It’s an important question to ask yourself because the answer can help aspiring authors determine what kind of publishing to seek out.
As none of you know (because I’ve never blogged about it), I am currently MIA from all socials and blogging because I’m in school. I’m almost done with my BA in English and Creative Writing With a Focus in Screenwriting Writing (BA-ECWFSW) at SNHU Online. After that I’ll apply for the Master’s program.
One of my favorite classes so far is called Context Of Writing because it’s all about the publishing industry. This week we’ve just begun talking about Self-Publishing.
In the future, I’d like to post some of the resources I’ve found in this class and share them with all of you wonderful people, because even though we all write alone, it doesn’t have to feel that way.
Below is an excerpt from one of our class discussion posts that talks about Pros & Cons, and my own experiences in the world of Self-Publishing:
I am so happy that we are finally covering self-publishing! Trying to get traditionally published is really, really difficult so it’s a relief to know that there is another option. However, before a writer decides to go the self-publishing route, they should know, it’s super-easy to upload your formatted .docx file and hit “publish” on a platform like Amazon or Smashwords (a great self-publishing platform that I didn’t see mentioned in the resources), but if you don’t want your book to get lost in ether (because it will), then you’ll have to put in major hours (and dollars!) to make your book get noticed.
As I’ve mentioned before, I had one book that was published by a small press back in 2012. But like most small presses, they were summarily crushed by Amazon. Book rights reverted back to me after 2 years and because I am a writer who just wants to get better, I self-published 6 more books. Then I moved onto screenwriting, so I haven’t done much blogging or self-promotion on those books or even tried to get them traditionally published.
Pros for self-pubbing are pretty clear: you maintain all rights to your work. You have all the creative control. You get to pick your cover, your title, where you will sell it and how much to charge. It’s all you, and that much control feels pretty great. Cons don’t really become clear until you get into the hard work of trying to make your book appealing to potential readers. Potential readers are your bread and butter if you want to make any money from your book.
Every choice you make about the appearance of your book, the colors, formatting and fonts are genre specific and consumer based. This is where all of that control can start to feel overwhelming. Because there are hundreds of tiny decisions you need to make to help your book stand-out. First, you’ll need a unique title so it’s easy to Google or find on Amazon. It also helps to have a unique penname; maybe one close (but not too close) to a best-sellers name so yours comes up when someone Googles the best-seller. Then, you to have create or pay someone to create your book cover. This is an art-form all it’s own, not to be taken lightly. You also need professional editing, editing software, or at least eagle-eyed friends/authors/critique groups to find those errors for you. Because when a reader pays for an ebook, even if it’s only 99 cents, they will complain about the two errors they found, and not to you. They may put it in a review or contact the seller platform about it and you don’t want that. The next biggest hurdle I came across (which is still a major issue for me) is getting book reviews. Book reviews were the bane of my authorial existence. Most readers (myself included (it’s bad, I know)) don’t leave regular book reviews.
All told, I personally paid about a thousand dollars for a one-day promotion and about 20 book reviews (for one book, through oninebookclub.org). That day I sold a lot of books, but Amazon removed the reviews from the listing because their terms do not allow authors to pay for reviews. Online Book Club is legit, though. They’ve since changed the way they do reviews so Amazon won’t remove them. Next, I tried swapping reviews with other indie authors that helped me along my self-publishing journey. Amazon also deleted those reviews. Basically, I found they’d delete almost any book review that didn’t (or did) meet their mystery metric. If you give away a copy in exchange for an honest review, the reviewer has to say it, or it could be deleted. The best way to get and keep reviews is through sales. And readers usually don’t buy blindly. So a catchy blurb, an appealing book cover that fits your story’s genre, and book reviews are what might get you sales. If you can’t get book reviews on the seller’s website, I suggest contacting bloggers who write book reviews. They usually have decent page views, subscribers, and a long reading list, so start marketing for those reviews about 6 months before you plan to release. If you’re lucky, blog subscribers will follow the links and pre-order your book.
One more thing to think about: Amazon may have a massive potential readership, but they are not the only platform out there for self-publishing. There are some readers who won’t use kindle. They like Nook and Apple books. I found that publishing on Amazon and Smashwords helped reached those readers who don’t want to use Kindle books. Smashwords also has ways for self-published authors to try and get their books listed with library databases. It can be tricky meeting their exact formatting requirements when you upload your manuscript, but it’s worth it to maximize potential distribution.
Even though self-publishing is a ton of work, I still think it’s worth it. It really just depends on how well you market your story and network on social media. You want maximum engagement, so a personal blog is a great place to talk abut your journey and what you’ve learned. Teaching people is a great way to find real engagement and grow subscribers.
To be honest, I personally had so much trouble because I went in totally ignorant. There weren’t as many resources available ten years go. But this class offers so many great links to information that I wish I had when I was trying to learn it all on my own. It would have saved me a lot of time and frustration.
Have any of you had similar experiences in your own writing journey? Are you trying to self-publish to going the traditional route?
Let me know in the comments section!