Self-Publishing: Professional v. Unprofessional

Often when we talk about self-publishing, we talk about it as an entire thing, as a single entity. Sometimes this is a good thing – when we’re debating the respective merits of traditional and self-publishing, for instance. However, we shouldn’t forget that self-publishing has its nuances.

Just as traditional publishing has variation within it (different imprints specialising in different genres, for instance), so self-publishing is not a solid whole. There are probably as many takes on self-publishing as there are self-publishers, but broadly speaking it can be split into two main camps: professional and unprofessional self-publishing.

There’s no getting away from the fact that some self-published books are not of a professional standard, or that this is why some readers are reluctant to try books that don’t have a traditional publisher. This is partly why those of us who are committed to professional self-publishing need to be so bold about shouting its merits from the rooftops.

That’s not to say that those self-published authors who haven’t engaged with professional support or spent lots of time perfecting every single detail are necessarily doing anything wrong: you could still have a bestseller, and it can be a good way of finding out about the industry. But as self-publishing becomes more high profile, and more authors and readers are taking it seriously, it matters more and more that the books we put out there are professional.

To self-publish a book properly takes time and, if you are committed to making writing your career, it means finding the best resources to help you realise your ambition. You might be able to do it all adequately on your own, but to do everything as well as you possibly can, it’s highly likely that you’ll need to bring others on board. One of the good things about the industry at the moment is that expertise about publishing is not just locked up in traditional publishing houses; great editors, marketers and designers are increasingly going freelance and working with self-publishers.

This means it’s important to take self-publishing seriously, and to treat it like a business, not just a hobby. With more books now self-published by authors striking out on their own, it has never been more important to make sure your book is as professional as it can possibly be.

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3 Ways Self-Publishers Can Strengthen Their Author Brand

As a self-publisher, it’s all down to you, from the writing to the promoting of your books – and this includes the development of your author brand. It’s important for authors to have a recognisable brand that readers associate with them, and this is particularly crucial for independent publishers who are looking to establish themselves in this competitive industry.

Build a trusted support group

One way to strengthen your author brand as a self-publisher is to build up a trusted support group who provide their skills and expertise to improve your novel. Not only is this important in terms of producing a quality novel that is well-edited, interesting and professional, but also in terms of consistency.

While it’s natural that there will be some changeover in the people you work with along the way, and it might take you a while to get your final team in place, it’s worth developing good working relationships with the people bringing their expertise to your work so they will know what you want and be able to apply not just to your current book, but books further down the line. That said, it’s also worth knowing when you’d be better off cutting ties and starting again with someone else if you’re not getting the benefits you wanted out of a partnership.

Don’t neglect the aesthetics

Compared to the business of writing and editing a book, designing a book cover and deciding which font to use for your promotional copy might not seem like the most pressing issues. They are, however, very important for your author brand.

If you look at the book covers of established authors, you’ll usually find that they all follow a similar style or theme that helps to identify them as belonging to a particular author and/or series of books. Ditto the other promotional literature related to those books. This is another way of bringing consistency and a professional feel to your work, and as a self-publisher, it can help you to build a distinguishable base in a competitive market.

Find the best times to publish and promote

Of course, your author brand isn’t just about looking nice. It’s also about being savvy about the self-publishing business, and knowing when is the best time to publish and promote your work. For instance, if you’re leading up to publishing a new book, you might want to think about how your current books are performing and if there is anything you could do to give them a boost so you’ve got a platform to work from when the new book hits the shelves.

It’s also much easier to publish and promote a book when you’re not doing so in a vacuum, so developing an understanding about keeping up your profile and encouraging readers to maintain an interest in your work is important for all self-publishers.

What do you think?

How to find the right moment to self-publish

Let’s assume that you already know that once your book is finished, you’re going to self-publish it. Along with all of those other things that go along with getting your book ready to publish – editing and designing and marketing and so on – one thing you need to ask yourself is: when is the right time to publish your book?

First of all, let’s get it out there – it’s very rare that there will be a perfect time to publish your book. There’s no getting away from the time constraints and niggling editing issues and outside pressures that often conspire to dull the shine of an otherwise pretty wonderful self-publishing triumph.

Now that disclaimer is out of the way, let’s look at the more practical side of things, because there is most definitely such a thing as a right and a wrong time to self-publish your book.

The temptation can often be to publish your book early. It’s only natural: you’ve just finished writing a novel and you want to get it in front of readers as quickly as possible. However, whether this is a good idea will depend on your particular project and what you want to achieve from it.

It’s fine, for instance, if you want to self-publish something just to find out about the process and learn how it all works – but remember that everything you publish will have some sort of impact on your author brand, whether you intended something as a ‘serious’ or polished piece of work.

This means that it often pays to take your time. Take your time to get the editing right, to proofread your novel properly, to get a cover designed, to create a comprehensive marketing plan and to learn the self-publishing process. It can be frustrating when you just want to get your work out there, but as the majority of successful self-publishers will tell you, success is usually a slow burn thing. It pays to put the work in beforehand, and give yourself a good base to work from that you can build upon in the future.

However, there’s also something to be said for not leaving it too long before you self-publish your novel. Eventually you have to let it go and publish it. You can only tweak and plan and strategize so much. The book you eventually publish might not be perfect, but hopefully it will be great, and the very best you can do. You will have learnt a lot and will have a better idea of what you want to do next and achieve through your writing. It will, ultimately, put you in a better position for the next time you’re planning to self-publish a book.

What do you think?

6 tips for working with an editor

One of the great things about self-publishing is that you get to choose the editor who edits your books. It could be a professional editor or it could be a kindly-yet-constructively-critical friend you’ve managed to bring on board to help, but whoever they are, they will play an important part in the development of your novel. This means that you need to choose the right person for the job, and you need to manage your relationship with them well.

How can you get the most out of working with your editor?

  • Be clear about what you’re looking for from them. Your editor needs to know whether they’re there to review everything about your novel with no stone to be left unturned, or to offer more of a proofreading and polishing service. This way, there’s less chance of you getting your wires crossed.
  • Be clear with them about what you’re trying to achieve with your book. If they’re uncertain about what you’re trying to do, it will be harder for them to see whether you achieve your goal. Even if you don’t tell them everything straight away – there’s something to be said for seeing what they think with no preconceptions – it’s still an important conversation to have.
  • Take their advice seriously, even if you don’t always agree with it. There will be times when you disagree with your editor. There will be times when you don’t make the changes they are suggesting. That’s fine, but you should still look to see where they are coming from. Most of the time, if they make a suggestion or highlight a passage of your book that they think needs changing, they’re probably right.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek clarification. If you’re not sure what your editor means by something or want to know more about their opinion on something it never hurts to ask. Much better to ask than to misinterpret and end up making the whole thing worse.
  • Be upfront about timescale and make sure you have an agreement with them about how long the process will take. If you’re aiming to publish your book within a certain timeframe, it’s important your editor knows this. It might sound obvious, but find out how long they are likely to take before sending your book back to you so you can make revisions.
  • Think how the working relationship might progress after the first book. Even if all you can think about is your current novel, it’s worth thinking about whether you’d like to continue working with your editor on future projects. Developing a good support structure is important for self-publishers, and having a reliable editor is definitely a benefit.

5 reasons to self-publish your début novel

You’ve just written a book. Great! Now for the next bit – publishing your book. If you’re a first time author and you’re exploring the options open to you, I urge you to seriously consider self-publishing. Don’t be put off by the thought that it’s difficult: embrace it. It might just be the best decision you could make. Here’s why you should give it a go.

It offers opportunities that traditional publishing doesn’t

New authors are often kept out of the traditional publishing industry by a few select gatekeepers at the big publishing houses; it’s difficult to get a book deal, and having a great book doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a publisher.

By contrast, with self-publishing, you know you’ll get your chance. As well as ensuring you’ll manage to get your book published, self-publishing is also much more with it in terms of e-books and other technological changes going on in the industry. If you’re looking for a flexible, responsive way to publish your book with plenty of opportunities to explore, self-publishing is for you.

It allows you to build your brand your way

Another reason to self-publish your début novel is that it means you can launch and market your book the way you want to, rather than how a publisher tells you to do it. Of course, you can consult experts and get other people’s opinions on how to go about building your author brand, but ultimately, you’re the one who makes the decisions.

There’s plenty of support

One of the reasons some new authors are wary of self-publishing is that there can be a perception that it’s a lonely thing – it’s just you, doing all the work, bumbling along with things you don’t know much about and hoping for the best. Well. While there might be a certain amount of bumbling along (everyone bumbles sometimes, no matter how experienced they are), there is also a huge amount of support out there for authors looking to self-publish.

From websites to how-to videos to blogs and books and social media, experts, friendly readers and helpful fellow writers, if you’ve got a question, there will be a way to get it answered, and plenty of sources of help that you can find.

It teaches you lots of new things

Something you learn very early on when self-publishing your book is that you’re not just a writer anymore. I think this is a great thing. You also get to be an entrepreneur, marketer and much more. This is great not just because it means you get to make the decisions about your career, but it also makes the role of the author much more powerful and even more skilled.

It’s all down to you

With self-publishing, there is no one else to impress and no one else’s expectations to meet but your own. This means that when you’re starting out, you can experiment and try different things if you want to. You can publish the sort of novel that would never make it past the traditional publishing gatekeepers, and you don’t have to worry about a publisher ditching you if things don’t always go entirely to plan. You can just try something new – and you could go anywhere from there.