Self-publishing a book can (and will) drive you nuts. But what my headline doesn’t say is that it’s rewarding in many ways, especially for your bank account if your marketing game is tight. I’ll save that convo for another post. Before you take the leap, there are a few things that you should know. Let my pro tips be your guide.
1. You’re in total control, à la Janet Jackson.
For the control freaks in the room, this sounds hella sexy. And it is…but let me explain. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s far from being a vision of Michael B. Jordan (remember the scene in Creed where he’s shadow boxing?) with his shirt off. Writing aside, your duties include accounting, marketing, hiring an editor, creating a production schedule and formatting the book. Pro tip: If your skills (and time) can be used to elsewhere, don’t kill yourself trying to format your book in Scrivener. It can be done, but it ain’t for everybody. Hire someone to do it (with experience, please!) or lock down a professional typesetter who can set up your bestseller in print and ebook formats for one set price. Ask to view samples of his/her work. (Remember, Janet had Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on her squad.)
2.You’ve been diagnosed with a severe case of analysis paralysis.
The good news is this: You don’t need penicillin to cure this one. Set a time limit for certain tasks, i.e. devote three hours on Monday and Tuesday to researching book cover designers. Otherwise, you’ll go down the rabbit hole and never come up for air. Who’s affordable? Who’s expensive? Who offers multiple cover revisions? Debate the pros and cons and then pick your top three. Pro tip: Ask your network for recommendations and Google top designers for indie or self-published authors. There are plenty of options online but selecting a designer is a custom fit. I found my designer (hey, Ana Grigoriu!) after reading this post from the crazy resourceful Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn.
3.You’re blowin’ money fast.
So you’ve cut back on happy hour and Saturday brunch with the girls because you’ve decided that yes, you will appear on the cover of your memoir (good for you, that’s good branding). But aside from hiring the bomb photographer with the designer price tag, you’ve only set aside major coins for hair, nails, brows and a professional beat from a celebrity makeup artist, which means there’s about $500 left in the kitty. Guess what? You haven’t hired an editor or talked to a printer about cranking out 500 copies of your book! Pro tip: Before you spend a dollar, open up an Excel Worksheet (didn’t I mention accounting earlier?) and create a realistic budget to pay a photographer, book cover designer, typesetter and editor. Are you using postcards, bookmarks and T-shirts? Include that in your lineup too, along with hair, makeup and wardrobe expenses. Give the editor and the printer (not the makeup artist) the biggest piece of the self-publishing pie. If you go the ebook route, there’s no need to worry about printing.
4. You don’t plan for unexpected delays (or disasters).
What do they say about Murphy’s Law? Oh, yeah, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I’m not talking about a zombie apocalypse or an outbreak of scurvy. You have to account for real life ish. What if your copy editor has a death in the family and won’t be able to work on your manuscript for a week? What if a snowstorm brings your city a halt and your photo shoot is set for the local park? What if your computer dies? Pro tip: Pad your self-publishing production schedule with an extra week or two or three so that you handle delays without having a complete meltdown.
5. You swear you can hit your daily word count and watch Netflix at the same damn time.
Here’s the truth: You shouldn’t text and drive for a reason. Driving requires eyeballs on the road, right? Well, writing requires your full attention too. Don’t turn on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and attempt to write a gut-wrenching breakup scene. That’s hard to do if you’re laughing as Titus sings about “peeno-noir.” Multitasking kills brain cells. But don’t take my word for it. See what Forbes, Inc. and the HuffPost have to say about the matter. Pro tip: Reward yourself with a Kimmy ep after you’ve crushed your daily word count. Think of it this way, the writers on that show are living their dream—you’re just getting started on yours.
6. You refuse to take a course or consult a mentor.
We’re all about the DIY life on this here Internet, right? And that’s cool for distressing jeans and learning how to contour your nose. Reading a bunch of blog posts and listening to podcasts about self-publishing is a start, but you need to know the ins and outs of marketing and making a profit too. I went the blog and podcast route before I bit the bullet and enrolled in The Best Sellers Project (shout out to Tiphani Montgomery and Tressa “Azarel” Smallwood). Get advice from people with skin in the game, so you can knowledgeably discuss paper weight and binding options with the printer. Pro tip: Invest in a class or join a Facebook group. You need these resources to know where to purchase ISBNs and barcodes and understand how adding pictures to your page-turning memoir will drive up the printing price.