Saturday, April 4, 2015

From Polished to Published - Karen

There is still a lot of mystery in the writing field about how we writers go from a finished work (when is it finished??!) to something tangible in the world, a piece of writing that others can read, maybe even others beyond just our family and friends who we force into reading our work.

Let's talk about a few aspects of that process.

My self-published novel, Convergence, available online everywhere!

First, the finished work. When is a project finished? This one is funny. As a writer who is constantly evolving, whose interests change over time, and whose skills are (hopefully!) improving over time, looking at a piece of my writing almost always creates in me a desire to change it. I can tweak until the cows come home, quite literally. Seeing as how I don't live on a farm, this could be forever.

So I have to create an arbitrary deadline for myself to get out of the "constantly editing" cycle of doom. Sometimes it's a pledge to submit to a certain market (the Writer's of the Future contest is helpful for it's quarterly deadlines.) Sometimes it's a plan to complete a piece during a specific time interval - e.g., this week when I have few outside commitments. Sometimes the deadline is completely self-imposed by a desire to get a piece self-published. And sometimes other criteria enter the equation such as waiting on critiques or a cover from a cover designer.

Having a deadline of some sort, though, is essential to me getting anything finished. Without a deadline, my projects lie forever in a 3/4 done state. Literally I have 6 novels in that state, I might have a problem.

For me with my current goals, once a piece is finished, I have to decide if I'm going to pursue a traditional publishing route with it, or if I will indie publish it myself. I am still on the fence about this, there are so many moving parts to the publishing world and I continue to hear stories from friends with crap deals coming out of traditional publishing, I tend to teeter over to the indie side more often than not, but I remain open to the possibility of a traditional publishing deal. Best not to burn bridges.

Since I don't have a current traditional publishing deal, though, let's talk about what indie publishing entails. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather an overview for those who might be considering this route. I'm sure I'll accidentally omit a few steps (see, even blog posts are never finished!) so please add them in the comments.

  1. Finish your piece! See aforementioned need to have an arbitrary deadline as my secret to getting something finished. 
  2. Create accounts on the sites that permit self publishing. I have author accounts on,,, and have a need to create ones on and apple. To create accounts most require some level of personal information because selling books means income in the US - consider whether you might want a separate business banking account and if you need to get a P.O. box for professional writing correspondence. Now would be a good time to set those things up. 
  3. Edit your work with an eye toward final polish. This may mean hiring an editor, or asking several detail-oriented (anal-retentive!) friends to read through with a fine-toothed comb. Reading your work aloud can help you identify last lingering typos, too. While you can upload revised versions of your manuscript later if you find issues, most readers are easily frustrated by simple mistakes particularly early in the book. Don't frustrate your readers, spend time on this step!
  4. Choose a cover for your work. There are many great cover designers who create stock covers that are reasonably priced and have quick turnaround. (I recommend The Cover Counts and Mallory Rock. There are also groups of designers like Cover Art Collective.)  If a stock cover isn't for you, get on a cover designer's schedule 4-6 weeks in advance of when you hope to put your book out (popular cover designers may have even longer design schedules, contact them early in your process!) Sometimes a cover may be one of the arbitrary deadlines that helps you move your writing to completion, don't forget this step early in your process. 
  5. Format your project for your desired platform. Formatting can seem like an insurmountable task. I recommend a writing program like Scrivener to help simplify the process. Scrivener lets you save your project (compile it) into all the different formats (.mobi for amazon, .epub for everywhere else) that ebook publishers require. The basic process you will need to follow is to compile your project into the proper format, upload it onto your author account on that platform, then preview the work to see if it looks right (all the sites have some sort of viewer for this, or you can load your formatted project onto an e-reader to check yourself.) Other writer friends use In Design, but I find I can do what I need to within Scrivener 99% of the time. 
  6. If you are doing a print-on-demand version, work on that formatting via Create Space (I recommend downloading the template for the cut size you plan to print at. I do not have a ton of experience with this yet, so I welcome input for what other tools people use to format POD books.) 
  7. Press done! Wait 24-48 hrs for your project to go through final approvals on the publishing sites. Then tell *everyone* about your available work (but don't spam us. Once a day for a few days and then once a week or less after that.) 

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