Like many many people I have written several novels with more on the way. Also, like many many people, I have tried to get an agent and a publisher with varying levels of success and interest. It is a hard time to get published but there are other options.
Having been writing for 10 years I decided a year ago to take the plunge. I was going to have a go at self publishing.
What followed was a voyage of discovery, errors, disasters and successes in pretty equal measure but I feel that I have learnt quite a lot in this 12 months so I thought I would share some of it.
What I did
Having tried to get published and not hooking an agent I enrolled with a Literary Consultancy in Oxford. What followed was a passing back and forth of a manuscript for The Last Seal. Over the course of 6 months the book improved dramatically from them making comments and suggestions and me redrafting and passing it back to them. The only down side to this is it does cost money. Having a consultant discuss and advise on a manuscript will cost a few hundred pounds. That said I do think I learned quite a bit about writing and the final MS was much better. It was good enough indeed to be sent for by a publisher who although rejecting me did send a 3 page letter discussing its merits and areas of improvement and asking me to send more material.
Most importantly I now felt that I COULD write. I was starting to learn the ropes.
Later I took on an editor and the MS improved even more. Indeed the most important lesson of all is get the MS professionally edited before you send it to agents and publishers and before you publish it. It can transform a book from fair to good to even great.
OK, so I now had a decent MS and I used the same approaches I had learnt from this process to sharpen my other books.
Now what? I researched self publishing. There appeared to be 3 ways to do it:
1) Use a company who would do all the work, even create a book cover design as well as laying the text out. These though can be costly and often do little to promote your book. That said it is the easiest approach if you lack IT skills. An example of such a company are Author House.
2)Use an online self publishing service such as Lulu and Completely Novel. In both cases you upload a work document and the online tool converts it for you. You do have to lay out the text a bit but don’t need to know about PDFs etc. You can design a cover online and use stock images or upload an image. In both cases quality is fair. The problem with Lulu is it is US based and although it can print in the UK any online sales via Lulu are in the states which brings in US Tax issues. Completely Novel are UK based and very helpful and supportive. This approach is a middle way in that you get more control and can keep costs under control Â BUT the per volume costs are fairly high and paperbacks are likely to sell on Amazon for at least Â£12. That is too high IMHO.
3)Become a publisher. I did this in the end. It is actually not that hard. First register via Nielsen and get 10 ISBNs (book numbers). Then approach Lightning Source or Anthony Rowe or even other printers. LS and AR will sort out registering your books with Nielsen. If you go to a printer direct you will need to do that yourself.
You need to register the books so that they appear in the book distribution lists at Bertrams, Gardners etc and so are available to book shops. Then you create a PDF of your book and a PDF of the cover following exacting instructions. This is technical and you will have to read the extensive notes provided by LS (in my case) to learn how. One piece of advice – DO NOT PUBLISH IN HARDBACK. This is costly and a major mistake I made.
Now you order the books. When they arrive you start to market them. This can be done locally at shops, hauling yourself around craft and book fairs and MOST importantly ONLINE (see later). This is HARD work and takes a lot of time and effort but if you chip away at it a little a day you can get some interest.
What I recommend
TAKE YOUR TIME and don’t rush.
Firstly work and work at that manuscript. Polish and polish. Put it to one side. Leave it 2 weeks and then read it fresh. Then when it is as good as can be, get an editor to work on it and polish it. YOU ALL NEED this. Think I am wrong? All published authors have editors. You need one. Believe me.
Then try the agents and publishers. If you cannot hook one it does not mean the stuff is poor. Publishers take on only a minute number of new writers. You don’t fit their list but that does not mean readers wont like it. When you have decided to proceed in self publishing, research around the subject. The Authonomy website has useful advice in its forums. Read up on Lulu, check out self publishing companies. Be careful – there are rogues out there. If in doubt go on Authonomy (a website of authors) and ask about the company.
Find out if you can cope with creating professional book blocks or if you want someone else to do it.
Consider engaging the services of a book cover artist to help there unless you have talent.
MARKET the book.
This is a whole subject in itself and there are hundreds of websites with advice. Be careful you don’t spend too much money on books, courses or guides that promise to tell you the secrets of becoming a best selling author. Much can be done for free.
Get on Facebook and engage with people. Get on Forums in your subject. Blog a bit around your subject.
Create a really cool website. Make Utube videos. Make e-book versions and get them on Kindle. Learn about search engines and how they work. See about doing talks locally. Keep an eye out for clubs, locations etc that might be interested in the book.
I will try and do a longer piece on this BUTÂ YOU MUST MARKET THE BOOK.
If people don’t know about it they wont buy it.
That is it for now. More on this another time.
Richard Denning is a historical fiction and historical fantasy writer. Find out more about his books here:
He also writes occasional book and board game reviews and online articles on historical and gaming related topics. He owns his own small publishing house Mercia Books and is part of a board game design house Medusa Games.
A keen player of board games and other games Richard is one of the directors of UK Games Expo (the UK’s largest hobby games convention). He is a board game designer and his first Board Game ‘The Great Fire on London 1666′ was published by Medusa Games and Prime Games in October 2010.