Pro Advice

Self Publishing: Three Things to Know

Now more than ever, aspiring authors have options when it comes to self-publishing their work. The popularity of e-readers and online publishing platforms offer writers a direct route to readers, and have brought a much needed credibility to a previously maligned method of getting your work out there. We caught up with Daniel Moye, a Course Director in the Digital Art & Design program and author of the self-published children’s book Big Bee, to talk tips for ensuring your book comes together easily and professionally.

Storyboarding can save you time and money.

More flexible than a traditional outline, Storyboarding offers several distinct advantages for an author looking to self-publish their work. First, it provides a visual overview of your story structure, making it simple to spot things like plot holes and weak transitions. It’s also a ward against unnecessary exposition, since the very nature of storyboarding breaks the plot down by scene. Second, it allows for you to plan for visual elements like illustration spreads, which can greatly affect the final cost of your book.

If you’re the kind of writer who plans out your plot in advance (and not everybody does), consider using sticky notes or index cards to build your storyboard. Write a defining event or plot point on each one, then arrange them to suit the needs and flow of the piece. Don’t worry about making each card perfect—the storyboard should be functional above all else.

“It doesn’t have to look fantastic,” says Daniel. “It just has to communicate your story and what you want to write about.”

Don’t go it alone.

Professional editorial services can be prohibitively expensive for a first time author, which is why it’s important to cultivate a writing community. In addition to offering moral support, willing friends and colleagues make for an excellent second set of eyes when it comes time to revise your manuscript. You don’t have to take every suggestion, but having others look over your work is one of the best ways to improve your writing.The same goes for reading the work of others. Being a good literary citizen means providing feedback to those who have provided it for you, and being a good writer means taking note of the things your contemporaries have gotten right.

“When we talk about developing a network, we don’t just mean the people you’re selling to or who want to hire you,” says Daniel. “We’re talking about a network of trusted readers to give you feedback.”

Once you’ve gathered feedback from your peers, it’s time to go back through your manuscript and revise. Be brutal. Eliminate redundancies, overwrought prose, and any plot points that don’t serve the story.

“Let your story evolve and grow,” says Daniel. “It may take some time, but editing and proofing can mean the difference between an amateur offering and one that’s more professional.”

Design from the inside out.

Once you’ve written and revised your story, it’s time to pull everything together into a finished product.

Start with the inside pages first, says Daniel, because the thickness of your book will dictate the design parameters of your cover. Fonts should be readable and not distract from the content of the story.

When designing a cover, consider keeping things minimal. “When I first started, I was thinking about how my book might look on a shelf at a bookstore. Now, my philosophy has changed. People are much more likely to be browsing your book online, where it’s going to be represented by a tiny thumbnail image. They won’t be able to make out tiny details, so a bolder and simpler design is better.”

If you don’t have a design background, that’s okay. Many print-on-demand companies offer simple, web-based tools to help you build your book. An alternative to traditional printers (who often require a minimum order of 50 or more books), companies like Lulu or Blurb allow readers to purchase single copies directly, eliminating the need for authors to purchase, market, and ship out each and every copy they sell. Most print-on-demand companies offer e-book options as well, and will provide authors with suggested retail prices based on different formats.

Ultimately, Daniel views self- publishing as a way for authors to exercise better control over aspects of their own work—including rights, marketing, quality, and pricing. He also sees it as the fastest way to connect writers with readers.

“I know a lot of people who are wonderful storytellers, and their manuscripts just sitting on a hard drive,” he says. “I want those people to know that it’s easier than they think to publish their work. With just a little bit of work—as little as a few weekends worth— you can get your story out into the world.”

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