Self-Publishing Steps - Part 1
A few months ago, I did a blog post on how I self-published. It was a general overview of the entire process and it was received well. Several of you expressed interest in me doing a series of blog posts on the topic with more detail, so here we are. Today will be post 1 of 7 and I’m going to start by listing the entire process again:
1. Write the book 2. Hire an editor 3. Hire a cover designer 4. Decide on publishing platforms 5. Format 6. Order and read proof copies 7. Publish
Today we are focusing on the first step, which is writing the book. This may seem straightforward, but I’m talking about all the steps that fall under the umbrella of ‘writing the damn book’, because there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. I’m sure you’ve wondered why it takes traditionally published authors a year to publish a new book. Well, it’s because that’s how long it takes to perfect it. Of course, everyone is different. It may take more or less time depending on your schedule and skill, but I digress, onto the process.
In the age of easy self-publishing options, some people write the first draft of their novel, do maybe one read through and a Word grammar check and then call it done. They upload it to one of the printing websites and wait for the sales to roll in. I cannot stress this enough: don’t do that. You are not only hurting your book and its sales, but also your brand as an author. It is virtually impossible for your book to be the best version of itself in one draft and if you plan on making authorship your career, you don’t want your debut novel to be hastily done.
Great novels take time and several drafts to really shine. I can’t tell you what the magic number is, but seldom is it one or even two. From my own personal experience, my first two novels took 4 heavy revision drafts and 3 editing drafts for a total of 8 drafts when you count draft one. My fantasy novel on the other hand is on draft 11 and I haven’t even started the edits yet.
So you may be wondering how to know how many drafts is enough. How do you know if the book is ready? Well this is where another important integrated step of the writing process comes in: feedback. Now, this also comes in many forms. I personally work with Critique Partners and Beta Readers, but some people also use family members, close friends, Alpha Readers, and Developmental Editors, to name a few.
I get my Critique Partner to read draft 2 of my novel. At this point I’ve already done heavy revisions on my own after reading through my first draft and I need a second pair of eyes. My CP is a writer as well and looks at it from a writer’s point of view. From her feedback, I do draft 3. My beta readers receive draft 3 or 4, depending on when I’m ready. They give me feedback on what they like and don’t like as readers and they answer a list of specific questions I give them. I won’t go into detail on the topic of Beta Readers in this post, but I think you get the gist.
Once the beta readers are done, I revise the whole draft again based on their feedback and that’s usually where the developmental (big picture) edits end for me. In the case of my fantasy novel, I’ve actually done 2 round of betas. Once I’m satisfied with the plot, characters, and setting, I get into the edits. When I say edits, I mean grammar, spelling, punctuation, wordiness, and all the other small details. I print the manuscript out for this and mark it up with red pen.
The last couple drafts are covered in later steps in this series, so I’ll stop there, but I think you get the idea. The writing process as a whole is different for everyone. We don’t all use the same tools. Some of us skip steps. Some of us repeat steps multiple times for one book, but each step brings us closer to a polished manuscript our readers will be happy to buy and we will be proud to sell to them. Don’t publish your first draft and sell yourself short. I know you can create something even better if you give yourself time.
And that concludes part one of seven in the self-publishing process series: writing the book. Stay tuned for part two next month and next week’s post will be discussing the inspiration behind my characters.