This was a post I made on Reddit a couple of weeks ago. It had a positive response so I thought I’d share it with everyone here as well. I’ll be doing a follow up post titled: My Top 5 Successes as a First Time Self-Publisher and perhaps another follow up titled: Breaking Down the Budget: How to Cut Costs.
These… are sort of sounding like some sort of mutant baby of late night infomercials and Buzzfeed…
Anyways! Enjoy! I hope these will be helpful!
Longtime lurker here (sometimes a contributor on my other accounts)! With my book’s release last week (and waiting for the darn Thanksgiving dinner) I wanted to share my Top 5 Fails so that others don’t make the same mistakes. This is more for the other newbies like myself and for veterans to just giggle and groan at.
Some of these were faults of my own and some of these were angry Odin throwing pickles at me.
I’ll add some background information in the comment section so check that there for context.
But before we begin, I want to assure all of you that I’m not an idiot. Really, I’m not. My mom can back me up on this.
Whatever. The reason I’m trying assure you all of my intelligence is because no matter how smart you are, you can still make mistakes. And right now the writing world is sort of the wild wild west with tempting uncertainties and vicious traps. Tread carefully and smartly.
The Top 5 Fails:
1. Lost the entire manuscript.
Okay… So… maybe this isn’t the best one to start off with after claiming that I’m not an idiot (I’m not?).
So this could be considered either Osiris throwing yams at me or a fault of my own for not knowing the basics of the modern digital age.
One evening I was working on the manuscript when my screen turned blue and gave me the middle finger. Tried restarting the computer and it just gave me more middle fingers.
Luckily, few of my friends are actually professionals in this field so I called them for help and long story short the files were unsalvageable.
Lesson here? Use cloud storage and/or external hard drive. Make it a habit to save into those at the end of writing sessions. This has honestly set me back probably anywhere from 6 months to 1.5 years–not necessarily because of the rewrite but because of how life and schedule works.
Timing is everything and don’t lose the timings of life because of a preventable tragedy.
2. Not timing things properly.
What did I just say up there? I don’t remember.
If you want reviews, you should be sending your books out generally 5-6 months before you plan to publish (the average cutoff time for most reviews is about 3 months before publishing date). You have to also understand many of them will not consider your book if you’re self-published/no-name writer and many of them may take longer to review a book than you’d think.
It takes about a week or two to be able to proof your physical copy of the novel (if you do CreateSpace you can do the digital proof which is immediate). After the proof it takes about 3 business days for it to show up on the market other than the printing service’s own website.
Beta-reading, editing, and even just the writing all should be scheduled in a way that each of those processes have the proper time they need to do their function properly while not dragging it on too long. I think this is something to pick up on by as one grows as a writer and understands their own pace to know where to cut the fat off and where to add… the… fat… on?
…In Japan you can actually order just the fat to grill and eat. That was fun and delicious.
I had my reasons for forcibly pushing my book out on a certain date but if you can help it don’t do the same. There were many opportunities I missed out on simply because of lack of better scheduling for whatever reason.
3. Not having a proper budget.
You get what you paid for.
If you’re self-publishing it helps immensely to have a healthy budget. Money will allow you to get ads, reviews, edits, arts, and pay the bills so that you don’t have to eat McChicken and a McDouble every other night and wonder if you’re gonna get cancer but strangely crave them when you don’t have them and cry because you feel like a Mackey-Dee addict as you pick up crumbs off your floor.
But when you put a McChicken inside a McDouble it’s a $2.50 USD spit from the heavens.
Anyways, money runs the world and such. We all know this. Check in the comment section for my personal budget which seemed like the minimum budget without compromising quality very much–if at all.
If I had a better budget I think it’d have helped significantly to make certain things happen faster, quicker, and done more professionally.
4. Not Realizing What Tools to Use for What
Use Scrivener. Really. Use Scrivener—especially—if you’re thinking about self-publishing.
This wasn’t really a fail but I’m just squeezing this one in to save some people the time and hassle. This program is a godsend and should be the quintessential tool for modern writers. There’s definitely a learning curve but if you become even at least comfortable with it, the program will help you save time and money in the long run… and save your teeth from being pulled out when you have to make the epub format.
Use InDesign if you can for formatting for the physical copy. The amazing folks at Scrivener (the customer services pretty awesome over there) flat out told me their program wasn’t really meant for endgame formatting.
They’re very correct about that.
InDesign. You’ll feel like a god of book formatting. Possibly the lamest god there is.
Try to avoid Google Doc. It can’t handle big files. I thought it’d be fun and modern to try Google Doc for editing. My editor knocked on my door and rubbed sea salt in my eyes. It’s only good for a quick, live editing sessions.
Finally, social media kicks ass. Serious ass. I’m incredibly obtuse and awkward with them as they always felt a bit weird with me. But if you learn to harness the power of social media you can effectively tip the scale between the big publishers and yourself with just a smartphone.
Yes! You’re very correct!
InDesign is Terrible at eBook
Which is why I absolutely recommend everyone to use Scrivener which is pretty great at ePub formatting.
This should be the basic order:
- Write in Scrivener.
- Export to Word Doc and ePub.
- Transfer the Word Doc to inDesign for physical book formatting.
- Be happy that you didn’t go bald from tearing your hair out.
- Have a pint.
P.S. Take advantage of Calibre a free epub reader and conversion program if you have to.)
5. Not inquiring agents first.
Maybe in five to ten years things will have changed to a point where self-publishing can be as legitimate as traditional publishing.
People like Michael J. Sullivan is paving the path for that direction (check out his stories and tidbits all over the reddit and other writing forums) not to mention other famous traditionally published writers dipping their hands into self-publishing.
But for now… self-publishing isn’t there yet. Give yourself and your book a chance by inquiring agents/traditional publishing first. Yes, you might be taking a hit in terms of revenue and time but having traditionally published book will more open more doors than a self-published one (for now and depending on degree of success on self-published title).
If you get accepted, it’ll also takes loads off of your shoulders in workload so that you can focus more on writing. You can also put that book proudly on your resume while with self-published titles, due to stigmas or whatever, you really can’t/shouldn’t yet (unless you were notably successful). One can be comfortable in a resume and a portfolio while the other may really only shine in a portfolio.
Obviously, this is sort of me speaking from my own experiences and research so if anyone can tell me if I’m wrong please do so and add that into the discussion.
I personally didn’t do any inquiries because I set out to self-publish so I just stayed on that path. That’s sort of the way I am. Self-publishing is the new frontier and there is something exciting and adventurous about it. But like many of those who went on the Oregon Trail, you might not be the one who strike gold and really should have stayed back in New York because now you’re dying of dysentery.
Unless you’re one of the few, self-publishing doesn’t really leave you with much other than the sense of accomplishment of having your ebook… being added on to the mountain of ebooks.
So if you’re serious about becoming a professional writer I’d recommend considering traditional publishing before going to self-publishing.
That’s all folks! There are oodles of more fails and some successes I’d love to share but this turned out to be much longer already than I anticipated! I’ll answer any questions if anyone has any!
P.S. My book is also free today for Thanksgiving! If anyone’s interested let me know!
Time till completion: ~3 Years
Budget: Very low. The recession effectively kicked my ass. So my idea for the budget for the book was to keep it as low as possible without compromising the quality of the novel as much as possible.
I’ve spent so far:
Artist for the Cover Art: $100.00
Website Domain: $15.00
Proof Copies of the Novel: ~$20.00 (shipping costs are fantastic) Other Spending (ISBN, Supplies, Copy Right, Comfort food, etc.): ~$300.00
Lot of these were covered by scraping away at my wallet and through a small, somewhat successful, KickStarter.
To save on costs, I did the cover design and the copyediting/formatting myself. You can be the judge of whether or not I did a good job:
Cover Design: http://imgur.com/LAeNIBK
Sample of the Physical Copy of the Novel for formatting: www.tinyurl.com/samplecopy
See you all soon with the 7th Entry – 7 Things I’ve Learned About Writing is up next!
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My novel is currently available on Amazon.com! Check it out [HERE]