Almost every step of the writing process has elements that can mess with your head.
There are the characters that won’t stop talking when you’re writing. The endless editing that has you correcting words in your sleep. Writing queries or a one-page synopsis (one page!) and dealing with generic rejections that give no clue about whether you’re a good writer or if your story works (always leaving you to think the worst).
Lately, I’ve waded into a new kind of insanity; trying to self-publish my book.
If you’re about to embark on the same path, hello, my friend. Pack some chocolate, leave your ego behind, and learn from my mistakes/lessons/takeaways…
How To Keep Yourself Sane When Self-Publishing
Know What You Want
Are you just going the ebook route? Do you want print and an ebook? Hardcover options? Author copies? Do you want your friends and family to be able to buy your book without taking out a loan to cover the shipping?
These are the things you need to think about so you can plan accordingly and go with the publishing provider that’ll give them to you.
When I first started researching, I decided to go with Draft2Digital. They have a very easy-to-use system, no upload fees (they take a percentage of your royalties) and free ISBN’s.
What they don’t have is their own print option (although it’s coming), meaning I had no way of getting author copies to check the print book before release. They also don’t currently produce and ship their own POD books, so any book ordered would rely on third-party shipping, which can get expensive when you live on the other side of the world.
That left me with my other option, IngramSpark. They ticked my know-what-you-want boxes with author copies, reasonable shipping (they have a printer here in Melbourne), and print books as well as ebooks.
Their process for uploading files, though, is not for the faint-hearted. It’s work and plain confusing for a newbie. Ingram also charge to upload your files and make any changes once your book is “live”, but you can currently get around that with the coupon code NANO2020.
The takeaway: decide what you want from self-publishing, research your options, and pick the right fit.
Be Organized… Early
I made the mistake of starting with my MS as a document in Scrivener, ready to be made into the ebook and print files, then signed up to start the publishing process a month before I planned to release. Don’t. Do. This.
Find out what the specifications your print and ebook files are, get them and your cover done, and then start the process. Ideally more than just a few weeks out from putting your book into the world. Why? The stress.
To self-publish you need to know (among many other things) the book size for your print book (called a trim size), the kind of paper and color options to go with, and the number of pages (something you won’t know when your MS is still just a Scrivener file). You also need to get an ISBN.
If you’re using a service that requires you to buy your own ISBN (which I am), you also have to fill in even more forms to assign it to your book, and you need one for every book option you’re planning to release (ebook, paperback, and hardcover).
There’s a lot of stuff to learn, to decide upon, and to do, including knowing the category of your book and all the metadata/tags so readers can find it when it’s published. You also need your blurb and a short description of your book handy.
I did not know these things when I started the process, making it difficult and stress-filled, especially when I’d stupidly picked such a tight deadline.
The takeaway: research/find out what you need to self-publish both your print and ebook and get it ready before giving yourself plenty of time to learn and work through the process.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Google is your friend when it comes to researching, finding how-to articles, and the meanings for some of the publishing jargon you’ll come across, so make sure to use it.
It also helps to have someone read through the forms with you, discuss the options, explore your questions, bounce your thought processes off, or hear you complain in real-time about how frustrating the process is (may or may not be a true story).
Writer friends are also the best (shoutout to the #6amAusWriters crew!). Chances are high someone in the writing community has been through the process and can answer any questions/call-outs for help on social media. You’ll also always find writers to vent to who have a sympathetic ear for the writer-life.
The takeaway: don’t be afraid to ask for help or find people who will help you get a handle on the process without losing your sanity.
Keep It Simple
When it comes to creating your files, keep it simple and go with the programs you know.
As much as I love Scrivener, it was only good for compiling my epub for my ARC and the ebook. I could add front and back matter (title page, copyright, dedication, acknowledgments, about the author, etc) and the cover with relative ease because I already knew how to use Scrivener for those things. I could also use Scrivener to compile the Word doc for my print book.
I went with Word for the print version because it’s so much easier to set your margins, page size, and add a header (once you’ve sorted the waking nightmare of starting your page numbers and headers on the book pages and not the title page, that is). You can then save the file as a PDF, and that’s your print book.
There are other programs too, such as Kindle Create, and Draft2Digital, that have free, easy-to-use ebook creators.
It took some trial and error for me to realize which programs would give me what I needed. For example, I used both Kindle Create and D2D to put together my ebook before realizing they wouldn’t do. Kindle Create only makes files that can be uploaded to Amazon, and D2D kept stripping out my spacing, changing the way I wanted things to look.
The takeaway: go with the programs you know so that you don’t waste time making files you ultimately can’t use.
By now you might be thinking that it’ll be a miracle if I get Blackbirch: The Beginning out by release date and that I’m an idiot or insane (or both). As with anything writing-related, it’s a learning curve, and as frustrating as it is, I’m always grateful to learn new things.
I’m also grateful for the wonderful ARC readers who gave me both positive feedback and constructive criticism so my book can be as good as I can currently make it.
Will it be completely error-free? Probably not (but not from lack of trying, we’re all human and humans miss things). Do I wish I was more organized/knowledgeable/not on a self-imposed tight deadline? Yes. Do I also wish I’d researched more/understood things better/didn’t waste time creating files that weren’t useful? You bet.
The process of self-publishing may tip you over the edge, but it’s in a writer’s soul to put words together and share them with others. Ultimately, that’s what will keep you sane, even if the process to get there does its best to drive you crazy.
— K.M. Allan