Chuck Wendig has done it again - dropped a huge dose of reality into my lap.
His blog today is '25 steps to becoming a self-published author', and if you're a regular reader of Squidge's Scribbles, you know it's something I've been toying with, particularly for Granny Rainbow, but also because of Rurik.
I'm right with Chuck when he says 'get an editor'. No-one - and I really mean no-one - can look at their own writing and see all the mistakes and glitches they've missed. (And I'm not just talking about spelling mistakes here - I'm talking head-hops, plot holes, unnecessary info, strange phrases...) Hopefully, given time and experience, there will be less to spot, but there will always be something. I learnt such a lot from professional editing of my novels - in most cases by the editrix herself, Debi Alper, (via Writer's Workshop) but also through beta readers, my trusted author friends.
Still with Chuck on the subject of book cover design. Make it good, peeps! And make sure the standard of your content matches that of the super-duper cover. But don't be tempted to cobble something together yourself if you don't have the skills - use friends who are graphic designers or pay for concepts. Personally, I like the covers of series where colour or images link the different stories, rather than detailed images. A simple concept, but it can still make the series instantly recognisable. In my dreams, Rurik's story will be published as five separate books; all the covers will have five interlocked silver rings on them, set within a black circle on a different plain coloured background, where the colour represents the region where that particular story takes place...
There was one thing that really got me thinking, especially if I do go ahead and plunge into the murky waters of self-publishing. Chuck wrote (with a couple of tweaks by me to keep it clean!) 'Target readers. They’re your gatekeeper now. Don’t build an audience: earn your audience. Find where they are and talk to them — not above them as if on some platform but among them because you are them. (The best writers are also readers, after all.) Get a website. Let that be your central space. Use social media to talk to people, not at people... Stand out. Be the best version of yourself. Try lots of things. Don’t be a jerk.'
It made me realise that it's not enough just to say 'I write for children' and expect the books to wing their way into eager pre-pubescent hands. (Anyone who's ever been into a school to listen to kids read will know that there are lots of reluctant readers out there - the Wii or PlayStation is a much more appealing prospect for entertainment.)
Children need to be exposed to stories - and the age range I write for, 8-12 years, is possibly in that awkward gap where parents are still buying most of the books for their kids - but the kids are starting to realise what kind of thing they really, REALLY want to read. (I'm not a big fan of action books, for example. My son and daughter were 9 and 11 when they got heavily into young James Bond and the Power of Five etc etc. All my suggestions about trying a nice classic, or a fantasy for a change, went out the window.)
This means I'd have to earn two different audiences: adults and kids. Adults might set a load of store by reviews and recommendations, but kids will want to hear/read the stories for themselves, so that could mean a whole load of school/library visits.
Interesting - and probably the part of the self-pubbing process which needs much more thought on my part. Made me wonder - if you were to self-pub your work, which part would you have to really think about?