DIY fiction — Part 2

Get an editor. That was the big message at the Seattle Public Library‘s session Saturday afternoon on Successful Self-Publishing.

In recognition of National Novel Writing Month, the Library is sponsoring a variety of Seattle Writes activities to support local writers. One of these was a panel discussion this weekend, focused on tips for writers who want to publish their own works or work with an independent publisher.

Although I’ve decided to go it alone, I find self-publishing a little scary. But after listening to the panel, I feel less frightened and more excited. Publishing is changing, and there seem to be a number of advantages to skipping traditional publishers. One is timing. It takes about 2 years after you make a deal with a publisher before you see you work in print. Plus, many publishers have reduced the editorial process, meaning that the most exciting part (to me) of going the traditional route often doesn’t exist. And with the rise of Amazon and the weakening power of the big houses, we’re seeing new growth in independent presses.

The key to success, according to the panel, is to get a great developmental editor (v. a copy editor), someone who will help you with the big picture, making sure that the story is strong and holds together. This person can also help with writing an enticing summary that you can use in selling your book online or in finding an agent or independent publisher.

I had decided to edit my book myself, but after hearing the people on the panel — writers and editors — I definitely want to invest in an editor. In fact, I like the team from Girl Friday Productions that was at the library on Saturday and talked to them after the panel. They edit, help with pitching and develop marketing plans. And they seem down-to-earth. True book lovers. So I’m actually looking forward to working with them.

“Hire an editor” and Girl Friday. Those were my big finds this weekend. But I’ll share a few other tips I got from the panel:

Plan your launch. This comes from J. A. (Jennifer) Blackburn, who wrote the YA book Dragon Defender. Don’t just put your book on Amazon (via Createspace) and then worry about marketing. Set a launch date and work back from that, getting together your reviews and coordinating your friends and family, so that everyone buys your book on the launch date. This will get your book on the Amazon bestseller list, which makes it more visible to buyers.

Be wary of writing a check. Also a tip from Blackburn, which was seconded by everyone else on the panel. With the growth in self-publishing, there are lots of people looking to take advantage of new writers. These people offer blog tours, editing and reviews. Beware. Before you pay anyone, check them out.

Consider Netgalley. And do this as part of preparing for your launch. You post your book as a galley and it is downloaded by professional reviewers, librarians and bookstores. So the reviews are respectable. But the process takes about 4 months before you start to see reviews posted, and the service costs about $400 for 6 months.

Finally, yes, the panel did talk about your “platform” and “personal brand.” Terrifying words for all of us introverts who want to keep as much to ourselves as possible. But they offered some good/comforting advice. First, if you have to choose between spending your time writing your next book or marketing the current book, choose “writing.” Whew. Second, they made some suggestions that seemed easy-to-do:

1. Get on GoodReads and write reviews of other books. It’s good karma. Promote your fellow writers and someday they will promote you right back.
2. Do one tweet per day on books.
3. Spend 15 minutes each day on your blog.
4. Get onto the newer social platforms, like Snapchat and Instagram.
5. Provide content to blog sites that match your expertise/interests. (For me, that’s music.)
6. Follow and comment on blogs that match your expertise/interests. (Uh, yeah.)
7. If you’re in the Seattle area, get involved with Hugo House and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference, sponsored by PNWA, that takes place in July.

Listening to: Hiromi. At Marciac.

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