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How to Tell Your Story and Give Life to your Novel

I haven’t written much lately because Sideways and Backwards, my novel, went live on April 15, and I was furiously working up to that. Followed by a much-needed refresher break afterwards. While this wasn’t the first book I self published, it was the first one I did under my name, and the one that took me the longest, where I really put my whole effort into it.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned through this process, all of which are being incorporated into my self publishing course, Draft to Shelf, which is launching in August.

  1.  Don’t wait until the last minute.  The covers on my paperback suck right now because I waited until the last minute to find someone from fiverr to create the 3D version of my book cover, and the result stank.  So now it’s just white with the front cover.  I hate it.  It’s a big learning experience for me.
  2. Editing.  Again, don’t wait until the last minute.  In college I was perpetually staying up all night before a term paper was due, pumping it out in one marathon session, downing coffee, handing it in, and then sleeping in my car in between classes.  I really don’t recommend this approach for your book.  Again, I waited until the last minute to do the proofing – this was in part because the person who was going to do it for me flaked and I had to find someone on fiverr, who also sucked.  This all could have been avoided if I’d done it earlier.
  3. Sometimes you just have to call it a day.  There are things with my book that I’m really not thrilled about.  But as the old adage says, Done is better than Perfect.  I put my heart and soul into it for a long time, and eventually I had to kiss it and let it go out into the world.  It is what it is.  It represents the best work I could do with the period of time in which I had to work.  That’s all.  Nothing more, nothing less.
  4.  A preorder experiment can help you boost sales, but don’t rely solely on it.  I’m still thinking long-term for my novel, looking at guest posting opportunities, plugging it on my podcast, and selling the audiobook I was giving away as the preorder goodie.  Now that the preorder period is over, it’s still not over for my book. I want this thing to be around for a long time.
  5. Self Publishing isn’t for the faint of heart.  It’s a big deal to do all of this work.  All the things that a large publishing house would do, you do yourself.  It’s great if you want to have control of your story, do things your way, get your work out to the masses early, and not have to wait for approval from some submissions editor somewhere.  All of these things are good.  The downside is that you’re commissioning the cover art, the editing, the formatting, figuring out how to do preorders, proofing; work that would be done by a team of people in a publishing house is done by Y-O-U.  For me, it seems to be worth it.  But I’m clear that it’s not for everybody.  Not everyone is as much of a control freak as me.

What do you think?  Have you self published a book and had success with it?  What was the most important or unexpected lesson you learned?  Tweet me, or leave a comment and let me know!  I’d love to hear your thoughts.