So You’ve Decided to Self-Publish…The First Steps (Editing, Cover Art, and Blurb)

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I *might* be a tad crazy for starting up this series when I’m pretty busy (possibly procrastinating), but I get a lot of questions from authors pondering self-publishing. Hybrid authors, debut authors, you name it. 

So I’m going to keep it simple and each week, just throw out some steps in my process. Your process will NOT look exactly like mine, but if you can get some great ideas from it, I’m happy to share. You know me–I like mentoring any which way I can, so people can learn from my experiences, good and bad.

For example’s sake, I’ll just give steps for launching a debut novel. If you’ve already self-pubbed or been traditionally pubbed, your steps aren’t going to be exactly like this. Modify as necessary! As the pirates say on Pirates of the Caribbean: “Take what you can, give nothing back!” *just kidding, of course we’re giving back as authors. I just happen to find that quote hilarious*

THE FIRST STEPS

  • You start with a novel that’s made its rounds with crit groups, crit partners, and/or beta readers. You’ve gotten content edits from someone who’s in your reading demographic–someone who will say “Don’t you see that glaring hole in your timeline?” or “You said he left the knife in the cupboard but now it’s on top of the refrigerator?” or “Something about this character feels all wrong.” You get the gist.
  • You have said novel edited. This can vary based on cost. This can vary based on experience, which is something no one wants to say, but it’s true. If you’ve been professionally edited before with your books, you probably have a much better idea of how to self-edit. No one will say this out loud, but it is possible for authors to self-edit and have only crit partner/beta input, without hiring out edits, and still produce an excellent product. However, if you’re unsure, hire it out. If you haven’t been edited before, it’s definitely best to save up and spring for it, at least with the first novel. Many editors are happy to work on pricing with you.
  • You have a kickin’ title. Series title isn’t as important at this point. But you want a book title that will knock your readers’ socks off, make them think, but mostly, stick with them. Dinner with Mr. Farfetzle in the Black Forest at Midnight is an example of a title that’s so wordy, no one can remember it.
  • You have cover art ready to roll, as well as an Amazon blurb for your book. I am now going to say something that will tick people off, so brace up and feel free to shout at me from your chair. If you want to sell more books, you need to have a cover that looks professionally done. I recommend making a cover (or paying to have one made) that would make you stop in your tracks at a bookstore and be drawn to your book. Be honest with yourself on this. If it looks half-cooked, it probably is. This is something else that you probably want to outsource if you have the resources and know someone artistically and technologically inclinedIt will be worth every penny, because it’s better to be noticed than to fall by the wayside and not be taken seriously.

And as far as Amazon blurb, I highly recommend looking up books in your genre and structuring yours around bestsellers. Each genre is different, from YA to sci-fi to historical fiction. I modeled mine somewhat on Phillippa Gregory’s books. My Facebook author page readers chimed in on elements they really wanted to see in the blurb, and which sample blurbs gave away too much of the book (my tendency!). Get as much honest  input as you can on this.

For example, I thought I needed to compare my book to other popular books so readers would know what to expect from me as a debut author. However, My Facebook readers emphatically said that was unnecessary and steered me back toward my book and plotline. It was the right move to make, as the comparisons just seemed confusing.

Okay, not so bad, was it? I totally understand there are differing approaches to self-publishing, and if you’ve done something different that needs to be here, please chime in. Next week we’ll talk about the benefits of getting an “advanced reader copy” out to early readers. And again, this is my approach, but I’ve had so many people asking me about it, I really want to share it with you!

8 thoughts on “So You’ve Decided to Self-Publish…The First Steps (Editing, Cover Art, and Blurb)

    1. TC, you know I’m glad to share! I have learned so much from reading blogs and following self-pubbers who have been at this longer than I have. Sometimes it’s nice to have all the stuff in one place…so I hope this series will help compile some things.

  1. Interesting thoughts on the cover. I had a nice cover that got raves. Then when I started needing covers for more books I realized the next one’s would not follow the looks of the first one. So I changed the first one. Now after the fact my first cover was unexpectedly featured as a finalist in a cover contest but I did not have the heart to promote it. On the other hand my second book took off faster than the first one. But perhaps it was simply because it was the second book.

    1. Sharon–so true! When you are doing a series, you have to think of stock art or some kind of covers that will translate to each of the books and keep the look consistent. My brother and I are working on this now for my mystery….might find ONE pic you really love of a model, but are you going to use that same pose for each book? Definitely things to think about! But you’re so right–you can always go back in and re-do those first book cover(s) to make your series consistent. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Thanks for some great tips on self-publishing Heather. The cover makes a book for me every time. I usually don’t read the back, so it has to be a great pic for me to buy a book. This is also because I think most of the blurbs on the back of a book give too much info.

    1. Ha–Erin, you sound like just the type person I need reading over the blurb for my next book! I’m a walking spoiler alert for things…but you’re so right. Cover is key, as is a blurb that doesn’t tell the reader everything that’s going to happen!

  3. If you want to do it right, self-publishing requires an investment. It’s better to err on the safe side and hire an editor and a cover designer. If you self-publish sub par work, it will harm your reputation and future success.

    1. I do agree, Kristen, but I also think different authors have different strengths, in addition to writing. Some may be talented cover artists, some editors, some formatters. I don’t think you have to outsource everything to have a great book. You just have to be wise enough to know where your weaknesses are and try to get help in those areas. Not everyone has thousands to spend (especially on that first book–though I agree, it’s crucial to make the best first impression you can).

      This is where crit groups, beta readers, and other author support systems are crucial. I always stress this–you NEED outside opinions before you self-pub, just like you need outside opinions to edit your book properly. The key is knowing what to spend the money on and putting the best product out that you possibly can.

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