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Tips for self publishing online

Self publishing online is the easiest, most hassle-free form of all the indie publishing options. All it requires is words and webspace. It’s also the least easy format to monetize. Most people don’t consider information just on a website worth paying for. Even just formatting something to an ebook makes it more attractive as an item for sale.

Web surfers are used to getting most of their online content for free. Most often people who publish their work online are either sharing their work as a hobby, or are working to build a platform, but aren’t looking to make money directly from publishing it online. There are of course e-zines and other online places that pay for fiction and non-fiction alike, but most of these places have established reader bases.

It’s next to impossible to get someone to pay to come read your website when no one has ever heard of it, or you before. The most you can do in this area is put up a donation button and hope a few people contribute, but you’ll need to build a lot of traffic for this to ever become financially attractive.

If you are looking to monetize in more than a donation way, here are a few suggestions: You can use it to interest readers in other work you have in other formats, ebooks you have for sale, or print books. Or if you do other things besides just writing, you may have some merchandise you’re selling and the online fiction could be a freebie. Or you may find ways to monetize the site through things like affiliate links and google adsense.

Building Audience

The most common purpose for posting fiction directly online is to start to engage with an audience and build a reader base who might go on to read your other work. In practice I haven’t seen this work very well with most people though, so even though it’s very inexpensive and easy to do, weigh the pros and cons before investing the time in it.

Tips for self publishing online

If you want to promote yourself and your work, you might do better finding online places with large built-in audiences that let you post your fiction to their archives. Then you can link from your account profile to your site, where hopefully you’ll have something they can purchase, either a print book, or an e-book. Or if you don’t have any of those things yet, you can funnel traffic from your stories to a blog. You do have a blog, right?

Editing

Even if you’re posting work online for free, it’s still important that it be properly edited. Poorly edited work reflects badly on you, and indie publishing in general and won’t do you any favors when you’re later seeking sales for something else. Free work shouldn’t be inferior to something you’d charge for. Free work should be an enticement to buy something else of yours, but if the work isn’t great, it won’t be.

It’s understandable not to spend thousands of dollars for professional editing services for something you’re giving away online. But you still have to get the editing work done. And while many writers over time become very good at editing their own work, editing your own work should be the first step, not the final step before publication.

Peer editing should be used to clean up the work so it’s as good as it can possibly be. In addition to peer editing, there are several great pieces of editing software on the market. Software can’t catch everything, because it can’t think. But it can often catch a lot of things human beings miss. And human beings catch a lot that software misses. So use both whenever possible.

As an indie, no matter how you put your work out, people will expect it to suck and be poorly edited, it’s one of the most common complaints against self published work. So just don’t live into that stereotype. Make sure the work really is worthy of a larger audience before foisting it on one.

Graphics

Many people like to use graphics to enhance the work they post online. Either a graphical story/book banner, or an ebook cover, even though the format is online and not in a real ebook format. This is a judgment call, but weigh carefully if this is the right direction to go in. If you are talented in graphic design and used to making things like banners, or know someone who is talented in this area, go for it. But bear in mind that unattractive or cheesy graphics can push people away from your writing. So only use graphics if you know how to create good visual appeal that will enhance your work, or you have a graphics savvy friend.

I use GIMP for all my web design work. GIMP is free software that you can download and is popular among Linux geeks. I’m married to a Linux geek, so I got indoctrinated. A lot of people think that GIMP is the poor-man’s PhotoShop, but I would disagree. GIMP is a superior program for what it’s best suited for. And that’s web design. If you’re doing design work meant only for the web: websites, banners, ebook covers, then GIMP, in my opinion, is the best software. If you’re doing design for print, which requires CMYK color process, then you’ll want to use something like PhotoShop.

Distribution

If you put your work on your site, whatever your eventual goals from it, you’ll need to have a way to get people there. This isn’t “Field of Dreams.” If you build it, it most likely will just sit there. No one will come to your site unless you bring them. You might want to start a blog and comment on other people’s blogs and on forums to start to build your traffic. You’ll want to figure out where the readers of the stuff you write go, and go there too. Hang, make semi-intelligent comments, and a trickle will start. You’ll want to take advantage of social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace. And you’ll want to continue to research ways to interact with the online community to bring more readers to your site.

But the best advertisement for your work, is the work itself. If your writing is good, people who read it will tell others about it.