If you are thinking about self-publishing or you have just begun your journey in the self-publishing wilderness, there are some hard truths you should understand beforehand.
My new book Pieces Like Pottery was published by DJB Publishing at the beginning of October. Yes, DJB Publishing is me. I am self-published.
Self-publishing wasn’t my first choice when I began this process. I explored finding publisher through a variety of avenues. I contacted well over 100 agents. I also put together nearly a hundred submissions for literary and creative writing magazines, the idea being that a publication in a magazine would lend additional credibility when speaking with agents. I knew I had a difficult path in front of me. As if being an outsider to the industry wasn’t enough, my first fiction work was a collection of short stories. Not good.
If you are not aware, publishers don’t like short stories. In fact, they look down upon them with disdain. Despite being a collection of linked stories that create a larger picture when pieced together, despite the book receiving high praise, and despite having my non-fiction works published in a variety of print and online media, publishers and agents were uninterested in my book. My memory may be faulty, but I am pretty sure this is actual video footage from one of my pleas to a Big Five publisher.
I found zero success with agents or traditional publishers. This left me with three choices: (1) Give up, (2) Go back to the drawing board and write something else, or (3) Self publish. I chose option 3, and I am so glad I did.
Self-publishing has been a long and difficult journey, and I suspect there is a long road ahead of me still, but it has been extremely satisfying. I have found self-publishing to be a far greater gift than I suspect a traditional publisher would have offered. However, there are some hard truths anyone considering self-publishing needs to consider. I don’t want to deter you, because I have loved being a self-published author, but I also don’t want you to go into this process with your eyes wide shut.
1. Decide Why You Wrote Your Book Right Now.
You need to decide why you wrote your book in the first place. Or for those of you considering writing a book–decide why you want to write it. If you want to write a book to become rich and famous, you may want to find a different avenue for that. Reality television stars are al the rage these days.
For most of you, however, I suspect you write for a different reason. Yes, we would all love to become rich off our books. We would all love to have every critic praise our books to the heavens. I’m guessing that’s not what drove you to write your book in the first place, though. What inspired you to partake in this creative journey? Decide that now and remind yourself everyday.
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2. Set Attainable Goals
Again, we all think it would be incredible to get rich and be well-regarded as authors, but let’s separate our dreams from our goals. Dreams are good to have, but you should have goals too. My goal? I want to sell a hundred copies of my book by spring. Yep, you read that right. One hundred copies. I’m getting closer every day.
No one is getting rich from one hundred copies, not unless your Nathan Myhrvold selling a cookbook collection for $625. When I reach the goal of selling one hundred copies, I’ll reassess and set a new goal. Maybe that new goal will be a higher number of sales. Maybe that new goal will be seeing my book in print. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
What are your goals? Remember #1 and why you wrote your book in the first place. Set goals that are realistic and attainable.
3. Your Cover Matters.
You know the old adage Never judge a book by its cover? Well, it’s a lie. It’s a nice platitude, but it’s just not the way the world works, at least not for authors. Everyone judges a book by its cover. People will most certainly judge your book by its cover. Spend the time and money necessary to create a good cover. (The photographer and the designer for my cover were excellent. I am happy provide recommendations if anyone would like.)
You know the old adage Never Judge a Book By Its Cover? Well, it’s a lie. Your cover matters.Click To Tweet
4. Editing Matters.
I know, I know. You have spent hundreds of hours editing your own book. You have had a half dozen friends and family read your draft as well. They provided great feedback and edits. One of them has even taught high school English and grammar for over twenty years. Do you want the hard truth? You need to pay to have your book professionally edited. Unless your mother does this for a living, I don’t care how long she has taught high school English. For every dollar you spend marketing your book after it’s published, editing will help ten-fold.
5. Get involved.
One of the biggest difficulties for self-published authors, (one of many), is that we have to be our own writers, publishers, entrepreneurs, and marketers. It’s a lot of hats to wear at once. Don’t go at it alone.
Get involved in author and writer communities on social media. Facebook and Goodreads are good places to start. Get involved with other blogs and websites that surround your interests. You’re here reading this, so you have a leg up on 90% of the writers out there, which is great. Ask questions. Post comments–on my site and others. I love to hear from readers and other authors. Reach out to me if you have questions or comments.
Don’t limit yourself to just online communities either. Find local book groups or author groups in your city. There are plenty of authors that have plowed this road before, don’t reinvent the wheel all by yourself. Use the community and resources you have around you. I have found the self-publishing community to be beyond generous. I am sure you will too.
Hope these hard truths don’t discourage you, but help set your mindset. Keep writing away, friends! Keep at it and you’ll reach your goals!
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This was an excellent wake-up call. I’m still in the revision stages of my novel and while I will try for the traditional route, the self-publishing path has always appealed to me. I don’t want to half-ass this, so whichever route I chose I need to keep these five things in mind. Thank you for the post.
It’s true, Brehonna. They both have their advantages, especially in recent years where self publishing has become much more accessible, but there are some serious downsides to it as well. First and foremost is you have to do everything yourself and the Big 6 Publishers have significant marketing dollars available to them.