Five Things to Consider Before You Self-Publish

It should come as no surprise that the allure of self-publishing has strengthened over the last year. The rise in popularity of digital book readers like the Kindle and Nook have inspired user-friendly publishing platforms for writers who wish to sell compatible eBooks. The simplicity of do-it-yourself print on demand sites allows writers to take charge of formatting and design for their books, and to make them available for sale rather quickly. While it’s true that an author contracted with a traditional publisher has advantages, a number of self-published phenoms have proven they can sell as well as the next New York Times chart-topper.

Bear in mind,however, that self-pub successes like Amanda Hocking and John Locke typically are not the norm. It doesn’t mean you don’t have the potential to sell in the thousands or more if you self-publish, but it’s important to decide if this is right path for you. When you make the commitment to write a book, you have the opportunity to share your voice with readers. Taking on the responsibility of publishing and marketing your work should progress in a way that attracts people to your sales pages. If you have become frustrated by traditional publishing or if you have wanted to strike out on your own, take these points into consideration:

1) How much time will I devote to the process? Self-publishing a novel may be accomplished full-time or part-time – you manage your schedule and put in the necessary hours. The same goes for marketing, too. How will you divide your time among social media, blogging, and making contacts for reviews and events?

2) Who will edit the book? You might think because you have so many years of experience in writing and literature, that you are qualified to self-edit. You may have edited well for others, but when it comes to your own work you risk letting your ego get in the way. You may also become so attached to your manuscript that you let errors slide. It is crucial to employ an editor to work with you to ensure that your work is polished and error-free, that characters remain consistent, and that the story makes sense. Your first book becomes the primary promotional item that sells your next book, so make it count!

3) Who will design the cover? Readers do judge a book by the cover, and often the cover and title are what prompt readers to buy in the first place. If you want to present your book in a professional manner, you need a cover designed by a pro. You may be tempted to cut corners with royalty-free stock photography, but think about the end result if you know little about design. Your book deserves a great cover, so make sure you know where to find it.

4) Who is the target audience? Who will read your book – men, women, teenagers? If your book is non-fiction, is there a certain market that would be more interested — music lovers, people from a specific geographic area, people of a certain faith or creed? How you market the book depends upon the demographics of your intended readership, so know your audience.

5) How will I sell the book? You probably have the plans in motion to distribute through and other retailers, but what else do you have planned? Will you sell through your website or social profiles? Do you have leads for book signings and book events?

If you are new to the publishing world and feel intimidated by the growing to-do list of a self-published author, here’s one thing to keep in mind: even if you are published traditionally through a house like St. Martin’s or Harlequin, you are expected to pull your own weight. Some decisions, like cover art and editing, may be handled for you, but unless you are the house’s mega-star, you will discover that you must schedule your blog tours and book signings, and order your promotional items. Moreover, you must write the next book.

Is self-publishing right for you? Only you can make that decision, but if you decide to do it be prepared!

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on self-publishing services and book editing services for indie authors.

Author: Kathryn Lively
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How to Survive Being Edited as a New Author

Do you find it hard to accept criticism? I sometimes find it hard to take the criticism of others, but I think it has something to do with the way they do it. If it is done in a loving, caring manner it is much easier to swallow. If it is done in a critical, dog eat dog manner it is much harder to get over the hurt so you can move on to accept the suggestions.

Believe me since I have been online I have had to deal with this from time to time. One of the hardest for me to swallow was a person who totally did not want me sharing Bible Verses. It hurt my feelings, but it was more about the fact they rejected God. It made me realize how He must have felt walking around on this earth and being constantly rejected by people. Maybe this is something He wanted me to feel so I would not feel so rejected myself. Or maybe it was so I wouldn’t feel like I was exempt from rejection.

One of the processes we as author’s have to go through that is hard to get used to is being edited. It is something we all need, but how do we survive it. As a new author this was one of the hardest things for me, because I didn’t know what to expect. When I wrote my first book: The Book of Ruth: A Story of Love and Redemption and got it back from the editor I was devastated.

I felt like someone had torn my baby apart. It took me a day or two to get past the surprise to be able to do the updates. My editor gave me good advice. She said for me to leave it alone for a few days and give myself time to get used to the idea, then go back and make the corrections. It was good advice and it helped. What she did was good, I just didn’t have any idea what to expect.

I have had people edit me who were loving, sweet and kind with their words of critique and suggestions. I have had other people who looked at my work and were critical, mean, had nothing good to say and made me feel like I had just been chewed up by a bull dog. It really hurt my feelings bad. It took me a while to get over it. It ruined my day and I still haven’t went back to look at their comments to see what improvements I can make from them. I did keep them and I hope in the near future I can move past the hurt and see what I can gain from their critiques.

So as we try to help each other and learn from each other my suggestion is that we think about the way we present our critiques to people. Can we also complement something they did right? Can we say it in a way that will not cut them to the core, but make them feel we really care about them and their work? We don’t want people to think everything they did was wrong. Or that we think we have all the answers and they are stupid.

Can we not be jealous of what God is doing in the other person’s life? Not feeling like we have to bring them down a notch or two. Can’t we celebrate one another’s  victories? How can we better support one another and celebrate what God is doing in each of our lives and still help make us all better for His glory?

I am sharing this in hopes of helping someone else who may have experienced the same thing or to help new author’s to know what to expect and not be caught off guard. I am not against editors or being edited or critiqued. I realize we all need to be edited and have our work looked at by other people to make us better and make our work better. But, let’s work together to make each other better and not bitter at the whole process. If we work together as a team, them we can improve the whole process and turn out work we all can be proud of.

Self-Publishing – Not for Sissies!

“I’m going to write myself to freedom.”

Overworked and stressed, with two babies and a child wobbling badly in school, teaching music by day and doing microscopy for leukaemia cases in the nights between 8h p.m. and 12h a.m., that decision came from the murky depths. It was made on a week’s break, staring at the sea in the romantic light of a full moon. And it was the beginning of a journey that would boldly take me staggering on a road many have walked and more have failed on.

Did I reach my goal? Not by a long mile yet. But the landscape is beginning to look greener, and there are unexpected orchids along the way.

Writing has always been a part of my nature. A word of caution to would-be authors: If it comes easily, you’re on the right road. At least one part of this journey needs to be easy. If you begin with a roll of the eye and a great big sigh, perhaps try your hand at something more lucrative, such as nuclear engineering.

Here are the steps, point-wise, that I have followed. I’ll also outline the results of each step.

    • Submitting to hundreds of agents and publishing houses in a climate of world financial crisis – not clever. Only now, since 2011, do I have a literary agent… unofficially.


    • Self-publishing as ebook. Alright, that was seduction. The website was well-worded. It got me a couple of hundred views and some nice readers’ comments; hardly any downloads but as I could see the other authors’ stats too, I saw that I didn’t fare too badly in comparison.


    • Self-publishing as paper-book on Good quality (though the binding could be improved); the books look good. Too pricey to offer to shops or sell directly, after shipping; even in “bulk”. But handy for sending single copies overseas.


    • Blogging. Careful: Blogging is addictive. The most important reason is the friends one makes online. One can easily spend days and weeks blogging, ultimately losing the way and forgetting that blogging is really a tool, not a hobby.


    • Online networking. Once again: Careful, addictive. I use Facebook mainly for games now, though I’m thankful that I’ve found so many of my old friends again. Neither of these have anything to do with internet marketing though.


    • After the necessary distractions of blogging and online networking, back to reality: Reviews. I got both readers’ comments and professional reviews over time. Reviews are important; you paste them as advertisements wherever you need them.


    • Professional editing and finishing: I met my editor on the blogs. This is why online networking and blogging is necessary despite the time factor: You meet important people who help you along your path. I also had the book covers professionally designed. You need that kind of finishing. A cover sells a book.


    • Paper publishing. A friend helped me get started (she is a graphic designer, where would publishing be without them?) and I printed a run of the first book in the series. This small local print run brought the cost per copy into the sellable range.


    • Launches: We launch each new book; the launch itself brings some much-needed capital as well as a bit of publicity. Book signings and promotions are on a similar level.


    • Sales through shops: We were fortunate that our leg-work paid off and a number of our books were accepted in a number of shops. Frustratingly though the cost-per-copy of small digital runs is still too high for the large chain bookstores to look up. Besides, you’ll have to be something special to get them to look at Science Fiction. The genre is… while not dead, badly abused and tattered.


    • Direct sales at markets, events etc: A lot of work for very little reward. However it does raise awareness. We had a few sales every time we staged such a sales event.


    • Newspaper and magazine publicity: This is a slow process. We have had podcasts, press releases and reviews in newspapers, and a popular magazine reviewed the first of the series; yet, sales figures didn’t seem to reflect. However, the news is filtering through to people and over time, there is indeed a sales impact.


    • Revisiting internet marketing: So far, all we explored was free marketing. Now we put up a website to showcase each of our books (by which time we had acquired a couple of more authors, and had added some music books to our stash). A learning curve how to program a website such that it works, across browsers. I doubt that many self-publishers actually design their own; but I’m headstrong and knew exactly which way I wanted it. Possibly this is a mistake; time will tell.


    • Adding “freestuff” to our website: This brings eyes, and clicks. Inquisitive clicks who enjoy browsing. These clicks have in all probability browsed for “free books” or something similar. Previews on books are a must, but how much to tell, that is a pickle. The wording is still a learning curve. It’s not a given that if you purportedly know how to write and capture a reader from scalp to toe, you’ll also know how to write a good ad!


  • Giving up and the angels intervening: Now this is the part you might hate to hear. So far, all has been hard and consistent work (though you have probably spotted all the holes by now). But it felt as though it were going nowhere; so I sighed pitifully and gave up. For a moment. I needed ten “Violin Tunes” as I use them in my teaching (and the music shop needed stock) so I trudged down to the local copy shop with my professional covers… ordered the insides and CD’s… was referred to a sister branch of the shop for the insides, and met a lady who introduced me to a distribution agent for music books.

After all this Scifi agony, my unassuming “Violin Tunes” was the book that started moving first! We’re still in small runs (South Africa = financial struggles and a battle to get a product finished in time due to all sorts of shortages at all times); but the ball is rolling, and as I promised my friend who set it rolling, I have taken a new breath and am pushing onwards.

I still have a list of things to do to promote the Scifi series, the other music books and by now, the new authors.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice:

  • Follow every lead, promptly. You never know where it will take you. If the angels want to intervene, let them.

I hope these tips will help you along your publishing road. I intend to come back with more when I have progressed further.

(Lyz Russo is a self-published author and violin teacher in South Africa. At the time of writing she is getting ready to launch the third in her series of Science Fiction books, and some other authors’ books.)

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Author: Lyz Russo
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Writing For The Spiritual Market

The last decade or so, we’ve seen a huge surge in spiritually based books. They’ve sold so well (both fiction and non) that most of the big houses have some sort of spiritual imprint, running the gamut from Christian Fiction to Buddhist texts to New-Age works a la Hay House, etc. I’ve seen a host of such manuscripts. Many of these come from counselors of a wide variety; many are scholarly; some from writers on a spiritual path. The majority of these have things in common: either they beat you over the head with their “revelations” (which needs no discussion-we’ve all had this experience!) or they’re free-form, just shy of stream-of-consciousness. And while that may indeed be the manner in which we receive the essence of spiritual inspiration, it still must be translated into book form in order to be publishable, and to be accessible to the market-readers.

As with all true gems of knowledge, inspiration, even Truth (and isn’t this why all writers write? To convey some bit, no matter how big or small, of something learned along the way), the success lies in the telling.

Now, I’m not here to proselytize for or against any religion, spiritual bent, or path, but rather as a writing coach to help writers fashion their works into true and viable books. Often the lessons along the way seem quite difficult, and oddly, the “spiritual writer” seems to have the most conflict with accepting criticism and revision, as if to do so would mar the pristine nature of the work.

All writers have that fear to some extent. The spiritually based ones tend to take it to the extreme. After all, if the inspiration came from God, Spirit, The Universe, whatever you may call it in your belief system, the idea is “who am I to question?” I may have missed something, but I never heard God say, “To edit is of Satan.” Although, of course, many writers would attest to that in general! But in fact, the editing itself can be as creative a process as the initial inspiration. It’s all in how you go about it.

This mindset, although seemingly mundane, is the point of creating a work that readers can grasp and utilize. Remember-you yourself are not your only audience. Yes, you are a vital one to please (that is a lot of why we write). But if you want someone else to actually read it, you must bring the work into a recognizable form, and one which others can grasp.

As a book editor, I see a ton of such works that go all over the map. In other words, the organization is off. Many need a much narrower focus. The ideas, while they may indeed be unique, go from Texas to Nebraska and back without ever crossing the Red River. E.g., you can’t follow their path to save your danged life. Without a sharp focus and tight organization, the reader is catapulted all over the pages, unable to find the thread of the theme around which everything about the book must be weaved. Each chapter must build upon the previous, so that your reader’s understanding and knowledge begin to grow from within. And that holds true for fiction and nonfiction.

I edited a wonderful book by Gerald Morton, Never Alone in the Back, which is a collection of stories from an EMT about emergency calls he’s worked. It also weaves his personal spiritual path, and its evolution, through these stories, the inner mirroring the outer, if you will, just as in a beautiful novel. It was tricky making this work, but Morton is a brilliant writer (he’s had both fiction and non published by Traditional houses), and he never misses a beat. Nowhere is the reader confused as to how these stories relate to each other and the broader theme.

When Randy Mitchell wrote Sons in the Clouds, he didn’t shy away from the work I gave him. We focused on novel development and the elements of great fiction. He plunged in, and revised and revised, producing a beautiful book that fires on all cylinders, and which just happens to have an underlying Godly theme. Is it spiritual fiction? Yes. But first and foremost, it’s a great read. And that novel has just been nominated for Global e-book award.

While I’m not in the habit of touting writing how-to books, a great resource exists for a more in-depth study of this. Spiritual Writing by Deborah Levine Herman with Cynthia Black, discusses some of these points, as well as the marketing end of things-i.e., the various genres within the spiritual market, where yours might fit, and how to identify it.

The main point here, however, is that writing a spiritually based book is not terribly different from writing any great book-from a novel to a manual on child care. All of them need inspiration at the core. All require good writing. And all must have the elements that make up a good book-theme, focus, organization and structure, pacing, flow, vivid characters, showing/creating versus telling, substance, voice, etc. You don’t get a cosmic get-out-of-editing-free coupon just because you claim God as the co-author (just ask Morton or Mitchell, referenced above). Besides, I’ve never known God to be a sloppy Creator OR Editor. We’re pretty much the ones who create the mess. And we have the God-given intelligence, combined with the resources available, to clean up that mess. The process is still about writing, editing, revising, rewriting-where, of course, as in everything, the devil is in the details.

Susan Mary Malone ( ) is a book editor who has helped over 30 authors get their books published with traditional publishers, with edited books featured in Publishers Weekly & has won numerous awards. See her blog at

Author: Susan Mary Malone
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