You’ve written a book and have decided that self-publishing is the route for you, but are you ready? Publishing a book is a process—and an accomplishment!—so it’s important to know what you’re getting into, to plan in advance, and not to rush.
Have Realistic Goals and Expectations
It’s important to have realistic goals and expectations when becoming a self-published author. If you’ve just finished your first draft, don’t expect to have books in hand a month or two down the road.
You need to make a realistic plan when you decide to self-publish. Don’t decide on Thanksgiving to write a book and have a hard deadline for Christmas. While it might be possible, it’s highly unlikely and not recommended.
You don’t want your book to look like you threw it together last minute because, well, you did.
Have a realistic goal in mind, not a hard deadline you expect an editor, designer, or printer—all booked for months in advance—to meet.
It’s okay to start scheduling events, signings, tours, etc., but be realistic. And once you’ve come up with a timeline, add a couple of weeks to it for a buffer. Give yourself at least two weeks to order and approve your proof copy from the printer. You may spot something you missed earlier. We’re all human—mistakes happen!
Before you even start writing, start saving money. A self-published book may be better described as a self-funded book, and you really need to view it as an investment.
Think about it: Traditional publishers front the initial cost of production because they get a cut of book sales. Self-publishers don’t have that luxury—they incur all costs themselves—but that (literally) is the price they pay to reap all profits after publication.
Regardless, one thing remains the same whether a book is self- or traditionally published: The better the book, the better it sells. Invest in your book, and make it the best it can be.
It can be difficult to come up with the total amount all at once (and don’t worry, we offer payment plans!), but if you start saving while you write, by the time you’re ready for editing, you’ll have a nice chunk of change saved up!
Research and settle on an indie publishing company so that you have an idea of how much you’re going to need. Ask for a quote, and find out how long the quote is valid.
Understand It Takes Time
You also need to understand self-publishing to take time. It can take years to publish a book in traditional publishing, and while it probably won’t take that long in self-publishing, it still takes more than a couple of weeks.
Yes, you could finish your book one day and upload it to Amazon the next, but that wouldn’t be a book of the quality that readers deserve. You’ll need editing, a cover that sells, and an engaging interior design, and all that takes months of work!
Depending on the length of your book, the level of editing your book needs, and the number of editing rounds, editing can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. And most editors are booked in advance, so you’ll probably have to wait in line. But don’t worry! That just gives you more time to revise. Every book should be edited, so don’t let a hurried deadline make you think you can skip editing (Stephen King has an editor, so you should too!). You don’t want to rush your editor (read “How to Work with Your Editor”).
Cover and interior design also take time, and designers also tend to be booked in advance. Depending on the level of cover design you choose, you may have concepts to go through and tweaks to make before finalizing the design, which can take anywhere from a few days to weeks. You don’t want to skimp on the cover as that is the first thing that your potential readers see (read “Yes, We’re Definitely Judging Your Book by Its Cover” and “How to Work with Your Cover Designer”). The interior design process, depending on how long the book is and whether it’s simple or complex, can take less than a week or more than a month.
And as mentioned above, you’ll need to order a proof copy, which takes at least two weeks.
Lastly, expect to communicate. The most common method of communication is via email, especially when files are being sent back and forth, so it’s important that you check your email multiple times a day.
Not hearing a response from you as the author for a day or two can cause delays in your publication.
Let your designer or editor know when you expect to return your manuscript after your review. Some authors may take a week or two to review while others take months. Without forewarning, they won’t hold a place on the schedule and you’ll have to wait.
And we understand that you want to get feedback from friends and family, but don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen, as they say. Make sure that you choose a select few who can, in turn, communicate effectively with you.
Also, you’re not the only writer who is self-publishing for the first time, so expect to have questions. That’s part of communicating, and we’re here to help!