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What it's Like to Self-Publish a Book

Rather than a normal (but not really so normal) monthly newsletter, I thought I would take some time this month to talk about what it has been like to self-publish my book to this point. The official release of the eBook is March 1, 2023 and the physical book is still a few months away, but I have learned a lot through this process and figured it would be good to share it in the event it would be helpful to others in the future.



My Process

My writing process started more than a year ago now, when I came up with an idea for a story. It played out through a couple of iterations, finally finding life in the form of a serial novel. This format worked well for me because it forced me to stick to a schedule and actually write. There were only a couple of people that looked forward to reading the chapters each week as they released, but that was enough to motivate me to keep writing.


Writing the story this way did a couple of other things for me as well.


For one, it allowed me to dedicate time each week to editing and proofreading. Even with the multitude of passes I made, I know there is still going to be one or 2 errors, but honestly, I think I did a fairly decent job at self-editing as I went (more on editing below).


For another thing, it gave me a chance to share what I was doing with others as I went. This was practice for the marketing I will need to do going forward and gave me some valuable experience in how to share the book.


Self-Editing

During this process I spent a lot of time researching self-publishing and one thing I came across over and over was people saying that it was 100% necessary to hire an editor. While I can understand this mindset, I don't agree with the conclusion.


It is true that editing your own work can be extremely difficult and time consuming, and you are more likely to miss things that a second set of eyes might catch, but it is also true that it can be done. For someone who is self-publishing, and on a budget, it isn't always feasible to hire someone (at $1,000+) to edit your work. Take some time to learn basic grammar, use spell checker and read paragraphs out loud and you will be able to accomplish at least 90% of what a paid editor would have done.


The other part of editing is deciding what fits in the story and what needs to be cut or rewritten. It can be difficult to start a section over or rewrite an entire passage or chapter, but sometimes it has to be done. I had a couple of instances where I wrote 1/2 a chapter before deleting it all and starting over. I had to do what was best for the story in the end, even if it meant extra work to be done.


Word Count

This was another thing that really stuck out for me as a minor pain point for a while. If you research writing for very long, you will come across suggested word counts for different genres and styles of books. While these counts can be a good idea of what to aim for, they are not set in stone. Being over or under the suggested count doesn't make your book good or bad, it only means you didn't hit the commonly accepted standard.


With that being said, being way over the length that a reader expects can cause some problems when trying to sell your book. If someone has never heard of you, the chance they are going to pay the extra cost and invest the time for a 200,000-word book is slim. With books, you pay by the page, so a longer book is going to cost more to print and therefore it will cost more to buy.


Shorter books can be good to start with, but some readers may see the size of the book and decide it is too short to be any good. The trade-off is that the cost is lower, so new readers will be more willing to drop a few dollars to read something that might take an afternoon to read.


The secret to finding the right length for your book is to look at the story. When you finish it, go back and read it a couple of times with a week or two between readings. This will allow you to not only check for issues with the story but also figure out what readers might be thinking about the length. If you can read it a few times, being the super familiar with it, and not have any reservations about reading it again, then it is likely you hit a good length. It should be long enough to tell the story you want to tell, but short enough that someone who has never heard of you will be willing to check it out.


Formatting

I'm not going to provide a guide to format because every book is different and there are a million other guides out that that I cannot hope to do better than. What I will do is say that formatting should be one of the things you spend the most time on. You will want to use a different template for each different version to get it right.


For instance, I used Google Docs to write my book initially, and I formatted it from the beginning as an eBook. When I exported the finished version, I exported an epub and a docx file. The epub went through a program called Calibre to format properly for the finished eBook and the docx is being formatted using Microsoft word with a different document for each size print I release.


Where I Presently Am

At the present I am working to finalize the format of the print book and have scheduled the release of the eBook. I also went ahead and got some ISBN's through Bowker to use on the various copies of my book. I did this because I want to be listed as the publisher in the metadata for the ISBN's and getting them through my printer would have the printer listed as publisher. I may make a post talking more about ISBNs if anyone shows an interest, but for now that is about as far as I will talk about them.


To be honest, I am really glad I decided to self-publish. This whole process has helped me learn some new skills and has given me control over the process. It has been a lot more work and it has required a lot more time, but if I had it to do over again, I would do it the exact same way.


Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or thoughts about self-publishing and I will do my best to answer them. I might write a whole blog to answer them if they are more complex questions!

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