Ahhh … the allure of Kindle, Nook, CreateSpace, Lightning Source, and myriad other portals toward publication. This new wave of options for writers is, in a word, fantastic. The years it can take to become traditionally published can be replaced with a much shorter time frame. But what does that time frame look like, and what should happen within it?
Lest you become swept away by the temptation to grab your languishing novel from the drawer and deem its Word file ready for upload, allow me to offer a few words of wisdom—from someone who works with authors every day to make their books come to polished fruition—to the potentially overeager:
Be smart. Have patience. Understand that it's a process.
1. BE SMART.
Just because publishing has evolved to provide an open door to virtually everyone, it doesn't mean it's an easy solution or that there isn't homework involved. Here are some things you need to be armed with before your book finds its home on a shelf (real or virtual):
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
This is a loaded one, I know, but keep in mind that the tone, design, and marketing plan of your book is reliant on this early knowledge.
HIRE A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR
No matter how good a writer you are, this is an absolute must. Don't skip it because you think you don't need it … even the biggest bestselling authors would never send a book into the world without professional editing.
INVESTIGATE THE VARIOUS SELF-PUBLISHING COMPANIES
Not all packages and royalties are the same, so do your research and choose the best one for your needs.
HIRE A PROFESSIONAL BOOK DESIGNER (COVER & INTERIOR)
It's vital that you not put the words you worked so hard to write into a substandard presentation. The first impression of your book is the cover— pay for an excellent one. Then be sure the pages within it contain an impeccably designed interior.
ASK THOUGHTFUL QUESTIONS
A quick list for starters are the following:
• What's included in quoted fees?
• Do you retain the copyright for cover and interior?
• How accessible is your editor/designer? How and how often can you expect to communicate?
• How much input will you have in your book's design?
• What is the expected time frame for each segment of your book project?
2. HAVE PATIENCE.
There may be no greater virtue you can embrace in the writing and publishing process than this one. Rushing your book because self-publishing promises a swift result—or because you simply can't wait to see it in your hands—is one of the biggest mistakes an aspiring author can make. Nothing contributes to an excellently written manuscript becoming an impeccably packaged book like time and attention to every detail.
• 6-9 months is a typical and reasonable gestation period from finished manuscript to market
Readers see everything—don't allow mistakes of any kind to cloud their judgment of you as a writer. Your patience and thoughtfulness will be evident in the end result. Done well, no one will be able to tell your book was self-published.
3. UNDERSTAND THAT IT'S A PROCESS
The one thing authors tend to underestimate is the level and amount of back and forth that occurs with editing and design. Don't let that intimidate or frustrate you—no book becomes impeccable without being edited and re-edited, multiple times over. Design also takes time and requires consistent feedback, especially for covers and non-fiction layouts. Various changes and versions are the norm; in fact, this design control is one of the perks of self-publishing! The more attentive and involved you are, the better the material will be.
• A professional substantive editing pass through your manuscript can take 2-3 months, depending on the editor's load and the quality of the writing.
• Subsequent editing passes between author and editor can take another 2-4 months to polish the manuscript to perfection.
• You will likely require multiple cover design concepts and varied versions of those concepts before landing on the perfect one.
• Once you've uploaded your finished book to your self-publishing company, you should expect 7-10 days to receive the proof copies with standard shipping.
• Once you and your editor/designer receive the proofs, plan for at least a 1-2 week period for the proofing process.
• Expect to make edits on the text and cover for at least 3 more proofing runs before the book is finalized and ready for sale.
By embracing this ongoing exchange between you and your editor/designer, understanding the process that each segment of your book requires before you begin, and abandoning the expectation of an unreasonably quick turnaround, you will be on an excellent path toward producing a polished and professional book that rivals a traditional house publication.
As always, I wish you love and best wishes on your publishing journey! And I'd love for you to leave a comment below if this article gave you needed insight … and I'd likewise be grateful if you'd share it on Facebook, Twitter, and/or LinkedIn with those who may benefit from these quick, but crucial points. :-)
Write from the heart,
Stacey Aaronson is a professional Book Doctor who takes self-publishing authors by the hand and transforms their manuscript into the book they've dreamed of—from impeccable editing and proofreading to engaging, audience-targeted cover and interior design—rivaling or exceeding a traditional house publication.