My Self-Publishing Journey — Learning As I Go

As I’ve mentioned here before, one of the decisions I had to make when I decided to self-publish was how much to do myself, and how much I should outsource.  Time and money were the two players on that see-saw.  I knew if I took my time, I could learn to do pretty much all of the necessary tasks and I would end up with a pretty good product because I wouldn’t let the book out the door until I was satisfied. I also knew that while I was doing all that learning, I wouldn’t get much writing done, and as I wrote in my last post, each new book is your best promotion for your last one.

In light of that, I as I said here, I decided the money spent outsourcing the production work to professionals was the best  investment in my business and my future.

So then I had to find the professionals to outsource to.  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, there are lots of places to find referrals. Mark Coker at Smashwords has a list of inexpensive digital formatters and cover artists he’ll send for the asking. The kindleboards are another source of info, as are the blogs of other self-published authors like Joe Konrath.

I didn’t know how long each step of production would take so I just dove in and contacted my first choice for a cover artist, Kim Killion at Hot Damn Designs.  She sent a questionnaire that I filled out, and two weeks later she sent the first draft of a cover to me. I sent back some requests for changes which she quickly implemented.  I wanted a few more refinements and sent those to her. Busy with attending a conference, she is still working on those revisions.

What is worth mentioning is that I felt reluctant to ask for more changes that second time. Perhaps this is a problem more common to women, but I had to remind myself that Kim had not complained or communicated a limit to the number of revisions I could ask for. I had to remind myself that this is one of the perks of self-publishing as Barry Eisler has mentioned — that I’m paying for a cover I like. I don’t have to settle for what my publisher chooses for me. (Which is not to say that all publisher-provided covers are awful, just that as the one in control, it’s up to me to choose.)  As soon as I get a final cover I’ll post it here and show you what the progression was.

I think starting with the cover was a good idea, even though it will probably be done long before I finish with the edits.  I know from getting the cover for VEILED MIRROR (coming out September 21st)  that seeing a cover makes the book seem real. Not to mention the visual is great advertising!  In fact now that I think about it, there’s no reason to wait until the book is finished.  Having a cover already designed could be an inspiration to write faster!

Soon after I contacted Kim, I emailed Rochelle French at Edits that Rock.  So far I’ve received their free five page edit and decided to go with their full manuscript level edit.  I debated with myself for some time about whether to spend the money on a professional edit.  LIGHTBRINGER  had been through two different critique groups of multiply published authors, and I knew that Kris Tualla had used a series of beta readers instead of professional editing to good effect. What decided me was yet another blog urging the benefits of professional editing for self-pubbed authors, and the discount ETR offered to me as a new client.  Then I saw their incredible attention to detail in the five page edit and I was sold.  They do three different rounds of editing at ETR. I can’t imagine any editor at a big publisher could do better.

That allayed any lingering doubt that by self-publishing it, LIGHTBRINGER would be sub-standard.

I’ve also contacted three different digital formatters, and decided to use Lucinda Campbell.  I do not yet know if I’ll hire someone to format the interior of the POD version or let Amazon’s CreateSpace manage that.

This has been a rambling post, but that’s appropriate to the subject matter because just I dove into the nuts and bolts of production without being sure what to tackle first.  And that’s a good thing, because I’m further along than I would have been if I’d continued to collect even more information.  At some point you have to choose: fish or cut bait.

This is a learning process for me.  When I publish my next book, probably FIRSTBORN, I’ll know better how long each step takes and be able to plan better.



Filed under writing

7 responses to “My Self-Publishing Journey — Learning As I Go

  1. Thanks for sharing. Good luck on your journey!

  2. L.N. Hammer

    Your imagination might need expanding. (Okay, that’s a little snarky, but the straight line was irresistible.) Talking with writers with print publishers, those three rounds are the minimum — more typical is two or three rounds of developmental edits, then copy (aka line) edit, then the proofreading. At least in the field I know more people working in, which is YA/MG — the younger the audience, the more editing books get. (Data set is, um, I’ve lost count — 12-15 writers over the last year and a half, roughly.)

    Edits that Rock does sound like a good service.


    • Thanks for the input, Larry. In my experience of talking with a fairly large number of Romance and Fantasy authors, and one YA/MG author, YA does get a MUCH larger amount of editing than other genres. So for the genres I’m writing in, my imagination is just fine.

      • L.N. Hammer

        Hrm. When you say “I can’t imagine any editor at a big publisher” that doesn’t imply you were talking about just your genre. If you really mean only a segment, don’t use “any.”

        (A little touchy here: sweeping overgeneralizations seems to be endemic to talking about publishing these days.)


      • Larry, you are quite correct about the sweeping over-generalizations in the publishing conversation. I don’t like them either. I should have said, “I can’t imagine many editors at a big publisher could do better.”

        I have great respect for the work that editors do, whether employed by large traditional publishers, small press, or freelance. The reality is, in most genres, that editors don’t have the time to spend on many rounds of edits these days. It appears to me from what I’ve been told by other authors that YA/MG is the exception.

      • Besides which, as you mention, the editors you are working with do several passes, not just a manuscript edit and not just a line edit. Some professional editing groups do one or the other, and I’ve found few in my own experience, they seldom have two or more editors looking at your project. This is one of the reasons I like using ETR, and it doesn’t hurt that one of the principals is an acquiring editor for a publishing house. This means she brings that experience to all levels of the edit.

        And, this kind of professionalism becomes even more important as major changes continue to shake up the industry. Today, Publisher’s Marketplace announced a class action lawsuit has been brought against large publishers & Apple for their “agency models” of eBook pricing, which the law firm claims break quite a few laws.

  3. Mary Jo

    Wow! Good luck with completing your cover, I’m anxious to see it. Thank you for providing us with information regarding the services you’ve chosen to use and your decision to outsource. Have fun along the way, and I think it’s good that you’ve reminded yourself that you are paying for this stuff so be happy with it…not always easy to do, but it is a perk of retaining your creative license.

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