Monday, April 25, 2011

Twelve Independent Author Steps—As I See Them

Everyone has to admit that this is a new walk to walk. There are no gatekeepers. Rather than working for a publisher and paying an agent because they landed you that gig (like an employment agency), you're working for yourself. And your readers.

Here's how I line up those steps right now, thanks in large part to advice from LJ Sellers. I invite discussion from everyone, and enlightenment from those that have gone before me. But this is what I think a writer has to do to do it right:

1. Write your manuscript.
2. Rewrite and edit as many times as necessary until you think it's as good as you can write it. For now. This would include getting feedback from critique partners as applicable. At this stage, your manuscript is still green. Young. Kind of stupid.
3. Find a few readers you trust. Provide them with the full manuscript and a list of things you want them to keep an eye on. I'm talking between three and five people. Two readers are simply not enough. Fifteen and your goose will be cooked. Guaranteed. UPDATE: Check out today's blog post at Crime Fiction Collective regarding beta readers.
4. Rewrite again based on the feedback (qualified by you) that comes in. Your manuscript has just gone through another critical stage. It truly is the best it can be without professional intervention.
5. Get professional intervention. Pay an editor to go through the entire manuscript. Argue with said editor. They will make you prove your position; make them prove theirs. They will usually be right.
6. Hire a formatter. You could probably learn to do this yourself, but wouldn't you really rather be working on your next manuscript? You will want something that will be beautiful in numerous formats. You want your novel to be perfect whether someone buys it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
7. Unless you have amazing graphic art skills (some do, most don't), you'll want to hire someone to design your cover. "What? It's an e-book." Well, yeah. But the eye still buys. Well, maybe not buy exactly, but a great cover will get someone to at least take a closer look.
8. Now it's time to proof-read the final product from your formatter. Do not skimp at this point in the game. And don't believe for one minute that you can catch everything. Even if it was perfect when it went to the formatter, strange things can happen. Have your manuscript proofread. By more than one other person.

1-8 are things you need to do at a minimum. The rest are things I think you need to do to get your novel to the highest level possible.

9. Form a publishing company. You are the owner. You are the publisher. You will probably be the only author. But, pick a cool name, and maybe even a logo.
10. Go to CreateSpace (or something similar) and make arrangements to provide print copies of your book. There will be some readers who do not have access to e -readers. Even some who have dug in their heels and refuse to consider them as options. Make sure your book is available to as wide an audience as possible.
11. Look at your distribution options. You will probably want to handle Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but what about all the other small players out there? For them, you want someone else dealing with the nuances. Again, your want to make sure your book is available to everyone.
12. Don't forget audio. It's not a huge market, but it is a market. Don't neglect it. It might take awhile (and here, you'll be dealing with gatekeepers again), but don't write this one off.

Anything you disagree with? I need to expand on? Add?

CR: Where's Billie? by Judith Yates Borger.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Great post, Peg. Especially the parts about editing and formatting.

    I enjoy formatting (and possibly have slight control issues), so for me it's worth the time to do it myself. And really, now that I've figured out how to format an e-book, it takes less time than writing one scene.

  2. This is a GREAT post. I agree with everything except would add: on number 5 -- anyone can call himself an editor. We need to research and make sure freelance editors have references. I've read where editors of traditional houses have discouraged using freelance editors; some say they can't tell the manuscript has been edited. Thanks for posting this--I'm in the process of getting my Silhouette Romance from long ago retyped so I can do all this. Your list is encouraging and really helps.

  3. Colette, having read your short story on my Kindle, I have to say the formatting was gorgeous. Well done!

    And Jess, I couldn't agree with you more. An amazing, competent editor is a huge key. I heard recently that, as a rule, the editors who work with small publishers are far better than those who work for the big guns. Apparently, there is a wide disparity, and it's up to writers to make sure they're getting the help they need.

  4. Great tips, Peg! Very timely, too. I would add lining up advance reviews if possible. M Louisa Locke (you can find her on FB) wrote a great piece on 7 Tips for Kindle Success and she talks about having 4-5 professional reviews up when your book goes up.

    I'm going to be watching *your* success with so much excitement! And go, LJ, for being an inspiration!!

  5. Interesting. What is a 'professional' review?

  6. Aw, Peg. :) You know I love you, right?

  7. Loving me has nothing whatsoever to do with your ability to turn out a first class product. Having read one or two ebooks, I know what I'm talking about.

  8. Excellent post, Peg! Lots of super tips for writers! I'll be sending a bunch of my clients here to read your list.