Getting your writing out there: Tips and tricks to self-publishing

By Caitlyn McCrea |

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Author Christina Benjamin holding her self-published middle grade book series The Geneva Project

What happens when authors are unable to traditionally publish their books? Many try and try again, sending out query after query to literary agent. Authors will try to get their writings into journals and reviews, such as Flagler College’s FLARE: The Flagler Review, or they will try to branch out to editors directly in the hopes that their book will land in the right person’s hands, ultimately leading to traditional publishing.

However, when rejected a great number of authors are deciding to take a different, more immediate route in getting their books out to the public.

Self-publishing has become one of the fastest growing industries in the book world. Authors with unanswered queries and rejected manuscripts are often opting to instead self-publish their own work. Having been in close contact with two local self-published authors this year, I realized a lot of hard work and dedication goes into publishing alone. Authors have to design, market, and sell their own book, and often it is double the amount to print a paper book than it is to upload the manuscript on an electronic source, such as kindle or nook.

Sounds like quick cash: write a book, either get a book deal or self-publish, and make millions. But from watching two successful local authors struggle to get published the traditional way, there is a lot more that goes into triumphantly writing and selling a book to readers than that formula states.

Christina Benjamin, author of middle grade series The Geneva Project, and Nancy Quackenbush, author of children’s picture book The Rocket Ship Bed Trip, — both award-winning authors local to St. Augustine — have provided me with five tips for writers who are thinking about self-publishing to get their words read:

1) The author platform is so important and it takes a long time to build so even if you’re just thinking about starting to write your first book, you can begin building your platform now. Start social media pages like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that are dedicated to you the “author.” It helps you gain follows that will eventually become fans because they’ve enjoyed being a part of your writing journey.

2) BETA readers are so valuable. Pick a core group of about five. Make sure they are well read in your genre. They can help you before you send your book to an editor to see if there are holes in your story, if any parts are confusing, lacking, too slow or too fast. Type up a list of questions for them to answer after they have read your work, and if they all have the same opinion about a certain scene, it might be worth revisiting.

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Author N. Jane Quackenbush and two students holding self-published picture book The Rocket Ship Bed Trip

3) While your book is going through the final editing stage (we’re talking mainly proofreading, no big plot changes) send out ARC’s (advanced review copy) to some bloggers, friends and family for reviews. It’ll give you some reviews you can include while marketing the book.

4) Mailing lists are vital. When you find people who have an interest in your writing, you want to get their email so you can continue to build a reader relationship with them. Tell them about upcoming releases, events where you might be speaking or signing, sales or promotions, host giveaways, have them help you vote on your next title, name a character, or anything fun for readers. Be cautious not to bombard your mailing list though, only about 4-5 times a year.

5) Have fun with all of this. If you just read this list and thought, ‘I haven’t done any of these things yet,’ “Don’t stress out,” Benjamin says. “For me, the best part about writing is that I love it.” Quackenbush adds, “Don’t write because you want to become famous or because you want to write the next big blockbuster. Write because you love it, because you can’t help it, and your reward will come.”

Both authors emphasis that although at times it can seem like there are a million new ways emerging for you to promote yourself and your books, it’s important to remember why you write and to celebrate your love for it. When you finish a milestone, celebrate that. When you get a good review, do a happy dance. Don’t take it all too seriously and enjoy the little victories as they come.

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