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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Self-Publishing Your Fiction

Your book is ready. You've read it. Your best friend says it's awesome. Your neighbor did a pretty cover. It's ready to go to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Use KDP and Pub-it and put it out there today!

WAIT--what? Really? No, of course not. Unfortunately, though this is exactly what we're seeing.

Writing the book is only step one in the process of publishing your book. Admittedly, the longest as far as time consumption. Still, it's only the first step.

For most, a first draft should be a write where we don't stop and edit. We just create. We remember the old sage advice: Show Don't Tell

And, it's good advice. We've avoided those 'ly' words. We've learned how to do dialogue.(You can see my post HERE for dialogue tips.

So, what do we need to do next?

Send your book to a critique partner. Even a group of critique partners. If you don't have a live one in your area, consider starting one of your own. You can also find critique partners on writing sites such as World Literary Cafe. This is one site that every writer should join. The forums are filled with folks just like you looking for that critique partner.

Why do we need a critique partner?

The answer to this is simple. We're too close to our story. We can visualize what is happening. After all, we created the story. What isn't on the pages is likely in our mind. In essence, the critique partner is a new set of eyes. They should be objective. They must be objective. Will they always be right? Of course not, but generally, if you're seeing the same type of comments from more than one person, there is likely an issue you're just too close to the work to see.

What next?

Edit. Go through your work after it's back from the critique partners and incorporate the suggestions. At this point, we are still in self-editing stage. We don't need to pay for an editor yet. Trust the judgment of your critique partners--especially if they are all saying the same things.

I've edited. Now what?

Send it to the group again for another read through. Perhaps even to a beta-reader. Beta readers will find things that you and your critique partners might have missed. I try to use beta-readers that read in my genre--and readers that don't.

Back from beta readers. Now what?

Do a last round of edits on your own. Read the book out loud. I know, this sounds very time consuming. You'll find, though, that things read fine and sound bad. Look for those pesky mistakes. Did you use 'its' when it should have been 'it's'? Did you use 'affect' when you meant 'effect'? Remember, the grammar feature of Microsoft Word is not a substitution for a real person!

After reading it out loud-start reading it from the end. Read every line and every word. You'll be surprised at how many mistakes you find.

And now what? I've edited it. It's ready, right?

Not quite. Now, you need to find a professional editor. Check the editor out. Ask for a sample of their work. Find out what their credentials are. Sites like World Literary Cafe above do have a place to find editors. Talk to other writers and see who they've used. A poorly edited book says nothing good about your story. And, trust me on this, readers will find every error--especially if you're self-publishing your book. You will discover you're held to a higher standard. Fair? Maybe not--but it's fact.

When that editor is done, you need to work on any suggested revisions. I also recommend a proofreader. Put it away for a week or two--then read it again. Your might spot any last-minute things that need fixed.

What about the cover?

I recommend here that you find a cover artist. You want your cover to 'pop'. Some people do look at the cover and make a decision based on that. A boring cover won't sell a book. At the same time, you want your cover to fit the book. There are some great cover artists out there. Sometimes, you can do it yourself. This isn't the place to use those beautiful--but difficult to read--fonts. Make your title easy to read. Make your name easy to read. Use contrasting colors. If your book cover is mostly blue--you don't want the text blue, too. Resize the image to the smallest size seen on Amazon and B&N. Can you still read the title and your name? No? Then re-do the cover.

Sometimes simple is best. Get opinions from readers. Make more than one cover and ask your writing groups for opinions. Listen to them all and then pick the correct cover.

Now it's ready?

Now, it's time to send it off to reviewers. Do a 'soft' release. This simply means put the book up but don't promote it's 'for sale' until you've gotten the reviewers to post their reviews. It's darn difficult to sell a book with no reviews! Trust me on this. It took me a year to get reviews--despite thousands of downloads.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about formatting your book for Kindle and Nook. And, on Thursday, I'll post on some suggestions for pre-marketing your book.

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