Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Self-publishing opens up a world of opportunities for novelists. But as in independent author, how do you know your book is ready for prime time? Use this quick checklist of questions to see if your fictional story is ready for self publishing:
Question 1: Is your protagonist’s main characteristic apparent on page one?
Readers want to know upfront what kind of people they’re reading about. Is the main character insecure? Let your readers feel that insecurity in the first paragraph. Is your book about a curious young child who wanders away from home? Let us know immediately that she’s curious. The tension in the book will grow from a challenge to the character’s personality, so let’s get a clear idea of that personality from the get-go.
Question 2: Are you telling the readers what to think?
Readers are smart. They don’t need to be told what actions are good and which ones are bad. Let your characters perform the actions, face the consequences… and let your readers come to their own conclusions. How often is the word “should” in the story? How often does the narrator straight-out tell the readers your character is “mad” or “sad” or “happy”? Give the characters interesting challenges and let the reader make their own assessments.
Question 3: Is all of the major action “onstage” or “off stage”?
Perhaps you’ve written a scene where, over a cup of coffee, a woman tells her sister about a car accident. Why not, instead, write the car accident? Let the reader hear the exact words of the passengers, experience the sounds of the crunching metal, gasp at the surprise of the impact. Take the readers there, don’t tell them about it second-hand. In Shakespeare’s plays, the battles often take place offstage then the characters come on stage and talk about them. That’s because it was (and still is) difficult to perform a large, elaborate fight on a small stage. But your book has no such physical limits. Just take us there.
Question 4: Do you repeat what the reader already knows?
Trust that your readers will remember the important plot points and character descriptions. Before you self-publish, ask a trusted friend to read through your story and indicate with a short note such as “I know” wherever information is repeated. In mysteries, for example, the sleuth may need to summarize the situation when bringing a new character up to speed. Indicate that the sleuth updated the new character, but don’t tell the readers the whole story again.
If you ask yourself these four questions before you self-publish, you may make your book stronger and more appealing to readers. The more your readers admire your work, the more likely they are to spread the word about you. This checklist is by no means exhaustive.
What other questions would you add to a checklist for self-publishing authors? Feel free to add to this list in the comments below.