You have decided to self-publish your novel. Congratulations! There is a world of opportunity out there for you. All you have to do now is…well…everything!
OK, OK, maybe I’m being a little glib. But when you decide to become an author-publisher, you’ve decided that you’re not only an artist, you’re a business. You can’t be driven by ego, or negative emotions. You can’t use fear as a crutch. Procrastination will kill your manuscript, as will perfectionism. (Those two are actually sisters, if you didn’t know.)
If you want to publish your manuscript in a reasonable amount of time, then you have to embrace Project Management.
Project Management will put your book on a schedule and insure its publication if you follow these steps. Are you with me? OK. Let’s go.
Step One: Write an essay
Ask yourself why you want to publish a book at all. Why do you want to self-publish? Be honest. Explore the reasons. Art can be very emotional and it’s super important that you understand your own motivations for doing it. Because when the hard deadlines hit, when you’ve got to scrape up money for covers and formatting and Facebook ads, you will question everything. This document will give you the answers to those questions.
I have a friend who self-published a book about two years ago. At the time she talked a lot about quitting her job and making money with her book. When I reminded her that her dream was not likely to happen with the first book in the series she agreed and said she had a plan. Two years later book two still isn’t out. She’s done draft after draft. Why? Because she got into writing to be famous. When the fame didn’t come, she lost her way. She says she’s working on book 2 – and I believe her. But if she had been honest about her motivations from the start, maybe we’d be on book three or four right now? Maybe she would have done more marketing?
Step Two: Get a Calendar
Either a physical or digital will do. Is your draft complete? Good! Now, give yourself at least nine months to publish that book. You’ll need a lot of time because you have to factor in sick time when you can’t write, dealing with cover artists and editors, finding and booking a venue for your book release party, and learning marketing. Not to mention kids, spouses, and crunch time at your real job. All of this will take time.
At least six months before you launch, learn how you market your book. (I found author Jeff Goins & David Gaughran very helpful.) Make sure your book cover is done at least six weeks before your launch. Make sure your final edits are done at least six weeks before your launch.
Step Three: Make a list
A book requires a team. You’ll need a cover artist – please shop around for one. You’ll need someone to either format your book or teach you how to format a book. And you’ll need an editor.
When I wrote The Gallowglass, a historical fiction novel (to be released June 15th of this year), I spent a lot of time researching. I spent a lot of time getting better at writing. But I thank the heavens that I hired an editor who pointed out some weak spots in my plot and characters. It was a hard conversation to have about my story. After a lot of reflection, I realized my editor was right on every point. So, I had to make time to include about 15,000 words of re-writes. I am glad I did. (Which is another reason you want to give yourself at least nine months of time to release a book.)
Step Four: Find an accountability Partner
I have a friend who has self-published half a dozen books. After probing him I realized that all he did was write the books, and his wife actually self-published them. She kept him working under a deadline, managed the entire process with editors, cover artists, and the like. For my friend and his wife, it worked out well.
If you don’t have a spouse with those kinds of skills, that’s alright. Find someone who will support you by using a mix of carrots and sticks to get you to your deadline. They don’t have to know all the ends and outs; they just have to know your deadlines and be close enough to you to kick your butt when you’re slacking and can call you on your malarkey when you start making excuses.
Step Five: Take the money side seriously
Federal & State Tax Law can be a wonderful support for your book project. Congress wants to support you in running your business. But you have to act like a business if you want to reap the tax benefits. That means setting up a separate bank account (checking is easiest). It also means keeping receipts and making a spreadsheet to keep everything together. I know it sounds daunting, but it really isn’t – and you’ll thank yourself for doing it from the beginning.
My wife is an accountant. She deals with sloppy business owners all the time. She just finished an IRS Audit where her client couldn’t prove where the money came from to pay a certain business expense. Had the owner kept better records, the auditor would have given her the expense deduction.
Don’t be like my wife’s client! Keep all your records for your book project. If you’re not good with physical receipts, the IRS accepts photos of receipts. Keep them in a folder on your desktop, or on the cloud. If you do this, you can claim deductions on your taxes because of the money you spent on your project. How cool is that? If you mimic the habits of businesses the IRS will start treating you like one.
Project Management can feel overwhelming, but so was riding a bike or driving a car. Most of us learned to both. With a little research, practice, and a few bumps in the road, you’ll be published before you can say Project Management.
Jason Evans wanted to be a writer his entire life. He just didn’t know it. He has been an educator in public & private schools for twelve years. He has earned Double bachelors from UC Santa Barbara, teaching credentials from Cal-State Los Angeles, and an MA from UC Denver. He has two short stories published and is the editor-in-chief for Man-gazine. He lives in Denver with the Fetching Mrs. Evans and his three dogs and one haughty cat.
Follow Jason on Twitter @evans_writer. Like his Facebook Author Page, or sign up for his newsletter at www.jasonhenryevans.com