So, you have a burning ambition to write a book. The idea gnaws a way at you but you keep it secret in case people will think you’re are being foolish or perhaps you’ve already told people and they’ve put you off the idea by saying no one would want to read your book.
I’m no expert but I can tell you about my experience in the world of self-publishing and what that journey has been like. I have successfully self-published my book, The Last Hillwalker, and I am about to produce two more. Bothy Tales comes out early next year and a plan for further book at the end of 2018. I am an Amazon best seller, I’ve been shortlisted for two awards.
Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.
Know who you are writing for.
Typical Bothy interior and home to many of my readers.
I know my audience. I talk to them on Twitter and Facebook and they contact me through this blog. I meet them in bothies and have walked and climbed with them most of my life. I write for people like me, I’m a middle-aged man, interested in mountains and feel comfortable in nature. Ask yourself a question.
Who is my audience?
If you don’t know do some research, find out who reads adult fantasy for example. Join forums start talking to people about what they read and why they read it.
Get an editor
My sister won first prize for English at school, so she can edit my book, right?
Wrong. You need a to produce a professional product. Nothing puts a reader off more than picking up a book and finding it full of typos. A good editor will do a lot more than correct your spelling, he or she will give you important feedback on your book. Tell you what works and equally importantly what doesn’t.
If you don’t know how to find an editor Reedsy is a good place to start. A good editor will spend a lot of time on your book and use expertise that they have developed over years, to help you produce a great book. For all this work they will expect, and deserve, to get paid a decent fee. You don’t work for free so neither do they. A lot of authors are reluctant to pay for editing. I take this attitude. You will invest hours, days and weeks writing your book so it’s worth spending some cash to get it presented in the best way you can.
Here’s my editor, Alex Roddie, Pinnacle Editorial, he specialises in the outdoor genre I write in but also edits fiction. Alex is half my age. I like to work with young people because they bring a different perspective. I always think if I can get it past Alex, then it must be good.
Don’t write alone
The image we all have of a writer is someone sitting alone, late at night, tapping away at a keyboard. That’s right in part but it is also very important that you share your work with other people and get feedback. You could join a writer’s group, post excerpts on the net in forums. If you have a manuscript that’s spent years sitting unseen in the bottom draw of your wardrobe, it’s dead in the water.
Other self-published authors have been incredibly helpful to me. Keith Foskett is an Indie author with vast experience not only of hiking but also self publishing. He has produced a fantastic catalogue of books based on his travels. His book Balancing on Blue is currently an Amazon best seller and is a great read for anyone interested in the outdoors. Keith’s series of books demonstrates the importance of having a number of books out there that draw readers in to your work.
I’m not sure if Keith Foskett knows it but he has penned a hiking classic. I just wanted to pack up my bags and head off into the wilderness.’
– Spencer Vignes (The Observer).
Balancing on Blue:
I welcome criticism of my work and I listen to it; that’s in contrast to a lot of writers who seem to be frightened of it. I used to work as a joiner, making doors, cabinets etc. I regard writing as very similar process. If someone told me that a joint wasn’t tight enough or my door wasn’t straight, I fixed it. I didn’t as a condemnation of my soul as some folk seem to. We can all write better. It’s a process and you learn all the time. I still cringe at things I wrote only a few months ago, which is good because it means I’m still learning, I hope I always am.
The good critic will be able to say what’s wrong with something and tell you how to fix it. A bad critic will only tell you what’s wrong, it takes years to tell the difference.
Write a blog
I found writing a blog to be really helpful for several reasons. It forces you to write regularly and writing, like any craft, requires practice. Through my blog I found out what people enjoyed about my work. Found out what aspects of the things I write about were of interest to them. It also helped me to build a following. Publishers love writers who come to them and say they have so many thousands of people read their blogs. It means they already have an audience and that is music to any publisher’s ears.
If you started writing to make money, you are in the wrong business, go work in a supermarket, it’s a much safer bet. You can make money from your writing as I do. I won’t be buying a yacht any time soon, but I am just beginning to make a part time income out of my writing. If you want to make money from your writing remember that you are starting a business and you’ll have to pay a lot of attention to marketing if you want to get anywhere. I paid someone to set up my website and develop and marketing strategy. Twitter and Facebook are great ways to get the message out and I find paid adverts on Facebook work well. I’m working on developing a mailing list via Mailchimp. I’m now planning a series of books as it is very difficult to generate significant income from one book alone.
The truth is that most self-published authors don’t break even with their projects and lose money.
It’s great having a book
One thing I hadn’t expected was how satisfying it is to have a book published. I’ve written plays and performed them in the Fringe and across the UK, which is great, but plays are very ephemeral things, once you walk off stage they are gone. A book is something tangible that can sit on bookcases all over the world. I’ve found it’s opened doors for me and got me known in places I’d never thought of. Having your own book is something worthwhile even if you never make a penny.
Get a Graphic Designer
The look of your book is really important, the cover is the first thing your reader sees. The Last Hillwalker cover is designed by Mark Thomas. I wanted the cover to tell the reader instantly that my book is a bout hillwalking and mountains and I think it does just that. I think it very important that it looks good, first impressions count.
I spent around £1,300 on the design and edit of the book. The edit cost will depend on the length of your book. I think it was money well spent.
Write shorter material first
Don’t start on your great work immediately, write short stories, features, blog posts. This will help you get feed back and dip your toe in the waters of publishing before you hold your nose and plunge in deep.
Read your competition
See what else is out there, find out who is doing well and who isn’t. Try and work out the difference between publications, why does one book succeed and another fail? The answer might not be in the book itself but how it is marketed.
Most authors are happy to help you and some of my competitors have been incredibly helpful. Feel free to contact me if you think I can help.
I forgot the most important thing. Write the damn book!