This is the first post in what will be a continuing series called INDIE PUBLISHING FOR INTERNATIONAL WRITERS, a step-by-step guide for getting your stories into (digital) print. I’ll be doing each step with you, learning as you do, because I’ve never done this before either.
For the purposes of this project, I am aiming to publish a series of short stories, and bundle them into collections of five or six as I go along. I’m also working on second novel (set in New Orleans and Honduras at the beginning of the 20th century), writing this blog, and learning as much I can about digital publishing.
I have a few shorts already in the bank, a few more half-written, and a bunch of ideas I haven’t stretched past a sentence yet. I also have a novel (set in 19th Argentina) that is gathering dust. I haven’t decided whether to self-publish that or not. Watch this space.
STEP ONE – WRITE YOUR STORY
This goes without saying, right? Don’t let yourself distracted by all the other stuff you have to learn (covers, marketing, formatting, pricing, setting up your accounts), we’ll get to that. After all, if you don’t have anything to sell, you can’t make any money.
All of the top-selling indie authors have a wide range of titles, often across many different genres, a mixture of short fiction and novels. I’m planning to publish a series of short stories and collections. Set your own goals.
And forget all those shiny new toys you have to play with, make sure you are writing every day. Set aside the time. That time is golden.
You should aim to be producing new work on a regular basis. It’s this content that people will buy (and will hopefully want more of), so don’t let the process of publishing distract you from regularly sitting down and writing. Every day.
Be disciplined. If you want to be a professional writer (i.e. make money), you have to have a professional attitude. I learned this the hard way, and it took me way too long. Don’t make my mistake.
Write the story you want to read.
A lot of writers hate being asked where they get their ideas from, because the answer is really in the question. They make them up.
The most common cliché doled out to writers is “write what you know”. Now this isn’t bad advice, if you were a CIA field operative during the Cold War, you might have a good spy novel in you.
But it’s limiting advice. I’ve never fired a musket, eaten a horse, or had sex with a sailor, but I’m pretty sure I could imagine what it is like, given a little research. And if you can imagine it, you can write about it.
Instead, write the story you want to read. If your bookshelves are filled with police procedural novels, maybe you should reconsider your idea to write fantasy. If you are serious about this, you should be reading regularly in your genre.
If you love reading thrillers, and have the perfect high concept for a new series, but think you should be writing literary fiction, think again. Write the book you want to read.
Just remember to write every single day. Make the time. Force yourself. It will get easier with time. Slightly.
Sending your story out into the world.
So your story is finished. Are you ready to publish? Not quite. It’s always best to let a story stew for a few days (a few weeks in the case of a novel) before you check it over again. This distance allows all the things that are not on the page to fall from the forefront of your mind, so you can read it as a first reader does. What do you do in the meantime. Write another story. That’s your job.
You need to print the story out. You would be surprised the errors you catch when you see it on the printed page. Reading the story aloud is particularly clever at catching clunky phrases and awkward dialogue. When you are done with that, leave it another few days then have a look again.
As you gain more experience you get a sense of when something is done and you can skip some of these steps, but stick to them when you are starting out, or until you found a way of working that suits you better.
Getting a second opinion.
Done yet? Nearly. You need a second pair of eyes (called a beta reader) to look over it. I guarantee you they will catch something, because a writer can never read their story like a fresh reader will, it’s simply impossible.
This beta reader can be anyone you like, but what you need is someone who can give you more feedback than a simple thumbs up or down. You need them to look at grammar, sentence structure, usage and so on, as well as whether it works as a story, if there are any plot holes or unresolved threads, or if the characters engage the reader.
Fellow writers often make the best beta readers, and if you don’t know any, writers’ forums (such as Absolute Write) are the best place to find them. They also provide password-protected areas where you can post work and get feedback. While this can be useful for checking if something works in a general sense, or provide you with general critiques, I find it more fruitful to develop a relationship with a beta reader who you can email stuff back and forward with.
Remember, don’t abuse your beta reader! Only send them your most polished work. But you knew that, right?
Next time: STEP TWO – DESIGN YOUR COVER