Guest Post

How to get out of your own way when self publishing

Today’s post comes from Ben Daniels, the author of the new novel, “Detroit 2020.” And he, far better than I could even imagine, lays out the essential steps to self publishing. He’s also a fantastic blogger and shares some very insightful thoughts on horror, writing, and the long-hard-journey of self publishing over on bldaniels.wordpress.com. So, enough from me, here’s our new friend, Ben:

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We live in a time where it has never been easier to self-publish your own writing, and yet the cliché of “working on your novel” is still alive and well. Even with the gatekeepers of traditional publishing removed, the oldest enemy of writers (themselves) is still omnipresent. I’ve recently learned quite a bit about this process after co-authoring and publishing my debut novella, DETROIT 2020. I’d like to share some advice to any aspiring authors on turning your ideas into books to pester your friends and relatives to buy.

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Outline

I’m not what you’d call a “pantser” in writer’s lingo. I can’t execute on complex ideas unless I write them down and give them some thought. So when Jeff approached me about writing together, one of my stipulations was that we outline it. Some claim outlining kills creativity.

That’s nonsense.

Writing down your ideas puts them into a space where you can walk away from them as they are, and return after they’ve germinated for a while. Likely when you look back, there will be things you want to change or evolve. If they are always tumbling around in your takeoffyourpantscoverbrain or you’re just making things up as you go, you’re far more likely to write yourself into a corner.

Outlines don’t have to be stone tablets. They can change and evolve as the characters and story do. In the original outline of DETROIT 2020 one of the heroes, Julia Blaze, was a vampire. Now, she’s not. If you’ve never written an outline for a book, there are plenty of resources out there to show you how. I personally used Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker, but there are many others around that you can dig into. it’s a strategy that gets easier with practice. If you’re already outlining, good on you.

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Your first draft is garbage.

Believe me, it’s true. Your second draft probably is too. Ernest Hemingway wasn’t kidding.

This is a hard truth I learned to accept back in college, and it was reinforced in a big way all these years later when Jeff and I finished our first draft. Writers can get touchy when it comes to their precious works, and the only thing more difficult than convincing an author their book needs edits is convincing TWO authors their book needs editing. Do yourself a favor, and while you’re investing all that time and hard work into completing the first draft, in the back of your mind know that while it’s a huge accomplishment, it’s not nearly the end of the journey.

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Work hard, treat yourself.

Hard work should be rewarded.

Jeff and I set up schedules and deadlines for writing and other tasks, knowing that our lives would constantly interrupt the process (and they did) but that we had to have hard goals. Did we always meet them? Absolutely not, but when we didn’t, we moved them forward to a new realistic date in the calendar and worked twice as hard to hit them.

When we accomplished a major milestone, we treated ourselves. Ordered pizza, or cracked beers on our weekly Skype call. It’s important to celebrate the little victories that come as part of the journey, since that’s what writing a book is really all about.

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Get honest feedback.

This one is tough.

The best advice I can give is only ask for feedback on your final draft (because you’ve re-written your book three times by now, right?) from people you trust. I mean, REALLY trust. Hopefully they are also an author.

I’m not going to say “don’t show it to friends and family” because occasionally you have someone close who can deliver strong constructive criticism. However, you need to be selective, because once that book is on the internet, strangers will have no problem telling you exactly how they feel. Better to hear it now while you can fix it.

Another related point. Don’t tell people you’re “working on your novel”, or at least keep it to a minimum, because it really is a cliche. Plus, I can tell you from experience my friends and family were far more impressed when I said “I just published my first book”.

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Learn the technical details.

Familiarize yourself with the technical details of how self-publishing works. There are numerous blog posts and forums about the subject, and many are specific to particular platforms like Amazon and iTunes. Once you have your book finished, give yourself an extra week to really understand these details before you jump on and hit that “publish” button. There’s all sorts of wacky things like metadata you might not know about, but should. A number of these fall into the “learning by doing” category, but it never hurts to have an idea of what you’re getting into before you jump into the deep end. Self-publishing is far more accessible than it was even a few years ago, but there is still a learning curve.

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In Conclusion

d2020Looking back at the process, I’m still blown away that a random conversation with a friend has spawned a completed work. It was a big effort and not without frustration, but I’m really proud of what we accomplished.

I hope some of this advice will help anyone who may be stuck or contemplating whether they should move forward. I’ll end on a up note since positivity can be in short supply on the internet.

Even when the going gets tough, know there is a solution that can overcome almost any problem through practicing your craft and applying knowledge.

If you’re interested in more articles and stories about writing and self-publishing, feel free to visit my author blog.

You can also purchase DETROIT 2020 here on Amazon.

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Ben, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your knowledge with us here on Horror Made. I know I’ll be returning to this post again and again as my various projects get out of the intellectual-goo phase and into something solid enough to share.

My dear reader, out of these tips, which one did you find the most surprising or helpful?

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