How to Become an Author and Self-Publish your First Book
Being an author takes a lot of work, but if you’re passionate about writing and telling stories, it can be a gratifying career. After editing and rewriting your work until you’re sure it’s the best it can be, the next step is getting it published. But with traditional publishing, that can be easier said than done. There are many reasons why you might want to self-publish your work. Maybe you’ve been sending your manuscript out to literary agents and haven’t had any bites. That’s completely normal, as the industry is somewhat competitive, and it can be tough to get your foot in the door.
Unless you have a recommendation from a well-connected individual, it can be tough to get an agent interested in your work. And if this is your debut novel, finding someone willing to take a chance on you can be even harder.
Enter: self-publishing. Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to get your work out there for the world to see – and you don’t have to go through a traditional publisher to do it. Additionally, traditional publishers are now starting to take note of self-published books that are doing well, so there’s the potential to be picked up by a bigger publisher down the road.
In this blog post, we’ll go over everything you need to know about self-publishing your first book, from where to submit your manuscript to marketing your work once it’s published.
What are Some of the Resources For Self-Publishing?
Before signing up for Amazon KDP, IngramSpark, Kobo, or any other self-publishing platform, you should study up on the process and make sure you have a clear roadmap. Many people try to take the easy road when it comes to self-publishing and simply submit their work to any old platform that will take it. But that’s not going to lead to success.
You need to be strategic about where you publish your book if you want it to reach the right audience and have a chance at being successful. Not to mention, you also need to be aware of the different fees associated with each platform and what they offer in terms of marketing and distribution.
To help you get started on your journey to self-publishing success, we’ve compiled a list of some excellent resources below:
CreativeLive’s Writing Courses
If you’re looking to brush up on your writing skills or learn more about the publishing process, CreativeLive offers a range of online courses that can help. Our 45+ class lineup includes everything from fiction writing boot camps to publishing 101 courses.
You’ll learn how to fulfill reader expectations, format your work for different markets, and tighten up your prose. CreativeLive courses are available 24/7, so you can access them whenever it’s convenient for you. And because they’re online, you can take them from anywhere in the world. Having a structured approach to writing can be extremely helpful, especially if you’re starting from scratch.
Reading a free blog post here and there is acceptable at first, but you’ll quickly realize that you need a more comprehensive system to make real progress. Our courses can also give you a better understanding of the business side of publishing and what you need to do to get your work out there.
There are millions of writers out there who are all going through the same struggles as you. Fortunately, there are several online communities where writers can come together to vent, share advice, and support one another.
One of our favorites is the /r/selfpublish subreddit, which has over 86,000 members. This is an incredibly active community where writers can ask questions, get advice, and share their work. Exchanging ideas with other writers is the best way to stay motivated and inspired, so we recommend checking it out (or any of the other writing subreddits) if you haven’t already.
This subreddit’s wiki, which is a sort of repository of all things self-publishing, is also incredibly helpful and worth bookmarking. It includes links to articles, services, tools, and other resources to help you on your journey.
How Can I Find an Editor to Proofread Drafts?
Picture the scene. You’ve written what you believe to be a bestseller, grown your email list for pre-orders, and even managed to get a few endorsements. You’re on top of the world. All that’s left is to format your book for publication and hit the “publish” button, right? Not so fast.
If you want your book to be taken seriously, you must ensure it’s well-edited. Readers can tell when a book hasn’t been properly edited, and it reflects poorly on the author. Editors can help you in two ways.
First, they’ll catch any typos or grammatical errors you may have missed. While one typo in a 250,000-word novel may not seem like a big deal, having many of them can become distracting to the reader and make your work look unprofessional.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, an editor can help improve the flow and clarity of your writing. They’ll point out instances where you’ve meandered off-topic, or a sentence could be phrased more clearly. Having someone to provide this type of feedback is invaluable, especially if you’re just starting as a writer.
So, where can you find an editor? If you don’t have any personal connections, some online services can connect you with freelance editors, such as Reedsy, and Fiverr. Mind you, these editors vary significantly in terms of quality and price, so be sure to do your research before hiring anyone.
Asking for recommendations from other writers is probably the best way to find a good editor. Once you’ve found someone you’re happy with, develop a good working relationship with them. A useful editor will become an invaluable asset and can help make your writing that much better.
What Sites Can I Use For Cover Artwork?
As an author, graphic design might not be your forte. But don’t worry; there are still plenty of ways to get professional-looking covers without hiring a designer. One option is to use a site like Canva, which offers a wide selection of templates you can customize. If you’re unsatisfied with the results, you can also hire a freelance designer on Fiverr or Upwork.
Another option is to use a pre-made cover. While this may not be ideal, it’s better than using a generic stock photo or something you threw together yourself. You can find some tremendous pre-made covers on sites like 99designs.
Although you may be tempted to skimp out on cover design, it’s important to remember that the cover is often the first thing potential readers will see. It should be eye-catching, professional, and reflect the tone of your book. A poorly designed cover will likely result in fewer sales, so it’s worth getting it right.
How Can I Promote the Book if I Self-Publish?
Publishing your book is only half the battle. The next step is getting people actually to read it, and oftentimes, that’s the hard part. There are currently close to 50 million books available on Amazon, including classics, bestsellers, and self-published works, so standing out from the crowd can be tough.
Self-publishing means you get no external support in marketing or promotion, so it’s up to you to get the word out about your book. One way to do this is by utilizing social media. Create a Twitter account for your book and start tweeting about it. Make a Facebook page and post regular updates. If you have a blog or website, write articles related to your book and include links to where people can buy it.
Another way to promote your art is by giving away free copies. This may seem counter-intuitive, but giving away free eBooks is a proven way to generate interest and get people talking about your work. For example, you can offer your book for free for up to five days on Amazon Kindle. This is a great way to get some early reviews, which can help please the algorithm and generate even more interest.
Finally, paid advertising is always an option, although it can be expensive. Amazon ads are a popular option since you know that people who are seeing your ad are already interested in buying books. Facebook ads can also be effective, although they can be a bit more hit-or-miss.
Can I Re-Publish With an Agency if the Book Sells Well?
Absolutely! If your book does well (10,000+ copies sold), you’ll likely have no trouble finding a traditional publishing deal. In fact, many self-published authors use their sales numbers as leverage to get better terms from publishers.
Remember that you’ll likely have to give up some rights and royalties if you go this route, but it can still be worth it if you’re looking for more widespread distribution. More importantly, you’ll get a literary agent to represent you for your next work, which can be a game-changer to publish your next book.
Breakdown and Comparison of Costs for Self-Publishing vs. Working With an Agency
Before deciding to self-publish your book, it’s essential to know that going this route is not free. Although getting your book on a platform like Amazon Kindle might be, there are other costs to consider, such as cover design, editing, and marketing.
When working with an agency, these costs are typically rolled into your publishing deal, but when self-publishing, they come out of your own pocket.
Here’s a brief overview of some of the costs associated if you self-publish:
- Developmental Editing: $0.015/word
- Copy Editing: $0.01/word
- Proofreading: $0.005/word
- Cover Design: $500-$1,000
- Formatting: $100-$250
- Marketing: $0-$5,000
Self-published authors spend, on average, $1,000-$5,000 to publish each book. As you can see, the costs can add up quickly, especially if you’re looking to invest in a professional cover design and top-notch editing. Of course, you can reduce these costs by doing some of the work yourself or avoid them altogether, but don’t be surprised if your sales are abysmal.
However, it is still cheaper than traditional publishing in the long run. With a traditional publishing deal, you’ll likely only receive an advance of $10,000. After that, you won’t see any more money until your book sells enough copies to earn out your advance. And even then, you’ll only receive a small percentage (8-10%) of each book sold.
Start your Journey with CreativeLive.
If you’re serious about writing a book, take the time to learn from the pros with CreativeLive. Preparation is the best way to increase your chances of success, so check out our writing, publishing, and marketing books courses.