In 2017, I went to a workshop at Romantic Times where the speaker passed out a “cheat sheet” for self-publishing. The first item was “Write Book,” and underneath that, the page was filled with what seemed like a million things to accomplish. I remember thinking, “OMG, I thought writing a book was the hard part!” Oh, what a sweet, summer child I was. Having gotten so far in the process that I’m about to put my first book on pre-order, I can tell you unequivocally that writing the book is not the hard part. Not by a long shot.
Honestly, I’m not complaining (much . . . maybe I’m whining just a little because it’s been a long weekend of marketing prep), but I wanted to share with you a bit about what it’s like to self-publish when you essentially know nothing about the process going in.
So, the nutshell version: You know nothing about anything, there are dozens of things you need to set up/learn how to do, and with every new task, you start at square one.
For a while, my days started in my head with this intro: “In today’s episode of things Amy knows nothing about but needs to master in a weekend . . .”
Now, the Dyson version:
So you’ve writen a book. Yay! It’s good to let it sit for a while after you’re done—you’ll grow less attached to your precious words and be more willing and able to see which ones are, in fact, not so precious. Then maybe you take a run at editing it yourself before engaging someone professional—I needed to do this because I had some significant cuts to make before each book in this series had an acceptable word count.
When you get done editing (or possibly while you’re still trading drafts with your editor), it’s time to figure out what to do next. The way I’m writing the rest of this post is a bit in stream-of-consciousness form, but honestly, this is how everything comes at you the first time.
How will you format the book? Pay someone? Vellum? Calibre? If you’re formatting it, do you want chapter header or section break graphics? If so, these need to be designed.
Before you can format the book, you need to write the front and back matter: copyright page, dedication, acknowledgements, about the author, back cover blurb.
Are you publishing the book under your name? A pen name? Will you create an imprint? An imprint needs a name and a logo—those will need to be chosen and designed too.
What is an ISBN? How many do you need? Do you have to pay for them, or should you use the free ones?
Cover: Design your own? Pay someone? Work out all the details and pay for all the images and fonts you use.
Author Brand: Who are you? A logo would be good—maybe a tagline too? Do you have colors?
Platform: Facebook—author page, group, or both? Instagram? Pinterest? Twitter? Tiktok? Goodreads? A newsletter is essential, so learn how to use Mailchimp or Mailerlite. You need a website. Who’s going to build it? Host? Platform? Elementor layered over top to make it easier? Will you have a blog? Will you sell books from your site? If so, learn how to set up e-commerce.
Get a separate bank account for royalties and a PO box or equivalent if you don’t want to publicize your home address.
Graphics: Teasers, cover reveals, Facebook cover, posts for any of the media mentioned above, content for your newsletter and website. Learn how to use Canva and/or BookBrush really fast and throw some more money at copyrighted images because you fell in love with them. And OMG, what about swag?
Did we make it to the actual publishing yet? Maybe. Set up a timeline for cover reveals, ARCs, pre-order, promotions, and release. Where to publish? KU or wide (everywhere else)? Ebook, paperback, hard cover, audio? How many places do I need to upload to if I’m going wide?!
Metadata: BISAC codes, keywords—which ones are best for your content and will get readers to notice your book?
Promotion: Teasers? Ads? Giveaways? Blog tours? Cross-promotion? Bookbub? A literal million other places?
And last, the catch-22: You can’t set up an author page on Goodreads or Amazon without a book, and if you upload your book, you’re at least in pre-order, and you need to have Goodreads and Amazon author pages to support that. Chicken? Egg? A little help here, Amazon?
I’ve missed things. Lots of them. I’d likely have heart failure if I knew how many hours I’ve spent on this “hobby” since last August. But you know what? I can format a book and design a website. I can make all sorts of graphic content all on my own. I’ve learned to use more than a dozen new software applications and have skills I wouldn’t have dreamed of having at this time last year.
I’m tired, and I think I might commit hari-kari if I have to Google one more set of instructions, but this week, I’ll see my cover on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and hold my own paperback in my hand. And I think it’s gonna be worth it. And you only have to run the gauntlet once to learn all these things. So I’m prepared and confident for book two. Have a good week, everyone. I plan to.