Like many people, I am not a multi-published, award winning, best-selling author. What I am is a teacher and a mom with a passion for writing. And I am grateful for the world of self publishing that has so recently opened its doors. Without it, many wonderful stories would remain hidden, visible only to the author's family and close friends.
I began my journey about two and a half years ago. By that, I do not mean that I began writing two and a half years ago, but rather that I began writing with a plan to publish. In that time I have learned a lot, but no matter how much I learn or how long I hone my skills, I also know I will never be able do everything in this business, because no one is a master of all trades.
Does that mean in order to self publish high quality reading material, one must pay a lot of money? No, it does not. Does it mean that a writer should spend a lot of time and effort on their craft? Yes, most certainly, and wouldn't they want to anyway? Does it mean writers need to be open-minded and honest? Yes, if they plan to be any good—yes.
First, be honest with yourself. You cannot do everything. If you're terrible at art, ask or hire someone else who has artistic talent to make your cover designs. If using computers for anything other than typing frightens you, hire or beg someone else who is skilled with computers to format your books for you. It's okay to ask for help. Actually, it's good to ask for help. If you hire a cover designer, editor, or someone to format your books expect to pay them well if you want high quality. And yes, high quality is important whether a book is traditionally published, published by a small publishing house, or self published. However, you can cut costs by working with someone you know personally or by trading services within the Indie community. There are many of us out there, and among us, we have a wealth of knowledge and skills. Many Indies are willing to trade editing services for cover designs or for formatting assistance.
Then, take this a step further and begin to learn about your own weaknesses by asking others to read your work and give you their honest opinions. When they do, don't defend yourself. It will be tempting to respond, but don't give in to temptation. Instead, listen to their advice and think on it. If multiple people notice that you tend to make the same sort of grammatical error or that you overuse a specific word, believe them, and watch for those errors when you edit your work. The “find & replace” function is your friend. Use it to find your common errors and correct them.
It's true, much can be done on your own. Tutorial videos and Indie help groups can be found with a simple online search. Join some groups, and read what participants have to say. Read articles on blogs and websites. Watch tutorial publishing videos. Take some time to learn a little bit each day or even once a week. One of the beauties of self publishing is that you are not restricted by someone else's deadlines.
Here is a final piece of advice. Watch out for piranhas. There are companies out there who prey on authors' fears. They advertise high quality package deals in order to help authors get published. STEER CLEAR! There is a big difference between paying for a service, such as editing, and paying to become a published author. A friend of mine published through iUniverse http://www.iuniverse.com/ and lost a great deal of money in the process. What did she get for her money? A number of paperback and hardcover copies of her book and a bunch of overpriced postcards and bookmarks. What was the downside? She had difficulty connecting with agents by phone, cannot set the price of her own books (even though their site says they have a non-exclusivity agreement), and she had a terrible time getting them to use the cover image she wanted, a photo she had taken herself. What's worse, when I pointed out editing errors in one of her books, the company refused to publish an updated version even though their editors had clearly failed, big time.
An FYI for anyone who is considering self publishing. You do not have to pay anyone to publish your books. Anyone can publish their ebooks for free through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you prefer one stop, Smashwords is a free way to publish your ebooks and have them distributed in all formats. After publishing through Smashwords, your book will show up at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Itunes, Apple Store, etc. What's more, most of these outlets will pay authors anywhere from 35% - 70% in royalties. There are also a number of ways to publish your book as a paperback. This also costs you nothing. I use CreateSpace which is affiliated with Amazon, but there are others as well. Don't be afraid of a poor formatting job. There are video tutorials and books to help you at all of these outlets. These are provided free of charge; you have only to look for them. And once uploaded, you get to preview your book before it goes live to the world.
If you have a great story or a work of non fiction that you want to share with the world, don't be afraid to do so. There will be highs and lows as you travel this winding path, but it's both worth it and affordable.
If you enjoyed S.L. Wallace's guest post, you may also enjoy reading her post, “Indie Writing Tips” at: http://crossroadsofhumanity.blogspot.com/2012_12_01_archive.html
Official website - http://www.slwallace.com
Blog - http://crossroadsofhumanity.blogspot.com/
Facebook author page - https://www.facebook.com/author.slwallace
Facebook fan page - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Reliance-on-Citizens/269905359690713
Here are S.L. Wallace' published novels - click on the covers for more details and to buy