It is very exciting when that intention crystallizes in your mind: I want to publish my book online. This goal may be the product of weeks or months of careful consideration, or it could be a decision you’ve made on a whim.
I personally have followed both paths. Unexpected Royalty, the first novel I ever posted online (and the first novel I ever wrote, period) was completely impulsive. I had just a glimmer of an idea and ran full steam ahead from there. Several years later, I published my novels Viable and Vita and the Monsters of Moorhouse on Amazon, and eventually published the latter on Fictionate.Me as well. Months of thoughtful planning went into the writing, editing, and formatting of each of these books before they ever saw the light of day.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both routes. Preparation will help you produce a more polished novel, but taking the plunge right away does make it harder to talk yourself out of publication. Either way, if you want to create your book online, I should be able to provide some tips to make the process easier and less overwhelming.
When I first published my novel Unexpected Royalty on FictionPress.com as a teenager, I had no outline whatsoever. I had a few vague ideas of where I wanted the story to go—but mostly, I was totally winging it. By the end I had written over a thousand pages, much of which was made up of unnecessary dialogue and my main character meeting minor side characters we would never see again.
Every novel I’ve written since has followed an outline. And while the rough drafts still required plenty of editing (as most rough drafts do), they were far tighter than my first attempt had been. If you’re planning to publish your novel online as you write it, an outline is extremely useful. That sort of roadmap will help to keep your story moving at a brisk pace, which your readers will surely appreciate.
There are plenty of templates out there to help you with your outline. If you want to hear more about the specific outlining process that I’ve honed over time, click here.
I know that it can be tempting to dive right into posting as soon as you come up with your idea. As said, I’ve definitely done it. But experience has taught me that it’s good to give your story a bit of a test run before you run to share it with the world.
This means that you should take a stab at writing the first few chapters on your own. My usual process is to write the first chapter, take a break for a few weeks to gain some distance, then come back and write a few more. After another break, I’ll read through those chapters and consider whether or not this is really a story I want to commit to.
Posting your story online can be a very vulnerable experience. Ironing out those first few chapters before you begin will give you a foundation to work off of and increase your confidence moving forward.
One of the greatest things about publishing your book online is the sense of community. On sites like Wattpad and Fictionate.Me, readers can comment and bond with one another over their love of each story.
As a writer, it’s essential that you don’t wall yourself up within your own book. Before you even start posting, you should read some of the top-rated stories in your genre. This will help you to see what the site’s readers respond to—plus it’s always fun to read a great new story.
I would recommend commenting and/or leaving reviews as you read. If you want feedback, it’s important to give it as well. You may end up fostering some relationships with readers and writers along the way. If you’re lucky, some of them might stop by to read your story.
4) Develop a Thick Skin
As wonderful as the online self-publishing community can be, there are downsides as well. In my experience, the vast majority of readers are very kind and encouraging. But even if only one in every hundred commenters is a jerk, that is the one you won’t be able to get out of your head.
So you should be prepared to face some criticism going in. Sometimes the criticism can be constructive and will help you to make your story better. It’s very important to be open to that. And even when a reader is simply being cruel, just try to focus on everyone else who’s been kind and remember that it’s nothing personal.
There is definitely a learning curve to this, and I don’t think any writer is able to receive negative reviews without feeling something. Just remember to keep moving forward.
5) Have Fun!
Creating your book online is a vulnerable and scary process for sure. But you should remember that the vast majority of readers understand that a book being posted online is still a work in progress. So you shouldn’t set crazy high standards for yourself that will be impossible to meet.
As you post, try to focus on the joy of the experience. Not so long ago, the closest writers got to sharing their novels with the public as they wrote were serializing them in magazines. This was a privilege generally reserved for already established writers—and it certainly wasn’t as easy as clicking “Publish” on a website.
Publishing your novel online is a fantastic opportunity that deserves to be treasured. Hopefully, these tips will make the road ahead a bit easier and help you to make your work the best it can be. But don’t take things too seriously. Remember to have fun and enjoy the ride.
Author’s Bio: Jillian Karger was born in Ohio but has lived in and around New York City for over a decade. Since graduating from NYU in 2009, Jill has had a long string of jobs doing things like scouting books to be adapted for film and researching trivia questions for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”.
She has done freelance writing as well for sites like Cracked.com, and had her Twitter jokes featured on BuzzFeed and funnyordie.com. Jill has also self-published two novels on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Jillian-Karger/e/B07B894DNW).
Follow her blog posts about books and writing advice, read books and publish them for free at: https://www.fictionate.me.