By April Klasen
Self-publishing is no longer a dirty word.
E L James, Amanda Hocking, Isaac Marion and Mathew Riley all started as indie authors. If you go back in history you will find Beatrix Potter, Vladimir Nabokov and countless others who couldn’t publish traditionally and so took the risk and put their money where their pen was. They are the amazing success stories. As a warning; you can dream big of being a huge publishing success but understand it is timing, luck and hard work that takes you from unknown to bestselling.
My name is April Klasen and I am still in the unknown category with five books independently published. One of these days I will have total world domination. Until then, I’m refining my genius.
Being an indie author isn’t for the quiet girl in the back of the room (though this will teach you to be more assertive) or the woman only wanting that one book out and never to think of it again. This is the path for those with thick skin, attention to detail and a little on the OCD side. You cannot be disorganised or lack motivation. Why? You are the only worker.
You have to get the book through editing and formatting and upload the files and publish it and promote it. No-one else will do it for you. This is your baby. You are a god-like creature if you can do all that and bring a story into this world. You will influence the minds of readers the world over.
It can be a little addictive.
Everyone needs to start somewhere, for me I started with taking advice from my writer friend Rebecca Trowbridge. I stumbled a lot the first time. Like a hell of a lot. But I learned and moved on to the next and the ones after that. I cringe as I look at my first novel and how crappy it is only a few years later however I took the risk and started my career in self-publishing.
Step one: Write.
There is no point in dreaming of being published if you have nothing written. Don’t wait for one day, if you have an idea then write the bloody thing down! For me, my push came in the form of National Novel Writing Month when I was seventeen. By writing the worst story ever (virgins should really avoid writing erotic fiction) I created the neurological pathways in my mind that allows me to write freely now years later. The first time is always the worst, but with practice it gets better (and so does your writing). See, initially the action is unfamiliar and you are struggling to get the words out, not sure how the story should be structured or any other basic writing technical stuff. For the next book, you are familiar with the process and it’s a little easier.
Fifty thousand words is a novel, aim for it. Don’t be afraid.
Step two: Leave.
Don’t look at it. Don’t read it. Stick it in the bottom of a draw or in the boot of your boyfriend’s car. Leave it alone for at least three weeks. Then read it and begin to edit.
Step three: Edit.
Even if the mistake is right in your face, you will not see it after the amount of personal time you have spent with the manuscript. This is one of the jobs you will have to subcontract; editing. A good editor will find the plot holes, ask questions and clean up the spelling mistakes. A great editor will laugh, cry and help you fill in those holes. A crappy editor will make you feel like an amateur, but they lose out because you don’t ever have to go back to them with your next book.
All manuscripts need to be edited. This is your reputation you are sharing with the world; do you want to be professional and deliver the best that you can? Or deliver something messy that the reader has to try to work out? You can find editors through The Society of Editors (NSW) Inc. or by doing a general search for one through Google. Every editor is unique and it means taking a risk to see if the both of you will work well together or not. Sorry, that’s the way it is. I’m still looking for my dream editor.
Don’t forget; you have final say. In no way must you accept all changes to your story. That is the beauty of self-publishing.
Step four: Accounts.
This is where you need to remember a whole lot of different passwords. You will need to sign up with book sellers like Amazon (they are the largest book retailers in the world and you can do your e-books through them though my experience hasn’t been very good with their system, but they are huge), lulu.com (their paperback service is the best I have found and they have printers all over the world including Australia, e-books not as good) who distributes to all major online retailers, and smashwords.com (their website might be a little shabby but their e-book system is simple, unfortunately they don’t list books on Amazon unless you sell a certain amount with them before, but they are great to deal with). Think of the social platforms that will help you connect with readers, look into getting a blog (you can start one for free) maybe a facebook page or even start collecting fans with wattpad or tablo.io; both sites allow you to post stories of any length, update them and talk to fans.
Consider the possibility of purchasing ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers which help identify your books to libraries or stockists), some publishing service providers will offer them for free but there is no guarantee they will let you remove your book from their virtual shelves. It is their number so they keep it if you go somewhere else. If you have your own numbers (don’t bother with buying barcodes, you can get them free online) you can print that book anywhere, whenever, however. ISBN’s are available from myidentifiers.com.au and sell single, ten, one hundred and one thousand lots. Remember each format has a separate number; e-book, paperback, audio and any translations will each have their own ISBNs.
Step five: Prepare.
E-books have a different format to paperbacks. Smashwords has an easy to follow guide book you can download for free and you can do it yourself. Lulu has templates for paperbacks (though some sizes are not available for retail, if you want to sell; A5, US Trade and Pocket books are all good to go). Just upload the files to the site you have chosen to work with, design the book cover (I would suggest doing it yourself if you have some artistic flair, if not subcontract it out and make sure you purchase the copyright of the image so you can do what you want with it) order a proof of the paperback, go through it and make sure it is all correct, then...
Step six: Publish.
Hit that button. It is out there for the world to see... if they know about it. When you self-publish, you have all the rights but also all of the responsibility. Your book isn’t going to sell if you do no promotion. Whore your pretty babies out as much as you can. Talk to your local library and see if they will let you have a launch party (I know, I cringe at the thought of acting so cocky and have not done one myself), send out press-releases to every place you can think of, look at the contacts you have with social media and let them know that you have a book out. Try to be tasteful about it. There is a fine line between promoting and annoying; post links to the purchase page for your book on your social media page and with other appropriate group pages, don’t private message people with the link and demand a review.
These six steps are the glossy version of what you need to do to self-publish. There will be a lot of hard work and research you will need to do and it might not seem worth it in the short term. Publishing a book is a long term investment. It might be twenty years in the future and several books self-published later when the public suddenly realises that you are the next big thing and go crazy.
Copyright, at the moment, is automatic and is valid seventy years after your death unless you use a pseudonym, which limits copyright to only your lifetime. There has been chatter that some government parties want to change it “for the better” cough, cough to make them money. Hopefully that doesn’t happen or else a copyright will be short term and you will have to pay to maintain it.
Don’t forget to look at what you have to submit to the National Library of Australia, each new book needs to be sent as a Legal Deposit within a certain time frame. Check out the website for more information.
For a more detailed look at self-publishing, duck over to 'April Klasen Author' and start your own publishing journey. It is hard work and everybody has a different story, but by the end you will be a published author with all rights remaining yours. And total world domination within reach.
April Klasen is an independently published author of five novels (with a secret stash of other manuscripts waiting to be edited under the bed), a blogger and an expert on finding new hiding places to read uninterrupted. She lives in rural NSW and some would say the local library is her second home. April has aspired to be a stripper, journalist, police officer, actress, film director, taxidermists, pilot, and pyrotechnician, among other things. Unfortunately (or fortunately for the safety of the public) none of these dreams have come true. So she writes instead. For more stories by April visit her website.