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What Was Your Self-Publishing Journey Like?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Bruce McKnight, Sep 17, 2019.

  1. Bruce McKnight

    Bruce McKnight Troubadour

    After years (and years) of writing, I'm finally getting serious about self-publishing and I'm curious how others have approached it. If you have self-published and would be willing to share:

    1. Did you set up a business? (Why or why not and how has that worked out?)

    2. Do you use ISBNs? (Why or why not and how has that worked out?)

    3. Do you format your own books, do your own covers, etc?

    4. What is your process for editing (developmental, line editing, proofreading) and beta readers? Do you do it yourself, hire someone, use a blend?

    5. What has been the most helpful advice and resources for you?

    I've found a lot of good nuggets in my research, but most of it is get-rich nonsense and the good stuff is often incomplete - I'm curious to hear more about people's complete journey. What have you learned? What would you do differently?

    Appreciate any input - thanks!
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I self-published my first fiction book in January 2018, and have put out 9 more since then. I don't know that I'm doing much right, but I'll chip in with my answers:

    Nope. I haven't had a need for it yet, and I don't believe that'll change any time soon. If it does, I'll look into it when it happens.

    I published a book of short poems a few years back, and for that one I purchased my own ISBN, but that's the only one. For my other books, I've used the free ISBN provided by Amazon.

    Yes, all of it.
    I've got a little bit of experience in desktop publishing, and I'm reasonably computer savvy, so the formatting hasn't been overly complicated, but I also haven't done anything fancy with it.

    With the covers I didn't imagine I'd be able to do it myself, and I had artist friends do images for me. The art was good, but the actual covers could have been better. Eventually, I figured out that I could do my own covers as long as I didn't try anything too fancy, and it's worked out fine ever since.

    I have three beta readers. They provide feedback on story content, and help me iron out the worst of the wrinkles. I have one proofreader who helps me find grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.

    The best advice I've received as far as publishing my own books goes, is that "good enough is." I can strive for perfection, but getting to the point where I feel a story is perfect, is unlikely to happen. At some point polishing the story will begin to yield diminishing returns, and the quality of the story won't reflect the time and effort I've put into it.
    Most readers will not notice the difference between a story that's good enough, and a story that's aiming for perfection.

    Another thing I've learned is to start small. I'm currently halfway through a series of novellas that's planned at 19 parts. If I could do over, I'd try writing something shorter, like a trilogy, or a few more stand alone novellas, before getting this monster under way. It's started though, and I won't give up on it.
    Bruce McKnight likes this.
  3. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    Yes, we have an LLC since there are three of us.

    We absolutely use ISBN's. They're the only way to gain the attention of bookstores and libraries.

    My wife is our formatter and publisher, and she makes BEAUTIFUL books. We do not do our own covers or marketing material. For that we turn to Deranged Doctor Designs in the UK who are an absolute delight to work with. (I'll post our first book cover so you can see their work.)

    We edit with a fine-tooth comb both during the writing process and after the project is finished. The manuscript goes through all three of us (my wife is a linguist and a grammarian), our alpha reader, and all of our beta readers. And we STILL miss the occasional whoopsie. It's just the nature of the business. But, by the end everyone's eye colors match and they have the appropriate number of hands.

    I like reading some writing blogs, but it doesn't take up most of my day. Reading writing books as I work is very helpful. Helps keep my head in the game. I still need to buy Save the Cat. And I do a massive amount of homework and talk to people who know more about stuff than I do.

    2017-992 AE Lowan, B01.jpg 2017-992 AE Lowan, B01.jpg
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  4. Bruce McKnight

    Bruce McKnight Troubadour

    I don't know if there is a definition of "right", that's why I'm curious to hear what other people's journeys have looked like.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Svrtnsse likes this.
  5. Bruce McKnight

    Bruce McKnight Troubadour

    Thanks for for the insights.

    I've been writing for a long time, planning on eventually self-publishing for a while, and while I was looking for resources, I stumbled on Deranged Doctor Designs. Years ago, I said if I ever got to the self-publishing stage, I would use DDD for my covers - glad you enjoy working with them!

  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I've self-published using Amazon's ASINs and ISBNs. No LLC; don't see the benefit. I keep thinking of going wide then I keep not doing it.

    The formatting step is not to be sneezed at. It gets a little easier each time but is still a chore.

    Another up vote for DDD. They do all mine. Here's an example

    Attached Files:

  7. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Troubadour

    No. So far no need, but if this becomes a FT income I might.
    For print books yes. But it helps that I live in a country where they're free. You need them to get into libraries and bookshops.
    I use Vellum. It's great, but if you need to save money there's free formatting software available.
    I have a content edit, a copyedit, and finally a proofread. All done by professionals. This costs money, so I completely understand when people don't do it. Of the three, I think a content edit is the most useful.
    All books written by David Gaughran. You could start with Let's Get Digital.
    Bruce McKnight likes this.
  8. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    Yes. It was challenging at first because I knew nothing but there are a lot of great resources available. I think having a business identity is crucial for branding and record keeping purposes. I am Sole Proprietor but have a business name and website. My books are wide.

    No. I have yet to be convinced of a reason to buy them.

    I do format my books by using JUTOH. I used Scrivener in the past but prefer Jutoh for its simplicity and efficiency. I hire out for book covers and work within a budget (mostly from my royalties). I cannot stress the importance of an on-genre cover. It's powerful visual marketing and the first step in getting your books noticed. I have studied book covers since I started publishing and follow the trends on these covers as time goes on. The reason I use a book cover artist is because she can communicate visually what I can only do in words. I think my books are the better for it.

    I have: hired a developmental editor, hired editors who messed up my work, not entirely edited a piece and paid the price, tried different processes for editing. Now, I have a refined editing process that starts with my first draft. I cycle through the manuscript, editing what I wrote the previous day until I get to the end of the story. I do this many times until I finish the draft. I also keep a master list of things that need changing. I write historical books so I go back and research gray areas, etc to make sure my history is correct (and I've missed a few things, no one is perfect). This process goes fast for me--I don't sit on a script for weeks or months. I work better if the story is still fresh in my mind. After this part is done and I have a completed m/s, I use two different types of editing software/proofreader/betas. I only use one to two people at a time to review my work.

    This website has been a huge support even though I've switched genres. This forum has boosted my morale and encouraged my perseverance. Other resources include: Facebook author groups, Kboards Writers Cafe, Youtube, Google is my bff. Kindle has a lot of books on writing for reasonable prices so check those out too. Currently, I'm reading Plot Dot by Derek Murphy and I'm finding it fun to work through his exercises. He is also an amazing resource for self publishers, as well as Joanna Penn, Dean Wesley Smith and his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

    Not sure if I'd do anything different except spend time figuring out print books. I still haven't done those even though I started publishing almost three years ago. Instead I've opted out for audiobooks and that's worked out nicely. As far as what I've learned, that I can definitely do this for the rest of my life. Tomorrow is not guaranteed but I'm thankful that I've been able to have the time, funds, and support to start and continue publishing my stories. At first, I fought a lot feelings of guilt for spending time writing stories. My husband and family really supported me even though they didn't understand. My husband, especially, recognizes my writing time as work because he has seen the monetary fruit of my labor.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
    Bruce McKnight and A. E. Lowan like this.
  9. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    Reading Chessie's post I realized that I was less than clear about how we formatted our books. We bought a book template that we liked from a place called BookDesignTemplates.com that we then changed to fit our needs within Word. All formatting was then done in Word. 20190923_171614.jpg 20190923_171629.jpg
    Bruce McKnight likes this.
  10. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    LLC? No. I am considering the option of a small publishing house and to bring in a few other epic fantasy writers for cross-promotion. Basically, they’d get their ISBN’s cheap through me (like $6 per) and I would handle standardized formatting for print. No idea if I’ll pull the trigger on it, LOL.

    ISBN’s? Yes, I publish everything in paperback and hardcover, and went ahead and used my own ISBN’s on digital.

    Formatting: I use Vellum for digital and Adobe’s inDesign for print. I’ve some experience in this world from my previous life, so it came fairly easy to me. I can format a book in inDesign in a standard 6x9 I have set up with minimal fuss.

    Covers: I pay for covers on big books, and put together my own on low dollar books.

    Editing: I paid for a story edit once, but I’ll only pay for proof-copy editing now.

    I don’t know if I’ve seen anything I’d call the most helpful advice. I think it would easier to put together a list of dubious advice, LOL. And even then, what fails for you might work for another and other pieces of chaos theory.

    Now, here’s a piece advice I think is golden, and it’s the exact opposite to what one “Guru” says: If you run Facebook ads use a bid limit, which of course, FB advises against as well... don’t trust FB. If you have unlimited funds, then by all means ignore this advice, heh heh. By even setting your limit to $0.50 its possible to cut your CPC by up to 50%. FB ads are not designed for booksellers to make a profit, because the profit margin on books is low until you’re into a series and have read through. There are other places to ignore FB’s suggestions, but I won’t run an ad without a limit.

    Oh! Most helpful advice that’s hard to take... get a Bookbub promo if you can. I can tell you how to get a Bookbub promo (did it on my debut novel) but it’s not something all authors would want to do.

    Oh oh! Audiobooks are good. Get one. Looking back, I would’ve released audio at the same time even if I had to voiceover myself... the added revenue stream helps offset advertising, in particular before having a series available.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2019

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