Friday, 6 February 2015

Steps to self-publishing the Alliance Series!

When I first thought of the idea for the Alliance series, I didn’t immediately commit to self-publishing. I tend to wait until I have at least a finished first draft before I even think about the publishing path, purely because thinking about publishing can mess with my concentration on the actual writing! But this was a story that demanded to be told, and I decided to label it a "sanity project" (as I was in the query trenches with another manuscript). I was going to write the book as if no one would ever see it, and have as much fun with it as possible.

Even though I had more than enough other projects to be getting on with, I ended up putting most of those aside to plan this series. I decided that six books would probably be the right number – enough to fully develop the overarching character and plot arcs. I also did the background planning and research for the characters and the worlds featured in the series, and put all this information in a Scrivener file. I then wrote outlines for each book in the series.  I now have a general outline I use for all my books (more of a structure guide as my stories are plot-focused, but I also like there to be leeway in case the characters decide to be disobedient. See my post about planning a series!)

Then I drafted the first book. By the time I reached the halfway point, I knew my instincts were right - I honestly can't remember having so much fun writing a book! I lived and breathed the story for the 24 days I was drafting it. And when I finished, I immediately ran it through a self-edit and made a list of beta readers. I hesitated on making a proper self-publishing plan until I'd had confirmation from at least one person that it didn't suck, but the first responses to the book were so fantastic, I was blown away. Of course, I had a lot of editing to do. I went through three rounds of reader feedback, revising in between and polishing the book until it gleamed. But just in case…

I hired a professional freelance editor. Even if you have several rounds of fantastic beta readers, you want to make sure the book’s as error-free and polished as you can make it before publishing.

Meanwhile, I was also drafting the second book in the series and dealing with other things on the self-publishing plan list – including buying ISBNs, registering with Kindle Direct Publishing, Createspace, Smashwords and Kobo, and sorting out international tax forms. I'm publishing in paperback with Createspace, and in ebook format for Kindle, Kobo, and Smashwords (so my books will be available on Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc. You can upload to some of these sites directly, as I'm doing with Kobo, but as I'm in the UK, I have to send tax forms to every retailer to stop 30% of my royalties being withheld. Because I'm expecting most of my sales to be through Amazon, it didn't seem worth the extra hassle!). That means I have to create several versions of the same document, formatted correctly for each retailer. You can hire a professional to do this, but I decided it’d be worth my while to learn how to do it because I’m working on a limited budget. For ebooks, Scrivener allows you to export a file as an epub, which was a bit of a headache to get right, but this might be because I'm technologically incompetent. For paperback, Createspace has some excellent Word templates you can copy-paste your document into, after adding front/back matter, etc.

I hired a cover designer – another crucial step! Graphic designer extraordinaire I am not. Luckily, the fantastic Amy (who designed my Darkworld series covers) also does freelance graphic design work, and I hired her to help with my new series. I now have fantastic covers for the first three books and a novella, and I’m planning to contact her again later this year when I’ve finalised the cover ideas, titles and blurbs for Books 4-6.

I figured out my release plan, after finishing the draft of Nemesis (Alliance, #2) and starting the third book. Because the second book’s already written, there won’t be much of a delay between the first two books, and I’ve also written a novella to bridge the gap between the second and third novels in the series. I decided to fast-draft the rest of the series back-to-back to minimise continuity issues and make the editing smoother, which means I'll be able to publish books on a quicker schedule.

In December, I made the announcement! And I had a fantastic response - it was actually my second-most popular blog post in 2014 after only a few days!

I also worked on my “marketing plan”, which mostly consists of talking excitedly about my book and hoping it gets other people excited, too... I admit that marketing isn’t my forte. Well, I’ve read hundreds of articles on the subject, but most things I’ve tried over the past two years haven’t worked in practice (I don’t write in a popular genre, which might be why!).  I’m working from a marketing budget of zero, mainly because none of the paid marketing I’ve tried in the past has been worth the cost, and I’d rather save my cash for professional editing and cover design, and my time for writing the next book - which is the best marketing you can do! 

The things that have worked are newsletters and sales. I use social media, but I try not to post about my books too frequently unless it's a new release or there's a sale on. (And this does work, at least on Twitter.) I use Facebook mostly to let friends/family know what's going on, and Twitter and blogging to connect with other writers as well as readers. But it's because I enjoy it. I also use Instagram, Pinterest, Tsu and Tumblr, but I'm not as active on those sites.

I’ll have each title up for pre-order at least a month before release, and my newsletter subscribers will get sneak peeks at each cover, blurb and teasers at least a month before I reveal them publicly on the blog. On release day, I’ll send a release reminder to my newsletter subscribers and update my blog/website.

So, that’s my plan! Ultimately, my priority is putting out quality work, so I’m probably never going to be one of those writers who publishes a book every month or two - I just can’t write my best at that speed. But it's still faster than traditional publishing, and I fully intend to make the most of all the opportunities open to me as an indie author!


  1. Sounds like you've researched it well and are pretty well prepared. Best of luck with this journey!

  2. The process of self-publishing is definitely complicated! With traditional publishing, you're put through a lot of edits, but beta readers can still help. I can say there's no replacement for having a truly talented editor go through your work and find any inconsistencies or errors.

  3. Good luck with the book and series! Thanks for dropping by my blog on Blitz Day!