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Crabbit’s Tips for Writers 4: On Publishing Yourself

HERE IS THE FOURTH IN MY SERIES OF CRABBIT’S TIPS FOR WRITERS. You can either read it in the post below or you can go here and download the complete document and print it out. Enjoy!

[The original post can be found on Nicola’s blog Help! I Need a Publisher! – Ed]

My position: I have had many (around 90) books published by mainstream publishers of various sizes and I am also self-publishing. I do my own publishing through my Crabbit Publishing brand, through which I have published Tweet Right and republished my original debut novel from 2002, Mondays are Red. My next Crabbit Publishing title is Write a Great Synopsis. Why do I do both? Because I can and because I know that some things are best done by publishers and some are not. Every writer and every book is different. I think some writers are self-publishing very well and wisely, and others are not. Informed choice is key. Oh, and the ability to write . . .


1. Do not consider publishing something that is not the best it can be. Publication is not a rehearsal. Most published writers have unpublished work in their drawers and would not dream of publishing it. Be that writer.

2. Once you’ve decided to self-publish a book, get it properly edited. This means three stages: editing (the big picture: characters, pacing, structure, voice); copy-editing (inconsistencies, clunky sentences, continuity errors, wrong words, layout); proof-reading (typos, punctuation errors, more layout errors, inconsistent single/double/straight/curly quotes, widows and orphans, anything tiny.) A copy-editor can usually proofread, and vice-versa, so this could be combined. But you need at least two other pairs of eyes than your own. Expert ones, too.

3. Do not be in a hurry. Plan ahead and be patient.

4. Get a proper cover design from someone who understands KDP (Amazon) and other technical requirements. Remember that your cover will mostly be seen in thumbnail size – do not pack it with info because it won’t be seen.

5. Create a brilliant ‘product description’ – the equivalent of the back-cover copy.

6. Do not believe anyone who says you can just upload a word doc. Formatting is not as simple as people make out. Yes, it’s eminently possible to learn (as I did) how to do decent formatting of a simple nature. But tiny errors that you might easily miss (because they are invisible unless you see the html) can become huge uglies when converted to the format for a particular device. My advice is: get it done properly by paying someone or at least learn how to do it properly yourself.

7. Keep up-to-date with the possibilities and services available. It’s improving all the time, but there’s a lot of talk and hype that is not always true. My personal advice is to buy in individual skills rather than paying for a self-publishing package.

8. There are two books I highly recommend: Alison Baverstock’s The Naked Author and Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self-Printed. You do need them both as they contain different information and approaches. You will also find my own Write to be Published useful – it will help you understand publishing (which is what you are doing) and help you make your book as good as possible.

9. If you’re angry with the publishing industry for rejecting your book (if they did), don’t show it. It’s ugly. It’s pointless, and it does you no good at all. Grow up and just publish your book well. Your readers want your book, not your vitriol.

10. Obviously, be prepared to spend a lot of time marketing. One thing you’ll learn when you self-publish is that selling books is not easy. Really not easy. There are millions of books out there and you’re competing against them.

11. But don’t put people off with your self-promotion. There are some writers whose books I will never read because they jump up and down shouting about themselves all the time. I’ve had to block one from my Twitterfeed for her refusal to talk about anything more interesting than her book.

12. If you want to sell lots of books, you will have to join the online forums where people are talking about your genre. The forums are time-consuming, and can be frustrating or boring, and some of the people are there only to sell themselves. You won’t find me there often, and consequently I don’t sell vast numbers of books. However, I’m happy with the ones I sell. It’s a choice I/you have to make. I choose to do other things.

13. Don’t spend so much time marketing that you forget to write your next book.

14. The more books you produce (published or self-published), the more you’ll sell.

15. Beware of RSI from checking your KDP sales too often . . .

16. Manage your expectations. Most people are not selling thousands and thousands of books – that goes for self-publishers and publishers. Most are selling very modestly indeed and many are selling very few. Or none.

17. Pricing is crucial. My view is that an ebook should be significantly cheaper than its print version but I’m against over-cheapening, except for temporary promotions. But it’s up to you. Suck it and see – and change it when you want. But I can tell you that if you price too high, no one will buy. Especially for a newbie writer.

18. We could now be in the golden age for self-publishers, because it’s so easy to do. But selling is, as I say, not easy, and it’s likely to get harder as more people do it, especially more previously published, successful authors. In the end, quality will win, as readers will find ways of discerning the good stuff. Make sure yours is good stuff.

19. Quality is not a guarantee of success. In publishing, as well as self-publishing, great writing can fail to sell and crap can sell in shedloads. It’s life. Deal with it.

20. Understand publishing before you self-publish. You can’t do it better than publishers if you don’t even understand publishing.

21. Be yourself. There are many different ways of writing and many different ways of behaving as an author. Do and be what feels right to you.

22. But be nice. It’s a very under-rated quality. It’s got nothing to do with writing but everything to do with engaging with people. And that is what writers do, in their writing and in their life.


— Nicola Morgan

This article has been reproduced by kind permission of the author. Nicola’s writing can be found via Help! I Need a Publisher! and this article in particular can be found here.

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About Nicola Morgan

Nicola Morgan is author of around 90 books, blogger at Help! I Need a Publisher!, and author of Write to be Published and Tweet Right – The Sensible Person’s Guide to Twitter.

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