The Truth About Self-Publishing

The truth about self-publishing is simple: it’s hard work, and it can cost a lot of money. What’s the advantage? You, the author, maintains absolute control over every element of your story, book, and marketing. If you know what you’re doing, this is a good thing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, this can be overwhelming but not impossible. Let’s break it down.

  1. Write the novel
  2. Revise the book
  3. Self-edit
  4. Beta readers
  5. Revise
  6. Edit/proofread
  7. Format
  8. Bookcover
  9. Publish
  10. Promote

The first two parts you do on your own, and #2 you might do multiple times. Once you’ve done that, then do #3 on your own, and again you might do this multiple times before moving on to #4 where you allow other people to read it and give you feedback. Once you get that feedback, you go back into the story, revise and self-edit accordingly, and then you send it on to an editor who checks for any errors. Once you’ve fixed your manuscript based on what they found, you send it to a proofreader, who looks for anything out of place.

When that is done and you have once more edited your novel, you can begin the formatting process or you can send it to someone to format for you. Around the same time, you’d want to contact your graphic artist to begin a cover for your book.

Once the book is formatted and the cover is completed, you are ready to send it to whichever self-publishing venue you wish. And then the promotional stage really kicks off although even before this, you should have already begun building your fanbase through Author Facebook Page and any other social media means you wish to use. You can find more of that topic in the post discussing ‘The Etiquette to Self-Promotion’.

Now though, let’s discuss costs, breaking it down in the steps above:

  • Write the novel: free
  • Revise the book: free
  • Self-edit: free
  • Beta readers: free
  • Revise: free
  • Edit/proofread: $100-$700, depending on the length of your novel
  • Format: $50-$100 (sometimes more)
  • Bookcover: $80-$400, depending on the artist
  • Publish: free-$$$$, depending on the publisher you use. Kindle Direct is free. Draft2Digital is free, CreateSpace is free although it is about $10 for a proof of your book, which you look over for any errors before publication. WARNING: avoid any publisher that requires you pay a few hundred or a few thousand dollars for them to publish it. You will not have absolute control over your book. They may offer to help you promote it, but usually it’s not worth it.
  • Promote: free-$$$$, depending on what you use. Word-of-mouth is free. Posting on Facebook and Twitter and on your blog and website is all free. Using Thunderclap and HeadTalker campaigns are free. Paying for ads on Facebook or Twitter costs. Some sites will promote your book (especially if it’s at a discounted price lis $0.99 or free) for anything from $5 to $15 all the way up to $200—depending on which site you use and which package you use. Other sites can cost up to $3,000 or so because they take promotions to a much bigger level. I wouldn’t recommend those unless your budget can handle that expense.
  • Reviewers: free—$$. First, let’s note that you should never pay someone to leave a review. Never buy reviews! Why does it cost at all then? It’s simple really, but let me explain why it could be free first. If friends or family agree to review the book for you, you can send them a free copy of your ebook. This is entirely free but with the understanding that they will leave a review. If you have to send them a copy of your book, there is the cost of shipping to take into consideration, which can be about $3-$20, depending on where you’re sending it. Now, some sites offer review services, and they charge about $15-$40 depending on the package you get. However, with this, you must understand, you are not paying the reviewers for their reviews. You are paying the business, which has bought together and organized all these reviewers and will send your book to them instead of you having to do it all yourself, for the service. There is a difference. Please keep that in mind. You want honest reviews. If you pay for reviews and the person doesn’t even read the book, Amazon can crack down on that, and that will have dire consequences for you.
  • Copies of Your Book: $10-$$$ This depends on how many pages your book is and how many books you purchase in a bulk. You will get an author discount, but then there is shipping as well. All of this are expenses to keep in mind.
  • Author Swag/Merchandise: $5-$$$ Bookmarks, business cards, magnets, keychains, charms, gift cards, pens, notebooks—basically anything you sell or give away in order to draw more interest to your book. The big secret is, as a self-published author, if you want any swag made, you need to put in the time and money to have it made. You can use sites such as Vistaprint for bookmarks, business cards, and a few other stuff, but then you can check out Fiverr or Etsy for unique ideas. All of this is more money out of pocket.

Of course none of this mentions the expense of travel should you decide to do a book tour or attend conventions in order to sell your book. Publishing and selling a book can become quite expensive, but this is why it is important to budget. If you have a good handle on the finances, you will come to see what works for you and what doesn’t, and when it’s time to promote again, you can put into action only what you have determined benefited you.

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What is Wattpad?

For the last month I’ve been posting a medieval fantasy story of mine on Wattpad, and it seems to be working well for me. A lot of my followers on Facebook ask me what exactly Wattpad is, and though I’ve only been using it for a month, here’s a simple explanation: it is a safe place to post your work, build a fan base, and get feedback. Of course, there are precautions you should consider.

The first question on everyone’s mind is, “If I post it online, can someone steal it?” And the answer is ‘yes’. If anything is online, then someone somewhere will get creative enough to figure out how to steal whatever they want. No amount of protection will prevent it. However, having said that, your work is protected by copyright on Wattpad, and if you find someone stealing your work, you can report it to Wattpad. Also, I’ve learned that you cannot select any text of a story in order to copy and paste it elsewhere (I was trying to point out an editorial error to an author when I discovered this). This means if someone really wanted to steal your story, they’re going to have to type it up word-for-word or get creative some other way. As the saying goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way,” and unfortunately that goes with theft and plagiarism as well. This may frighten many of you away from ever posting anything online, and that is your decision.

Another question that is asked when I describe Wattpad is, “If I post my story on Wattpad, will I still be able to publish it with a publisher?” The answer to this is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. First of all, if you’re self-publishing, then you have nothing to worry about. You can publish it whenever you want. However, if you’re determined to go the traditional route with publishing, certain publishing houses may absolutely refuse anything you’ve posted online, but then again, other traditional publishers scour Wattpad for successful stories and sometimes offer the authors contracts based on the success of their stories on the site. Yes, this is extremely rare, and you shouldn’t aim for this. Instead, you should view your posting on Wattpad and gaining a following as proof to any publisher that you do have an audience and that your book will sell. A publisher may see this and be more prone to consider your work due to the backing it obviously has. You simply need to consider which publishing house you really want to publish with and determine if they have a requirement that bars any manuscripts that have been posted anywhere online.

Now with those questions out of the way, let’s discuss the pros and cons of Wattpad. Let’s talk about the downside first because I like ending a post on a more positive note.

Cons:

Due to the fact that Wattpad is open and free with no filter to sift through its content, stories posted there may be in any stage of writing. It could be the very first draft or close-to-the-last draft or anywhere in-between. Most people on Wattpad don’t have editors, so some stories are riddled with editorial errors while others are pretty clean. You’d just have to accept this and understand where they are in the stage of the story. You can always point out errors, but I recommend doing so privately just to be considerate. Sometimes at the beginning of a story, there will be a disclaimer, “This is the rough draft! I apologize for any errors you see!” This allows us, the readers, to be a bit more forgiving.

A second downfall of Wattpad is, because stories can be posted at any stage of the writing, a lot of the stories are works in progress. This is cool as the story continues and you interact with the writer because maybe you can influence the story. However, a lot of times the writer may lose interest in the story and stop writing altogether. This is a fate worse than our favorite character’s death—an incomplete story. What is the best way to counter this? Write the story beforehand—complete it—and then post it on Wattpad, chapter-by-chapter. It’s less stressful that way, and you can update it more regularly.

Pros:

To summarize the advantages of Wattpad in two main reasons: author/reader interaction and platform building.

When you publish a book, one of the things you encounter is the general feedback of your book as a whole, “It was a very intriguing story.” or “All the characters were very realistic. The struggle was difficult, and yet it was masterfully handled.” And then you could get a paragraph or two as a review, which is still a summary of your story. While all that is wonderful and much appreciative, Wattpad offers writers the unique opportunity to experience the story with the readers—chapter-by-chapter.

You see, with each chapter, you’ve poured a bit of yourself into it. You’ve struggled with the words, the sentences, maybe even argued with the characters and cried or shouted in glee when you’ve finished the chapter. You’ve snuck in little bits that tie in with the future of the story—foreshadowing, and you really want to know if anyone catches it. With Wattpad, you have the opportunity to get feedback from your readers throughout their journey through the story. They tell you their suspicions about characters, “I don’t think he’s bad, but he does have his own agenda…” Or they tell you how they had perceived a situation, “I thought he was hiding from his brothers because they were villains, but apparently not…” So on and so forth. As they discover more and uncover more about the different angles of the story, they share their excitement, and this is thrilling and makes the entire writing, revision, and editing process worthwhile. To me, it’s the best part of writing.

Throughout this, while you’re interacting with your readers, you are actually building a platform for your work—a fan base. These are people who will buy your book once you’ve published it because not only do they know your work, but they also know you, and that is unique.

Other than posting your story faithfully, there are other things you can do to broaden your scope, and that is reading others’ work, and commenting and voting on the chapters. Start dialogue with other authors. Get to know one another and come to support each other. You see, the ranking system is odd. While someone could get 100 views in a day and over 20 votes for their story, their ranking could sink into the 100s. However, the moment you begin viewing other stories and interacting with them, the ranking has a tendency to jump above 100. The higher your ranking is, the more exposure your story gets on Wattpad, so that means more people can see it, read it, enjoy it, and continue the cycle of goodwill. Is this a foolproof way of getting a higher ranking? No. The ranking system is very confusing, but due to the experiments I’ve done trying to figure out the system, this is the best way I’ve determined to at least keep the ranking above a hundred.

Will you automatically become a bestseller once you publish your book if you’re popular on Wattpad? Maybe—maybe not. I can’t guarantee that, but you do have better chances if you did participate with Wattpad than if you didn’t. Just keep in mind the risk you take when posting anything online.

So try it out, and feel free to follow me. You can find me here: http://www.wattpad.com/user/Kellannetta I tend to follow those who follow me. Whenever I want to read something on Wattpad, I usually go to my Followers first to see what they have, read, comment, and vote. Hope to see you on Wattpad!