Some tips on self publishing a novel

I’ve been asked a few times recently about how I went about self publishing Pennance. Even though it was only a few months ago I’d forgotten and it’s been a useful exercise trying to remember what I did as I’m publishing my next book in January. Here’s what I remembered and a few tips from what I learnt:

1) Prepare your novel as well as you can. Get feedback on your story and try to be brave and act on it. If someone finds a weakness in your story it’s likely someone else will too and mention it not too kindly in a review. Swapping manuscripts with other writers I’ve found to be one of the best ways to get decent feedback. And other writers can be very encouraging and offer support and suggestions when things get difficult. Online groups are a good place to try to find someone to give feedback on your work (some are listed in below). You can try following other authors’ blogs to get to know other authors – this is also a great way to find writing advice including about self publishing. A lot of authors are active on Facebook – including me as Tig Ashton and it’s a great way to get to know people especially in the lesfic genre.

2) Get someone else to copy-edit your book (correct style, grammar, spelling) – it’s difficult to spot your own mistakes. Readers are being increasingly critical of indie writers and poor quality publications.

3) A good cover is essential to catch the eye and give a good impression. A lot of writers pay someone to design a cover. Patty G. Henderson is an indie author who designs her own covers and for other authors too. So far I’ve been relying on my own photos, cheap photo libraries such as http://www.bigstockphoto.com/ and free software packages.

4) I initially published Pennance using Amazon KDP site which allows you to sell your book on Amazon for the Kindle only. Later I used Createspace (a publish on demand company) to publish a paperback again on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com (this also allows you to publish for Kindle too which I will try next time).

I’ve also made Pennance available on Smashwords which makes your book available in several formats for e-readers other than the Kindle. If you’re writing in Word, following the Smashwords Styleguide is a great way to get your document formatted well – so I would publish using Smashwords first. Barnes and Noble also provide a way to publish your novel as an eBook but I haven’t tried that yet. All these distribution methods are free.

5) Publicise your book. I’ve found this to be the difficult part as I have a very small budget for my books overall. Here are a few things I’ve tried:

– Created a blog and Facebook author page.
– Created an author page for both Amazon.com and .co.uk with a link to my blog.
– Announced the book on Yahoo newsgroups lesfic_unbound and The Virtual Living Room (lesfic groups)
– There is also a new Facebook (lesfic) group Authors etc. which I will announce my next book on.
– Asked for reviews from reviewers for the relevant genre – e.g. Terry Baker for lesfic – she can be found via The Virtual Living Room and Facebook.
– Added my book to the Goodreads site and announced the book in various groups – have a search around for groups that look relevant
– Made my book free for a short period when it was signed up to KDP Select – this is the Amazon Kindle borrowing service. I didn’t get many borrows from this service and you have to sign your book exclusively to Amazon for a minimum of 90 days so I probably won’t sign up for KDP Select next time.

It’s easy to spend a lot of time on Facebook and the newsgroups. One of the best pieces of advice to sell more books that I’ve seen was by R.E. Bradshaw who advised authors to write more! Contribute short stories to collections, try making a short-story available free on Amazon, get on with your next novel – all good ways to reach more readers and get known.

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