.
I picked up a couple of self-published pieces (with really bad covers) and thought "I can totally do better than this!" I also couldn't help noticing that the quality of these self-pubbers wasn't much worse than the "publishing house" whose contract I had snubbed, only with better covers. I began making a mental list of the skill sets required to self-publish and the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of being in control of my own business. (For those of you who don't know me, I am a total control freak! I am not really ashamed of it. As a matter of fact, I see it as one of the qualities that will allow me to succeed in the self-pubber industry. That and my tenacity!)
Let me preface this next part with the following statement. I have a Bachelor of Arts with a focus in Communication. I took the broad scope for that degree, so I dabbled in several classes which sort of set me ahead of the curve for self-pubblishing. I have taken classes in advertising, writing for the public, graphic design, media presentation, public speaking, organizational communication and interpersonal communication. When I looked at cover designs, I knew that I could create a better cover than a lot of other self-pubbers. I understand the rules of formatting and the importance of having someone else look over your work. I had people I knew I could turn to, who would help me with any questions. The idea of a press release was not foreign and developing contacts in the media was sort of a given. I had lots of sales experience with products I hardly believed in, so I knew I could market something that I loved!
When I said I knew I could do it, it was not this vague self-belief; I had experience to back this up. If you are starting with vague self-belief, just be prepared to do a lot of research before each step. It can be done. Make sure that every step you take is leading you to creating the best packaged product that you can create. Do the research to make it so and get ready to work some mad hours. As long as this hasn't scared you off, lets get you headed on the first step to self-publication. Getting it edited.
You think that you have edited it to the hilt and it is ready. Stop. Trust me when I say this, get an editor. As writers we view our work with blinders. We don't see the mistakes that we make. Find someone else to edit your work. At this stage you are wanting a clean crisp edit, so having your best friend or even your mother is not enough. Ideally you would hire an editor (if you were Paris Hilton) but if money is an issue, see if you can get your college English professor to do it for you. Or really, any English professor you know. Short of that, we all have that one friend who is affectionately nicknamed the grammar Nazi. Yup, that was my choice! If you are worried about offending them by asking them to work for free, offer a 10% commission on your net sales. Don't forget to add them in your thank yous at the beginning of your book! Now, while they are editing, you need to start planning your marketing strategy, so start researching and we'll get further into that next week.
Any specific questions worrying you about self-publishing or writing in general? Feel free to ask in the comments below!