Self Publishing Writing Tips

inkwellLast week I shared that I was reading a two books in one set and I could tell it was self-published. How could I tell? Let’s talk about it.

Signs of a Self-Published Book

First, the story rambled on and on and on. I think the author was trying to write a sweeping saga or something. In writing romance, your main story line is to get the guy and the girl together. Mostly, that happens at the very end. But there are ways to get them together earlier. Then, you do have to throw in some dangers to the relationship. Will they, can they stay together? This author did that, and she did fine.

But…she could have put both books together in one. It was too long.

Second, loose writing. Here’s what I mean by that. Saying something in ten words but you could have said it in five. If the author had an editor, they did a rather sloppy job of it. If you have to publish your novel yourself, at least pay a published author who offers editing services to do a substantive edit on your book.

I used to wonder why certain publishing contests or publishing houses have specific word count maximums in their submissions. I think I understand now. It’s because authors are wordy. Because we love words, we use too many of them.

Third, because I also have this problem from time to time, I recognize it in other works. It’s called “head hopping.” Each scene in a novel should be written from a particular character’s point of view. You “head-hop” when the author has more than one point of view per scene. Sometimes, it shows up in one sentence or two. But it’s noticeable. How do I know? If the point of view character can’t or doesn’t know something about another character or situation, but the author sticks in what another thinks or feels without it being dialogue, that’s head-hopping.

I noticed this a few times in the books. I was surprised because this author has several books out on the market. Maybe they are all self-published.

My Experience in Self-Publishing

I’m not knocking self-publishing. I’ve done it. About ten years ago, I self-published a devotional booklet. The publisher is a friend of mine whom I’d just met. She’s a lovely lady, and she knows what she’s doing. My devotional booklet was lovely, but because it was a very small niche market, I’d gotten a “deal” that gave me, for just a few dollars more, many more booklets than I could possibly sell. I’ve kept five, and recycled the rest. I may have sold ten or twenty of them, I don’t remember. But I had over one hundred.

I may have to self-publish my novel I’ve been working on, but I understand how to write a better book now, at least I hope so.

self publish tipsTips for Self-Publishing

1.  One of my biggest gripes about self-published books is the poor writing that often accompanies these books. If the author had just been more patient with themselves, and budgeted in for professional editing, it wouldn’t appear it was a self-published book. I said in an earlier post, you’ve got to have more than a great story – you’ve got to have great writing.

2.  Would-be authors are sometimes so excited about publishing their books, they’ll either not spend enough for a great result, or spend too much and not get their money’s worth. I always advocate a healthy balance. And with a budget, know how much promotion you’ll have to do. Authors these days, cannot count on the publisher to do most of the promotion, as it used to be. The author has to become their own publicist, public relations and sales manager.

3.   Sure, you can get on Amazon and get a book published, but what’s their take? What are your rights as an author? Research, compare before you decide. Some “indie” publishing houses offer 50/50 royalty split. Some offer 60/40, etc. Check it out. Do the research. Make the best decision for you.

4.  This should go without saying, but it’s important. Read the fine print of any contract you sign – BEFORE you sign it. You could even have a lawyer look at any publishing contract or proposal to publish – just to help you understand the legalities. Remember to put this in your publishing budget, see #2.

5.  Learned my lesson. One of the publishing options I haven’t talked about is POD. That’s Print-On-Demand. They’ll only publish what you want. Say you want 10 copies to start. Then, later, when you sell those, print 50 more and see what happens. Traditional publishing through the large publishing houses prints thousands upon thousands of books. Most of them, sadly, end up in a warehouse or in the paper recycling bin.

Today’s world is different for authors than in the past. I’ve said this many times. “Anyone can publish a book, but is it any good?” A great story to tell is only the beginning. Write it well. Get it edited. I did, and I’m not sorry. Learn how to self-edit yourself and learn how to write. Don’t be afraid of revisions and re-writes. Take criticism.

Do you think quality is important or does it matter to you? Leave a comment and let me know.

Next Up: Changing Your Mind – sometimes it’s okay to do that.


2 Comments on “Self Publishing Writing Tips”

  1. Yes, I believe quality is important, and, yes, it is important to me. I have read quite a few ebooks, many of which I believe were self-published because I have found so many errors in the books — misspellings and grammar mistakes, and that drives me nuts! Even some traditionally published books I have recently read have some similar mistakes. Years ago, books were very carefully edited and you could read lots of books and not find any mistakes. I believe that is the way it should be. As a homeschool mom, my children learn most of their spelling and grammar from the books we read instead of from boring workbooks, so I expect these books to be error free, and I read for pleasure, but I still expect these books (whether print or ebook) to be error free, and it frustrates me when they are not!
    Whichever path I choose to take for my stories, you can bet I’ll do everything within my power to make sure my stories are error free.


  2. Thanks for your comment, Kelly. I believe as Christian writers, we should have excellence. Daniel was a man who had an excellent spirit, the Bible says. I believe that meant not only was his character above reproach, but he was also a man of wisdom, and always did his work in an excellent fashion. I think we should be the same. Thanks again, Kelly. Great comment.


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