The plight of the novice author

Becoming a self-published author is a bit like running with wolves, at some point someone is going to nip at your ankles.  

Online publishing platforms have opened a gateway for writers to become self-published authors.  It is no longer necessary to channel your manuscript through a publisher or an agent to get your book onto a shelf, be it digital or in paperback.  However, the task of mastering a self-published novel or novella is far from putting words to paper.  

The first step in transcending from writer to published author, is of course your manuscript.  The collection of words that formulate a story.  Not just any words though, anywhere upwards from seventy-thousand words formulated into a sequel of must read chapters.  Simply writing is not always sufficient to become a successfully published author.  Bearing in mind that in this context success is understood as making sales, in at least making enough profit through the sale of your published master piece to recoup the time and expense you vested in it. Thus you will need to consider the following as a crude formulation for success.

  1. Writing the manuscript

Writing is of course the first step to the process and your genre of choice can in itself have challenges.  Setting your book in the past, will have you researching historic time events, sufficiently so that the reader will find your story fitting to the era, context and events that occurred during that time.  Any facts conveyed in your novel, real or imagined will have to be written in such a way that they are believable.  

Your reader must relate to the facts in your story and acknowledge them as such.  Don’t leave room for your reader to question the believability of your novel.  You want to take your reader on a journey, not have them second guessing your story.    Ideally you don’t want to write anything less than fifty-five-thousand words to be considered a novel.  Any less puts you in the novella category.  Books generally have around 250 – 300 words on a page, so you can estimate the number of pages your book will size out to in its completed form.   Ninety-thousand words will give you 360 pages, a good number to work towards. 

  1. Editing

Never underestimate the value and need for good editing.  You can choose to do this yourself, or outsource it to an editor of your choice.  Editors are plentiful, good editors – not always.  You can find an editor through organic web searches, referrals from other writers or on online-platforms where such services are conglomerated.  Editing is very important and should not be underestimated.  If you self-edit, be confident in your ability to remove yourself from the story and give an objective view.  You will likely need to edit your manuscript more than once.  When choosing an editor remember, that you have asked for a professional opinion.  

Editors are going to edit your work, essentially they are going to find fault with your manuscript and help you perfect it.  Be in the right frame of mind to accept this feedback.  You don’t need to accept all the changes your editor recommends – there may be some there may be many.  Form a relationship with your editor so that you are comfortable to question the recommendations when they don’t make sense to you, this way you will learn from each other and your next manuscript can improve from this.  Know what your expectations are, and be sure to clarify your needs.  Editors offer different services and can include substantive, copy, developmental, content or line editing.  Know which service you need as the pricing for each of these can differ greatly.

  1. Formatting

Your book will need to be formatted for the platform you choose to publish on.  Printed books need a lot more detailed and even creative formatting compared to electronically published books.  Most online platforms have applications that you can download to help format your book.  Whether you e-publish or print, you will need a cover for your book.  Don’t underestimate the power of your cover, everyone judges a book (novel) by its cover. Your cover can make or break a sale.  

  1. Proofreading

After your book has been formatted, you will need to proofread it.  Proofreading is the final step to polishing your book and will pig up lags in typos, spelling and other minor mistakes.  Proof-reading should not materially change sentence structure or content, it is simply the final dotting of the i and crossing of the t.  

  1. Publishing

Publishing to an online platform is simplistic.  As the author, you will create an account on the designated platform and upload the book in the required format.  Remember to check the terms and conditions.  You often cannot charge different prices for your book between platforms and some platforms insist that you publish to all online platforms on the same day.  You will need to read and understand the terms and conditions.  You will be bound by these, make sure that they serve you and your objectives.  

  1. Marketing

Publishing your book does not mean it will sell.  You can publish to an online platform and never get a sale.  As the author you are responsible for marketing your book, better marketing will result in improved sales.  You will need to have a marketing strategy that you can cope with, otherwise you will need to employ someone to do this for you.  It is important to have a hook for your book, a compelling reason for someone to buy and read your book.  More importantly to want to read the next one.  Create a strategy that reaches out to all your potential readers as far and wide as possible, using all the social media tools available.  

During this entire process, there may be times that are more challenging than others.  Prepare yourself to cope with what comes your way.  The editing process for example, may have you seeing red, literally and figuratively as the commentary and changes are track-changed in red.  Go through each step conscientiously keeping the ultimate goal central throughout the process.  Be kind on yourself, running with wolves doesn’t come easy. 

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