Because I’ve written a book on self-publishing, I thought I’d carve out Sundays as a day to discuss all things self publishing. As this is the first in our Self Publishing Sunday series, I thought we’d start at the beginning. Is self-publishing for you?
Due to the high-profile success of some outliers, self-publishing has become the in-thing. However, while these outliers’ success stories are instructive, they’re not the sole story. Self-publishing allows anyone to enter the arena, and it allows them to enter for any reason. Some may want to make big money (which is not as easy as the get-rich-quick schemers would have you believe), some just want to put their book out so others can see it, and others want to insert knowledge in book form to support their business.
Whatever your reason for self-publishing, it’s a very doable process, but it’s not for those who want a light workload. What does this mean for you? Well, it depends on your reasons for self-publishing. If you really just want to put out the book, regardless of how well it sells, then there’s less to do. If you think you’d like to have a career as an author, then there’s more to do.
In today’s post, I thought I’d list a few questions to help you determine if self-publishing is for you?
- Are you dedicated enough to complete the writing of an entire book? I know, this should be a given, but often times, this is where the process stalls. Lots of people “want to write a book,” but far fewer finish writing a book. Even I have some books I’ve started and not finished yet. Finishing is the crucial element, and you’ve got to be willing to put in that initial outlay of energy.
- Are you able to take criticism (constructive or otherwise)? When you’re publishing a book — even if it’s a personal project you don’t expect many to read — you should seek feedback from others. You’ll want to get early readers to give you feedback on the content, you’ll want to get an editor to offer corrections on grammar and style. While not every piece of feedback is something you’ll incorporate, it is something you’ll have to handle, preferably with grace. And once you do put your book out into the world, people will comment on it. You’ll get reviews and they may not all be nice. So the self-publisher needs to be ready to take criticism. Especially valid criticism. If someone points out something that will make your book better, thank them and take them up on the advice.
- Are you willing to spend the time to find the best service providers or learn new skills to make your book work? While the word “self” in self-publishing lends people to believe this is a solitary pursuit, it’s really not. Every self-published author has things they need assistance with. Generally, they have at least one other person involved, probably an editor. You have to seek out a good editor who will do what they say. Even if an author doesn’t hire a professional editor, the author has at least one extra set of eyes on it, a friend or beta reader who serves as an editor. If you’re creating covers yourself, you’ll need to find licensed art to use on your covers (you can’t just grab it from Google). If you’re using an artist, you’ll have to seek out the best artist you can find in your price range. The book has to be formatted, so you have to learn to do it yourself or hire someone else to do it.
- Are you able to accept that mistakes happen? Even when you understand the self-publishing process and have a good overview of what it takes to do it, you’re still likely to make a mistake somewhere. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or a bad self-publisher. It just means it’s hard to prepare for every single contingency, and we ALWAYS learn way more by doing something than reading about doing something. You’ll get a firmer grasp on the process as you do it. Also, the market changes and so do strategies in self-publishing. You’ll do things that you later realize were a mistake, and it will be a good learning experience. Mistakes may be made by people you pick to provide services, and you’ll make a decision whether to hire those people again. The good thing about self-publishing is that when mistakes happen, you can fix them. That’s a very reassuring thing to know – that when mistakes happen, you can get to the bottom of them and fix them.
- Are you OK with the buck stopping with you? I mentioned that you got to fix mistakes. Well, you are the only person who gets to fix anything with your books. You get all the credit and all the blame. Everything that has to do with the book is your responsibility. That means you have to decide if you want to market your book and try to improve sales or if you’re happy with the book just being out there. If you choose to market it, you’re going to have to figure out what strategies to use and implement them. You’ll have to set realistic goals and assess your progress on them. You are one hundred percent in charge. If you don’t like that, self-publishing probably isn’t for you.
So, if you’ve gone through those questions and are still on board, yippee! Self-publishing is a great endeavor, and we’ll talk more about it over the next few Sundays. If you’re local and interested in self-publishing, I’ll be hosting a self-publishing seminar along with Jim Brown over at the Bowie Library branch, at 7 pm Wednesday, May 6. For those who aren’t local, I’ll be answering questions about self publishing right here on the blog every other Sunday. Feel free to email me your questions ( to rjcraytonauthor at gmail dot com) , and I’ll do my best to answer them. Look forward to hearing from you.