Creative Writing Fiction 2020-01-27 00:00

3 Crucial Pieces of the Self-Publishing Puzzle

Woman puzzling over her book

Sometimes, self-publishing can feel like a baffling puzzle.

Puzzling not only in the sense that it’s difficult to figure out, but also more literally. There are so many pieces. It can be tough to know what they all are, let alone how they fit together. That's especially true if you're new to the world of releasing your own books. There is a seemingly never-ending cascade of information to wade through.

With all the things you need to keep track of as a self-published author, it can be easy to overlook particular aspects. Even if those aspects are crucial to making your book writing plan succeed.

I’ve had the pleasure of helping countless aspiring authors bring their book into the world. In the course of doing so, I’ve noticed some common things that are often overlooked. Here are three of them. Remember to give them the attention they deserve, so your book can enjoy significant levels of success.

  1. 1: Be Realistic About Your Writing Time
  2. 2: Accept Help – Even When It Hurts
  3. 3: Promotion Can Be Tougher Than Writing
  4. What Puzzles You About Self-Publishing?

1: Be Realistic About Your Writing Time

Some aspiring authors have an overly romantic notion of writing time.

I’m sure you can picture the scene. A beautiful woodland writer’s retreat featuring log cabins. Peace and quiet. Slipping effortlessly into a flow state and being visited by the muse.

If only!

More often than not, you won’t be able to write an ideal time. Or in an ideal location. It’s also unlikely you’ll feel inspired whenever you sit down to write. In fact, sometimes it will feel like the slowest and most tedious work you’ve ever done.

I’m not saying that to dissuade you from writing. Far from it. I just want you to have a realistic view of writing time and what it might look like.

Thankfully, we can be proactive. We can seek to write at a time, and in a way, that suits us best. Given that there’s no such thing as the perfect time to write, what are some ways you can go about it as sensibly as possible?

Make it a must

For a lot of us, writing time is a 'should' rather than a 'must'. It's one of those activities we tell ourselves we should be doing in an ideal world. Because we don't see it as essential, we often neglect to do it. Don't fall into this trap. Advance schedule your writing time. Make it known you are not available during those hours. Be strict with yourself. Your book will thank you!

Don’t give yourself too much time

It might sound strange, but don’t give yourself too much time to write! You can probably produce your first draft a lot quicker than you think. Taking too long means your book will feel stale or you will overthink it. Permit yourself to write an imperfect first draft as quickly as possible. You can then take the time to refine and perfect it.

Let technology help you

Technology gets a bad rep when it comes to productivity. That’s probably fair. Chances are, more people are distracted by technology than helped by it. But it doesn’t have to be like that. You can use technology to monitor your time. You can block out certain sites or apps that distract you. And you can make your writing time a lot more efficient by using a specialist solution like ProWritingAid.

When it comes to writing time, you need to take something of a Goldilocks approach. Find a balance between being too naive and too cynical. Be strict with your time, and make the most of it.

2: Accept Help – Even When It Hurts

I’d like to share one idea that’s always stayed with me from Stephen King’s On Writing. King says that you should write your first draft with the door shut and revise it with the door open. Meaning there's a proper time to accept the feedback and help of others on your book project.

As much as we might not like to acknowledge it, accepting help can be uncomfortable at times. Downright painful even. This is even truer when it comes to accepting criticism about our writing.

Sometimes, the parts of our book we are proudest of turn out to be the weakest. Something that works well in our imagination might not translate at all when others read it. Just because you’re self-publishing, it doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. Learning to accept help in the right way is a key part of the journey.

No matter if you’re setting out on the journey to releasing your first book, or looking to improve upon an earlier effort, here are some considerations when working with others.

Know your strengths

If you want to make the most of the assistance of others, you first need to know what you are good at. To use perhaps the most obvious example, it’s rare for a writer to also be good enough at graphic design to make a book cover. Before you start your next book project, sit down and make a list of absolutely everything that needs to be done. Which are you capable of? Which are you technically capable of, but it makes more sense to enlist the help of others?

Be selective

To return to Stephen King's On Writing for just a moment, let's consider his concept of the ideal reader. When working on a book, Stephen King writes with his wife in mind. It’s quite touching when King describes writing certain scenes, hoping she will chuckle when she eventually reads them. When it comes to getting feedback on your book, be selective. Have an ideal reader in mind and care about their opinion only.

Put your pride aside

Sometimes, the feedback of an editor can sting. While every writer expects a certain amount of bad reviews from paying readers, it can suck to pay money for someone to tear your work apart! But in truth, that's precisely what you're paying for. It's not personal. Only by leaving your pride aside and being open to harsh feedback can you produce the best book you are capable of. Just don't expect it to feel great at first!

No self-published author is an island. Learning when and how to accept help from the right people is a crucial part of your journey.

3: Promotion Can Be Tougher Than Writing

For most authors, writing a book is the easy part.

And by easy I, of course, mean an exhausting labor of blood, sweat, and tears!

But compared to book marketing? It’s a total walk in the park.

Chances are if you're considering writing a book, there's a part of you that truly loves writing. The craft of expressing your deepest ideas through words. Of creating a mesmerizing adventure for your reader to get lost in.

Hand on heart, can you say you truly love book marketing in the same way?

Probably not!

Marketing our work can feel truly strange at first. Especially if you happen to be an introvert. The idea of putting ourselves out there and creating a personal brand can feel antithetical to our concept of who we are.

The good news is that the idea of book marketing is often a lot worse than the reality. If the idea of marketing your book seems daunting, here are some tips to get you started.

Change your mentality

In my experience, a lot of the problems authors have with book marketing comes from the way they view it. It is often viewed as sterile, exploitative, or somehow immoral. Really, book marketing is simply letting passionate readers know about a book they might well fall in love with. There's nothing bad about that.

Work with the right platforms

You don’t have to build a platform from scratch. Services like Kindle Direct Publishing and Amazon Author Central will help you market yourself and your books. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Do what is proven to work.

Enjoy the snowball effect

Want to know the hardest part of book marketing? The start. Every reader you gain, review you earn, and email subscriber you get adds up over time. Even the most popular authors had to start somewhere.

The best way to learn book marketing is to adopt a growth mindset, get stuck in, and learn as you go. The sooner the better.

What Puzzles You About Self-Publishing?

I truly hope that the ideas found in this article will make your self-publishing journey a little bit easier.

I’d love to get your thoughts. What do you struggle with? What’s the most puzzling element of self-publishing for you?

Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to address them in a future article.

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