Rookie reflections: ready for take-off

What would you like me to say about the whole process of self-publishing your first book? That it’s a breeze, a moonlit stroll by the Seine, and that everything aligns itself in a seamless transition from a 300+ page manuscript to global product?

I’d love to, but I can’t. For the rookie indie writer some elements of the process are a massive headache, although, having gone through the pain, I am starting to look back on the whole procedure a little fondly already. I am yet to give birth, and I can’t say it’s particularly high on my checklist, but I imagine it’s a similar feeling.

So let’s not be negative. The self-publishing phenomenon – for that is what it is – is nothing if not liberating, and should be celebrated (although some combatants in the eye of the Hachette/Amazon storm may beg to differ). Truth be told, I gave up sending my manuscript to agents because, despite their positive comments, I always knew deep down it would never happen. I’m not famous, I don’t own a five-star restaurant, and I haven’t slept with a footballer. The deck is stacked – you just have to deal with it.

jumboAnyway, I thought the most useful thing I could do, rather than rant about the problems you might encounter, would be to break down everything into smaller pieces, telling you what I found to be positive and what was negative, and offer up a few tips on what to do or where to find help. Most of the issues for me came from a lack of knowledge, which, looking back, was inevitable. For example, I’ve never had to get an ebook formatted before, never had to phone up another country’s tax organisation to try to get an ID number, and I’m sure a lot of you won’t have done so either. It’s no reason to beat yourself up. If someone were to sit me in the cockpit of a jumbo jet for the first time, chances are I’d need a couple of lessons before being able to take everyone off on their holidays.

I know I’m always banging on about the supportive writing community, but when, for example, you’re trying to format section breaks in a Word document and it simply won’t do as it’s told – and I don’t mean once or twice – it’s comforting to know that not only are other writers losing their sanity over the same problem, but that the cavalry is mounted up, boots polished, and ready to charge in.

So watch this space for further posts. I’d love to start right now, but I’m at the tail end of a half-decent black Americano at London’s Waterloo Station, and about to head off to a work assignment. It’s early, my engine is barely running let alone in gear, so you wouldn’t appreciate the results. As with getting a book into the hands of readers, there’s no point in just winging it.

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