“Meeting people for the first time, the usual ice breaker is “What do you do?” Since I gave up my full time job I can now proudly proclaim “Writer.” But then the inevitable follow up comes; “Are you published?” Instead of answering in the affirmative, I usually mumble “Self published” as if it’s something to be ashamed of.
“We’ve come a long way since the days of vanity publishing and being self published is something to be proud of, yet there is still that nagging doubt that you aren’t a writer until a ‘proper publisher’ has noticed you.”
Regular listeners to the 99% Perspiration Podcast might remember Alan Parkinson from episode 16 of season 1. Back then, Sunderland-based novelist Alan was juggling writing around his full-time office job, filling his early morning and evenings to unleash his creativity in ways he couldn’t during the day. Fast-forward to now, and with a third novel nearing completion, self-published author Alan has traded in his full-time managerial office job to write novels full time. He’s taken the plunge a lot of people dream of doing.
If you’re an emerging writer or author, read on. Alan’s sharing his advice on self-publishing. The pitfalls, the triumphs, and everything in between.
“Taking the first step into self publishing can seem like a daunting task but if you’re considering it, hopefully I can dispel some of the myths and give you the confidence to give it a go; what have you got to lose?
“The main reason to self publish is control, you don’t have anyone telling you what to do, setting your deadlines, committing you to unrealistic book signings, editing your work, deciding on your cover, etc.
“Of course the flip side to this is that you have to do all the work yourself. If you are working under the apprehension that your novel is an undiscovered work of genius you possibly need to give yourself a reality and ego check. If you’ve tried numerous agents and publishers and got nowhere, there must be a reason. You probably aren’t going to become a millionaire overnight. That’s not to say that there isn’t a market for your work, it just probably isn’t as big as you had hoped.
“Now that I’ve got the negativity out of the way, how easy is it to become self published? If you have a basic grasp of IT skills and a modicum of common sense, very easy.
“Please don’t abandon this post and run off and self publish now that I’ve told you that it is easy; there are many pitfalls to avoid, and hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. Remember you are doing everything yourself. You’re competing with people who do this day in day out, you have to quickly become an expert in every field.
“First step. Sit down and write a list of all the things that would tempt you into buying a book. Then, write a list of all the things that would put you off buying one. You have to make sure you have all of the things in the first list and none in the second. Luckily the lists are likely to be the reverse of each other. These lists are going to be different for all emerging writers, but they’re likely to include price, format, cover, blurb, genre etc.
“Some are easily in your control, others less so. You may want to consider getting someone to help with things like the cover, etc. Remember you are competing with professionals so it’s worth spending a little bit of money to look professional yourself. I’m not suggesting paying a major design company but speak to your local universities, ask about to see if anyone is wanting to build a portfolio. The arrangement can be mutually beneficial, a small contract with a budding Graphic Designer could be money well spent.
“Even if you believe that you can do all of the individual elements yourself, the one thing you shouldn’t overlook is having people check your work at every step in the process. I can’t stress enough how important this is… You need trusted reviewers to read your book and provide feedback and you need to be able to take that feedback on the chin. It may involve a lot of rework, but far better to do it now before it gets highlighted in a one star Amazon review. You need someone to check your cover. My original Leg It cover is legendary, I thought I could do it myself. I was wrong. *
“When your book is formatted for ebooks, whether Kindle, Kobo or iBooks, get someone to check it again; they each have strange little formatting issues that a reader will be unhappy with.
“You need to consider marketing your self-published book, but there’s no silver bullet here; you need to work hard to get noticed in a crowded marketplace. In the past year I have begun to realise how important networking is. On a 99% Perspiration blog post, I’m not going to preach about networking because Jay is the master,” (Oh, Alan, you’ll make me blush!) “But here’s a couple of things I have learned.
“If you go into networking thinking about what you are going to get out of it, you are doing it wrong. You need to be thinking about what you can do for other people.
“Think about your friendships. If you are lucky, you will have friends who will walk over broken glass to help you, because they know you’d the same for them. It is useful if you enjoy helping people and taking satisfaction in their success.
“A recent good example is when I was invited to appear on BBC Radio Newcastle. This was only possible because another writer had kindly put my name forward. I’d helped her with something previously for no other reason than she was a lovely person who needed help, and she’d remembered me.
“There’s also a delicate balance between networking/marketing and spamming. Whilst you need to get your book out there, don’t always talk about yourself on social media. Take an interest in what other people are up to and they will take an interest in you. Similar to helping people out when you can; retweet & share others’ work on social media, and you’ll be remembered.
“I could talk for hours on the subject of self publishing but it is a very simple formula. Take your time and get it right.
“Once you’re convinced that everything is as good as it could be, and you finally click the approve button, that’s when the good stuff starts happening.
“Your first sale, your first five star review (especially from people you don’t know), your first royalty payment… All of these are important milestones and you should take a moment to take in what you have achieved. It really is something to be proud of.
“I started off thinking I could maybe write a book, and now I’m writing full time, so could you. Good luck.
“If you’d like to know more, my books Leg It and Idle Threats are available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon and also available on iBooks.
A huge thank-you to Alan for sharing his advice with us. If you’d like to promote your creative work on the 99% Perspiration blog (or podcast), and can funnel your ideas into content that can be useful for other creatives, get in touch.
And, as always,
Stay productive, stay awesome!