Self-Publishing for Freelancers: Don’t Forget Phase Two
If you know me at all, you know I’m a huge self-publishing fan. I geek out over the idea of completely controlling my publishing activities. I first self-published in 2009 and while I made some sales, the potential didn’t match what we see today, and that just gets me excited all over again. If you want to have a profitable freelancing business, having a source of income outside your clients is critical. Self-publishing is a great way to create that source—but if you really want it to be profitable, you need to do it the right way.
So Good, and So Bad
I tend to be kinda impulsive. Not in a shave-my-head-because-it’s-hot-out-today way, but in a book-idea-must-get-to-paper-now-can’t-wait-until-people-read-this kind of way. And that’s why self-pubbing is such a great fit for me—it was made for the impulsive. Of course, this is also a drawback.
There are three phases to self-publishing:
1. First there’s the creation phase. This is the time when you’re living in your idea. You’re mucking about, making words go here and there, you’re getting all sorts of word dirt all over your face, your house looks like hell because—Cleaning? Now? But there’s that scene between the dragon and the giant robot! Or, you just came up with the perfect hook for that one chapter about tax planning!
3. The third phase is the one where you publish your book and bask in the glow of satisfied readers.
What? I missed a phase? You mean the one that goes between the first and the third? The second phase. Hmmm … I wonder what that could be …
Ripping Your Book to Shreds
Ah, yes, phase two. The let’s-make-sure-this-book-doesn’t-suck phase. This is a hard one. It’s the word-and-book shaping stage. This is the step that ties the whole project together. The one that moves this from writer ego pap to being of value to readers. Sadly, it’s also one that a lot of writers think they can skip.
Here’s the thing, we’re all pro writers, right? But we aren’t necessarily pro editors or pro proofreaders. And even if we are, we can’t necessarily pro edit and pro proof our own work. But with the rush to get books to market, it’s tempting to write and publish with no steps in between. Or to write, then self edit, and publish without having another professional go over the work.
A book is not a blog post. It’s not a webinar and it’s not a story told informally around a campfire. Whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction or both, it’s a good idea to invest in a professional editor and proofreader before you put your work up for sale.
Your Work, So Full of Darlings
When you have the courage to share your work with the masses, it’s gotta be at least partially because you like what you’ve created. You think it’s good enough to be consumed by the fickle beast that is our general public. Still, though, you can’t like your writing so much that you refuse to reign it in, rewrite to clarify, and cut the extraneous.
As self-publishing authors, we have final say over what stays in our books and what goes. That’s a heady responsibility—and one we should get serious about. Always think first about your reader. Think about their experience, their ability to understand, and their potential benefit. To do this, you must find a way to get out of your own head. A way to see the book from another person’s point of view. If you’re convinced that you can do this without an editor, at least have several beta readers and a critique partner. Because once you put the book up for sale, it’s not about you anymore. It’s not about fulfilling your vision but about giving that vision to the readers who pay for it. Make the experience of reading your book as fun as running through a field of wildflowers hopped up on antihistamines, not like trudging through a non-sensical, alligator-infested swamp filled with quicksand.