“I’m actually going to do it this time! For real!” These words have probably been uttered since time immemorial. Quite honestly, I too have said them a lot. There was a point in my life where I wanted to buy a magic set because “I’m totally gonna use it!” I also knew that I wanted to make video games for a living, but that didn’t quite pan out either. These are just a few examples of some things I convinced myself I would do but never quite got around to after a week or so of letting it simmer.
Many people go through something similar to this. Oftentimes, we have dreams that seem to be all we can think about for a few days. Maybe even weeks. It can be something as small as wanting to draw a picture or something as large as starting your own company. For some, these motivations tend to taper off as time passes. Without the drive and passion to continue, many dreams fall off the wagon and lay broken along the side of the road. This happened to me a few times during my own writing of The Man on the Bench, but I found my own ways to refocus and push through the doubt.
This focus has allowed me to truly grow as a writer and as an author navigating the business side of the literary world. As it turns out, there are lots of things that need to happen before people are able to publish their written works. Since I’m (sort of) a nice guy, I thought I would take a moment and explore what some of these things are in case you or someone you know is interested in self-publishing. This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it gives you some guidance towards your goal. As always, be sure to consult professional lawyers if you want legal advice, as I am NOT one!
Finish (And Edit) Your Manuscript!
It may seem obvious, but there are people out there who start writing and then give up. Worse still are the works that have been “finished” only to have someone discover errors once it is combed through. It is SO IMPORTANT that you take the time to reread everything that you wrote so that it can be edited! This may take some time, but you want to make sure your manuscript is bulletproof. My recommended method for editing is to sit in a comfortable spot and read your book to yourself out loud. People may think that you’re a crazy person, but it is incredible just how useful this technique can be. Some things sound okay when you’re reading them to yourself silently but become awkward once read aloud.
Additionally, having other people read your stuff can be helpful (if not sometimes painful). This could include having others read each new section as it is written or having editors around once you finish. Think of this as your test audience, which allows you to gather data on what parts of your manuscript work and what needs retooling. It can be difficult to “bare your soul” for others to criticize, but it makes the end product stronger.
Lastly, be sure to get a cover design! This should include a picture, summary, and author bio. Hiring out is an option if you aren’t a good artist. With that said, I’m a TERRIBLE artist, and I made my cover with Doodle Buddy on my iPad, which is 100% free! The use of filters and post-production effects can improve pictures too.
People have told me that one obtains a copyright for a written work once it is finished; there isn’t a formal process that you need to go through. You own your work. However, I think it is important to go the extra mile. Since this blog’s working mantra is “be bulletproof,” let’s ensure that your work stays protected. If you live in the United States, all you have to do is register your copyright. This does cost money, but at the time of this writing, copywriting a written work by a single author is about $35. The process is simple and straightforward and provides evidence that you are the owner of the work you are registering. Also consider registering your cover art copyright too!
I initially thought that international copyright might be a bit more of a headache, but then I learned about the Berne Convention. Essentially, this states that if you register your copyright in your country of origin, every other country that has joined this group will offer you the same legal protection as their citizens if copyright infringement does happen in another country. This means that you are free to release your works without fear of having someone outside of your country take it. As stated earlier, be sure to contact a lawyer for specific questions, as I am NOT one!
Get That ISBN!
I used to think that writers received International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) once a work was published. It turns out I was about as Clueless as a mediocre TV show (yes, I went there). ISBN numbers are purchased from Bowker, and they allow people to find and discover your book much more easily. Prices can be quite high, with the minimum being $125 for one number. If you are releasing your works in digital and physical mediums, you will need two, or one for each format. Additionally, you will need to purchase a barcode for your works if they are going to print. When all is said and done, the best deal from Bowker is to buy ten numbers plus a barcode, which comes out to about $330 at the time of this writing. Pricey, indeed.
The reason I suggest Bowker directly is because you will have more control over your properties if you own the ISBN number. There are “authorized agents” that sell ISBNs for much cheaper (I’ve seen as low as $29), but THEY end up owning the number, which could limit what you want to do. For example, I am very close to getting my book out in print via Books-A-Million. They offer cheaper ISBNs, and I could’ve purchased one from them. But if I did and wanted to expand my physical print distribution to Create Space (Amazon’s physical print company), I would have had to buy another ISBN number from Create Space since the Books-A-Million number is registered to them. Freedom is the name of the game, as it helps you remain bulletproof!
Publish And Market!
The most exciting moment of this process has arrived! You have your cover design, edited manuscript, copyright registration, and ISBN. Time to unleash your works onto the world! Celebrations are in order as you reflect on everything that brought you to this point. Which, by the way, is a point that not many people get to. Take some time to congratulate yourself and thank those who helped!
Moving forward, it’s all about promotion and expanding your audience. This includes utilizing social media, handing out free copies / business cards, and even building a website as a base of operations. Purchasing the appropriate domain names and usernames for social media are key so that everything is consistent across the board. Additionally, you may want to consider using Google Analytics or a similar tool to track trends in your audience. This could give you valuable information regarding who is visiting your site and what they are most interested in.
Lastly, make sure to track your sales data! This is evidence to show to a major publisher later if you intend to go down that route!
Again, these are just simple suggestions to guide you and (hopefully) help you finish your manuscript. Always be sure to make forward progress even if it feels like you can’t anymore. If there is a writer’s block, sit down and write one sentence before stopping. Odds are you’ll keep going. If the sales data is getting you down, try and remember that the market can fluctuate, so you’ll have to be flexible. And if you end up becoming a billionaire because of these brief tips, make sure you remember who helped you along the way. ;)
Gregory T. Obert