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1. Beta readers are invaluable. One of the first things I did when I decided I wanted to write more seriously was join the site, Goodreads. There are hundreds of people on there who are interested in beta reading, and they all do it out of the kindness of their heart—asking for no monetary compensation. Each and every one of my books went through multiple rounds of beta readers who helped me address problems with the plot, flow, characterization, and even sometimes, spelling and grammar. I honestly believe if it were not for Goodreads and the beta readers help, I wouldn’t be the author I am today.
2. Where is the rush? I hastily made the decision to publish my first book after being fed up with my life in general—I would not recommend this. I missed minor formatting errors and settled for the story as it was even though I had inner doubts about it. Although thousands of readers were happy with the version that was published, I have already edited it once and will probably revise and update the published copies once more if I decide to delve back into the story. I also missed the opportunity to promote at all. Even though I have found book bloggers (and thank God for them), it is still very hard work. I would recommend taking your time to publish your novel.
This is the format I would follow if you are interested in self-publishing: Write the story, edit the story, have the story beta read, put the story away for a little bit of time to breathe while you begin something new, edit the story again, have it beta read one more time, edit it for the final time, format it for e-books and paperbacks, promote, promote, promote, publish.
3. Join online writing communities such as Wattpad, Figment, Authonomy, Scribophile, etc. Joining a site like Wattpad has been life-changing for me. It is a website that merges readers and aspiring writers with published authors and even agents sometimes. You are able to post your stories chapter by chapter and others have the opportunity to read, comment, and vote on your works as well as follow your profile and add your books to their libraries. There are also forums you can join that give advice on the ins and outs of the industry. A majority of the website is the younger generation, tweens and teens, however Wattpad is filled with aspiring writers and published authors of all backgrounds.
I joined the site in September 2013, and since then I have 645 followers, over 7000 votes, and upwards of 35,000 reads on some of my stories. Even though I have not and will not ever receive any monetary compensation from having my stories on Wattpad, I will be a lifer. I cannot tell you how much of a community it is and how supportive my followers have been for me as well as advice I’ve been given on improving my novels; I cannot say enough great things about Wattpad. I think I should be their mascot!
4. Your friends and family will come around. Don’t be offended if your friends and family don’t read your stories right away or even bother to buy them when they are released. Things to keep in mind, everyone has their own life and are busy living it—they will support you when they see the hard work. Also, factor in what genre you are writing in because not everyone will be interested in Young Adult or New Adult Romances.
5. If you have the opportunity to have a critiquing partner who will swap a few chapters at a time, TAKE IT. While beta readers can be helpful to no end, a critiquing partner can and will become passionate about your work; they will push you to write new chapters and even though they won’t go easy on you just because you’ve built a rapport, they will support you to no end.
6. Go with the flow. As much as I love outlines and have used them plenty of times in the past, I have always been a firm believer in writing what you feel is right in the moment. My stories with the biggest recognition have not been planned out, I believe that’s what kept the intensity building from start to finish. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with outlines, I am just saying if your gut is telling you to write something, don’t feel confined to your outline.
7. The ups and downs of Print-on-Demand. When I published my first two novels, I chose the website Createspace to help with the paperback copies I would be needing. I love how self-sufficient their website makes you feel and how quickly they can approve everything for publishing (within 24-48 hours).
Pros: Createspace is very easy to use and navigate.
Cons: The royalties are about 30% your book price, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t much.
8. You do not have to pay a fortune for a cover that could compete in the traditional publishing world, trust me. One of the best decisions I ever made was asking a peer on Wattpad to make my covers professionally for me; little did I know, she actually wanted to be a cover designer! I approached her and we worked out a 6-book deal for a VERY affordable price. She not only works with me to make sure I am satisfied in full, but she has a ridiculously fast turnaround. Sometimes it’s as quick as 24-hours. Her name is Emmy Logan and she is the creator of Cover Me Designs, do yourself a favor and check out some of her creations—you won’t regret it.
9. Find Book Bloggers who review self-published titles. Reach out but be respectful, some of them may agree to review your book even though it doesn’t interest them. Be content and satisfied with each one that that takes the time. They are essentially who is going to help create buzz and build an audience for upcoming titles.
10. If you do not want to deal with the hassle of formatting the eBook—DON’T. I’m not going to release her name in fear she may get too booked up for me to use her on future projects; but, I found a decent eBook formatter who gets it ready for both platforms, Epub and Mobi within a week or two for $20. Twenty dollars is nothing compared to the headaches and hours you’ll spend trying to get everything right.