I was recently interviewed by a blogger who read one of my books (Sadie Sapiens). She did a masterful job of asking really good questions, one of which was asking me what I wish I’d been told before I started my three year hike down the self publishing trail. Once I started thinking about the answer, I was surprised at the flood of ideas and experiences that threw themselves on the digital page. I thought it’d be useful to distill it here for others:
1. Learn how to write properly, either by self-study or by paying a professional editor after you sweat over your first draft of your manuscript. Maybe take an actual writing course, if you have the time and money.
2. Join a writer’s critique group and be active in it. Learn how to take and give constructive criticism. Don’t forget they are artists with egos possibly as fragile or more so than your own, so be considerate and learn from them. Don’t listen to every little thing that they tell you in your group, though. Consider joining a larger writer’s association or attending a bona fide writer’s conference.
3. Learn the ins and outs of social media and how to use it to promote your work, if you really care about it. Find that population of readers out there who just might enjoy your stories. This includes doing guest blogs, like the Ranting Bookworm. Promote the heck out of your work because unless you have a rich uncle in the publishing business, more than likely nobody else will toot your horn. Even your rich uncle may not want to publish your drivel if it’s no good and not marketable.
4. Consider self-publishing your work in multiple media. It only takes a bit of computer savvy to type and format a document and then learn how to upload it into the various print-on-demand and eBook distribution web sites.
5. Unless you are a really good graphic artist, pay for a professional book cover. It’s not that expensive and people do judge books by their covers, be it on paper or digital.
6. Watch out for businesses or individuals that prey on the hopes, dreams and wishes of aspiring writers. You may find yourself dumping thousands of dollars into a promise of many sales just to discover you ended up with a box of your books that barely sell, a handful of bookmarks with your book image on it, a lame web site and little to no actual promotion.
7. Learn how to query for a real, live literary agent and keep plugging away at it. Maybe you’ll win the writer’s lottery, maybe you won’t. It’s still a fun game to play, even if you end up with a growing pile of rejection emails, like me.
8. Get honest reviews of your work. Be willing to give away your work in person or through giveaway systems on sites like GoodReads and LibraryThing. Nurture those places where you stumble across a reader who actually enjoys what you write and if you’re diligent and persistent it might grow from that one reader. Be honest and open with your readership, be it one person or a million. Be humble about any success, be it fleeting or permanent.
9. Finally, only write if you enjoy doing it. And keep doing it, even if you don’t get rich or break even. It’s rewarding as hell. If it isn’t, go find another hobby or career.