After plenty of time spent weighing the pros and cons of traditional versus self-publishing, you have made the decision to become an indie author. Well, first of all, let me just congratulate you! It’s a tough choice to make—I myself made it a few years back on Amazon, and again when I posted my dark fantasy novel Vita and the Monsters of Moorhouse right here on Fictionate.Me.
While it is truly thrilling to be free of the financial and creative restrictions of a traditional publishing house, self-publishing can be pretty daunting. There are so many little details to get right and you want nothing more than to give your story its best chance to succeed. So I’ve put together a little checklist to help you make sure you’re ready to share your book with confidence.
1) Decide to Self-Publish
A little cheat when it comes to checklists is making the first item something you’ve already done. Seeing that first check on the list will help you to continue onward and feel less overwhelmed. Plus, making this choice really is an accomplishment worth acknowledging. Instead of waiting to be chosen by the gatekeepers, you’ve decided to believe in yourself and strike out on your own!
So give yourself a pat on the back, make that first check, and keep going.
2) Come up with an idea you love
The process of writing a book is a difficult one, and choosing to handle the publishing yourself can make it even harder. So it is essential that you really, truly love the story you plan to tell. I’ve shared some brainstorming tips here that can help you to shape your idea and make absolutely sure that it’s one you want to commit to.
It’s possible that you’ve already passed this point by the time you made the decision to self-publish. If so, you can check this step off as well and move on.
3) Write, write, write
Once you’ve landed on an idea you believe in, it’s time to get writing. I know it can seem pretty overwhelming trying to write a whole book, especially if you’ve never done it before. But it is actually much more achievable than it seems. On average, I tend to write around a thousand words an hour—which isn’t very fast. So if you’re anything like me and commit to carving out five hours a week to write, you’ll have an 80,000-word rough draft in just four months. Even if you only have one hour a week to write, you could still produce a rough draft in under two years.
If you need some tips on the book-writing process, my Inception to Completionseries can help walk you through it. And if you’re already at the stage where you have a polished, completed manuscript, you can make another check and skip ahead to the next item on the list.
4) Choose where you want to self-publish
This decision is just as important as making the choice to self-publish in the first place. There are plenty of fiction platforms out there where you can share your story, and it’s important to do your research and figure out which one fits your needs best. Amazon is great for polished manuscripts with sleek, professional covers. But if Step 3 of this list doesn’t appeal to you and you’d rather workshop your novel as you write it, there are lots of sites where you can do just that—including this one!
As you research each self-publishing platform, be sure to check out successful novels in your genre. So, if you chose to go with Fictionate.Me, you would peruse the Trending titles in your genre. You can look up bestsellers on Amazon, but this isn’t quite as helpful since there isn’t really a great way to see only self-published bestsellers (though typing “independently published” into the search bar will help to narrow things down). Becoming familiar with these popular titles will both help you to decide which site is most closely suited to your needs, and the type of cover, description, etc. that appeals most to your chosen platform’s readers.
Which brings us to the next item on the list!
5) Make your book attractive to prospective readers
Now that you know where you want to self-publish and have a completed manuscript (or at least a few chapters and a stellar outline), you’ll have a better idea of what you need to do to draw prospective readers in. Some platforms like Amazon will require you to get your book formatted ahead of time, while others like Fictionate.Me will automatically format the text you type into the book editor for its aesthetically pleasing online reader.
But with practically every self-publishing platform, you will need an eye-catching cover and a brief description that communicates what makes your book special. If you plan to go the Amazon route, you should probably invest the money in getting your cover professionally designed. It’s just unlikely your cover will stand out in the crowd otherwise. But it is far more common on post-as-you-go sites like Wattpad and Fictionate.Me to use simpler covers that can be made with free-to-use images or free book cover makers like this one.
Once you check off this item, you’ll only have one more left on the list to go!
6) Click “Publish”
After you’ve done all the work of coming up with a great idea, writing and polishing your book, and figuring out your platform, cover, description, etc., you will finally be at the point where you’re ready to publish. It is time for another big pat on the back—you did it! And odds are, you will have realized that—while stressful at times—the process was nowhere near as difficult or complicated as you originally thought.
I hope that this checklist will help you on your road to self-publishing. Perhaps you could copy the steps down and hang your checklist somewhere you can see it regularly, and use it to motivate you as you make each step forward. Also, remember not to rush things. We all work at our own pace—and some of the greatest authors alive took many years to write their best works. Just have fun, and treat yourself to something nice each time you check one of those boxes. You deserve it!