by BB Morgan
I spent a good three days trying to think of something intelligent and worthwhile to say about self-publishing. There is so much to the self-publishing world that I didn’t know when I started, I couldn’t pick just one. So, I picked a few that I think are the most important to me, or that I wish I had known beforehand. This morning, coffee in hand, I’m diving in.
1. Don’t rush the process
In April of 2016, I self-published my debut novel, Devil’s Blood, through CreateSpace. Talk about momentous. When I held my novel – my novel which I’d spent the last year working on – in my hands, I can’t begin to describe the absolute sense of fulfillment. However, as that feeling wore off, and Devil’s Blood didn’t hit the bestseller list overnight like I had been secretly dreaming, I realized something. I’d rushed into publication.
This is a mistake a lot of authors make when they self-publish. Because they can’t land an agent, they think to themselves (Or at least, I did): Obviously, all these agents don’t understand how awesome my novel is, or how great it could become, so I’m going to publish it myself. It sounds pompous now. My problem was that I had no idea what I was doing. However, I kept writing. I wrote almost every night, on novels that I would go on to finish, on novels that I haven’t looked at again – I kept writing.
Then, while writing Caroline Eversole and the Gilded Gauntlet, I went back and sniffed through Devil’s Blood, and OMG. I couldn’t believe how horribly written it was. Had I published this? I thought this was good enough? I immediately started to revise. I was disgusted that I’d thrown that into the publishing world as a debut. I was delighted that my craft had improved so much. Devil’s Blood hadn’t landed an agent because it was horrible, not because the agents “didn’t grasp its greatness.” My query letter also sucked.
2. Get an editor
What I should have done, and have since done with each title I self-publish, is find beta readers and then hire an editor. The editor I have now is fantastic! She lays out her criticism in a positive way, regardless of what she’s saying. Before, I thought of an editor as someone who corrects grammar and spelling. Oh, no. A good editor does so much more than that! They point out syntax, plot holes, character development, sentence structure, clunkiness – all that jazz.
Yes, an editor will cost money. Your hard-earned money. But, to me, it’s worth it. This “writing thing” that I’ve been doing for the past three years isn’t just a hobby. I am working to turn it into a career. Which, given that everyone seems to think that having a career as a writer equates having an agent and a publishing house, is difficult. But, like all those rejections letters kindly say, you need someone who will feel as strongly about your novel as you do.
3. Be prepared to do it all
This is why I like self-publishing. Who is going to love my novels as much as me? I’m not sure there is such an agent out there. I choose what to write, what to edit out or in, what goes on the back blurb, and what the cover looks like. I am the first and final so-say in every aspect of the book’s life. I am the intern and the editor-in-chief. I’m also the marketing coordinator, which is where I fail the most. But, I know more now than I did a year ago, and a lot more than I did two years ago.
The self-publishing track isn’t for everyone. It takes a special person to follow their dreams through, especially in a world where there are thousands of people trying to do exactly what you’re trying to do, and your query and book review request is one of the dozens sent to the same email that afternoon. Especially in a world where a lot of people assume that indie authors only write junk not good enough to be picked up by a real agent.
4. Gather all the strength that you can
There are four things that anyone looking to become an indie author (or already is an indie author) needs. They need the determination to see their projects through. They need to remain optimistic despite the opposition and steep competition. They need to stay persistent, and write, write, write, and read, read, read. They need a tough skin that would make Superman’s look like paper. They need to remind themselves that the publishing industry is 110% subjective, from what books the agents select, to the books the publishing house selects, to the books the reader selects. Even the books that I write are books that I pick, characters that I shape how I see fit based on my personal feelings toward them.
And, at the end of the long day, I write to escape. I write to provide an escape for others. I write in hopes that my books will reach those who will enjoy them, who will find that mythical escape that I seek in fantasy stories. I’m not in it to become the next J. K. Rowling or George R. R. Martin or Sarah J. Maas – I’m in it to become the first B. B. Morgan.
BB Morgan lives in southern Illinois where she spends her time between working in a library, writing, reading, and trying to be a blogger and book reviewer. She is a graduate of Southeast Missouri State University (BA English/Small Press Publishing) and of Lindenwood University (MFA, Creative Writing). She considers herself an optimistic, yoga enthusiastic, dog lover, caffeine addict, and night owl. She is the indie author of the ongoing Devil’s Blood series and Caroline Eversole and the Gilded Gauntlet.
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