Apparently we’ve all got a book inside us but if we only try the traditional publishing route, the saying that “many of us will die with the song still inside us” becomes true. Self-publishing remedies this, and has opened the door for many more of us to share our stories without the pain of endless rejection letters (and in the often reported case of ‘Fifty Shades’, without a decent copy editor) but even then it can seem like a dark art. What platform should you use? How long does it take? In fact, how do you even get started?

As someone who has been through the process four times, and whose self-published work has led to stand up, speaking engagements and a tour of WI groups, I thought I’d share my top five insights followed by an invitation to join me at a workshop that will get you started in earnest. Let’s go:

1. Write about what you know – and love

So you want to write a book – but what will it be about? My initial list included a guide to freelancing, a children’s book, and a semi-autobiographical story about a group of teenagers. Each of these books were started, but only one was completed, and that was after I published Reasons to be Cheerful, Part One – a collection of essays on life, parenting and fighting with technology that started out on my blog, a place where I love to write. Writing a book is a long process – and you’ll need enthusiasm way beyond publication if you’re ever going to sell a copy.

2. Define your audience

You know how z-list celebrities end up with their ghost-written autobiographies taking up acres of space in WH Smith? How does this happen when they’re not even half as interesting / talented / charming as you?! It’s because they’ve already got an audience. You may not like Made in Chelsea but the publishers love the money in the pockets of the millions of people that tune in. The people that you know are the first people that will buy your book.

3. Bring in some professionals

Even traditionally published works come with the occasional spelling mistake (once you’ve hired someone to proof your work, you’ll spot them everywhere) – but this is not an excuse for you to put out a shabby piece of copy. If you want a book you can be proud of you’re going to need to invest in someone to check your spelling and grammar.

You also need to invest in someone to design the cover. There is no shame in self-publishing, but if you use a standard template for your cover then you may end up with a book you are ashamed of. Your words could be the most beautiful thing in the world but no-one loves an ugly book. Fact.

4. Decide on your platform

Approach it with a commercial hat on. If you want to keep your costs minimal then Amazon is a great place to start, I’ve used it for three books – including my most recent, ‘Reasons to be Cheerful Rides Again’. If you want a more tactile experience, or if you’re publishing something with pictures then try a local print house – I did this with ‘I Need a Wife‘ because it is a slim volume and I wanted to be precise about the colour and weight of the cover. If you need more help (and you have money to invest) then you could try a company that offers publishing services that will help you with everything from printing through to marketing such as Blurb.

5. Promote, promote, promote

I could have put this at the beginning. If you’re smart, you will have built up some anticipation about the fact that you’re going to publish a book. Telling people that you’re in the process of writing will keep you motivated to up your wordcount, and enable you to invite people to join you in the countdown to the big ‘ta-da’! If you’re going to put your words out there, then you need to feel comfortable promoting them. After all, by the end of the process you’ll have sweated, fretted and quite possibly invested a fair amount of money in making your book come to life. Use it as an excuse to celebrate and don’t be shy to ask people to buy a copy!

Still want to do it?

If this has motivated you to bring your story into the world, and you’d like to learn in detail what it takes to self-publish, come along to my workshop on 1st February 2019 – you can find full information and tickets here.

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