Self-publishing: Harder than I Thought

Since self-publishing my dark fantasy novel, Blue Ruin, other writers that I have networked with have asked me how to self-publish. So I thought, I could make a post out of this.

Let’s get one thing straight. I’m no expert. I did a lot of research before publishing, but I’m still on the journey of discovering what works and what doesn’t. And that’s the whole thing with self-publishing. You just don’t know.

Let’s go back to the beginning. The very beginning. You need a story. Sounds like common sense, right? True. But you need a story that is unique. I’m not saying your story can’t be similar to something that is already out there. In reality, everything has been done before. But don’t make your version of the latest and hottest trending book. When I first began writing Blue Ruin, this wasn’t a thought in my mind. Not until beta-readers said, “this is like Harry Potter; this character is like this person, or this happened in this book.”

Ahhhh! Back to the drawing board. 

While the story is unoriginal: your classic good versus evil. The events, the characters, and the experiences that occur are what make the story unique. My main character, Maura Leroux, the “hero” , the one who is supposed to kill the bad guy, the supposed “good” guy…in fact is an anti-hero, a character who has done many wrongs. Killed people. Innocent people. Yet, somewhere she has a heart…deep, deep, way deep down and under a lot of ice. She single-handedly carried the weight of my story.
Now you have your story. It’s beautiful. It’s great. It’s a huge accomplishment. But it’s only step one. Next…editing.

I get asked a lot, “how did you know when to stop revising?” As writers, we know editing can be a compulsion, or in my case an obsession. We strive for perfection. Our biggest regret would be to later find out — after publishing — that we could’ve added a scene, strengthened a character, made the story bigger and better. At least, that’s been my fear. The best thing to do? Throw those anxieties out the window. Your story will never be perfect. So long as your brain is working, you’ll always think of new things to add to the story. And with more readers, come more opinions on what should have been done. This is all easier said than done. Give me a month and I’ll probably want to change everything about my book.

In reality, the only way you’re going to know when you’re done editing is from your beta-readers. Over the last two years, I’ve had well over two dozen beta-readers for Blue Ruin on this writer’s community, Scribophile. They were harsh in the beginning. They were working with a pile of shit. But once I started heavily editing, taking their suggestions, and knocking my story down to build it back up again, the critiques shifted. After two years and the last beta-reader moved through, the critiques were nitpicks — things that I could ignore if I wanted that wouldn’t break my book. No one pointed out flawed characters, confusing areas, pointless scenes, slow pacing, or giant plot holes. That’s when I knew, I’m done.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. Where do you go from there? Anywhere, really. I began searching for an editor. While my beta-readers had done a fabulous job at editing, I wanted someone who could clean up my grammar and give their final expert opinion. Grammar has never been my thing, and one of my biggest fears was having horrible grammar that would turn readers away.

Finding an editor wasn’t easy. Finding an editor who didn’t have insane rates that would kill me, was even harder. I never knew how difficult it was to get an editor. I figured, I’m paying them, why wouldn’t they want the work? I was wrong. My genre was a problem. Dark fantasy wasn’t something many editors were familiar with or had an interest in. I was bounced around a bit, referred from editor to editor until one lovely woman agreed to take me under her wing. Nicole

For the next seven weeks, I was without a manuscript and began to wonder what more I could do. That’s when I realized I needed a cover. A cover that would attract readers. A cover that didn’t scream “I’m self-published”. Through networking, I found a graphic designer who was able to put together a cover that satisfied my every need, for a price that didn’t break the bank. Indigo Forest Designs

In the end, I wanted my book to be just as good as any traditionally published novel. I formatted the inside of my printed version, carefully formatted the e-book version. I wanted to present my novel as professionally as I could. It was work. A lot of work. In self-publishing, you’re doing everything yourself. And it requires a lot of research, and trial and error.

But, the biggest question is: how do you get people to buy your book? And with that, I end this post to begin a post about marketing, and the bitch that it is.


4 thoughts on “Self-publishing: Harder than I Thought

  1. Part of our problem is the genre. I’m under dark fantasy as well, although my story would fit just fine under mythic fantasy or medieval fantasy. These are niche genres that are well populated by established authors. No matter how you do it, you have to break out. And that means a killer story, because you’ll get about two days in the sun on initial release. I determined that my story needed to be stronger, so I actually pulled it off the shelf and am currently revising it. I would add one more thing. “Ship” is a currently popular term. It is essential that an author understand that “ship” and “sell” are very far apart. If you don’t feel that your produce is ready to ship, then don’t.

    1. I agree. The genre is a problem. I realized this when I was looking for an editor and was turned down because of the genre. Either they were unfamiliar with it or didn’t have an interest. And I couldn’t agree more with your last statement. Originally, I set out to publish Blue Ruin in June of 2015. When the time came, I realized I could still do so much. I pushed the publication to December. December rolled around, ehhh, still didn’t feel ready. Now, finally, February is when it feels ready.

  2. This entire article made me feel a bit better at writing my own book. I’m so glad you wrote this, it lets other writers like myself know we aren’t alone in not cranking a good book out in a month.

    1. I’m glad it helped!! As a writer, I’m always looking for resources, other people that have gone down the road I’m about to venture down, or advice. If I’m wondering about these things, I know others are. So I figured I’d share my little experiences with writing, publishing, and whatever else will come my way.

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