I’m coming out with a self-published book this summer of 2021 and I’d like to document some of the stuff I’m doing so far.
Now, I’m not saying it will all work out, but I figure it might help someone else down the line or give them some ideas.
Anyway, this is actually a fantasy book called The Life-Taker. I won’t get into the story itself so much, but more about what happens after you finish the manuscript.
Disclaimer: This is my first major book and I don’t have all the answers…
So with that said, here we go:
I wrote the book in Scrivener (https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener/overview), which cost me $40 at the time if I recall correctly. It’s about $50 now.
The best thing about Scrivener is you can easily (relatively easily) output your manuscript to .epub, .mobi, and .pdf from the same file.
The worst thing about Scrivener is the lack of integrated cloud editing. So many times I would lay in bed, then have an idea and want to put it in the notes section with my phone, but you can’t unless you also pay for a mobile version and use a fairly clunky Dropbox setup.
Anyway, even without that it took care of the writing pretty well.
I read Stephen King’s On Writing (or more accurately, listened to the audiobook) and after my first draft, which took way longer than the three months he recommends, I put the book away for a month and did other things.
I’m pretty sure he recommended waiting more than a month to revisit the first draft, but I couldn’t wait, so I pulled it out and read through it again.
By the end of my drafting process I whittled about a quarter of it away, but it is still a large book, at approx 146,000(!) words, or essentially double what the minimum word requirement for a novel is.
When it was time to get some editing done, I found the costs a bit paralyzing. Between developmental, copy editing, line editing, content editing, proofreading, etc. you could easily shell out several thousand dollars on something you don’t know if you’re ever going to make a dime off of.
Not that the professionals who do the work don’t deserve to be paid, but I wasn’t ready just yet to pony up that kind of money.
Still, I’m not arrogant enough to think that my book required no editing at all.
To that end, I bought a program called Hemingway Editor (https://hemingwayapp.com/) for $20 total, and went through the manuscript with it. I was fairly impressed with some of the things it found, but I still felt it could be edited further.
So next, I got a subscription to ProWritingAid (https://prowritingaid.com) for $20/mo. This program called out a lot more issues, like clichés, tired tropes and overused words/phrases.
By the time I had used both of these programs, one thing was clear… boy, do people not like the passive voice!
So many warnings on the screen. Wow.
I got rid of a vast amount of passive voice, but here’s the thing: I actually like a lot of that, so I kept in way more than either program wanted me to.
If the book doesn’t sell, I’m blaming passive voice.
Anyway, following this, I fell back on old college friends who were willing to read through the book. Now these guys do not read fantasy, which actually worked in my favor. I soon realized from their questions and comments that I was taking knowledge of some fantasy conventions for granted. Embarrassingly, there were still typos and screw-ups that were not caught by the programs. Oh well, no one’s perfect…
Eventually, at long last I felt that I could put the final stamp of approval on it and say it was “ready”.
It took me a year a half to get to that point. I think that might be an average time for people writing full-length novels.
Next, the marketing. Ugh. I can’t market worth a d*mn, and I know it. It’s so difficult. Can’t I just be done, already?
But… I did a lot of research, and it remains to be seen if it will pay off.
Right now, I signed up for StoryOrigin (https://storyoriginapp.com/), which is a free (for now) platform where you can provide a “reader magnet” in which you trade a short story/sample chapters for signups to your email newsletter, which you will eventually use to announce your book.
You read that right, more work.
StoryOrigin recommends a prequel short story (20,000 words) to get people interested in the full book. They do not recommend sample chapters. They say people may feel cheated or tricked somehow if you give them sample chapters. Not really sure about that, but I decided to believe them. And so I went back and wrote the prequel story that I was going to write anyway, just not so soon.
I already had a Mailchimp (https://mailchimp.com/) account that I wasn’t using, so I connected that to StoryOrigin. My Mailchimp had a few old lists and a few hundred subscribers I didn’t keep up with, so I “archived” them all to zero out my numbers. Mailchimp is free for the first 2000 contacts, but after that you have to pay. I felt it best to just start over here.
So the gist is, StoryOrigin will provide a free platform for me to host copies of my free short story. When people click to download it, they’ll see a pop-up asking them to sign up for my mailing list. When they sign up, they’ll get an email with the link to the download.
Once they’re on my list, I’ll keep updating them every week with new content to keep them interested until launch, which will hopefully net me some guaranteed sales on launch day.
StoryOrigin also has newsletter swaps, which means someone mentions me in their newsletter and I mention them in mine, hopefully growing the size of both lists.
They also can connect you with advance reviewers, so I’m going to be looking into that next.
In the same vein, BookFunnel (https://bookfunnel.com/) is a competing service to StoryOrigin that is probably more fleshed out, but less free 🙂
Also found in my research was an interesting article here:
where the author goes into detail about a great many things he did to sell books, and I’m going to try to replicate his success. One major takeaway is that he says to make sure you use every space Amazon gives you. He mentions that people ask him for help and yet they never take the time to fill out all those places. I’m definitely going to get into that.
And lastly, something I just found tonight before writing this is called BookSirens (https://booksirens.com/). Apparently they do the work of contacting reviewers for you, taking a bit of that load off of you.
There are different tiers here, but their ‘Promote’ plan could be worth putting up $10US per review copy, then $2/reviewer. According to them, I could tell them to stop at 50 reviewers, which would bring my cost up to $110US.
It looks like there is some overlap with StoryOrigin, but that should be fine as long as I’m not paying a grip for each service.
So I’m going to wrap up this initial post. I’ll keep posting here as things progress, hopefully with concrete results on how things go.
When my landing pages are ready I’ll link to that as well so you can see it in action.