We know that a lot of people come into publishing through a passion for writing and wanting to understand the industry they could go on to be published in, so this week author Janet O’Kane gives us a little insight to self-publishing her own work, while living in the Borders!
I self-published my first crime novel, No Stranger to Death, in November 2013 and now I’m preparing to do the same with its sequel. Actually, self-publishing is a misnomer in my case: I might do all the writing but I rely on the expertise of others to help me create a book I can be proud of. That said, the buck stops with me: if I don’t pull it all together, my book won’t get out there. It’s a formidable task, but although the process feels overwhelming at present, I have the comfort of knowing I’ve done it before. And the great thing about this time round is I have readers waiting to find out what happens next to the characters I’ve created.
While I was getting my first draft down, there was little to differentiate me from my traditionally published friends. I drank endless mugs of tea, tried to stay off the internet, and frequently took to the fields with my Border Collie to walk through tricky plot problems. But now I’m editing Too Soon a Death, I’m also planning the many other tasks — usually carried out by publishers on behalf of their authors — required to release it in both ebook and paperback formats. During the next couple of months I must be organised and methodical (qualities authors aren’t renowned for) and I’ll have to call on the business skills I learned before becoming a full-time writer.
Any type of planning usually revolves around a fixed date when something’s going to happen, whether you’re moving house, getting married or publishing a book. In my case, that deadline is when the designer I’ve chosen has committed to work on my book cover. By then, Too Soon a Death must have been edited, polished, proofread and formatted into its final form — size isn’t an issue for an ebook but a paperback’s cover must fit its contents. Seeing No Stranger to Death’s cover for the first time was one of the best moments of my writing life and I’m looking forward to discovering what the designer does with its sequel. Now, though, I have several more actions on my To Do list: provide her with information such as a synopsis (I’ve not met an author yet who likes writing those), images and back-cover blurb.
This week I’ve sent my unpolished manuscript to my beta-readers, two friends I met through Twitter whose opinions and ability to be brutally honest I trust a lot. They will give me feedback on the book’s structure, identifying any plot holes and commenting on how well the story flows. It’s my choice how much or little of their recommendations I incorporate into my manuscript, but I’d be a fool to ignore them.
I have also booked the services of a proof-reader, who’ll be checking my manuscript for all sorts of errors, from typos and misspellings to inconsistent tenses. Probably the biggest criticism of self-publishing is on the grounds of poor quality, and as a keen reader myself I know there’s nothing more likely to put me off a book than frequent, avoidable errors. The same applies to the layout and formatting of books: issues like irregular spacing and inconsistent indentations sound trivial but can spoil the reading experience. So another vital member of my support team is a professional formatter, and she’s now scheduled in, after the proof-reading stage.
This probably sounds really boring (and I haven’t even mentioned how you actually upload books to retailers’ websites). An author is an artist who shouldn’t be expected to deal with all the routine stuff, surely? Well, if you just want to write, maybe self-publishing isn’t for you, and there are other routes to go down. That’s the great thing about publishing these days: we have choices.
Rest assured, there are wonderful aspects to being a self-published author, and those are . . . readers. They buy my books or borrow them from libraries, leave reviews, contact me by email or via social media, even approach me in the street to ask when my next book is out. I may not have the status of writing for a major publishing house, and I’m certainly not going to get rich on my sales. But reaching readers was my goal, and self-publishing has enabled me to achieve that.