I've been asked by a few different people about the process that I go through to self-publish, and I would be more than happy to share my process. Before I start, I want to warn that this is going to be a lengthy blog even after breaking it into two parts. People have said to me they could never publish a book. You can, if you tried. But it is hard work. A lot goes into it, but the reward is well worth it. I use a planner to keep track of where I am, especially since I have four books going at the same time. I am addicted to being busy and I am not by a long shot, an expert. Do your research, ask questions, make mistakes and learn from them. It's what I did, and I have no regrets.
Research, Outline and Prep
I'm the type of author who plans everything out before I write. I do my character sketches, scene breakdowns, research what I need on setting and anything that I don't know. Historical takes more research than contemporary, but there is still a fair amount of research that I did for The Gangster's Daughter. Like with diets, there is so much help for outlining and prepping for writing that it can be overwhelming. I've fallen into a groove over the years in knowing what I need, but what I need might not work for what someone else might need.
Write the Book
Write, write, write! Bestselling author Jodi Picoult said: "You can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page." That is so true. After years of getting in my own way, I write what comes to mind getting it onto the page. I know 98% (or more) isn't going to be perfect right out of the gate. That's the beauty of editing. I can perfect it later–and I'll get to my editing process. I edit no less than 4 times. There are some people that edit far more than that, but if I kept on editing (and getting in my own way), I would still be an unpublished author.
Read, Edit, Rewrite and Write the Back Cover Summary
Other than writing the book, this is the step where I spend the most time. This is where the two screens on my work computer come in handy. I put my first draft on one screen and a brand spanking new blank page on the second screen, and I rewrite it. Once I've rewritten the book, I use my ProWritingAid program to help me tighten up sentences. That's about all it's good for. The very first publication (in Amazon) of my first book was proof of what type of errors it did not catch. As much as I would like to blame the program for it, I should have known better and reviewed it myself more thoroughly before I submitted. That's the good thing about life though–you live and you learn. The program does a good job with helping with sentence clarity, redundant words and overly long sentences, so it's not a total waste. I also write the back cover summary draft.
Engage Beta Readers
I have had a lot of luck with people volunteering to be beta readers for my first two books (and future books). I have so many that I have a list of people who I can ask, but I have those who have told me in no uncertain terms that they are willing to always do it for me. This is another important step because I need unbiased opinions before I engage my developmental editor. The editor is the biggest expense. Beta readers must read it and give feedback promptly. I try to engage at least 3 beta readers.
Once I get feedback from the beta readers, I edit again. I don't do the same process as I do with the first edit. Instead, I go through the suggestions and determine chapter by chapter where I need to tighten things up and make things more clear. I've had good luck in that my beta readers have pointed out some pretty simple things to remedy.
Send to a Developmental Editor
This is the big one. I'm not going to lie. The first one cost me $1,400 to hire the developmental editor, but I do not regret it for one minute. I use a website call Reedsy. Reedsy connects you with professionals who can help you edit, design, and market. There are others, but it's for publicity, ghostwriting and translating. Self-publishing requires hiring for editing; I opted for developmental editing. Above all else, you need a developmental editor. Writers can't be subjective enough with their own writing to do what a developmental editor can do. What is that, you ask? A developmental editor reviews chapters and advice on character, story, and pacing. It is not the same as a copy editor, who does a line-by-line edit to improve accuracy and readability. After finishing proofreading, the book goes through copy editing as the last step. Reedsy allows you to search and get quotes from professionals you will hire to do these jobs. I love my editor, Becky Wallace, based on what she does for me–I will never go with someone else unless she stops doing what she does. She is outstanding at what she does!
Edit Again and Proofread
Becky's developmental edit includes a letter outlining points and a chapter-by-chapter review of changes. I say suggested because as she stated in her notes to me–I'm the writer and this is my work. She is merely making suggestions based on her opinions. I can accept them, or not. My choice. It's the same with the manuscript. She provides her changes, suggestions and comments in the manuscript as tracked changes so I can see everything she has changed. She also includes copyediting for the first 50 pages as a perk. It was refreshingly nice to see the bad writing habits I had gotten into and learn from. I take the time to read through the letter first to see where I need to focus before I did into the manuscript. It took me two solid works of non-stop editing evenings and weekends for The Gangster's Daughter and it was soooo worth it. Her suggestions prompted my brain to shoot in several ways and I think it paid off and made the story so much better than it was. It was great to begin with, but now it's better.
Write Dedication, Acknowledgements, Author's Note (if applicable), and Update Author Bio
This is the most challenging (seriously) of the process. Wouldn't everyone want a book dedicated to them? Of course! But it's not that easy. Usually I have in mind who I want to dedicate to, but to write the dedication without sounding dorky or mushy I'm no good at. The acknowledgements, I will honestly say I will thank my beta readers (by name) and my followers and readers every time. That's a straightforward decision for me. Without them–and you–this wouldn't be happening to me. If I have something to share with my readers about the story or facts, I will provide an Author's Note. I should review my author bio with each book to make sure it remains accurate, even though it won't change much.
My next blog will cover ISBNs, cover and interior design, reviews, proofs, and marketing. Not everyone will follow the same process, but if you have questions about what I do, please don't hesitate to reach out to me with questions! I didn't do this alone, and neither should you!