What we’ve learned from writers on CompletelyNovel – a ‘read-this first’ for self publishers

Anna LewisThis is a guest post from Anna Lewis, who co-founded the book technology company CompletelyNovel with Oli Brooks in 2008. Since then, they have created CompletelyNovel.com, a community powered book-publishing platform bringing modern publishing tools to an online network of readers, writers and publishers. You can follow Anna on Twitter via @anna_cn and @completelynovel.


There is endless advice that goes out to self-published authors about building their brand, identifying their audience and how to promote their work. This is all vital in the success of a book, but writers shouldn’t let it detract from other parts of the self-publishing process – namely, the technical and project management (let’s be honest, slightly more boring) side of things.

Working with self-publishers on CompletelyNovel has been massively inspiring. Every day we see new writers produce something that they have often been waiting many years to see in print. The advent of new tools on the internet has opened up so many doors. But, like anything, it throws up new challenges as well. So here are some dos and don’ts for aspiring self-publishers and their mentors to mull over, learned through watching the experiences of others.


DO take the time out to learn how to use MS Word or your word processor of choice properly. That means, using page breaks, page numbers, the styles and line spacing options and learning how to set page size and margins. It will save you SO MUCH time in the long run just by using page breaks instead of pressing the enter key 10 times at the end of each chapter. It will also make anyone typesetting or proofreading your work on screen less likely to kill you.


DON’T set deadlines without properly thinking them through first. I mean properly – ESPECIALLY if you are holding a book launch. Literally, plan out exactly what you have to do for your book to be ready for launch and how long each thing will take, adding on plenty of extra time for postage delays, late contributions from other authors, your baby throwing up all over your laptop etc. If you then find yourself well behind on the plan then consider putting the launch back – it’s OK to change the plan, but do it sooner rather than later. Otherwise, it becomes incredibly stressful. Especially as if you have other people involved proofreading or designing your cover etc. you will transfer this pressure to them.


Completely NovelDO leave time to invest in proofreading. You might want to pay for a professional to do it if you can, or if not make sure you get some good friends to do it. Let them know in advance about mistakes that you are already aware that you make (such as your use of apostrophes) so they know key things to look out for. This website gives a dry but helpful list of how to proofread, but as you are so familiar with your words it’s unlikely you’ll spot everything, so getting help is really important.


And DON’T forget to proofread your blurb! If there is a mistake it looks sloppy, and if it looks sloppy people are very unlikely to take your book (or you) seriously as a writer. (Unless bad spelling is integral to the book’s concept).


DO think about your cover design. If you can’t afford a designer, that’s fair enough, and CompletelyNovel, for example, has simple tools to help you design your own cover. But at least take a look at other books in the same genre, or covers that you like, and see if you can come up with something to fit. If in doubt, keep it simple, focussing on bold type that is easy to read, of a size similar to other books, and use a minimal number of images. We have more advice here.


DON’T forget, at some point you will just have to let go and stop changing things. This is another reason why proofreading it yourself will be tough – you might not feel able to read it without editing too. It always makes me smile when I see that someone has named their file ‘Finalv23’.

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  1. Great advice, Anna, and as a writing duo who has recently published through Completely Novel, I have to say it’s all worked out very well for us! 🙂

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