New Focus

[Warning - this might be a longer post than normal]

This week, I start a new direction for this blog. I intend on focusing on helping any writer who is looking to self publish their work. I am a self-published author and I've done well at it. That does not mean I'm making money by the truckload, but it does mean that I'm making money from my books. There are other blogs and entire websites devoted to self-publishing and I encourage you to seek them out. If you're looking to self-publish, you should do your research, read, take notes, and then act.

I've been blogging for some time so what brought me to this point? My last post described some of the revelations I had while at WorldCon and if you have not read it yet I encourage you to go read it now. I have started on a plan to elevate my self-publishing to a more professional level. In the past, I would write a novel, edit it multiple times, have my wife check it for grammar, have a friend of mine create a cover, and then upload the book to Amazon and Smashwords. Sounds like the right way to go about it- wouldn't you say? Perhaps, if you want to be seen as a semi-professional or even an amateur.

Self-published author: What does this mean? It means you are the writer and publisher of your work. Publishers are viewed as professionals and that means a self-published author should be as professional as possible. So what does that mean? What have I been missing? Plenty!

  • I published my first book in 2009. My writing skills have improved since then yet, I have not gone back and reviewed my early novels to see if they can be improved. I've corrected grammatical mistakes, but I've never gone back and done a full re-edit. 
  • I have relied on the automatic Word to Kindle converter provided by Amazon to convert and format my novels for ebook distribution. I glance at the end result and if it looked okay I was done. I did no post-conversion formatting at all.
  • I sent my Word version to a PDF and used that to create a print version using CreateSpace. I thought I would be "different" and use ragged-right. If you put all of my print books side-by-side you will notice that they are all formatted differently and they do not conform to today's standards for print publications.

I've been working on a new novel for several months. Dragonverse Origins is 75% complete and I'm setting it aside to fix what I believe is a major problem with my writing platform. I've laid out a plan to set things right:

  1. I've been doing some serious reading and taking notes on how to properly format a novel in print form. I have a collection of notes and observations that I intend on applying to my previously published works starting with the entire Galactic Alliance series.
  2. Beginning with Translight, I will go through the entire manuscript and perform a detailed re-edit, fixing any mistakes I find and improving the novel without changing the story. I will have another person read the newly edited novel looking for areas of improvement. After putting the improvements into place, the novel will be republished.
  3. Each new book will most likely have a new cover. I hope to use the original cover art with updated titling and author bylines. The interiors will be formatted the same and I will hand-format the final ebook if necessary. Additional changes will be made to the front and back matter to enhance the book's sales (more on this in a later post).
  4. I will use Microsoft Publisher to generate the newly formatted interior for each book making sure that the typesetting looks professional, follows today's best practices, and presents a consistent look and feel for the entire series. Microsoft Publisher is a very powerful typesetting program--something I just recently discovered.
While I'm involved in all this above work, I will be working on a list of issues I plan on discussing in this blog as it relates to self-publishing. I will post this proposed list next week. I am also thinking of creating a Facebook group dedicated to self publishing where advertising your book is strictly forbidden. I've looked at a few writer groups and it seems they turn into places where authors try to promote their books. I want a group where self-published authors can share their opinions, ideas, and experiences.

One point I do want to make before I close: Self-publishing is easy. So easy that there are a lot of people out there who have written a poor story and uploaded it to Amazon thinking they will become wealthy. If you are serious about self-publishing, there is a formula you need to follow:

  1. Write the best book possible. If your writing skills are weak, pick up some books on writing and start reading.
  2. Edit your manuscript at least once.
  3. Have two or three opinionated people read your story. These should be people who are not afraid to tell you that your story needs work. If they all agree that the story is bad--either rewrite it or forget it and start on another one.
  4. Set the novel aside and start reading books and websites on how to self publish.
  5. Take the comments you've received and revise your story. Edit it again and again. Read it out loud to yourself and edit it again. Run it through a grammar checker and spell checker.
  6. If you are making money on a book, then by all means spend a few extra dollars to have your book professionally edited. This can get expensive but if you are already making an income on your writing this is the professional thing to do. If you do not have a writing income yet you can skip this step.
  7. Get yourself a top-notch cover. Look into using Fiverr.com to get a decent cover for as little as $5.00. If you know someone who can do a good cover, then ask them to make one for you.
  8. When you're set, upload you book to Amazon. If you've done your research you should know what to expect when you get to this point.
One last point: If you are serious about being a writer you need to think of yourself as a business. This will be the subject of next week's post. I will also be sharing all of my notes with you.

Comments concerning the new focus of this blog are welcome. If you have any specific questions, I am always willing to engage with other authors. Please email me if you have questions: author@dougfarren.com