How to Write: Self-Publishing
What is Self-Publishing?
You’ve written a book, and it’s the best thing ever! So, now you want people to read it. How do you get it to them?
In our current publishing world, there’s three major options. You can contact a traditional big publisher, who – if everything goes well – will buy the rights to your book, edit it, put a cover on it, market it and send you money when it sells. You can contact a smaller independent (indie) press, who have the flexibility to take chances on unusual work, and who are more likely to involve you in the details of publishing – but who don’t have the same marketing reach as the big publishers, and won’t sell quite as many as the big traditionals. Avoid anyone who asks you for money to publish (known as ‘vanity press’) with the promise of royalties in the future – it’s very likely that you’ll pay a lot and not get nearly as much back. A publisher should always cover things like editing and cover art for you, even if that means your royalty share is smaller.
Or you can self-publish. This means you’re the one responsible for everything – editing, cover art, formatting, releasing, marketing, selling – so you’re putting the book out under your name, and you keep the profits from it. You can sub some of the work out (eg. hire a proofreader, purchase cover-art) but it’s down to you to sell your book to the world. And the great thing is that there are plenty of ways to do that!
Over the next couple of articles, we’re going to look at options for printing, ebook and online self-publishing. But first….
Things to think about if you’re considering self-publishing
Have you written the best book that you can?
Painful as it is, sometimes a publisher’s rejections are a chance for self-reflection, and make you realise that your book is not ready for the market. If you publish now, will you be proud to market your work? Or could it do with a rewrite or editor’s eye first?
Can you cope with the additional workload, on a routine basis?
If you self-publish, you can’t just do a marketing blast and sit back: if you want to sell books, you have to work at it constantly. This doesn’t necessarily mean scheduling adverts all the time – but it does mean you can’t rely on a marketing department to do everything for you. You’re the one who has to check if there’s conventions on, find out about the advert opportunities and check if you have the marketing budget to spend on them, talk to people on forums, and self-promote your book.
When’s the next book out?
If you’re a writer of any kind, you’re likely to be asked what else you’ve published: if you’ve written a good book, your audience will want more! If you self-publish, you’ve got to push yourself with this; you don’t have deadlines set by your publisher, and you have to decide for yourself what to write or publish next.
What kind of genre are you writing in?
Publishers are still less likely to take a punt on certain genres, so you might be better off with a small press or self-publishing. Self-publishing is also a good way to experiment when you’re first starting out, or not sure how your writing is going to be accepted. However many publishers and markets won’t reprint things that have already been self-published, so if you want to publish again you’ll need to keep writing.
The freedom of self-publishing
You get to decide cover-art, editing, markets. You get to interact with your audience. You get control over what markets you go to, what you publish next, who you talk to and how you advertise. You get to run the show exactly as you want!
The hassle of self-publishing
You have to read through Amazon’s marketing guidelines, answer the email from a happy reader, be aware when tax regulations change, read the review from the unhappy reader (and don’t reply to it!), format your book into the correct file type for every different market, check the contract with your proofreader / cover artist / editor, create that image in three different sizes, decide if it’s worth putting an advert in that magazine, update your blog with news, decide what you’re writing next…you are the one doing the work. All the work. Every day.
Having said about the hassle, of course, you get a lot of this hassle simply by being a writer, and it doesn’t stop just because you have been picked up by a major publisher. However, self-publishing does mean that you need to be involved in the nitty-gritty of actually publishing your book, and there are a lot more details than you realise when you first start. On the plus side, you do get the satisfaction of being in charge of your own work, and doing it how you want to – and you’re the one that has done it all!
So, if you decide that you want to self-publish your work, what are the options? Over the next couple of posts we’ll look at options for print and ebook publishing, and some online options for getting your work out into the world.
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Green Sky & Sparks
by Kate Coe
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