Is self publishing for you?

There's only one person who can answer that, and it's you!

Firstly, it has to be said that self publishing is not the easy way out and it's not just for authors who have been rejected by agents and traditional publishers.

That being said, anyone can – and does – self publish which means you have to do something to make sure your book is good enough to rise to the top of the pile.

And to start with, you need a good story!

Once you've got that, edit it at least three times and each time, look for different things. By all means, if you come across a typo then correct it but edit for other things too such as plot holes, grammar errors, character problems and the general flow.

Believe me, as the author, you will miss most of these errors as you know the story you are trying to tell but to the reader, all they have to go on, are the words on the page.

Next (or do this before you start writing) find a friend who you trust, implicitly. Someone who you can talk to about your story, who will listen and then tell you if you have something good or are barking up a gumtree! If this friend is also willing to read through some of your book, all the better!

Join an online writers' forum or chat site where you can chat with other writers about ideas, discuss research topics and ask questions, even the ones you think are silly!

Find yourself a handful of beta readers, or as I like to call them, ‘test readers'. Don't pick family members as they won't fully understand what your book means to you and will not tell you when you are going in the wrong direction as they won't want to hurt your feelings.

My husband refused to read my book but actively shared things on his Facebook page for me. The genre I write in is just not his thing so I was quite surprised when, after my book had been out for 18 month, he asked if he could read it.

Use the narrator programme on your computer, if you have one. For Windows 8, click on the search icon and type in ‘Narrator'. Get the computer to read sections of your story to you, this will help you pick up on spelling errors that the spellchecker won't pick up on. It will also give you a chance to hear any problems with the flow of you story.

Make sure your beta/test readers understand what you are asking them to do which is find your mistakes and point out anything they find wrong, such as using the wrong character's name (believe me, that happens!) any grammar/punctuation errors and ask them to tell you if there was ever a time when they didn't understand what was happening in your story.

Also ask them to concentrate on continuity. There's nothing worse than reading “she folded her arms in anger and picked up the phone with her empty hand …”. Also on the continuity trail are such things as elevators. There is a vast difference between the elevator's door and the elevator doors. Pick one and stick with it.

Once you have your beta/test reader's thoughts/notes and recommendations, read through them and see how any changes would affect your story.

Don't forget, it's YOUR STORY, so it's up to you whether or not you make the changes your beta/test readers have suggested.

Then there's your book cover which is another story altogether!

Endeavour to make it the best you can. If you can afford to have someone design it for you, please do. If not, take the time to look at a number of book covers for books in the same genre as yours to get some ideas.

Don't set your mind on one idea but try a few different ones out. Talk to your beta/test readers about what kind of cover they would expect the book to have.

Once you are ready, decide which platform you are going to work with in terms of self publishing as there are a few including Kobo, Google Play and Amazon Kindle, all of which have their own terms and conditions.

This is where you need to put the book to one side and spend a chunk of time reading the terms and conditions of whichever site you've decided to go with as they are all different in their set up and all have rules and regulations that you have to follow.

It's not something you can get through in an hour so set aside a few days (or longer) so you have the chance to digest everything.

The same goes for when you are ready to upload your book to whichever site you are going with. Some want your book as a PDF file, some want it as an epub file and some will accept .doc and .docx.

Once you have your files ready (the book body and cover are usually uploaded separately) make copies and backups of all your book files, that way, if you make a mistake or lose anything, you have a backup to hand.

Next, upload your files!

As a self publisher, you are in complete control of your story and your cover but it also means you are responsible for your own advertising and self/book promotion.

Obviously, it's up to you how you promote your book, there are many ways to do that but most will depend on how much money you are willing to spend.

Start a website and/or blog, start a Facebook page, twitter page, linkedin page, instagram, even a Spotify playlist will get you followed. Look out for writing competitions, make friends with other indie authors through social networking and look for sites like Read Freely and the Writer's Lounge on Blog Talk Radio who are always happy to hear from self published authors.

It's up to you how far you go, as they say, if you don't ask, you don't get!

I went with Amazon. After six month, I had people telling me they preferred paperbacks to ebooks so I looked into Amazon's Createspace as a way to make my book available in paperback.

That was a massive learning curve for me but one I would happily repeat (as I fully intend to do with my next book) as there is nothing quite like a copy of your own book dropping through your door.

Self publishing is a rollercoaster ride. There will be days when you wonder why you set yourself on this road of ups and downs but with a little patience and a lot of learning, it will be worth it in the end.

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Radu Balas

Radu is the Founder of Publishing Addict and author of "Sell More Books Using Your Author Website | The Easiest Way To Brand, Build, Market, and Manage Your Authorship" Soon available on Amazon.

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