Today’s guest post is by Todd Foley. Todd is a writer and editor near Vancouver, B.C. He loves words and is learning how to use them. Connect with Todd on his site Scribbled Revisions or on Twitter @tdiddy1234.
I started writing my novel in September 2010 and finished the first draft a year later. As I went about editing the story and querying different literary agents and publishing houses, I quickly learned that I had nothing to my name as far as fame or stature. That’s when I stumbled upon the indie publishing world. I’ll be honest, I had always thought that self-publishing was a just a back-up plan for those who couldn’t land a book contract. Was I ever wrong! There is so much amazing talent out there, and writers who make it have poured out blood, sweat and tears – along with a ton of passion. This movement is drastically changing the world of publishing, and I’m honored to be entering into that world. With fear and trembling, I recently released my debut novel Eastbound Sailing to the world in August.
Here are six things I’ve learned along the way.
1. Know that if you want a quality project, you’re in for a ton of work. It’s attractive to think of this route as a quick and easy way to get your writing published, but anyone considering this path should seriously consider the first part of the phrase: “Self.” Yes, you’re literally going to be doing everything yourself. I never considered that I’d be responsible for finding an editor, designing the interior, picking an artist for the cover, choosing the best dimensions and then marketing/promoting the finished product myself. Like most things, reality is far less flattering than the concept. However, this makes it incredibly rewarding.
2. Collaborate with specialists. Just because you’re the publisher-in-chief doesn’t mean you should tackle the areas that aren’t your expertise. For example, I work as a full-time editor, but I was so immersed in the project that I saw what I wanted to see rather than the gaping holes. I had a good friend of mine [a high school English teacher] read through the document as a developmental editor. I managed to find a good template for the interior design, but the cover was far beyond my capabilities. Thankfully, I knew what I wanted. I’m a huge fan of illustrated book covers, especially classic novels [businesses like Out Of Print show that there still is a market for this], so I enlisted another good friend [a highly talented illustrator] to capture my vision for the cover art – which he totally nailed. This is where the magic happens, and I discovered it by making use of my connections.
3. Shop around for print quality. What good is all this work if the final product looks and feels cheap? Not much good at all. I was dead set on working through one print-on-demand company until I learned they only offered a high-gloss cover with a xerox-esque interior. I found an alternative option that would allow for a soft-touch matte cover, which in my opinion adds a ton of visual value to the book. I needed to figure out what I really wanted and then put in the extra work to make it happen.
4. Find out what worked well for others. We live in such an amazing time, a time where an aspiring novelist in British Columbia like Todd Foley can connect with established indie authors thousands of miles away via Twitter. I’m talking about Max Dubinsky [author of the brutally beautiful We Can't Go Home Again] and Brandon Clements [author of the inspiring yet painful Every Bush Is Burning]. I stumbled upon their books and sought them out to answer some basic questions. Max graciously Skyped with me for nearly an hour, letting me know what worked best for him and how I could move forward carried by a strong vision. I can’t count the number of emails I have exchanged with Brandon about the technicalities of operating as a one-man publishing company. Totally different experiences, but invaluable knowledge. Seek out other indie authors, learn what worked best for them, then form your own goals.
5. Don’t forget your audience in the process. I realized I was going to have a heck of a time getting my audience interested in my book if I disappeared and waited to post new content until the book project was completed. I constantly struggle to remember that it’s not about me, but about my readers. People who come to read my writing are giving me an incredible honor by inviting me into their world. Written words have no value apart from those who choose to read them.
6. Remember to enjoy the journey. This one speaks for itself. Whether you’re self-publishing or trying to land a book contract, remember to come back to your first love: writing. Remember that you’re embarking on an incredible journey, and that the world needs your story. I like how Nadine Gordimer puts it: “A writer is committed to trying to make sense of life. It’s a search. So there is that commitment first of all: the commitment to the honesty and determination to go as deeply into things as possible, and to dredge up what little bit of truth you with your talent can then express.”
In all, the self-publishing process was MUCH more work than I imagined. But it was also very rewarding. If you have any specific questions about the process, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to help.
What are your publishing goals?