Updated: Nov 21, 2020
You've done your research into both traditional publishing and self-publishing, and you've decided self-publishing is for you. Now what? How do you get your manuscript from draft to published book?
First of all, we should establish that self-publishing is the equivalent of running your own business. You are in charge of everything, so you have to know what you're doing if you want to be successful. Here are seven tips to help you on your way.
1. Hire A Professional Editor
If you only self-edit, ask your untrained best friend to edit for you, or run your work through editing software, your manuscript will not be nearly as polished as if you send it to a professional editor. A professional editor will bring your manuscript up to industry standards so your readers will not be able to tell the difference between your writing and the writing in a book published by one of the big five publishing houses.
I've written a few other posts to help you out with this stage of self-publishing:
2. Hire A Professional Typesetter
You may be tempted to typeset your book yourself, but unless you are trained in typesetting, readers will be able to tell you did your own layout. Typesetting is a skill that requires attention to detail and an in-depth knowledge of software like InDesign. Like with hiring a professional editor, hiring a professional typesetter will help your book look just like it was traditionally published.
You can often find typesetters in online editing directories.
3. Hire A Professional Proofreader
Typesetting is not the end of the line when it comes to content. After your book is typeset, you will want a proofreader to go over the manuscript to check for any remaining errors. Again, this is to make sure your book matches industry standards. Proofreaders are quality controllers; they look for errors in margin size, line spacing, letter spacing, running headers, page numbers, formatting, and body text. Proofreading may not seem important, but it will after you print one hundred copies of your book with your name spelled incorrectly in the header.
4. Hire A Professional Cover Designer
At this point, you may be thinking, This is going to cost a lot of money. I can't hire all of these people! Take a deep breath. Yes, all of this will cost money. But I guarantee that investing to make your book look like a traditionally published book will work wonders for your sales, and your cover design is possibly the most important aspect of this.
The cover of your book is the first thing people will see. It will be all over social media, and it will make people pick up your book in bookstores. If you're cover is self-designed on Canva, people will be able to tell. Marketing is the most important thing for sales, so hiring a graphic designer for your cover is essential. Shop around, of course, but make sure you hire a professional. And remember, you will pay for what you get.
5. Create Your Own Imprint
When you publish your book, do not simply put your own name as the publishing imprint. Make up your own imprint that you can use on any future books as well. This makes you look much more professional. You can use this imprint for your website, and it will help with marketing.
There are a few things to consider here:
You have to make sure the imprint name is not already taken by another person or company.
When looking for the availability of an imprint name for your domain name (website), do not search for it on domain sites until you are 100% sure that name is what you want. If you put the imprint name through a domain search and then leave it for a few days, it's likely that name will be taken by the time you get back to it.
You can make a logo to go with your imprint that will help build your brand.
6. Have A Strategic Marketing Plan
No matter how amazing your writing is, you will not sell many books unless you have a strategic marketing plan. You can do most of this yourself if you are willing to put in the effort, but you may also want to outsource this if you have no knowledge of marketing. Marketing your book effectively requires knowing your target audience and knowing how your book fits the current market.
Marketing often includes the following actions:
Getting your name out as an author and building an audience through social media, a podcast, a YouTube channel, conferences, etc.
Making a professional author website
Talking about your book on the above-mentioned platforms
Calling bookstores to ask if they will stock your book
Arranging a book tour
You are much more likely to see success in your sales if you have built up an audience and have a marketing plan in place before you publish your book.
7. Network With Other Authors
A great way to get your name out there is by integrating yourself in the publishing community. Get to know other authors and publishing professionals by attending conferences and events, and networking online. These people will likely give you tips and help you get your name out there. Readers will also know who you are if you interact often with their favourite authors.
These seven tips may seem overwhelming, but remember that self-publishing is basically running your own publishing house. Like a traditional publishing house would, you need to take your book through the publishing process and market that book well to see success. It is doable, and you can do it!
I've put together lists of Writing and Publishing Resources if you would like more information on this topic.