Do you have a manuscript gathering dust because the idea of self-publishing is scary? Author Cheryl Fassett recently self-published Magic Key, her second YA fantasy, and although she’s now a seasoned authorpreneur, she worked hard to get there.
I had the privilege of working with Cheryl on both Magic Key and her first book, Far Away and Ever After, and I highly recommend both for children of all ages (and that includes their parents and grandparents). Cheryl accepted my invitation to share some words of advice for authors who might feel intimidated by the self-publishing process.
When I decided to self-publish, I realized there were a lot of things I needed to learn. Just because I enjoy stringing words together doesn’t mean I always know the best order to put them in. The urge to write does not come hand-in-hand with expert knowledge of grammar and the rules of writing. I also had no idea how to go about actually creating a book. So where do you turn?
Break it down
In the beginning, I admit to being completely overwhelmed by the mountain I had placed in my own path. It kept me from taking even a tiny step forward for years. One day I decided that if I couldn’t face the whole project head on, I would face it in tiny bite-sized pieces. So I listed the weeks in the next year and broke down each part of the project into tiny, doable steps.
With the day job and all the things life threw at me, there were some weeks that I could only do one step. But there were others when I managed to do five or six! Some of the tiny steps were “Research how to find an editor,” or “Google cover designers,” or “Ask an accountant about filing a DBA.” One week I made myself send an email to two potential editors or designers. Another, all I managed was to register for a formatting class. But with each task checked off, I was closer to my goal of self-publishing. If I didn’t get to all the tasks I had assigned to a given week, I re-evaluated my schedule and moved that task to another spot.
Save Where You Can … and Spend When Necessary
Self-publishing isn’t free. Editors, cover designers, proof readers, and formatters cost money. To save a bit, I looked for areas that I thought I could learn to do myself. A book formatting class was cheaper than hiring someone to do it for me, and I knew it was a skill I would need each time I completed a book. I also knew that some of my friends could proofread for me and find punctuation and spelling issues. I knew, though, that in order to put out a professional product, I needed to act like a professional. Professional authors use professional editors and cover designers to create a polished product. Plan on spending a bit of money to hire good people to assist you in the areas you shouldn’t handle yourself.Professional authors use professional editors and cover designers to create a polished product. Plan on spending a bit of money to hire good people to assist you in the areas you shouldn’t handle yourself. Click To Tweet
Do Your Research
Finding a team to help with your dream of self-publishing is scary. You have to reach out to complete strangers and admit you harbor this fantasy of being a writer. You have to trust people you don’t know with your dream. You have to believe in your skills as a writer and put yourself out there. The good news is that once you have a team, the next book isn’t nearly as terrifying! My best advice to those of you who are in a similar position is take the next step but with care.
Be cautious. Do your research. Don’t just run willy nilly all over the internet giving away your manuscript and plot line to everyone you think can help.
Be choosy. Your hairdresser’s neighbor’s nephew’s roommate may like to draw, but that doesn’t mean you should throw a few hundred dollars at him and await your perfect cover. Your great-aunt Mary Margaret may love to read, but that doesn’t mean she can edit your book. (She may make a great beta reader though!)Find a team to help you make your self-publishing dream come true ... but do your research, find qualified pros, and be choosy about who you work with. Click To Tweet
Connect with Your Team
Reach out to other writers in forums you frequent or in social media groups you belong to. Ask for names and then research those professionals. What have they done? What is their background? Reach out with a phone call or email and ask questions about how they work, what their availability for your project is, how much they charge, and what their payment schedule is. Ask to see a sample of their work.
Be Part of the Process
Once you begin working together, don’t be afraid to have an opinion. Be mindful of their expertise that made you hire them in the first place, but if something doesn’t feel right, question it. This is your book in the end.
Be prompt with your material and get it to them when you say you will. Same goes for the payments. Remember it is a small world out there, and authors who are difficult to work with may find it hard to find a team for Book 2!
In the end though, the first time you hire someone to edit your work or format your book or design your cover, it is going to be scary. No way around it. It will feel like jumping off a ledge. Take a deep breath and do it. You will never move forward until you take that leap.
Cheryl Fassett lives in New York State with her husband and a house full of cats. When she isn’t writing or managing a group of physicians, she loves to read and quilt. She believes there is magic everywhere. Magic Key is her second novel. You can find her online at www.cherylfassett.com.
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Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, and writing coach for fiction and nonfiction. She works with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.