Thursday, November 17, 2011

How I indie published my novel: An eight-step guide to get your book "out there!"

"The Fountain of Eden" is now available in the Kindle store for the low price of $2.99. For those thinking about indie publishing their own work, these are the steps I took to get my novel "out there." I would suggest doing more research than reading just this one blog post before publishing, but it should give you a nudge in the right direction.

1) I wrote the novel.

This took some time.

2) I revised and I rewrote.

I did a lot of this. In fact step 2 took longer than step 1. The first draft was a monster at 250K words. I had it scrubbed down to a still quite daunting 130K when I sent it to the editor. For the type of story I was trying to tell, this was way too many words. Revise, revise, revise. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. You can always use the stuff you cut later (look at me: I've got material for two complete novel from the cuts I made, though I doubt I'll reuse even a quarter of it). Your first draft, no matter how great you and your mom think it is, just ain't gonna cut it.

3) I hired a freelance editor.

Kathleen Dale did a great job helping me weed out superfluous parts of the novel, tighten up the language, fill in all those little plot holes, and correct those slight inconsistencies it's so easy to miss because you're so in love with the sleekness of your prose. After we went over the novel three times (one content editing pass, one copyedit pass, and one final proofread) it had been polished to a brisk 85K. She's not going to do all the work for you; it's up to you to revise and rewrite. But she will help you improve your novel. And man, she's got snark. Which is what you need.

Since hiring an outside editor is like hiring a private contractor, you do not have to take every single one of that editor's suggestions and follow them to the letter. Nevertheless I took about 80% of Kathleen's (but don't tell her that percentage, because her figures will probably be lower). Sometimes I didn't like what she had to say ("You're changing my . . . art! You're asking me to eff up my . . . my masterpiece!"). But usually, after I mulled things over for a day or four, I would realize in a moment of insight: she's flippin' right. She's not effing up my art, she's making me think in new ways about my art. And that would make the narrative stronger.

As an indie author, you can't slack off, or your novel will drown in the sea of "dollar dreadfuls" available in the Kindle store and elsewhere. Even if you do it right, it still might flounder in that sea of sloppy sentences. But at least you did it right. Hire a professional to double-check your work before you publish. Get an extra set of eyes on that manuscript. Objective eyes (this means not your mom). This is very important. It doesn't matter what kind, type, or genre of story you tell. Hire an editor. Or at the very least, hire an effing proofreader.

4) I hired a cover artist: Rich DiSilvio.

I, in my newbie ignorance, did steps 3 and 4 in reverse order. DO NOT DO WHAT I DID. Have your manuscript finalized BEFORE you contact your cover artist, or your cover artist is going to be waiting around for weeks while you put the final grammatical touches on your baby and then wait for Createspace to finish designing your book's interior so you can get the final page count and figure out your book's exact spine width (sorry, Rich). Rich can also do other graphic design stuff for you. Seriously, check him out. He's very, very good.

I would recommend hiring a professional to create your cover. That is unless you have a graphic artist in the family, and if so you should at least buy them a case of beer and/or take them out to an excellent dinner for all that work they put in designing you a bad-ass cover! Go ahead and do it yourself on Photoshop if you want to, but beware the consequences. A book's cover is a draw, and if yours is ugly some potential buyers won't go any farther. Even if you've written the best book the world has never-ever seen. Ugly cover, and the world will forever remain in ignorance of your prolific writing skills and paradigmatic storytelling ability.

5) I chose Createspace to design the book's interior for the print version.

This is far from the only option available, but I thought they did a great job. If you're just trying to hawk e-books, it is not even necessary to publish in print--but it is cool to be able to hand a friend or a family member a signed copy of your book, even if they are just going to go home and use its printed-on-demand pages as backup toilet paper. I recommend going both digital and print. Print isn't dead yet. Zombified? Perhaps.

6) Createspace also converted the manuscript to Kindle format for me.

And they did a phenomenal job, but . . .There are plenty of independent digital contractors across the web who would be happy to convert your manuscript to Kindle format, and this will enable you to get the Kindle version out weeks before the print version is available. Usually they can do it in a matter of days, if not hours, if you don't require complex formatting.

And you could always learn to format your own e-books, if you have the time and patience. There is oodles of information about it out there on the web. Go look for it.

7) I published my novel on Smashwords.

Smashwords is an independent e-book retailer and distributor. The "Smashwords Style Guide" will help you with the arduous process of formatting your manuscript to meet their standards. Upon first viewing the "guide," I thought the formatting might take weeks. But if you set your pace and get to work, it's not so bad. I did it in an evening (I was up past 4AM, but maybe I shouldn't start projects like that at midnight). After a couple weeks, if your file passes through their "Meatgrinder" without a problem, your book should make it into their premium catalog, which makes the e-book appear for sale on B&, the iBookstore, and elsewhere.

8) I started up this blog.

Not many people have been reading it, but hell, it's better than doing nothing.

During all of these steps, I researched indie publishing. There is a wealth of information about it on the Internet, and thousands of books on it available for free or a minimal fee in the Kindle store and elsewhere. J.A. Konrath's blog is a good place to start your research.

And check out the Fountain of Eden. It's a lot of fun.

And please, let me know how your indie publishing adventure goes.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Dan - I think I will check out your BOOK - Wendy, from Facebook's SMSimplifier