It’s been about a month and a half since I self-published How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel That You Will Love Forever. Both the e-book and print editions are out, the reviews are coming in, and so far I’ve sold more than 1,500 copies. In the past month the rate of sale has picked up every week, which is really exciting to see.
Here’s the most stupidly surprising thing I learned about self-publishing: It’s really, really easy.
I say “stupidly surprising” because I feel like I should have realized this, and I’m obviously pretty behind the curve here considering how many people have embraced self-publishing and had a lot of success doing it.
But there’s something about the publication process that seemed so daunting to me before I started. So many things to think about. So hard to get the word out. All those nuts and bolts that I’ve been glad for my publisher to handle.
At the end of the day, it just wasn’t that hard. There are really only 6 things to worry about:
1. Writing the darn thing
This was by far the hardest part. When I started writing How to Write a Novel, I thought it was going to be a polished collection of blog posts. I had written so many posts over the years, surely I could just assemble it into book form?
I started stitching together blog posts… and it read like a collection of a blog posts. It didn’t read like a book. There were a ton of holes. And it kind of sucked.
So I stated over. Short of the last chapter (10 Commandments for the Happy Writer), I extensively rewrote everything I originally sourced from the blog, and I added a lot of new material that’s exclusively available in the book.
It was way harder and took a lot longer than I expected. I thought it was going to take a month. It took a year. Whoops.
2. Getting it edited
This is where things started getting easier. There are so many incredible freelance editors out there, and I’m fortunate to be friends with some of them. I hired my friend Christine Pride to do the initial round of edits. She helped immensely with the shape of the book, and it was her idea to turn the chapter titles into “rules.”
For copyediting and final polish I turned to Bryan Russell, who agreed to a barter edit since I’ve edited some of his work in the past (though I now owe him immensely because he’s a way better editor than me).
I am extremely happy with how everything turned out.
3. Cover design
For the cover I turned to my friend and influential graphic designer Mari Sheibley, who may be sliiiiightly better known, among other things, for being Foursquare’s first designer and creating so many of those awesome badges that were a huge part of Foursquare’s success.
I’m going to blog about how I went about the cover process separately. It was really fun.
4. Interior design
I thought about trying to learn how to design the interior, but this is a corner I decided to cut. I reached out to a few interior designers for quotes, and ended up going with D. Robert Pease, who happens to also be a blog reader, and he was incredibly fast, professional, and the end result looked terrific. He provided me with files in every format I needed.
Piece of cake.
5. Getting everything uploaded
I distributed directly via Kindle, B&N, Kobo, and used the e-distributor Smashwords for everything else. When the print cover was ready I distributed with CreateSpace. Easy easy easy.
How easy? I finished writing and editing the guide about a week before it was on sale.
I plugged the guide through the blog, I was fortunate to have some really nice blurbs, and I’ve been experimenting with some social media ads.
I haven’t really gone all out with promoting off of my blog as I would have liked, but the great thing is that it’s never too late.
This is a bit of a simplification, obviously, and if you have any questions about the specifics of self-publishing process I relied heavily on Susan Kaye Quinn, The Creative Penn, and David Gaughran.
I still think there are many merits to traditional publication, but if you’re holding back from self-publishing because it seems daunting, don’t sweat it. It’s really not that hard.
Self-publishing veterans, how did you find the process? Am I just late to the party?
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my online classes, my guide to writing a novel and my guide to publishing a book.
And if you like this post: subscribe to my newsletter!
Nathan, thanks a ton for your tips. What do you think of Freeditorial.com ? It is NOT a self publishing platform but I find their promise very interesting for someone like me trying to get started in a professional writing career
As someone who has considered all avenues of publishing, I appreciate the information you've provided and the comments it has generated. If there are any women's fiction writers out there who are still looking for agent contact, here's an opportunity from Writer's Digest:
I put my book out last year, through a publisher, but this is the first year I've got it out on my own (long story) and I've got to say: promoting it trough my blog is the weirdest potential issue here. My publisher never did much of that, and the promotions I did were mostly…well…me doing them. How do I do this on my own page? Where are the adoring crowds? I was promised thronging masses on a level with the gathering outside of Brian's window, in Monty Python's Life of Brian.
What I've seen is, mostly, the blog equivalent of passers by in the middle of Times Square on the morning of January 1st, watching the noisy remnants of NYE forming drunken human pyramids on top of one of those water fountain floor things.
As in: there's not too many. And I'm DELIGHTFUL.
It sounds like you delegated the hardest parts, which is cool. If you have the money, that's the way to go.