(Relatively) Quick Guide to Self-Publishing

So guys, I’m planning to publish my fourth ebook one month from now, and I thought I’d try telling you all how I got here.

Background

I’ve been writing daily since I was a kid, but I only really “went pro”—meaning that, regardless of how much money I made, I considered myself a professional—after I graduated from college. I’m 26 now, I’ve published three ebooks on amazon, which were downloaded about a thousand times total, though only about fifty of those downloads were actually paid.

I work as an ESL professor in South Korea (despite only having a BA), which is a great job for my fellow struggling writers, by the way, since it almost always gives me a few hours a day to write (breaking into the profession probably requires doing at least a year’s time as a glorified monkey in a public or private school, however), while I can also live as a member of the middle class and provide virtually whatever my family needs. I’m married to a Korean woman and we have two very small kids together, which makes it easier to focus on writing than you would expect, since I know that almost the entire day will be devoted to my day job and raising the chilluns’.

The only drawback is that I have to live in Korea.

Resources

I’ve found several books, apps, and websites to be absolutely vital to publishing a book online:

Books

Websites / Apps

  • Writing on a computer would be impossible for me without Freedom, which turns off the internet for a certain period of time, and prevents you from turning it back on again.
  • Rainycafe provides background noise to help you focus. I love music but I think it’s too distracting.
  • Slickwrite is like a robot proofreader, chiefly useful for finding annoyances you might have otherwise missed (like too many adverbs or prepositional phrases).
  • Scribophile can get you some feedback on your work, but it usually took at least three weeks until people got around to editing my submissions, and I found it so taxing to edit other people’s stories that I wound up writing a lot of really negative criticism that I regret now. Eventually I gave up on it and deleted my account, but I may wind up going back.
  • Matt Gemmel’s Structuring Your Novel chart was also really helpful. I’m one of those Flaubert/Nabokov worshippers who only cares about style (to the extent that if a book has a flawless style, I’ll read it, period, even if the plot is totally random and meandering, even if I hate all the characters or don’t give a damn about them), but I’m living in a world of readers who think plot and character is way more important, so I’ve been working much harder to create a piece of fiction that makes a larger number of people happy, and actually after discovering the three-act structure I see it everywhere now. Thanks to Omid Mikhchi for showing this to me.
  • Voice Dream is almost as good as having someone read your story back to you. I use this app all the time.

Querying Agents

I queried almost a hundred of these people. Most didn’t even respond, a few dozen sent me form rejections, and a handful read partial excerpts and then rejected me or just never followed up. I mostly used AgentQuery and made sure to tailor my query letter to each agent, but it got to the point where I would just look at their profile pictures and imagine them shaking their heads at my idea and skipping to the next email, though in reality it was probably mostly lowly assistants doing the dirty work.

A few days ago I decided that I couldn’t send out any more queries, which is more or less how I (re)turned to the dark side. After so many rejections my hide had been toughened somewhat (I was only preoccupied for a few minutes, rather than for a few hours, upon receiving yet another email beginning with: “Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately…”), and I wanted to keep going until I reached a hundred, since there are other successful authors who have had to query that many people before finally breaking through, but it really seemed like my time could be better spent getting my book ready for amazon.com.

The Process

I wrote the book in MS Word on a MacBook Air over the course of two years, imported the file in Pages, fiddled with the formatting, and then used calibre to convert the .epub to a .mobi. Then I used an old public domain photo I discovered I don’t even know how long ago for the cover, which can be formatted with a title fairly easily in powerpoint and then resized online. It seems like there are only two rules for covers, but both of them are obviously broken as often as they’re followed: you should have a striking picture of a person, and the title should be really big. Picking a font was only slightly less maddening than trying to drag a building across a tarmac with my penis.

I fired up this new blog and started using twitter again in spite of my aversion to social media —I quit facebook I don’t even know how long ago, and I would rather not go back (even for an author page) if I can help it.

So what’s this current book about?

A cross-dressing Jew conquers medieval Korea.

Why did you write that shit?

I thought it would be an interesting challenge to see if a woman could triumph over men—as a woman (and not a queen or a princess)—in the medieval world.

Conclusion

Once again, I hope this description was helpful. I still need people to post reviews on amazon.com when the book comes out a month from now, so if any of you are willing to do so, I’d be happy to send the book over and also return the favor now or whenever you get around to publishing something (I’m also willing to write a review for you before you write one for me). Please email me at sublunari@gmail.com if you’re interested, and thanks for reading!