Friday, 14 August 2015

Self-publishing – Things to Avoid

I've wanted to be a published author since I was at primary school. I finished my first novel (one about unicorns, called 'Waterfall Mountain'!) when I was in my early teens. It was a portal fantasy involving, well, unicorns. Anyway… I wrote a lot of animal stories. I blame the late, great, Brian Jacques and his fantastic Redwall books. The first novel I wrote (and finished) about people was called The Kingdom of Malinas.

I was sixteen. At that age, you think everything you do is awesome. I wanted this book published.
Bear in mind, the internet wasn't really a thing when I was sixteen. All I could do was go to the library and read the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.

First thing to do now when you want to self-publish? Get on the internet. Join forums. Check out Absolute Write. Do not send your MS to every vaguely accepting-sounding publisher you can find and then give up when you get an endless stream of rejections.

I self-published because I was young and impatient and I was lured in by all the vanity presses telling me that all the best authors of old are self-published, and it's cheap! And easy! And you will earn millions!

I ended up in contact with Minerva Press (they no longer exist) but, luckily for me, quickly realised they were a vanity press. While looking for real self-publishing companies, I came across Trafford.
The Kingdom of Malinas was published by Trafford Press first of all. I did all the editing, the layout, the design – my brother did my front cover. I paid Trafford money. I made nothing.

My second bit of advice? Do NOT pay a publishing company anything to publish your book. Just don't. Pay an editor, yes. Pay to get copies of your book, of course. But don't fork out money just because you're eager to be an author. Research. A lot.

After a few years (and TKoM is no longer published by Trafford), I chose Lulu. I rewrote my novel to the best of my ability at the time, and, this time round, hired a professional artist to design the cover.

This is my third bit of advice. HIRE AN ARTIST. Unless you're an artist yourself. In which case, I'm very jealous. I found my artist through DeviantArt. She was fantastic, and her cover is the one I still use. You must find an artist who is good at design, too, one who'll know how to give you a good font.

Font is what lets a lot of self-published books down. The titles and author names often look terrible and, to me, are usually the biggest giveaway that the book is self-published (not a bad thing, but will put some people off).

Do not let your little brother do your cover art. Unless – same as above – he is an artist.

If you're not confident of your editing abilities, or if you just want one, hire an editor. Get beta readers too.

A couple of years ago, I finally decided to rewrite TKoM again. For the final time. And this time, I published through Smashwords and Amazon as an ebook only. This is great because you don't have to pay anything. You don't need to buy proof copies, you see.

I also published the remaining two books in the trilogy – The Empress Graves and The Barbarians' Key. You can find details of these, as well as links to buy, here:

My final bit of advice? Unless you want some of your royalties going to Mr American Taxman, you need to get an ITIN. This is extremely easy – please don't panic about it because it sounds more complicated than it is. There is a very simple and easy to follow guide, here:

To recap:
1. Research. Don't rush into anything.
2. Don't pay a publishing company.
3. Hire an artist and editor.
4. Get an ITIN.

To follow other posts in this series visit:

7 August: Thaddeus White- nuts and bolts on how to self-publish

14 August: Me - pitfalls to avoid

21 August: Jo Zebedee - marketability and why some books suit self-publishing rather than the traditional route

28 August: Teresa Edgerton - advantages of self-publishing when reprinting a back catalogue [initially traditionally published].

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