I am the first to admit that I am new when it comes to self publishing. Since I only have two short stories and one novella out, my sales are low. Not to mention that the novella is in a niche sub genre ( bronze age fantasy). Anyway. The reason for this post is that I have noticed that some fantasy authors seem to think that self publishing requires no investment in time or money.
This baffles me, since if they had been submitting to an agent or publisher they would have revised it both once and twice before hitting send ( If you don’t revise it, um, maybe that is a clue to your rejections?). Not to mention they would have checked which agents and editors had recently acquired similar things, since they might not be interested in your book.
So, I thought I would write about doing research before hitting publish on Amazon and other retailers.
The first step: Have a finished draft, preferably one that has been revised at least once. And even if it has been revised? Revise it again. And again.
The second step: Sit down and decide how much you want to invest in your book. Do you want to hire editors or rely on beta reading friends? With the Cauldron Bound, I relied on a beta reader for the developemental edits. What that taught me was to use at least two beta readers :). I also hired pros for the polishing rounds. In the end, I spent 700 dollar on edits. With Daughter of the Dark, I am hiring pros all the way, so I am going to spend more( but it is also twice as long.) . My editor, Laura Anne Gilman, is experienced and not cheap, but I think she is well worth the money. There are plenty of other editors out there, but it can be a minefield.
No matter if you decide to hire an editor or go with beta readers, spend money on the covers. You can splurge, and pay lots of money for the cover, or you can go cheap with a pre-made cover. I went a middle way, and found a cover designer that offered a reasonably priced three cover combo, so I paid 270 dollar for my shiny cover. Which splits out to about 90 dollar per cover which is really cheap.
The third step ( which you can do while revising): Read a lot of self published authors. Read the bestsellers, read the hybrid authors, read the non bestsellers. See what they are doing, and what they are not doing. Keep in mind, though, that the hybrid authors already have a fan base. Which you don’t.
You will notice that it is almost impossible to separate hybrid authors and successful authors on the quality of their books. Both have invested in editors and covers.
When it comes to the ones that are less successful, you will notice that can vary a bit. Some will have put in a lot of work into their books, some haven’t.
If you are going “But, but how do I find self published books?” I recommend that you start with Annie Bellet, Lindsay Buroker, Ilona Andrews, Gail Z Martin, Chrysoula Tzavelas, James Hetley, Jeffrey Carver, John Hartness.
Reading books is just the first step, however. You also need to read blogs and newsletters and forums. My recommendation is that you read Courtney Milan, Lindsay Buroker, Annie Bellet and Patty Jansen. Also lurk on Kboards. Then there are podcasts. So many podcasts. I cannot really recommend podcasts, since I don’t listen to them.
Once you have done all this? Time for the fourth step: Decide if you really want to self publish with this project. Do you have the patience of spending a lot of time and maybe a lot of money and knowing that it could take years before it pays off? This is the important question, since many editors have nothing against their authors self publishing, but they don’t want you to come to them with the second book in a failed self published series. Harsh, but I can see their point. There is a lot of freedom in self publishing, but it isn’t easy.
If you do it right, self publishing can boost your career in many ways. However, If you do it wrong, you are stabbing yourself in the back, since releasing a book that hasn’t been throughly revised makes readers distrust you. There are also the fact that if you aren’t willing to invest time and money in your books when you are the one paying, why should an agent or editor want to buy your next book? ( Yes, this is harsh, but it is really, really easy for editors and agents to google your name, see the Amazon link that pops up and download a sample of a connected short story.)