It’s six months since I self-published my debut novel Keep Away from Those Ferraris. I have sold around 200 copies (eBook and paperback) in that time, which apparently is good going for a first timer. It would be better going if I’d sold 200,000, but you can’t have everything. What I do have is a follow-up novel coming out early next year. Here is my to-do list to get it from first draft to the new Game of Thrones. The list is based on what I have learned so far – it should be useful to anyone looking to tackle self-publishing for the first time.
Finish and Re-Draft: I hope to have a first draft (75,000 words) by early September. The second draft is a partial re-write, where I make sure that plot, pace and tone of voice work are working properly. This should take about two months. The third draft is where I tighten up the writing. That’s all about culling adverbs and hacking down long sentences. Give that a month. The fourth and final draft is a series of proof reads, where I keep re-reading the book until I can’t take it anymore. Give that two weeks. So I should have a final draft ready for Christmas.
Editor Yes/No: Every self-publishing blog I read says you must hire a copy editor to make sure your book is error free and coherent. What they don’t often mention is that this will cost around €800, which means you will need to sell about 600 to 700 books (depending on price) to cover that investment. That’s harder than it looks. Here’s the thing. I’m a professional writer. I write for a living every working day of the week. I’m confident I can spot narrative drift and dodgy syntax. What I don’t know is whether I can catch almost all of my mistakes. (I do know I won’t catch all of them.) The yes/no on the editor front needs to be sorted out soon. Because to hire a good one (like I did last time out) means you need to book them 3 or 4 months in advance. So I will make that decision in late August. Right now, I’m tempted to say no and go it alone.
Cover Designer: This is not a yes/no issue for me. I am not a professional artist. I can hardly draw breath. So I am more than glad to pay around €300 to put that in the hands of a professional. The guy I used last time requires about a month’s notice, so that needs to be put in train in late November. More importantly, I need to get my head around the genre and target audience for the new book. While reviews for Keep Away from Those Ferraris have been very positive, more than one reviewer felt the cover and blurb didn’t do justice to the story inside. That’s my fault. I briefed the cover designer poorly, telling him that I’m a cross between Tom Clancy and Dan Brown. I’m not. So at the same time as I am proof reading in December, I need to work on a spot-on book description.
Advance Reviews: Advance reviews are obviously vital for traditionally published books, which have a limited time on the shelves. It’s different for self-published eBooks and print-on-demand paperbacks – they can be launched and re-launched as often as you like. In fact, big-brained people who understand the ranking algorithms will often warn against a big-bang launch on Amazon and the Kindle stores. That’s because Amazon apparently punishes titles which have a spike in sales by dropping them hard down the rankings once the spike has passed. (To discourage people from bulk-buying their own books in order to claim an Amazon bestseller placing.) I plan to send ARCs (advanced review copies) to three or four reputable bloggers who said some very nice things about Keep Away from Those Ferraris. I should be able to do that by late November.
Price Drop and Giveaways: Keep Away from Those Ferraris is one of my key marketing tools for the new book. I hope to get that into as many hands as possible before the launch. I will enrol it in KDP Select sometime in early October – that allows me to give it away free on Kindle for five days in the run up to launch.
Admin: I did most of this last time out, but a first timer will need an account on their chosen publishing platforms such as KDP, CreateSpace and Smashwords. You will also need an EIN number from the U.S. Inland Revenue (unless you want to pay tax on your royalties in the States, which is a bit generous of you seeing as it isn’t necessary.) This involves a five minute phone call to a Revenue site and they will issue the number there and then. It’s not as daunting as people make out. There’s lot of information on this across the internet – just google “EIN self-publish phone” and you’ll find all you need to know. You should also sign-up to authorcentral on Amazon – it’s is a single location where you can store your biography and details of your publications. Allow a week to get all this done and dusted.
Get Social:I’ve built a reasonable Twitter and Facebook presence in the last year. A lot of my followers will already know about the new book. I’ll be looking to build on that starting in November with cover and title reveals, sample book blurbs and a few giveaways of advance copies. Once the book is launched, I will also do a Goodreads giveaway and small Facebook promoted-post campaigns to raise awareness (max spend €50.)
On-Line Launch: I plan to have a final draft ready for Christmas. If I hire an editor, then that’s an extra month in the timeline, pointing to a launch date in early February. Even if I don’t hire one, I will still wait until then, to allow people to get through their Christmas stash of books. So there you have it. My eye-catching novel should be ready for the off in early February. Don’t hold me to that though. Life has a funny way of saying you might need another month. My 10 week old son has a funny of way of saying you might need even more. So we’ll see.
Here’s a quick countdown summary for a self-published launch.
Six months out: Identify a shortlist of editors if you plan to use one. There is a good list under the resources section here at writing.ie. Contact them and ask for quotes.
Three months out: Find a good cover designer and book them in. Briefing them on your book will force you to pick a genre and target audience while also moving you along with your blurb. Once this is done, find a few reputable reviewers in this genre (see who reviewed similar books) and ask them nicely if they would like a free book in return for an honest review.
Two months out: Ramp up your social media activity, engaging readers with draft cover reveals and updates on your progress. Send Advance Review Copies to your reviewers. Now is a good time to register and get familiar with your chosen publishing platforms (e.g. KDP, CreateSpace, Smashwords, Lulu etc.) Sort out your EIN number now rather than worrying about it for two months like I did.
One month out: You should be in final edit phase now. Run a Goodreads giveaway, along with twitter and Facebook giveaways if you think they might work. (I found they did in terms of informing people about the book without annoying the nose off them.)
One week out: Buy half the coffee reserves in the world. Upload properly formatted copy to the various platforms. Drink a cup of coffee. Fix issues with your book. Drink another cup of coffee. Repeat for the week.
Launch: Look at you all famous and everything.
(c) Pat Fitzpatrick
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