Three major lessons learned in self-publishing: Tellwell author Rachael Bell-Irving shares her insight
By: Rachael Bell-Irving
I have been writing novels since I was young and it has always been a goal of mine to publish. I wanted to tie the bow on my passion project and be able to hold the result in my hands. This is why I chose self-publishing for Demons at the Doorstep, and did not attempt any traditional publishing route. Looking back now, a whole lot has changed, and there is a lot I’ve learned on this publishing journey.
Here are three key lessons I’ve learned through self-publishing, so far…
Be Professionally Edited
Just do it. It is worth it. When you are publishing on a budget, there are ways you can cut corners to save money. Editing should not be one of them. No matter how many times you have friends, families, even strangers read the book – no one catches errors like a professional editor.
I tried to resist editing at first because of restrictions in my budget. It took my mother’s nagging (thanks mom) to finally get me to cave. When I received the edits back, my eyes went wide and I began to laugh. How could I have possibly missed some of these points? I was surprised by other suggestions, and shocked at how repetitive I had been with my vocabulary. Your book is read from a different perspective than how it is written. An editor is able to objectively critique the manuscript from this external perspective.
If you’re worried about losing your artistic license – don’t be. You don’t have to agree with all the edits your editor makes. I do strongly recommend you listen to their suggestions. They are a professional for a reason – they have (hopefully) training, experience, and a different perspective. It will improve the quality of your content and add a level of professionalism to your book. Seriously – do it.
This is the mantra I keep having to repeat for myself. In being so excited to see the final product, I almost skimped out on the quality of my book. Editing takes time, cover design takes time, marketing takes time. If everything isn’t up to your standard, then keep working on it. After all, you are the one fronting the costs. If you are going to go through with self-publishing, then invest the time to get the most value out of your investment.
I always considered myself a patient person, and I am… in the short term. Writing is a long game, and putting a book on the market is not the end of it. I chose to go straight into self-publishing to conclude a much-loved project, and instead I have found myself at the start of an ongoing, never-ending journey. This may mean you need to shift your expectation of success.
Publishing can produce a gradual build-up of exposure and awareness – if you work for it. To help me cope with being patient, I invest time regularly in marketing. This way I feel like I am accomplishing something, even if there isn’t an instant gratification at the end of it.
I have always planned to get my work published, but when I finally decided to get it done it was pretty much on a whim. I thought I was ready – I was wrong. There were lots of small details that I never gave thought to before I pursued publication. These details help drive your vision and streamline the publication process.
- Who is your target audience? Describe the kind of person who would pick your book off of the shelf.
- What do you want the book to look like? Think front, back and internal layout. Is your vision feasible within your budget?
- Has your manuscript been thoroughly edited?
It is never too early to start marketing yourself, even if your book is not yet finished. Find a platform you feel comfortable using (I market through Instagram predominantly) and become an expert at it. There is a lot of leg-work that you can do before you even start the publishing process, which will make your leap into the market more comfortable. I would have had far more confidence in myself and in my work if I had done more pre-planning and research into the industry prior to self-publishing. The process itself is the best learning opportunity, but it doesn’t hurt to build yourself a foundation of knowledge first.
I don’t know if any author pursues publication to make money. It is a costly feat, especially self-publishing, which takes a lot of time and effort. But it is your art, your story and a piece of your heart you are putting out into the world. Regardless of your motives, support, or publication method – that is scary. Whichever path you take with your creation, remember why you started in the first place. At the end of the day, you have written a book, and that is pretty awesome in itself.