I submitted my first ever novel to MacMillan in 2003. It was 200,000 words long. It was messy, poorly edited, over-burdened with characters, and in every possible way a first novel. That isn’t to say it was rubbish, it was just… my first novel.
After a few rejections had rolled in, I decided to go for what we now call self-publishing. In those days it was easy enough to find a Print on Demand website, upload your files and off you go. It was all fairly new back then, which had a few downsides. Apart from there being a lot of stigma attached to self-published authors, there was practically no advice out there, aside from how to format your files for the website’s requirements. Nothing about the pitfalls of self-publishing; how edit properly, publicise, raise your profile, find your market, do your taxes.
Nothing. It seemed a very poor alternative to ‘real’ publishing.
Things have changed over the years, of course, and the stigma is fading, while the advice is improving. I can only applaud this development, because, not only is an author’s reputation as a writer at stake when they make something available to the public, their dreams are, too. Both are fragile, and both are subject to very fickle tides.
An article I read on the subject recently highlighted how much I’ve learned in the intervening years. It also pointed out how much I still have left to learn.
The author of that article is Kristen Lamb, who has written a bestselling book on how to publish your digital novel. In the article, Caveat Venditor—Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors, she gives some awesome advice to anyone thinking of self-publishing. She has a very direct, no-pulling-her-punches approach which I greatly appreciate, and the article is insightful and scarily truthful.
The article points out five ways a self-published author can (and often does) screw up.
- Publishing Before We Are Ready
- Jumping in Before Understanding the Business Side to the Business
- Believing that “If We Write it, They Will Come”
- Misusing FREE!
- Shopping One Book to DEATH
I confess to having committed every one of these mistakes, and if you think you might be guilty too, check out Kristen’s article for some no-nonsense advice.
In an aside, I am now very tempted to buy her book on the basis of that article. Just goes to show how social media can generate sales. That’s practicing what you preach, Kristen. Good job, sir(ess). Very good job.