How many steps are there from writing a novel to self-publishing it? I’m sure the answer varies depending on your skill, writing process, and resources. For me, there are fifteen steps from the initial planning of the novel to publishing and marketing it. Some are easy, some are hard, and some cost money.
Step One: Outline the Novel
You can either outline your novel or wing it. Some people (called panters) enjoy the freedom of winging it. It can lead to some interesting surprises. I prefer outlining my novel. I generally already have a good idea of what I want to happen in my story and outlining helps me keep the story on track. You can make your outline as generic or as detailed as you want.
Step Two: Write the Novel
You can either try to perfect your novel in the first draft or write a rough draft and reach the goal of writing an entire novel. I write my entire novel during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which is in November. Since my story is written quickly, it is an extremely rough draft that probably shouldn’t be submitted to anyone for reading.
Step Three: Review/Rewrite the Novel
Whether you tried to perfect your novel in the first draft or wrote an extremely rough draft, you will want to give your novel a read-through and fix any issues you find before you submit it to people for reading.
Step Four: Get Feedback on the Novel
Find beta-readers or other writers who are willing to give you feedback on your novel. This is not always easy. You could end up with people who tend to always give good feedback for fear of hurting your feelings. You could get someone more focused on grammar or punctuation errors (which is okay but not needed yet). Or you could end up with people who give feedback that does not really apply to your style or preferences. If you’re lucky, though, you can get some insightful information that will help make your story better. I am currently in this step for The Dragon Emperor: Book Two of the Dragon Spawn Chronicles.
Step Five: Rewrite Again
The feedback you get in the previous step could point out issues you never thought of. Some of those issues could be small while others could be huge. Either way, it is likely you will need to do some rewriting.
Step Six: Hire a Development/Content Editor
I know this step can be pricy, but I would not recommend skipping it. You don’t know what you don’t know. A development editor can help you learn. Would you rather have a professional point out some serious story problems, or have readers so put off by your errors that they leave you negative reviews? You owe it to yourself and to your readers to have your work looked at by a professional. A development/content editor can help you find plot holes, make sure your writing style is consistent, point out places where the writing could be improved or clarified, and more. Take the time to find a development editor who knows your genre and whose editing methods you admire.
Step Seven: Rewrite Again
The newer you are at writing, the more a development editor is likely to find. But even experienced writers will have things they need to fix. We writers tend to be so close to our story that we forget to put some of the things in our head into the story.
Step Eight: Hire a Copy Editor
A copy editor will look for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Don’t hire this type of editor until you’re sure your story is as close to perfect as you can make it.
Step Nine: Polish the Novel
Fix the spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors of your story.
Step Ten: Market
There are several ways to market your book. There are too many to be covered in this post, so look for a follow-up post later. If you’re new to writing, you may want to start your marketing by building a social media following before you write. Twitter, for example, is a great place to find both aspiring and successful writers who are happy to support a new writer.
Step Eleven: Get a Book Cover
You can design your own or hire someone to do your book cover. If you design your own, make sure you do not take images from the internet without permission. Create your own images from scratch, look for images that are public domain, or buy images at a reasonable price from sites like 123rf.com or bigstock.com. If you hire someone, do your research and make sure the artist is not backlogged and knows how to format their work for self-publishing. Fiverr.com can be a good place to find someone.
Step Twelve: Format the Novel
You probably wrote your novel in Word, Google Docs, Scrivner, or other places. But just because you used these platforms doesn’t mean your document is ready to be uploaded to a self-publishing platform. You may need to format chapter headings, font types, spacing, indents, paragraphing, and even page numbers. Follow the instructions of the publishing platform carefully and be sure to do a review before you hit that publish button.
Step Thirteen: Self-Publish the Novel
Publish immediately or do a pre-publishing campaign.
Step Fourteen: Announce Your Novel to the World
Use all your social media and marketing platforms to announce your new novel.
Step Fifteen: Continue to Market
This is an ongoing process. Keep up with your social media sites and continue to market.
Does your head hurt from all this information? You thought writing would be easy, right? These steps can be daunting, but take it one at a time and you’ll do great!
Did I forget anything? If so, please feel free to comment below. And feel free to share your experience with any of these steps.