Preparing Your Novel for Self-Publishing

Sophie Playle

If you want to self-publish your novel, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to think like a business owner.

Why? Because publishing is a business – if your goal is to make money from your writing.

Once you’ve finished writing your book, you have to shift your mindset. Instead of thinking about your novel as a piece of art, you have to start seeing it as a product. It still is a piece of art, of course, but when you have your publisher hat on (metaphorical or physical – that’s up to you), your novel becomes a product that needs to be sold.

I know that sounds a bit icky, but that’s the reality we’re living in!

In order for something to sell, it has to be of a certain quality. It has to be good enough to compete in a professional marketplace. As well as that, readers deserve a quality product if they’re parting with their hard-earned cash. As a self-publisher, quality control is now up to you.

Writing ‘The End’ is not the end!

In an ideal world, the self-publishing route would go something like this:

  1. You finish your novel to the best of your ability.
  2. You send your manuscript to beta readers to get general feedback.
  3. If it becomes apparent that the foundations of your novel (plot, characterisation, pacing, theme, etc.) need more work, you send your manuscript to a professional developmental editor.
  4. You redraft based on the feedback until the foundations of the book are solid.
  5. You send your novel to a professional line and copy-editor. This may or may not be the same editor as before, depending on the services they offer.
  6. You address any issues the line and copy-editor raises, and go through the manuscript to check you’re happy with the edits.
  7. You hire a professional typesetter or book designer to create the interior of your book. Who you chose will depend on whether you’re planning to publish hardcopies or as an ebook (or both). Both types of designing require different skills.
  8. Around this time, you also hire a professional book cover designer. This might be the same company that typeset your book.
  9. Once you’ve had the book’s interior designed, you send it for proofreading. Again, this may not be with the same editorial professional as before, but I recommend you go with someone new so a fresh pair of eyes is looking at your work.
  10. You address the issues raised by the proofreader, and your novel is ready to be published.

As I said, this is in an ideal world. In reality, this process can be extremely expensive. There are certain steps in the process you could handle yourself, depending on your skills and network.

Working with a budget

Instead of hiring a developmental editor, you might have a great network of beta readers who can help you get the foundations just right – or you might decide to enrol in a novel writing course. Instead of hiring a designer, you might be a graphic designer by trade, in which case you might be able to design your own cover (though you’ll need to understand the psychology of cover design).

Keep in mind that if you don’t have a decent cover design, you might as well burn your manuscript now because very few people will decide to buy your novel if it doesn’t look the part.

In general, though, I would always recommend you hire a professional line and copy-editor. Line and copy-editing will make sure your sentences are polished, correct and flow beautifully – and your editor will correct grammar and punctuation errors and catches most typos, too.

For more money-saving thoughts, take a look at: Working Out Your Budget and Earnings as a Self-Publisher.

Sophie Playleis a professional fiction editor. She specialises in developmental editing, critiquing and copy-editing, and loves working with authors and publishers who are passionate about high-quality storytelling. Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction and literary fiction are her genres of choice. She's an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and has a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, University of London. Find out more:

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