So you have a story and you want to publish it yourself. Let’s talk about how to get started, how to get noticed, and when you should pay a professional.
The panelists for the titular panel at Virtual Balticon 54 were: Kim Hargan (as moderator), Jean Cooper, Keith Hughes, Lee Moyer, and Cerece Rennie Murphy.
Where Did Self-Publishing Come From?
Back in the olden-days, self-publishing wasn’t the do-it-yourself thing it is today. The only options used to be traditional publishing or vanity presses, where you gave them money to print your book.
Buyer-beware: vanity presses are still a thing. If you’re looking at a small-publisher, make sure they’re not asking for money upfront.
Now, especially with the advent of publish-on-demand and ebooks, self-publication has taken off.
And while the unregulated self-publish market has plenty of probably-wasn’t-ready-to-publish offerings, it’s also been a great place for quality authors as well.
Why Writers Self-Publish
Every writer’s journey is different, and when you look into it, their reasons are personal and multitude. But, some of the most common reasons writers go with self-publication are:
- They couldn’t find an agent or publisher — for whatever reason
- They write for a niche market
- They wanted more control over the finished product
- The book was already published and they’re switching formats
The 2 Most Important Tips For Self-Publishing
- You. Need. An. Editor.
When you read your own work, you know so well what it’s supposed to say, that it can be easy to overlook small errors. Word, Grammerly, and The Hemmingway App can only do so much.
If you want a professional product, pay up.
Plus, they can do some googling and make sure that you’re not naming your character after some obscure sex act in a foreign country.
- You need a good cover artist
I know, I know, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But? We all do.
A cover can let you know what genre and which subgenre you’re reading. If you misrepresent that? You’re gonna end up with 1-star reviews because you’ve attracted the wrong audience. Plus? A poorly-done photoshopped cover makes people think of the un-edited, published-too-soon works that they’ve regretted reading.
Sure, you could save the money, but you’ll very likely need to invest just as much or more into marketing, to make up for the sales your cover has lost you.
While you’ll have a lot of artistic control when you hire your own artist, remember this, publishing houses usually keep the writers far away from the artists because, like it or not, the writer is usually WRONG about what the art should look like.
Sometimes it’s best to tell the artist about the book and see what they come up with.
Ways To Market Your Self-Publishing Book
You can’t get in stores as easy as a publisher, how do you get them out there? It is a LOT of work to sell books.
- live readings (1 week out, diff section on launch day)
- book bub (esp, book 2&3)
- Email friends/colleagues/mailing list
- For live events
- Tables at conventions
- Readings/Autograph sessions – if paired with other people or in busy areas
- bookmarks/business cards
- Different cards for different audiences/sales approaches
- Different cards for agents/publishers vs readers
- Nothing on the back for wealthy customers, shiny card with the cover on the back for fans
Be happy to make connections.
If someone is looking for a book and yours isn’t a great fit? Suggest other people’s work if it’s a better fit for what people are looking for. Those people — both the ones you recommend to and those whose work you recommended are a lot more likely to suggest your works to friends/family who might be the right audience for you.
If you’re an introvert at a convention? Get there early and introduce yourself to the tables around you. Let them know if you’re new — to tabling in general or that con in specific. Be open to advice. So many people in this industry are welcoming and will be happy to welcome you.
Self-publishing is a brave choice and a tough road to walk. Best of luck finding your audience to all my writer friends — no matter who publishes you and when.
Obviously, I’m not self-published. Please! Share your experiences and tips and references if you have any! I’d love to share them.
Thanks for reading. If you found this post helpful, share it with your friends, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter if you’d like to get these posts in your inbox, and I’ll be back again next week, with more writing tips and writerly musings.