Advice on self-publishing, part 1: Write the book

As I’ve described in this post over here, people have started asking me to give them advice on how to go about self-publishing their work. Now, I’m no Amanda Hocking, or J.A. Konrath, or any of the other names you hear about who’ve made big names for themselves in the self-pub arena. In the general ocean of publishing, I’m a pretty tiny fish indeed.

And yet. I have actually managed to run a Kickstarter, and I’ve still got Book 2 of that promised set of work on the way. I barely clear two digits of sales a month, but I am actually slowly selling books. Which seems to be enough for people to ask me for advice on what I’m doing. So this is the first of a series of posts about that.

So. You want to self-publish your work. What’s the very first thing you have to do?

Write the book. No, seriously. Write the book.

This sounds like it ought to be self-evident, doesn’t it? And yet, a lot of the time it’s not. This happens in traditional publishing all the time, where aspiring writers try to query before they actually have a book to show for it. Same deal with self-pub. If you want to put a book out there for people to buy, whether you’re going through a traditional publisher or whether you’re going to actually put it out there yourself, you really do have to put fingers to keyboard. You have to get the book out of your head and into a file you can ultimately turn into a sellable product.

Lots of writers with way, way more experience than I do have said lots of things about how to go about doing that. What I’m going to tell you though basically boils down to this: do whatever it takes to get that book written. It doesn’t really matter what tools or programs you use, or what methodologies. It doesn’t matter how many words a day you write, or whether you use outlines to map out everything in advance or write everything completely by the seat of your pants. Every writer writes their stuff differently.

But every single writer in the world has one thing in common: they do, in fact, write.

For me, Nanowrimo was a helpful way to get the novel that eventually became Faerie Blood out of my brain. It taught me what writing a set number of words a day felt like, what having a deadline felt like, and that it was in fact okay to write crap because it was more important to get the words out of my head than it was to make every single word perfect the first time. As a corollary, it also taught me to expect that actually, yeah, the first round of words that come out of my head probably will be crap.

Nanowrimo may or may not work for you. It’s just one example of a way to inspire yourself to get the words written; there are plenty of others, some social, some not so much. Like I said above, though, what way you choose to motivate yourself ultimately doesn’t matter as long as it works.

In no particular order, here are some things I’ve tried that work for me to get my writing done:

  • If I’m blocked, have a couple other projects I can flip over to to throw words at until the main one unblocks in my mind
  • Set my daily word count goal low, then when I shoot over it, I often feel inspired to keep going anyway
  • Be aware that sometimes I will be too exhausted or too stressed to write (my medical history has certainly taught me this); be willing to forgive myself on the days I don’t write, as long as there continue to be days that I do
  • Keep as many notes are necessary to sketch out plot structure, worldbuilding, and character development, but keep the organization of them simple so I don’t get lost in my file organization
  • Keep old drafts, especially of cut material I may need later
  • Track word counts for rough progress on how much progress I’ve made on a book

How about you, fellow writers? What’ve you tried that works for you to get the words out of your head? What doesn’t work for you? Share your tips on how you get there in the comments!

And in the next post in this series, I’ll talk about beta-reading and editing your book. ‘Cause yeah, getting those words out of your head is only the beginning.

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Author of the Free Court of Seattle series as Angela Korra'ti, and of the Rebels of Adalonia series as Angela Highland. Geek, fangirl, musician, and raving admirer of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music. Also a.k.a. Anna the Piper!

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