I got asked this fabulous question on Twitter and scratched my head, because yes, there would be a gazillion (okay, not exactly gazillion, but many) things I would've done differently if I could publish my 1st novel NOW, with all this knowledge I gained from self-publishing over the last 2 years. Almost 2 years. I will be 2 years in May since I quit my job and started writing full time, and since I self-published my very first book, a little book of tweets on writing and creative nonsense called BLUE SPARROW. So, see, I'm still very fucking green so don't listen to what I say, go listen to some other big important experienced people who pound on their chests and who tell you they know what they're talking about because I don't know jack-shit! Whew. Okay. I got this one off my consciousness. Now, let's continue. If by some miracle you're still here, indulge in the stuff I have learned. Let's start from the beginning.
1. SLOW DOWN.
Okay, this is the most valuable lesson I learned. The end. This blog post is over.
La-la-la. I said, it's over! Why are you still reading this, you annoying pest! Okay, fine. You get a purple pony for sticking this long. Anyway. I wish I had taken longer to polish the final product before shipping it, so to speak. And I hear a lot of us indies suffer from the same malady. We get so excited, it's so easy to push that button, so lightning fast to share that book we've been slaving for, for so long! Oh my God, why would I wait before shipping it now! I'm dying here! I'm drawing my last breath! Help! HELP!!! I want all my friends and family and strangers to see my brand new awesome book! Oh, I can't sleep! Oh, there is nothing that needs to be changed, it's perfect in how imperfect it is!
When you go indie, you become a small business. Imagine I sold you socks half-knitted. Like, they would be totally awesome socks with stripes and pom-poms, but they would be missing the heel. Or the right toe pinky (is there such a thing as the right toe pinky? whatever...). Well, a book is a product too. It has packaging - cover. It has the actual product thing inside it - story. It has a price. It has a place where it's sold. It has to be promoted. And all that jazz. You can err in many ways. You can fool your customers by luring them with an awesome cover and having a shitty story inside, or you can scare off customers with a hideous cover and they won't have a chance to discover the awesome story you've written. You can shock people with the wrong price, you can sell it in the wrong places, promote is in the wrong way (ever seen those writers on Twitter shoving their books down your throat with every single fucking tweet? Yeah, like that...). So. What I mean is, you have to treat your book the same way.
THAT IS WHAT PUBLISHERS DO FOR WRITERS.
They make sure the product side is done well. And that is what we indies have to do ourselves. So, I will throw a bunch of other little things at you here, seemingly little, because actually they are huge.
2. HIRE AN EDITOR.
Okay, I actually have an awesome editor, Colleen Albert, but I've seen a ton of indie books and spoken to many indie authors who self-publish without editors. Don't do that. Ever. End of story.
3. ORDER AN ACTUAL PRINTED PROOF FIRST.
I was guilty of this one. I looked at the digital proofing thingy on CreateSpace and it looked good to me. Well, it looks totally different when you see the actual book! So do it. Wait those weeks. Remember the point number 1. SLOW DOWN.
4. CHOOSE INTERIOR FONTS CAREFULLY.
This one, surprisingly, I learned on my 2nd novel, ROSEHEAD. Here is a blog post on how to choose fonts and stuff. But, with ROSEHEAD I chose a different font from SIREN SUICIDES, and it looked so good in the digital proof, that I gave the green light to my awesome formatter Stuart Whitmore. Guess what, number one, the font looked so big, it could really benefit from being a little smaller. Number two, because my book clocked at almost 400 pages, I couldn't sell the paperback for less than $13.70 on Amazon! So, lesson learned.
5. PICK ONE MARKETING CHANNEL AND STICK WITH IT.
Okay, so, here a bunch of you will want to eat me alive. But, as I'm still a relatively green writer, PLUS, English is not my first language and I'm actively improving my vocabulary. I don't have much time for promoting my books, and at first I tried (well, me, oh my God, I used to do social media marketing for money, hey, I'm a pro!..) to promote my books everywhere. I posted them everywhere, on sites like Widbook, for example. I looked at sites to gain reviews, like Bookbub and others. They are all awesome places, but THERE IS ONLY ONE ME. I even went and looked through bios of top Amazon reviewers. Don't spend your time. Focus on 1 platform and grow it. Everything will come from there. For me it's Twitter. My blog comes after it, and as a support to it, but I'm on Twitter every day.
6. DON'T FRET.
II CAN ALL BE FIXED! This is the beauty of self-publishing.
Yes, you might make mistakes, but you can fix the file, and re-upload it, and your book will reappear online within hours, as opposed to however long you'd have to wait if your book has been traditionally published. Of course, if it was traditionally pubLished, there might've been less chance for mistakes to creep in, but still. I worried too much. If I had to publish my 1st novel again, I would've saved myself some stress.
That's it! And, once again, I'll say it, the only way to learn how to self-publish is to do these things, a lot:
WRITE. READ. SELF-PUBLISH. REPEAT.