It’s the moment of truth: that second before your fingertip hits that key on your keyboard — some call it “the final button” — that will make your work, for better or worse, available to the public. There really is no other feeling quite like it; it’s a heady mixture of exhilaration and soul-crushing terror.
Pushing that final button is a monumental moment — a life-changing moment for some — but before you do the deed, there are five things that you had better be sure of:
1. Your work contains no grammatical errors
Spelling and punctuation errors in a self-published book are a quick and easy way to let readers and reviewers know that you either don’t care enough to clean up your work or that you don’t fully understand the English language. As a longtime reviewer, I can tell you this: I’ve never read a book that I’ve considered exceptional that has numerous grammatical errors. Never. This is the kiss of death for me as a reviewer (or, more appropriately, the kis of deth).
2. Your cover art looks professional
No matter the category (romance, horror, poetry, memoir, etc.), your cover art had better be as lovingly and meticulously produced as your own work. If readers aren’t instantly attracted to your cover art, there’s a very good chance that they will never read your work. I’ve seen unremarkable novels with eye-catching cover art become national bestsellers, and I’ve seen extraordinary novels with terrible covers come and go unnoticed. After all of the time you’ve put into your work — writing, revising, editing, etc. — you owe it to yourself to give your book the very best chance to succeed, and that’s getting your cover art professionally done by a graphic artist who understands the book business.
3. Have a plan
How are you going to promote your work? Do you have a presence in social media? A personal website? Have you scheduled interviews, arranged book reviews, tried to get features in magazines, newspapers and/or applicable websites, etc.? Yes, some of these promotional ideas cost money but there is so much that you can do for free with a little motivation, intelligence and determination. Think about it this way: You may have a great book with an amazing cover, but who is going to buy it if they don’t know about it?
Bottom line: You should have a detailed plan for how you want to promote your book before your work is published.
4. Make sure your work is finished
This may sound obvious, but here’s the thing: There are a lot of authors out there who find it hard (read: impossible) to finish a story and just walk away. It still isn’t really done although it’s been tweaked and revised dozens — if not hundreds — of times. Self-publishing, in this respect, is a blessing and a curse. You have no deadlines, so you can take your own sweet time and make sure you’re totally happy with the finished product. But when there is no fire under your butt, finishing your project can take forever!
I’m not telling you to rush; I’m telling you to make sure — in your own mind — that you’re absolutely, positively finished with a story, novel, memoir, etc. before pushing the button.
5. Ask yourself this simple question: “Is this the very best product that I can put out?”
If your answer isn’t an emphatic “Yes!” then you should definitely think twice about pushing that final button.
Paul Goat Allen has been reviewing books full-time for almost 20 years, including writing for BlueInk Review, a service devoted to reviewing self-published work exclusively. In addition to BlueInk Review, his work has appeared with BarnesandNoble.com, The Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and more. Readers of this blog are offered a $75 discount on a BlueInk review by using the discount code D7G2. (This in no way guarantees a review by Allen.)