Mark Evans’ skill set grew exponentially when he self-published his new novel to reach more readers.
Writing a book is hard work. Especially if you’re self-publishing it. I began mine in September 2014 and wrote almost every day until the following May, taking a break to welcome a baby daughter into the household and enjoy the summer, then hammered the keyboard again for another month in the autumn to finish the first draft. When I stopped I had a 122,000-word manuscript.
That was the easy bit.
The next phase of the book involved rewriting and revising. This is the time when established authors pass the muddled mess of Draft #1 to a team of editors and subeditors and let them do the dirty work, while the writer puts the kettle on and starts their next novel.
It is no exaggeration that self-published authors need to go through their manuscripts with a fine-tooth comb at least a dozen times. The more passes they make, the better the book becomes. I spent three months editing my book with the help of invaluable feedback from several beta readers.
Self-published authors work harder than professional writers because the majority of them have to hold down day jobs. They must balance scribbling with the trials and tribulations of family life. The results of their efforts may be different to those who write full-time, but the writing process is the same — they also tell their stories one word at a time. However, when the likes of Stephen King and JK Rowling finish their tales, they bypass the editing process and only embrace their books again at the marketing stage.
Writing, editing, and selling are the responsibilities of the amateur author too. To get noticed they must put immense effort into all three areas — and be lucky as well.
Thankfully, there’s lots of inspiration for wannabe authors hoping to write a blockbuster. Well-known writers — including Fifty Shades of Grey’s EL James — struggled to get their tales published by traditional means so they took the self-publishing route, even giving away their books for free to ensure they were read.
No doubt there are many aspiring writers out there who think they have a New York Times bestseller in them, a fantasy novel with more magic than Hogwarts, a sci-fi tome spanning galaxies far, far away, or even a saucy story with more steam than Christian Grey’s shower. Here are some words for you — do you want to be read or do you want to be rich? If you want to be read, do everything you can to get your story to the people who matter most: readers. Self-publishing offers you that route. Your book can be available in the biggest bookstore the world has ever known in a matter of hours, ready to be downloaded onto e-readers or printed on demand for those who savour the tangible quality of the physical book.
If you want to get rich, you can pin your hopes on some publishing editor falling in love with your story and championing it all the way to Hollywood. This is unlikely. If you self-publish and your book sells like popcorn then there could be a host of editors clambering over each other to sign you up. This is also unlikely, but at least your book will be read and not have spent a year in limbo.
Have faith in your story. Mine involves three teenage girls who each live in a different world: Alyssa is blind and lives in an alternate medieval England; Eva can’t speak and lives in modern-day New York; Verona uses a wheelchair on a space station orbiting a post-apocalyptic future Earth. All three are linked and must be drawn together to save all three worlds. I’ve lived and breathed my story for more than a year, so I know these characters as if they are real people. Writers hoping to conjure the beautiful magic trick of fiction — to make a reader engage in a plot and care for characters — must invest themselves in their story. If they don’t, why would anyone else?
Once you’ve produced the best book you can after the lengthy period of revision, it’s all about marketing.
Social media gives you a free and easy method of letting the world know what you’ve created. You won’t get any offers to sit across from Ryan Tubridy or Graham Norton and gush about your novel, but you will at least be able to notify more people than you can imagine, in more places than you know.
Make your book cover stand out by getting a professional designer to produce it. Think about putting a teaser trailer together and upload it to YouTube. Be inspired.
I don’t trust authors who say things like “I wrote my book over a long weekend when I was bored” and “never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my book would be this successful”. I’m sorry, but would you want to read a novel by a writer with such a limited imagination? There’s no fear of that here. I’ll be honest — my book took about a year of hard work to write and several months to edit and improve. Of course I imagined it becoming a bestseller.
But the bottom line is, like all self-published authors from debut scribblers to million-selling marvels, all I can do is hope readers engage with my words and enjoy the ride.
5 self-published novels that sold millions
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved