Everyone has a unique story to tell, and creative writing is one way of expressing that story.
Before you start writing that masterpiece, though, you have to ask yourself some difficult questions and you have to answer them honestly.
- What do I want for my book?
- What will my book have that other books don’t have?
- Who will read my book?
- Is there a demand for my book?
- What is my budget for publishing my book?
- Do I really understand what I must do to publish my own book?
- Am I committed to becoming a professional author or do I want to write as a hobby?
The answers to these questions will determine how you proceed on the path to publication.
While technological advancements in the publishing industry have made publishing a book more accessible to anyone who has ever wanted to write a book, one basic fact about the industry hasn’t changed: becoming a published author isn’t an easy journey.
Whether you choose to go the route of submitting your completed manuscript to a traditional publisher or whether you choose to become an indie (independently published) author, being a published author still takes a lot of hard work.
As an indie author, you will have to take responsibility for every aspect of publishing your book, from the first spark of a creative idea to the selling of the final, professional product.
In this 3-part series we’ll be looking at the following steps in the process of independently publishing your eBook in South Africa:
- Writing your Book
- Establishing your Author Brand
- Publishing your Book
- Choosing an eBook Distributor
- Marketing your Book
- Royalties and Taxes
- Keeping up to Date
- Managing your Expectations
Writing your Book
a. Write your heart out. Free write and let your creativity run wild. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or any technical aspect of writing until your first draft is on the page.
b. Your writing should reflect your voice, your vision. Your story shouldn’t be you trying to write like Stephen King or Maya Angelou. It should be a creative reflection of your inner world. In that way it will be “original” writing.
c. Write with integrity. The same technological advances that make publishing easily accessible to you, make it equally easy to cheat at your writing. If you’re so hungry for writing success that you’ll do anything, or if you’re too lazy a writer to put the work in yourself, you can plagiarise (copy) someone else’s work. Just remember: with access to free on-line plagiarism checkers, you will eventually be caught. Rather choose to become a writer who prides his/herself on having integrity, even when no-one else is watching.
d.Once you’ve written THE END, the real writing work begins. Now you must revise and edit your story.
· Do you have plot holes in your story arc?
· Are your character arcs complete?
· Have you adequately foreshadowed the climax of your story?
· Have you corrected your spelling and grammatical errors to the best of your ability? You could try a free grammar checker such as Ginger or buy one such as Grammarly.
· Have you checked for typing errors and “flabby” writing?
· Have you said what you really want to say?
· Have you chosen a book title that is appealing and relevant?
e. Show your baby off – let someone else read it and give you fair but honest feedback.
· Have you established a beta reader relationship with a writing friend or joined a critique circle?
· If not, find an on-line critique group that caters for writers at different levels and actively participate.
· You can learn as much about writing by constructively reviewing someone else’s work as you can by writing your own.
· Be considerate – only submit your manuscript when you’ve already edited it into a readable state.
· The more times you submit the same manuscript, the less feedback you’ll get.
· If you don’t have time to review other group member’s submissions, don’t expect them to find time to review yours.
f. While your manuscript doesn’t have to be perfect, it must be polished.
· Is your manuscript of a professional standard?
· Does it still need professional editing?
· You can have a line, copy or content edit, or all three. This will cost money, but it’s one of the three critical steps in ensuring that your completed book is a professional product that readers will want to buy (I’ll discuss the other two critical steps, formatting and cover design in Part 2 of this series)
· Make sure you find a reputable and professional editor one that gives good value for money. That means, an editor who is good enough to offer constructive criticism while still respecting your unique creative vision.
g. Your final (and optional) step in writing your book is to add more elements to the body of the book.
· You will need to give some thought to including some, or all, of a title page, a copyright page, a dedication, an epigraph page, a list of contents, an acknowledgements page, and an author page letting readers know a little about you and where they can find you on the web.
· If you’re writing a non-fiction book, you may also need to consider including a list of illustrations, a list of tables, a preface and a forward.
· In eBooks, especially fiction, it’s best to include as much as you can after the text itself (as backmatter). Part of your marketing strategy (discussed in Part 3 of this series) will be to offer free samples to readers to entice them to buy your book. While these pages give your book a professional layer, if the free sample consists of everything but the text, chances are a new reader won’t be interested in buying it.
· Do you have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) included in your copyright page?
i. An ISBN is a unique numeric commercial book identifier number.
ii. You can choose to publish your eBook without an ISBN, but having an ISBN is an essential requirement for inclusion in the catalogues of some on-line booksellers, such as Apple iBooks.
iii. Some eBook publishers/distributors such as Amazon and Draft2Digital do provide an ISBN service, but then their name will be reflected as the publisher. Unless you have your own publishing imprint, this could be the option that suits your preferred needs.
iv. If you live in South Africa and want to publish your books through your own publishing imprint, you can apply for a free ISBN from the National Library of South Africa. You will, however, have to provide free copies of the books to the national legal depositories, details of which are provided when the ISBN is issued.
When you’re finally happy that your manuscript is of the highest possible quality, you’re ready to move onto the next step, Establishing your Author Brand.
We’ll discuss that in Part 2 of the series.
You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 2 here
You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 3 here