I run a successful feature on my author blog called Top 10 Writing Tips where twenty-seven incredible authors share valuable writing advice. You can find all the links to each post at https://shelleywilsonauthor.com/writing-tips. When I approached PJ about providing his top tips I was delighted when he sent me a twist to the theme – self-publishing tips! What a perfect way to help new authors understand the world of independent publishing. Allow me to introduce PJ:
PJ is a long-time self-published author who occasionally turns his hand to a little freelance book-formatting and cover-design work, helping those of us who missed out on the tech-gene. Having helped many, many authors over the years bring their book to market (myself included) he’s the go-to-guy for all your self-publishing tech questions.
Here then are PJ’s top ten tips for self-publishing:
1. First, finish your manuscript
Whilst it’s important to start “building an author platform” and “creating a frisson of excitement about your forthcoming book” it’s far more important to actually FINISH the book. A book usually takes a year to write. START NOW. (If you haven’t finished your book, stop reading this blog post and get back to it.)
2. When it comes to your book’s interior steer clear of anything ‘complicated’
Illustrations or photographs might seem like a good idea, but they make the formatting of your book many times more complicated. If you’re not doing the formatting yourself that could translate to significant hike in book production costs. I charge my clients double if their books contain pictures. Even bullet points are a major headache. Stick to text and headings. That’s all.
3. Edit your book.
Once you’ve finished writing your book, leave it a week, then print off the whole thing ON PAPER. Grab a red pen, and go through the whole lot as if you’re a bad tempered school teacher that’s been handed a shoddy piece of work from your least favourite student. You’re looking for overly verbose paragraphs, confusing dialogue, dull scenes, continuity errors, and anything else that can be improved. Be ruthless! Editing your book can sometimes take as long to edit as it did to write the first draft, but it’ll totally be worth it.
4. Send your book to first readers.
Find half a dozen people you trust and ask them to be your first readers. First readers are your test market. Encourage them to be brutally honest. What did they like? Were any scenes too long? Is there anything that didn’t make sense? You’ll be surprised what they point out. And it’s always valuable. If two readers disagree with each other, then you have the casting vote. But if two readers AGREE that something needs to be changed – change it! It’s better for a first reader to upset you by telling you what’s wrong with your book (so you can change it), rather than risk a one star damning review once the book is published.
5. Get your manuscript proof read!
You know when you type an email, send it, and then spot half a dozen spelling mistakes AFTER you’ve hit send? Writing a book is much the same. This year I had two clients who paid me to format their manuscripts TWICE. The second time was after they saw all the typos in the proof. Proof Readers are people who are unable to walk past a billboard without seeing an out of place apostrophe. For this reason they rarely leave the house. It’s a terrible affliction. But one that we can use to our advantage. I know two amazing proof readers who don’t charge the earth. Drop me a line for details.
6. Think of an excellent title
The title of your book is arguably your MOST powerful marketing tool. If your book is non-fiction, then the words a person might type into the search bar on Amazon need to be in the title, or subtitle. For example, if you’ve written a book on happiness; HAPPY and HAPPINESS really should be in the title and/or subtitle.
Also check the title hasn’t been used before, you don’t want someone thinking they are buying your book when they aren’t.
7. Design an excellent cover.
A book cover needs to work when it’s full size OR a thumbnail. If you’re not a designer, get someone to do this for you. It really could make all the difference to the success of your book. A designer will know what styles are ‘trending’ – yes there are fashion trends in book covers. Whatever you do, DO NOT pick an off the shelf cover.
If you’re publishing via Amazon KDP, use the free ISBN they offer you. There’s little advantage these days in ‘owning’ the ISBN. If you do, the law requires you to send several copies of your book to the British Library at your own expense! Who needs that hassle?
And whilst we’re talking about Amazon…
9. Amazon. Get over it.
You might not like Amazon, some people don’t, and that’s allowed. BUT they ARE the world’s BIGGEST book store. You WANT your book on their website. Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face.
10. Pay someone to do it for you
My name is PJ. I am a self-published author myself. Over the last decade I’ve helped publish well over 100 books for friends and clients. I’m a one-man band, and because of that I don’t need to charge the earth. If you’re looking for someone friendly and helpful – someone to answer your questions, hold your hand, and weave some kind of magic over your manuscript to turn it into a book – you’ve found them! I’m easy to get hold of via email and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/PJBookFormattingAndCoverDesign/
Huge thanks to PJ for sharing his top 10 self-publishing tips. I hope you’ve found this post helpful on your writing journey.