Thursday, June 23, 2016

I Want to Publish NOW!

Self-published authors beware: instant gratification is not a virtue in publication. In my other daily life, I am a professional freelance editor of fiction. On rare occasions the queries I see for service include expected deadlines that are unrealistic. I offer this advice to the self-publishers among us:

Patience, Grasshopper. Publishing a book takes time to do right. Rushing your product to market does not often end well.

You have spent the last however many months/years writing your Great American Novel. It's done—hooray! You've looked into traditional publishing and all the other avenues and have decided that self-publishing is the direction you'd rather go. Thousands of other writers have made this same choice, even authors who have found prior success with traditional publishing. Self-publishing is the wave of the future.

Joining the self-publishing wave carries dangers to books that come to the venue unprepared. A predicted backlash against rushed, unpolished prose is building among readers; even Amazon reports dropping ebook sales numbers and is restricting the pricing authors may use. The chaff is being blown to the side so that readers can find the good books among the self-published heap. You want to be one of the good ones.

The edits have to be done ASAP—I want to post by the end of the month!

Start shopping for an editor well in advance of your hoped for release-date for your book. Asking for a deadline of next week for an edit that likely will take three weeks to do is unrealistic even if an editor is immediately available. While freelance service providers can have unpredictable booking schedules depending on the season, it is best to assume an editor is booked three months or more in advance and query accordingly. If your chosen expert is available earlier—jackpot!

Okay, I've had an editor evaluate my work and give suggestions for fixes or changes or what-not. I went through and changed what the editor said to. Now I can post it to the self-publishing website, right?

Hold your horses, cupcake. Not yet. Even the best editor cannot be held responsible for errors you may have introduced during your revisions. Some books will need more than one round of edits to be ready for Primetime; a developmental edit, revision, copy/line edits, more revision. Then you need to have a proofreader go over your final copy before it is ready to be published.

After that step, you must format the manuscript properly for the venue you will upload to. Many blogs and YouTube video tutorials can be found free online for assistance with this task, but to avoid the steep learning curve and hours/days/weeks of frustration you could employ an editor who also tackles formatting.

I did all that. Can I go now?

Along with the finished galley copy you will need a polished blurb to hook sales, keywords, genre categorization, a plan for distribution and pricing, professional-looking cover art, and a marketing plan. If you are publishing in print as well you must purchase your own ISBN code or accept the one offered with your publishing platform, if they do that. Do your homework to decide which is best for you.

At the publishing house I worked for, taking a book from newly-contracted manuscript to galley final proof was likely to take up to eight months. Then the finished product would be put on the schedule for release, which could add another year or more before the book could be sold to readers. Self-publishing will shorten the time from galleys to release date, but the pre-production work will still need time to do properly.

Rushing your book from manuscript to published is a bad idea. Ultimately your readers will be the judge; bad reviews = lower sales. Take your time; do it right.

[First published as Kelly Lynne at I">">I Want to Publish My Book NOW!!!
in May 2016