So you've decided to self-publish...
Once I’d made the decision to self-publish, it meant I would be the one to do everything that my publisher would normally do for me. If you ever want to appreciate your publisher, self-publishing will make you do it! The first five steps:
- Developmental Editor
- Line/Copy Editor
- Cover Design
- Formatting for Distribution
- Set up Amazon/CreateSpace Accounts
1. After completing my draft, I submitted it to a developmental editor. A developmental editor looks at story structure, character development, plot, theme, etc. Prices can vary widely, but on average you pay about $100 for every 10,000 words. My book is 76,000 words. That’s a big cost out of pocket. Could I go cheaper? Yes, of course, but you also get what you pay for.
I selected an editor, Annetta Ribken, whom I’d heard great things about. I contacted her with plenty of lead time – 12 weeks before I’d need to have the work done. She had a six-week waiting list, so it was a good thing I’d contacted her early.
2. After the developmental edit and my next round of changes, I submitted the final to a line and copy editor. No matter who you are, please, please, please don’t skip this step and do it yourself. Even if you personally are a line/copy editor, you still want a fresh set of eyes on your draft. For those who don’t know, a line/copy editor is interested in the both the craft (voice, word choice, sentence and paragraph structure) and the text (spelling, grammar, punctuation). They make sure that no grammatical and spelling errors leap out of your text to piss off your readers. There’s nothing worse than reading a novel that’s riddled with grammatical and spelling errors.
3. While I had the novel out to the editor, I was also working with cover artist, Lou Harper, to come up with a cover design. I had the option of a premade cover, which is less costly, but means that I would have less input into the final product and could only make a small number of changes. I really wanted a cover that represented my fantasy romance.
Honestly, cover design was a lot more challenging than I’d anticipated. I’d never had free rein over what my cover should look like, and I struggled to articulate what I wanted. After several attempts, we had a final design. It took a lot of back and forth. Cover design prices can vary immensely. Sites like Fiverr offer book covers for as little as $5, but again, you get what you pay for.
If you want to use original photos instead of buying them from a stock site (which I did), you could spend anywhere from $25 to $1,000 for the original, which doesn’t include the price of the cover design. The advantage to using an original photo is two-fold: first, no one else will have your photo on their cover (which happens a lot when you use stock photos, especially in romance) and, second, you can get exactly what you want. Since I used stock photos, it was included in the price of the designer.
4. Once I had the final copy of By Fairy Means or Foul back from the line/copy editor, I needed to put it into a format that I could upload to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and CreateSpace. Each one requires a slightly different format. After reading over the differing requirements, I decided to pay the money and get Vellum. It’s $250 but can be used for any future books I publish and it includes formatting for both e-books and print versions. It’s AWESOME!
Look, I could have done everything myself, but Vellum does all the little details for you, for each venue, and it adds some nice extras that make it look just a little more professional. I want to make sure that my self-pub will look just as professional as any of my other work. That’s a tall order. Vellum delivered, and it’s easy to use. However, if I had decided to do all the formatting myself, I could have used Calibre, a well-known free program that enables the writer to put everything in the proper format for each venue (but not automatically like Vellum does).
5. Finally, I set up my Amazon and CreateSpace author account. I used Amazon’s KDP for the e-book version, but CreateSpace for the paperback version. I had to sign up with each, accept all the terms, set prices, upload the files, and read all the fine print. In many ways, this was the scariest step because I was afraid I would do something wrong and goober up the process and all my hard work. It’s actually pretty user-friendly once you set your fear aside and just do it. Since I was able to upload my novel early, I made the decision to offer the e-book as a pre-order that will release on September 29th.
But my work is not done. My next article will cover ARC reviews, blog posts, advertising, release-day reviews, and other marketing strategies that I must now do on my own.
Meg Opperman’s first self-published novel, By Fairy Means or Foul, will be released September 29, 2017.