Writing Wednesday: Holly Christine on 5 Things You Need Before You Self-Publish

To self-publish or not to self-publish? We're sure every aspiring writer has considered this question at one point or another (including us!). But let's face it, self-publishing hasn't always had the best reputation. And for a long time, has been treated like the redheaded stepchild of the publishing world.

But lately, it seems like it's receiving a better reception from most people. And that more and more authors are doing it. And we wanted to know why. So we asked Holly Christine, author of Tuesday Tells it Slant to give us the scoop on self-publishing and why she did it. And to fill us in on the 5 things anyone needs to know before they do too. (Plus, we're giving away 5 copies to 5 lucky commenters. You know the drill, we'll randomly select the winners & announce the results... Friday!)

Tuesday Tells it Slant is the story of Tuesday Morning who has always been a little... different. She's kept a diary since 1989 and while researching for her senior seminar paper on Emily Dickinson's Transcendental tendencies, reads a poem that will change her life.  And not just her future. Tuesday changes her past. We all have secrets and skeletons in our closets, but Tuesday has managed to clean hers out with a pen and a diary. It's a fun read!

So here's Holly....

Five years ago, I wrote my first book. After I clicked “save,” I printed it twice, sent a copy to my college roommate, and placed the other copy in my nightstand drawer. Some people say that the first book you write is like releasing your inner demons. Mine fell into this category.

Four years ago, I wrote my second book. I called it The Nine Lives of Clemenza. It was a story about one soul’s journey through nine lives. The kicker was that she could choose to live as whatever form of life she desired. She was air, a part of the Northern Lights and human to name a few. It was unique, not your average tale of reincarnation. As most writers probably feel, I thought that I had struck creative gold. I followed the traditional path. I researched agents and waited for responses for a year. As the rejections piled up, I set my creative side on simmer for another full year. Two years after completing TNLC, I read through it again with truly fresh eyes. I enjoyed it. I made myself laugh and I made myself cry. And I wondered... couldn’t I evoke these emotions from another reader? I did a bit of research and decided to self-publish.

After having some success with TNLC, self-publishing seemed like a no-brainer to me when I finished writing Tuesday Tells it Slant. I knew a handful of self-published authors that were recently picked up by major publishing houses (specifically authors that made their work available for Kindle), and I no longer felt like I was committing literary suicide. After three edits, I formatted for Kindle and within 48 hours, she was live.

Self-publishing takes a few things: a network of writers for support and critiques, some formatting knowledge, a business attitude, some marketing knowledge, and courage.

A network: Search Twitter for author or writer and join online communities of like-minded creative people. I also recommended starting or joining a writer’s group. Doing so will prepare you for the reviews, aid in the writing process and also help to make your work as perfect as it can be before the self-publishing process begins.

Formatting: Creating and prepping a document for publishing is not a one-day project. There are specific spacing requirements that correlate to book size and length. Photoshop and Microsoft Office knowledge is a must. All On-Demand presses give spacing requirements based upon the book size and length. Follow them, and you’ll be happy with the end result. eBook formatting requires moderate Office knowledge. If you find yourself in a slump, there are many online services that offer proper eFormatting for a fee. Check out CreateSpace and Lulu for paperbacks and Amazon’s Digital Text Platform and Barnes and Noble’s new Nook publishing tool for eReaders.

A business attitude: You started your own business the moment you clicked “Publish.” Because you are the author and the publisher, it is probably best to get a separate tax identification number for your royalty earnings. It is very important to keep track of any expenses that you incur, such as giveaways, shipping fees, review copies, and marketing materials. At the end of the year, it will be much easier to tally up your data. This attitude may force you to set aside your creative side for a while. Finding the balance between artist and business owner is the key to making it through this journey at the soul level.

Marketing: The tricky side of self-publishing is the marketing. You made it available... now how can it reach a reader? Thousands of people self-publish every day, and making your work stand out from the rest is no easy task. Use your creative side to explore different marketing options. Create a Facebook fan page for your work or yourself as an author. Set up your own website and blog. Call local bookstores to set up signings. If you can’t do this on your own, and many can’t, hiring a publicist can help to spotlight your work.

Courage: The most terrifying part of making your work available is finding the courage to face a review... especially when you self-publish. Not only did you create the words and the story, you may have created the cover, acted as editor and more. Developing a thick skin, while cliché, is a must. The flip side of this is the praise. You receive a good review and you hold your head higher that day. Someone sends you an email and writes that your words changed the way that they felt about life. You smile. You might even cry. Knowing that you did all of it yourself is rewarding. You should be proud.

For most, the whole I just wrote a novel bit is the easy part. Courage, research, and knowing your limits will help to fine-tune your approach to self-publishing. It’s not necessarily a last resort anymore. You don’t have to worry about shelling out thousands of dollars. You can do it for free and, if you’re still set on finding a traditional publisher, you can use your sales as proof to your book’s potential.

Thanks so much Holly!  xoxo, Liz & Lisa

For more information on Holly Christine, check out her website or follow her on Twitter