Last Thursday, I posted a diagram of the process of self-publishing. Now it's time to break it down. The diagram started out with this group of chores at the top:
I am dissatisfied with it for several reasons. First, I would move "Start Online Platform" to the very top of the list. It takes months, even years, to build a presence online. Waiting until you have book written is much too late. Yes, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts can be used to tell readers about your book. But the truth is, people are not going to be interested in your book unless they are also interested in you. If you build up a list of followers because you have witty or interesting things to say, if you blog about your travels, your reading, your causes, you will attract others who care about the same things. Then when you write your book, your readers will be waiting, money clutched in their hot little hands. That's what you want from an online platform. So start TODAY!
Now let's look at "Format Book Template." Do you even know what that means? Do you have the computer skills to create a template that will produce the kind of book a publisher or a reader expects? Unless you are very skilled or very experienced, I recommend letting the professionals do this for you. There are all kinds of book-writing programs out there. I am most familiar with Scrivener, a writing program for Apple users. It is roomy, intuitive, and easy to use. When you open the application, it presents you with a series of formats -- short story, poetry, script, novel, non-fiction. You make your choice and it gives you a bundle of pre-set pages for title page, chapter, etc. All you have to do is start typing; it handles spacing, indents, font size, and a bunch of other things you didn't know you were supposed to worry about. And when you are finished, it gives you more options. It can compile all your chapters and assign numbers to them. It can produce the ugly plain double-spaced page that an agent or publisher expects. Or it can allow you to transfer the basic manuscript to your own word processor to tweak the appearance until it's exactly what you want. If you don't own a MAC, the Scrivener folks have now produced an application that runs on Windows. I can't vouch for it because I've never used it. But there must be similar programs for other computers. Anyone have recommendations? I would be happy to pass them along.
Next comes "Finish First Draft." My objection here is that word finish. It sounds like you're done, and nothing could be more misleading. A first draft is great, but there better be other drafts -- lots of them. I know there are "seat-of-the-pants" writers out there, just letting words fly onto the page. The results are seldom pretty. Writing is hard work, and I don't see that kind of warning here. You will probably need to start with some sort of research, unless you are setting your entire book in your own back yard, which you can see from your desk. If you are setting your book anywhere else, you'd better go there and take a look before you write. And unless you are very talented, you need another kind of road map to follow -- an idea of what your book is about, a plot outline, a theme, a plan for story development, and an idea of where you want to start and where you want to end up. Otherwise both you and your reader are likely to get lost. I've just been working on my book-planning, but what I've learned will have to wait for a different post. For now, just note that instead of "finish" this step should read "think, plan, write, and then rewrite. Rinse and repeat."
What about editing? I've expounded on that before. I've worked with editors and I've done my own editing. Because of the expense involved, this is a decision that will depend on your own circumstances. But for now, let's just be clear that one round of "editing" is not enough. You need to read and re-read -- backwards and out loud to catch your own errors. I went through the manuscript for Beyond All Price fourteen times, and caught different errors on each go-round. Then you need readers -- lots of them. And you don't want your best friend or your spouse, who is just going to say, "That's great, honey." Find some critics and listen to what they say. Then, when you think the book is perfect, consider professional editing. I'll guarantee you it will improve your product.