I am occasionally asked my advice about self-publishing. The writing part of it is universal: you have to put one keystroke down after the other, over and over, until you have a digital pile of words equaling a story. Or, if you have an analogue soul, you bleed out pens or bang out lettered shapes from the typewriter ribbon (if you don’t understand this part, you are too young. Work on that.) Use whatever metaphor you like, you have to write the damn story before you can do anything else.
Then you have to edit it. And edit it again. I’ve tried to edit as I go, with almost always disastrous results. Just don’t do that. Yes, you’ll have a jumbled mess after you pound out the last period of your narrative, but it will retain much, much more clarity if you take that tangled skein as a whole pile and then work at smoothing it all out. (BTW, I’m on a roll with imagery today!)
And then, here’s the thing: hire an editor. But…you’re a good editor, and you can just do it yourself and…nope. Hire one. Here’s why: you are too close. Stephen King says to kill your darlings, and this guy says “I’m just too close to love you,” and they are both right. You live with all these people, the villains and heroes and quirky neighbors who just show up for comic relief. They don’t want you to kill them, and, frankly, you don’t want to either. You need an impartial judge, one you pay to analyze and dissect the story, and then hold up a surgical tray laid out with quivering organs. Fix it, they tell you. Or throw it out.
But…your budget only allows for a killer digital book cover by this cool artist…well, yes, that’s important, too, but if you put a pretty cover on a shoddy story, it’s still shoddy.
An editor is the only thing I’ve spent money on in my self-publishing adventures. Mostly because I’m a broke artist, and I’ve had to prioritize ruthlessly. You can judge the quality of my book covers and marketing endeavors on your own time, but for now focus on the topic at hand. For my second book, I used Karen C. Armstrong, and I searched diligently to find her. Here’s why I chose Karen:
- She likes fantasy
- She has an excellent web presence
- Her rates were within my budget
Here’s why I recommend her for other independent writers:
- She’s professional and concise
- She’s fast
- See the first three bullet points
You’ll notice I placed her enjoyment of fantasy first. That’s not arbitrary; I put out a Craigslist ad for a freelance editor. I asked candidates to tell me whether they like fantasy (the ad stated outright that the work was an independent fantasy novella), and most responded with “meh.” One even told me outright they did not like fantasy, but would be willing to tolerate it. (!?) There is no greater crusher of creativity than “meh.” You need an editor who actually likes what you are writing about, one who will be in your fan camp solidly if your work is any good…and, if you get a good editor, it will be much closer.