You're about to be a self-published author. You have your manuscript written, and if you're a children's book writer, you will also have your illustrations ready to go. It's exciting! You've worked hard and you look forward to seeing this book bound, sold, and read by your numerous fans. But learn from my experiences before you run to the printer. "Measure twice, cut once"; yes, this would pertain to construction, but books are a form of construction -- metaphorically and physically speaking.
I took book one, The Swarm that Swarmed, from conception to launch. It was one of my biggest entrepreneurial accomplishments. It was published in July 2018 and has already gone through two revisions -- it's only seven months later. Was I too eager to push that book out? Perhaps.
Working with a self-publishing organization, like FriesenPress, certainly helped me organize the publishing process, but in the end the decisions were mine. They were not going to be held liable, which is understandable.
And so, with book number two ready for bookstores this summer, I have learned from my rookie mistakes. Okay, "mistakes" is a harsh word, but for a self-published author a "mistake" can take a financial hit. We have to pay every step of the way, which has it's advantages and disadvantages, but that's a topic for another blog post.
What to do. What not to do. Here goes:
Read between the lines:
Edit and edit some more. You're probably a wonderful writer, but even you can overlook the most simple things.
My manuscript was sent back with more red lines than black copy. Remove this, replace that...and my language was not befitting for my target age group of seven to 11 year-olds. I had to practically re-write the story.
So, with one content edit and two copy edits, where did I go wrong?
Actually, I was quite happy with the book, except I wanted to remain consistent in that I would keep abbreviations strictly for dialogue, but I found two in the body of the story. I was the only one who even noticed it, but it still irked me enough to ask for a revision, which cost a small fortune.
So, be very meticulous. Read your story, walk away and come back with a fresh eye. Then get a last edit before you send your manuscript to the printer.
Back cover copy:
The book is now available online and in bookstores while missing a crucial piece of information on the back cover: the town's name. How else would the reader understand that Tillsonbugger is a play on words? Again, my fault for rushing to print.
The back copy is part of your marketing. That's the first place most readers will look to get a synopsis of your story. There are professional writers who focus on writing back copy. They understand how to summarize the story while getting the reader's attention. Too bad I was just too cheap to dish out the money.
And if you have reviews, I suggest you also use them for the back cover. It can add value to your marketing. Great reviews sell books. My back cover was missing this crucial marketing, which I added to my second revision.
You send the PDF proof copy to social media influencers and readers in order to generate reviews. You can also pay for honest reviews, using a service like Kirkus. Either way, having reviews ready before printing the book will save you time and money.
I have a reader review to thank for my next revision. He said he thought he was about to read a rhyming story because the text was centred throughout.
When I first saw the proof I didn't mention anything to the designer because I thought they knew best. After all, I'm a writer; I'm lucky if my stick drawings look like people. But it is my job as a self-publisher to tell them what I want, which is what they're expecting -- guidance from me.
The text has now been left justified so it reads like a short story because that's what it is.
Whether you're the whole operation or paying a self-publishing company to ease the process, you're still the boss. You have to know exactly how you want your story to look on paper. This means not rushing your manuscript to print. Each time you revise the story, it has a price, whether it's your time or money or both.
Happy revisions, or better yet, NON-revisions.