How to hold your self-published novel to traditionally published standards
These days there’s no reason to settle for anything less than the best when self-publishing your masterpiece. Here’s how I did it, and you can too…
When I set out to publish my manuscript I was faced with the same conundrum most new writers seem to be facing these days. Should I walk the traditional path to publication, or should I take it all upon myself?
I’m an indie at heart, so for me the answer was easy, but it came with a caveat: I would only self-publish if I could hold my work up to the same standards as a traditionally published novel.
The sad truth is, this is a rare mindset in the self-publishing community. So many indie authors want to get their work out there as fast as possible. In doing so they sacrifice quality in all aspects including design, and writing polish. Their work features ugly design, uneven plot structure, and typos galore. But it doesn’t need to be this way.
So what does it take to hold your self-published novel to the same standards of a traditional publishing house? The answer can be boiled down into these four categories: mindset, platform, funds, and professionals.
By investing my time and a small amount of money ($600 in my case), I’ve been able to get all for of these categories to the place they need to be, and come January 20th my novel Discovering Aberration is slated to meet my own high quality standards. And yours can too.
The most important thing is to get your mind right. You’re not a self-published writer, you’re an Author/Publisher.
When publishing your own work, you’re not writing a manuscript, pressing it through the meat grinder and hoping enough people will buy it so you will some day be able to treat it right. On top of writing you’re raising funds, coordinating multiple professionals, editing and re-editing, marketing and selling. You are the gatekeeper for quality. You are the champion for your baby and you’re gonna raise her right!
Let me tell you straight up, it’s a lot of work and it takes time, energy, education, focus and most of all, passion. But that’s all you need! Be patient, work hard and the rest will come.
While your mindset may be the most important element of this equation, the most difficult element is building your platform. If you have a platform trust me when I say that the funding will come, the professionals will work with you, and your work will not fall upon deaf ears.
Your platform is how you communicate with your fan base, and you need your fans before the rest of this is possible. Building a fan base, keeping in communication with them, not letting them forget who you are, building their passion enough to invest in your future, its a lot of hard work and it takes time.
Don’t follow the random advice of a thousand blog posts when building your platform. Only listen to the professionals. They can teach you how being yourself and talking about what you already love can be enough, all you need is the right methods and tools in place.
That’s why I’ve written another blog post focusing on the 4 books you need to read to be a self publishing success. Three of the four focus on building your platform, spreading the word, and plugging the wholes in your marketing bucket. Each has been written by successful book marketers with impressive track records and will give you the knowledge (read “power”) to fulfill your publishing goals.
If you want to hold your book to the highest standards, there’s no two ways about it, you need money. But it doesn’t need to be your money. In fact, with the help of your passionate fan base, a little forethought, and Kickstarter, building funds can be a very low risk proposition.
I love Kickstarter. For one month Kickstarter put me through an anxiety laced hell of nail-biting alcoholism and a roller coaster of manic depression. It sucked. But in the end with the help of just over 80 fans I was able to raise $3,700 through Kickstarter in order to offset the cost of editing and design.
I still had to pay a little out of my own pocket (a little over $600), but the near $4,000 investment from fans allowed me not to worry about my personal finances while I construct my dream.
Bear in mind that I was a writer who had published little more than a couple of short stories. But using the tools shared with me through the books I read, my fans were aware, passionate, and willing to invest. In this way my book became their dream too.
Again, running a successful kickstarter campaign is not an easy task. It takes planning, a lot of work, coordination, constant communication with your followers, lots of outreach, and a no quit attitude. But if I could do it, so can you!
How can you hold your work up to professional standards without professionals. You can settle for beta readers to take over the editing process and design your own cover, but without professionals you’re going to have a difficult time holding your book to the highest standards.
With the money I raised through Kickstarter I was able to afford a professional cover design by The Book Designers who work with trad publishers like Random House,Vintage/Anchor, Penguin and now me. They worked with me through a multi-stage design process ensuring that every aspect of the cover was up to our standards.
This is what they created:
The outside looks great, but what about the stuff in the middle?
Poor editing (or no editing) is a disease which plagues the vast majority of self-published material. There are many stages to editing including beta reading, developmental editing, copy editing and proofreading. Holding your novel to the highest standards means you can’t settle for only one, you need them all.
Some stages of editing don’t require any money. Beta reading is your chance to crowd source what your fan’s think of your early manuscript, and proofreading can be done by anyone with a strong grasp of English (not the author because you get used to your own mistakes).
But developmental editing and copy editing require the professionals.
My developmental editor was Victoria Mixon who I reached out to after reading one of her excellent books on writing fiction. She provided me with insight on what readers expect and shared her in-depth advice on character progression, plot, themes, setting and more. With a treasure trove of information like this, you can effectively take your manuscript to the next level.
I found my line/copy editor, Natassia Velez, through Google+ after she assisted me in cleaning up a document publicizing my Kickstarter campaign. I loved working with her so much, I reached out to her again when it came to editing my novel. As a copy/line editor she looks at each and every sentence to make sure it reads clear and smooth, communicating each idea in the best way possible.
To take a more in depth view of the editing process, read my post on the many stages of editing a novel.
In my mind, all this work has been worth it. Come January I’ll be able to hold my novel in my hands knowing that I did everything in my power to create the highest quality final product possible. Sure, you can always do more, but indie’s like me don’t have the most resources, what we do have is passion.
What I hope I communicated in this post is that passion is enough as long as you focus it, direct it and give it time. Use your passion to write the best story you are able, then use your passion to share it with your fans. Your passion will rub off on them and they will passionately help you. This provides you the means to treat your baby right, to bring in passionate designers and editors.
Of course I hope my novel sells and I’m working towards that goal, but even if it doesn’t I can still be proud of 3 things: 1) I produced the highest quality novel I was able, 2) I didn’t sink into debt doing it, and 3) I gathered around me a small group of other passionate friends and fans who have been kind enough to care more than I deserve.
And you can do it too!