Five Publishing Secrets

by Val Tobin

I’m one lucky indie author.

When I wrote my first novel, I spoke to already-published authors, and the advice they gave me saved me time, money, and embarrassment. I’m always happy to save time and money and relieved when I’m spared embarrassment.

The following five tips will help you release your novel to the world with less pain:

A Professional Cover that Looks Great

Some authors can create spectacular covers for their magnum opus and no one would know they did it themselves. If you’re not a graphics guru (I’m not), then hire a good cover designer. It’s worth the investment.

Before I finished my novel, I thought about a cover. That readers judge books by their covers isn’t a secret—it’s an accepted fact. The secret you might not know when you’re starting out is that your cover will also have to look great as a thumbnail. Amazon and the other retailers will take that great big gorgeous cover of yours and shrink it down to the size of a postage stamp in results lists and ads. It still must look fabulous. Does it?

Beta Readers Who are Experts

I’d heard of beta readers before, but their importance in the writing process didn’t register until I’d completed the first draft of my first novel and needed to get feedback for it. I asked friends and family to read my manuscript and tell me where I went astray. In the process, I discovered a secret: sometimes you want feedback from experts and nothing says they have to read the whole story.

In The Experiencers, which is my first novel, I have a scene where two characters undergo hypnosis. I wanted to make sure the hypnotherapist in the scene came across as credible. I contacted an expert hypnotherapist, and, rather than asking him to read the entire book, I asked him to read that one scene. He agreed, I sent him the excerpt, and he provided valuable feedback.

I’ve since asked other experts to read snippets and received valuable feedback on my stories that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten if I’d only interviewed the experts. Some of the most surprising and minuscule details catch an expert’s attention and experts can provide inside information you’d never get from a book or website on the subject.

This is one of those tips that will save you embarrassment.

Enter Tax Information Relevant to Your Country for Income Tax and the IRS

If you live in the US, you have to abide by one set of tax rules and if you’re outside the US you have to abide by another while being aware of how the IRS expects you to accomplish this. I’m in Canada, a country that has a treaty with the US and, as of this writing, I provide my Canadian tax number, and Amazon and other US retailers don’t take income tax from my earnings. You need to provide the correct tax information to any distributor you work with, such as Amazon or Smashwords, so you get all the revenues to which you’re entitled.

The secret here is to make sure you read all the information current at the time you open your account with your distributor. I distribute through Amazon and Smashwords, while some authors use Draft2Digital.

Don’t let the taxman take more of your earnings than he’s entitled to. If you’re outside the US, provide the correct information, or you’ll have a headache dealing with the IRS to get the funds released to you. The best strategy for this is to read the information on the distributor’s site when you open your account and talk to other authors in your country to see how they did it.

When I opened my Smashwords and Amazon accounts, it was more complicated. I had to request a tax number from the IRS. Thankfully, a website I found had step-by-step instructions on how to do this with the least amount of hair-tearing. It took weeks from the time I submitted my form to the IRS for me to get the documentation, and you had to be anal about the way you entered the information or they’d reject your application and you’d have to redo it. It’s much simpler now, but you still have to make sure you enter all the information exactly as they want to see it.

Don’t Publish Prematurely

You’re eager to hit publish. You’ve reviewed the manuscript countless times. Beta readers enthused about the story. What’s left? Editing and proofreading.

The secret here is to know what type of editing you need and when to get it.

I’ve read repeatedly that the biggest mistake most indies make and one that they regret the most is hitting “Publish” too soon. One way to ensure you’ve created the best product readers will love is to hire a professional editor at the correct time in the process.

If you need help with high-level developmental editing, you’d bring the editor in earlier so he/she can evaluate the story at the macro level before any line editing or proofreading is done. Line editing comes next, which will examine the style, sentence structure, word use etc. Proofreading would be done last because it’s done at the micro-level. It catches typos, spelling and punctuation errors, and grammatical errors.

Can software such as ProWritingAid and Grammarly substitute for a professional editor? In my opinion, no. They can help you clean up your manuscript before you send it to your proofreader, but such software isn’t enough to put a professional polish on your manuscript. Even those who edit for a living hire editors for their books.

You can’t edit your own work because you don’t know what you don’t know. Most of the time, your brain skims right over mistakes you’ve made because you know what you meant. A savvy editor will catch embarrassing oopsies. My editor has saved me from such mistakes more than once.

Does this mean you have to spend thousands of dollars on editing? No. When you’re on a starving-artist budget, you can find ways to cut costs or establish a payment plan for editing. I found my editors through word-of-mouth referrals from other authors or from contacts I made online and in the industry.

Since I’ve been writing nonfiction for various online magazines since 2004, I made industry contacts over the years. Other authors will often happily recommend a decent editor. Or, if you read a book that’s edited well, check the acknowledgements. Authors always thank their editor for work done, and will sometimes include contact information for that editor. I provide links to my editors’ websites because I want my editors to thrive even if it means I have to adjust my release dates to accommodate their increasingly busy schedules.

Find a Local Printer

Amazon KDP Print is a great first option for printing your paperback books. However, if you don’t live in the US, you’ll want to find a local printer. The secret is that sourcing a local printer will help you sell your books to friends and family, at events and books signings, and at public speaking engagements.

It’s taken me years to find a printer that costs me less than I’d pay by ordering from Amazon, but I’ve finally done it. I’m excited about this, because the exchange rate on the Canadian dollar sucks right now, making buying author copies from Amazon expensive, which then forces me to charge higher prices on my paperbacks just to make a dollar or two.

Some authors I know use Ingram and are happy with it while others aren’t. Search for a printer in your area. You might find you can get paperback copies of your books at a much lower price than you’d get by ordering from Amazon or Ingram. You can even save shipping costs by picking up the order yourself, and not all printers demand you buy hundreds of copies to get the unit cost down to a reasonable level.

These secrets will help you get your work out there with less stress and with a better product. I hope you have a smooth and happy publishing experience.

About Val Tobin

From Newmarket, Ontario author Val Tobin studied general arts at the University of Waterloo, then went to DeVry Toronto to get a diploma in Computer Information Systems. She worked in the computer industry as a software and web application developer for over ten years, during which she started to get serious about energy work and parapsychology.

In October 2004, Val became a certified Reiki Master/Teacher. She acquired ATP® certification in March 2008, in Kona, Hawaii from Doreen Virtue, PhD Val received a bachelor of science in parapsychic science from the American Institute of Holistic Theology in September 2010. She subsequently obtained her master’s degree in parapsychology at AIHT.

Val wrote freelance and did editing work for online tech magazine Community MX. She also wrote for Suite101 and was Topic Editor for Paganism/Wicca and Webmaster Resources at Suite. A published author, she contributed a story to Doreen Virtue’s Hay House book Angel Words. Her books are available on Smashwords, Amazon, and from other retailers in both e-book and paperback. Her newest release, The Hunted, will be available on pre-order at Amazon in August 2019.






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