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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Widdowson

Getting Ready to Self-Publish

Updated: 6 days ago

Post-its on laptop with phone

If you’ve been reading my Author Anthropology blogs, you know that the last one ended with me finishing the second draft of my first book, The RH Factor, after participating in both NaNoWriMo in November 2020 and their Now What?  event in January 2021, now I was ready to self-publish!

I had an OK draft. But it still needed a lot of work. I spent the next three months tweaking, re-writing, deleting and editing until I had what I thought was a finished book. I was beyond excited! But I had read it so many times I couldn’t see the errors anymore. Writer blindness. That’s what I call it. As I read, my brain automatically filled in all the missing words, corrected all the grammatical errors, and fixed any timeline issues. I needed fresh eyes.

I hit up my best friends and closest family members and asked them to be alpha readers—to read my book and give me feedback. I wanted them to point out grammatical errors, missing words, wrong punctuation, problems with the storyline—anything they could find that needed fixing. They graciously agreed to do so, and once they started reading, the feedback came pouring in. Honestly, I was shocked at how many errors were still in the book! How could I miss so many of them in my own proof-reading? It’s amazing how many mistakes your brain will glaze over and just keep on reading without missing a beat.

A lot of my errors were missing commas. I admit it had been a long time since I had taken a grammar class. I did, of course, check things I questioned while I was editing the book, but it’s hard to look things up and make sure they’re right if you don’t recognize they’re wrong in the first place. So I dug into grammatical articles and books and reminded myself about the proper use of commas. I had forgotten a lot! There are still times when I have to go back and check myself when I write today. I tend to put in fewer commas than grammatical rules suggest.

Some of my other problems were using the wrong word. For example, instead of their, I used they’re. This is another brain problem (in my opinion). The words sound exactly alike. So when I’m typing, and I’m on a roll, sometimes my brain just shifts to the first phonetically correct word it thinks of. My readers found several places where I mistakenly used a homophone—its instead of it’s; to instead of too; your instead of you’re. You get the picture.

After the alpha readers finished, I made the recommended changes and corrections and then re-read it again and found a few of my own to fix. Then I sent it to three more readers, which I’ll call my beta readers. They found a few more problems, but the number was much less.

Luckily, it wasn’t terrible. After getting feedback from both my alpha and beta readers, I read through it myself one more time and found a few small things to fix, but nothing major. I knew I should hire an editor. But I’m cheap. Since I did not expect to get rich from the publication of my book, it was hard to justify spending hundreds or maybe even thousands of dollars on a professional editor. So, I didn’t.

It was almost time to publish! But first, I needed a cover for both the paperback and the e-book version of my book. I needed a synopsis for Amazon. I needed an author bio, and an acknowledgements and thank you section for the back of my book. Again, I probably should have hired a professional to create my cover, but see my I’m cheap comment above. I thought, I’m an artist. Surely I can create a dang book cover!

Since The RH Factor is set mainly in the Snoqualmie, Washington area, I knew I wanted the book cover to reflect the feeling of the Pacific Northwest. I went online and looked at the covers of best-selling books and noticed that many of them have vague images in the background with large titles and author names in the foreground. I decided that was the way to go and chose a picture of a forest to use as my background picture. And since a hypodermic needle plays a part in more than one part of the story, I put that on the cover too. It was simple, but I liked it. Would a professional have made something better? Probably. But I went with it, anyway.

I created the cover with my ancient version of Photoshop (CS6) using the template provided by the Kindle Direct Publishing site. If you’ve never heard of it, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is the self-publishing arm of Amazon. As a writer, that’s where I go to learn all about how to self-publish my book on Amazon. Once you plug in your paperback size choice (I chose 6x9) and the number of pages in your book, KDP provides you with a template so that when you create your cover, it will meet their guidelines. If your cover doesn’t fit in their template, when you submit it, they will spit it back out at you and tell you to do it again.

With the cover done, I got to work writing the synopsis, my thank-yous, acknowledgements, author bios, etc. That took a while. I wanted the synopsis to be enticing enough for potential readers to want to buy my book, but I didn’t want to give away the inciting incident—the thing that really got the book going. I hate it when book synopses reveal too much. Please don’t tell me, before I even start reading, who is going to die. I want to be surprised. It's hard to sum up an entire book in just a few sentences, make it sound inviting, but not give too much away!

The book is written, the cover design is finished and fits in the KDP template, and all the supporting text for the book is completed. It’s time to publish! But first, I have to export my book from the writing application I use to write my books, Scrivener, into both paperback-friendly and an e-book-friendly formats.

For those who have never heard of or used Scrivener, it’s a lot like Photoshop. Well, it's a writing tool, not a graphic-design application. But it's similar in that it is extremely robust with a ton of things you can do with it if you know about them. But if you’re trying to do something new (this was my first time using the export command) it can be complicated. After multiple days of experimentation, breaking down and reading the manual, tweaking my settings, and re-exporting, I finally got the output to look the way I wanted—I thought!

Tune into my upcoming blog to hear what happened next. Ah, the trials and tribulations of a first-time self-published author.

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