This is the Hardest Part of Self-Publishing Your Book

This is the Hardest Part of Self-Publishing Your Book

Linda is giving a lucky reader a copy of her new book, How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie. She’ll pick one commenter on this post at random after one week. (UPDATE: Congratulations to winner Karen!)

You know what’s really sweet about self-publishing?

You control everything.

There are no gatekeepers telling you what you can and can’t publish. No one telling you what to charge, and no one taking most of the money and giving you a paltry 15 percent royalty. No ten-month lag time between starting your book and seeing it published. And most important, no annoying editors and fact checkers correcting your writing and asking for endless revisions.

That’s the line the publishing “gurus” feed you, anyway. You know, those marketers who tell you you can achieve instant riches through self-publishing … and you can buy their course to learn how!

The reality is that creating a compelling, sellable book is most often a team effort.

What are the chances you’re good at every single aspect of publishing a book, from cover design to proofreading? (Hint: Pretty slim.)

I learned about the importance of outside feedback while working on my newest book, How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie.

Warning: Endless revisions ahead.

My first draft was awesome! Oh, wait…

I thought my first draft was great, and proudly sent it to my business partner, Diana. I was all ready to bask in her praise and then send the manuscript along to my 20 beta readers!

She tried to let me down gently.

Diana told me the Do-It-All Plan in my book wasn’t making sense. I shared too much personal information in some places and not enough in others. I used too many em-dashes and ellipses, my advice was too generic, and a lot of my tips required spending money.

And those were only a few of the issues she pointed out.

After Diana’s close eye, this excerpt:

Important note: You don’t have to get up early. I know every personal development book and article in the known universe says you must rise at 5 am if you want to not be a total loser. And somehow, people who go to bed at 1 am are seen as either lazy or workaholics, while those who get up in the wee hours are heaped with praise. Well, I say we D-I-A women all need to do what’s right for us. If you’re a night owl, try staying up a little later every night until you feel tired the next day, then move your bedtime back a bit.

Became this:

Important note: You don’t have to get up early. I know every personal development book and article in the known universe says only losers sleep past five a.m. and that people who go to bed at one a.m. are lazy or workaholics. Well, I say we D-I-A women all need to do what’s right for us. If you’re a night owl, try staying up a little later every night until you feel tired the next day, then move your bedtime back a bit.

But the second draft was fabulous, right?

I rewrote the entire book, printed out all 200- pages, and had my writer husband look it over.

He covered my manuscript with so much red ink it looked like he had sacrificed a goat on it.

He fixed typos, tightened up the copy, and helped the writing flow better.

Thanks to that awful red pen, this:

But we’re misled to believe we can’t or shouldn’t do it all, even if that’s what we really, really want. After all, doing — and caring about — lots of things can lead to (gasp!) stress.  

Became this:

But we’re misled to believe we can’t or shouldn’t do it all, even if that’s what we really want. After all, doing and caring about lots of things can lead to stress.  

Surely the third draft was ready to go! Umm…

I finally sent the manuscript to my 20 beta readers, and compiled all their insights.

Like these:

  • My jokes fell flat.
  • The Do-It-All Plan still wasn’t quite right.
  • The chapters were not in the correct order.
  • My intro was too braggy.
  • Some small chapters needed to be combined into bigger ones.
  • I swore too much.
  • And much, much more.

I went through the book and made it just about every change my beta readers suggested.

This:

The First Rule of the D-I-A Plan: You do not talk about the D-I-A Plan. Er, I mean, complete any Level of the D-I-A Desire and you are done with that Desire and it’s time to move on to the next one…unless you’re so inspired you want to go on to the next level right away! (And that’s actually the only rule, but I wanted to get in that Fight Club reference because I’m a dork.)

Became this:

In the D-I-A  Plan, you’ll be adding one Desire — one new goal, event, experience, skill, or accomplishment — to your life at a time. For each Desire you’ll be filling out the corresponding Desire Worksheet, and using the other Worksheets as instructed in the next chapter to help keep you motivated and on track. Once you’ve reached your Desire, you’ll then move on to the next one in the same way.

Now it was ready, right? Right?

Well, then I sent the book along to the proofreader I had hired.

He ended up being more of a developmental editor, and had a ton of good suggestions on making the subheads work, rearranging the chapters, and more.

He also mentioned I had more than 150 parenthetical asides that I thought were hilarious, but that actually distracted readers from the main message and made me come off as less than an expert.

I went through and made most of his changes, and when I printed out the resulting draft, I then had to clean up all of the new typos that had made their way in during the final editing process.

So this:

Go (back) to college. If the skill you want to pick up is more complicated than what you can learn by reading a book or taking a single class, or you want to go deeper into the subject or even turn it into a new career, consider going (back) to college or a trade school, or earning a certificate.

Became this:

Get schooled. If the skill you want to pick up is more complicated than what you can learn by reading a book or taking a single class, or you want to go deeper into the subject or even turn it into a new career, consider earning a college degree, attending a trade school, or earning a certificate.

It took me four weeks to write How to Do It All — and seven weeks to edit it.

I originally believed my first draft was perfect. After all, I’ve been writing full time for almost two decades!

But looking back after reading the final version, I can see that the original manuscript was a mess.

You may be looking at these examples of my edits and saying, “They got rid of all the personality!”

I thought the same at first.

But the edgy, humorous writing style I had been relying on became tiring in a 60,000-word book. Now, my personal style still shines through, but without the crutches of swear words, parenthetical asides, and lame jokes.

Don’t do it all alone

Writers are often blind to your own errors and the quirks of your writing.

You blip right over those phrases you tend to overuse. Passages that would confuse readers are completely clear to you, because you wrote them!

And of course we always miss typos, even if you rake over the copy 20 times with your own eyes.

It takes an outside perspective to make your writing as good as it can be.

Those marketers who tell you that you can churn out a book in a few hours, toss it onto Amazon, and create a sustainable income? They’re either lying, or have been unbelievably lucky with their own books.

Seek insight from others, and your writing — and sales — will be much stronger.

How much time have you spent on your own self-publishing journey? What advice would you give to an author just starting out?

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

Free Newsletter

Enjoyed that post? Subscribe for more:

Traveler and blogger Chris Guillebeau

Featured resource

Unconventional Guide to Publishing

Chris Guillebeau introduces the plan you need to finally share your book with the world. Make this your year of becoming an author.

85 comments

  • Barbara Higby says:

    How can an article that’s so refreshingly honest hurt so much? I edit for others and am free with my red pen, but, you’re right, I’m shocked when someone in my writers’ group does it to my “perfect” copy!

  • Julia says:

    Thank you. Just received the email from an editor with an eleven-page single spaced memo, and a red-lined copy of my novel. Need more be said? Cheers —

    • Linda Formichelli says:

      Aiaiai! I know how that is. But look at it this way — I’m thankful that my editor and beta readers caught problems before I sent the book to press, where i would have paying readers see all my snafus! 🙂

      Also, you should try writing for the major women’s magazines…you’ll get an 11-page report on all the revisions they want — for a 1,000 word article! (I’m exaggerating…but not by much.)

  • Dennis Michaels says:

    If find the hardest part is bringing all of my notes into a cohesive storyline!

    • S. gantress says:

      Notes are a wonderful thing. No ones’ memory is that good they can remember everything. Little things that happened that could fit a story make it more believable. Try to make the ending as much of a surprise to yourself as your readers.
      That’s where those little notes pop up1

    • Cheryl says:

      I feel the same way Dennis! I have notes on post-its, in binders, on my smartphone, on my computer everywhere! But I can’t seem to bring it all together to make a cohesive story.

      My confidence has hit rock bottom for several years now too. I wish I could find a treasure somewhere to restore my confidence at least…

      • Dennis Michaels says:

        Mornings seem to work for me!
        Most people are groggy at 6 am. I am also but some clarity takes over!
        It is lovely hearing from you!
        What do you write? Poetry, songs, novels?

      • Devin Sinclair says:

        Have you heard about Scrivener? I haven’t tried it yet, but from what I’ve seen it is a program that might help you tie your notes together.

        It looks pretty awesome, but I’ve seen things before that look awesome and the reality doesn’t meet expectations. Has anyone used it? Does anyone know if it is worth it?

  • Kim says:

    Great article, Linda. I’m considering self publishing so this found me at the right time.

  • Marie says:

    This reminds me of my first book translation. I thought I new how to write. It came back from the proofreader with so much red I couldn’t believe it. She was right in most cases (I did argue a few points, of course) and that’s where I learned there is a difference between writing and professional writing…

    I want to thank you so much for this post. A couple of years back, a friend of mine sent me her manuscript and I did what friends do: I pointed at the problems – just about as many as in your first manuscript, from what I understand above.

    Except that friend had another friend telling here the manuscript was good as is. She was furious and angry at me for a very long time. She still has resentment about this…

    I’m sending her this post in the hope she will understand…

    • Marie says:

      edit: I thought I knew

    • Trish O'Connor says:

      This is why friends and family often make better fans than editors!

      I hope your relationship recovers.

      Trish O’Connor
      Epiclesis Consulting LLC
      Freelance Editorial Services and Writer’s Resources
      epiclesisconsulting.com
      epiclesisconsulting.etsy.com

    • Linda Formichelli says:

      Oh, no! Though I do get it…some writers, when they ask friends for opinions on their writing, are just looking for a confidence boost. It doesn’t do much to improve their writing, however.

      I agree with Trish…unless you have a very thick skin to writing critiques (which I’m lucky enough to have :), don’t ask family and friends to comment on your work.

Speak Your Mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

ry-diplomer.com

www.ry-diplomer.com

np.com.ua