For over a year now, it seems like I’ve been hearing the same theme running around writing and publishing blogs. So much that I feel the need to write a post about this. So much that I really feel like this needs to be talked about. What am I hearing?
Self-publishing is HARD.
It’s time-consuming and intricate. You have to learn all these different skills and wear so many hats. Hats you’re not prepared for, young and inexperienced writer!!! You need to write and edit and design and format and market and promote and blog and Twitter and Facebook and maybe even PINTEREST! And then you have to load ALL the books in ALL the formats onto ALL the self-publishing sites out there! You don’t even know how many there are, do you? How could you possibly do this!?! Self-publishing is hard! Really REALLY hard!
So hard that maybe…
It’s better to hire someone to do all that stuff. (Because you couldn’t possibly handle it yourself, right?) Or hand over some of your long term earnings in the form of a percentage of sales in exchange for editing or formatting or cover art. (After all, you’re not really a professional. You’re just self-publishing.) Maybe, young writer, you’re
of doing this self-publishing thing.
I have one thing to say to that.
I call bullshit on all the “self-publishing services” out there who are trying to tell writers that all this is so far beyond them that they need to charge thousands of dollars to “package” their books for them and load them onto the publishing platforms. I call bullshit on services or companies that play on writers’ insecurities to convince them that they’re not capable of learning new skills. Want to know how I started self-publishing? I’ll tell you a secret.
I knew nothing about publishing. I learned along the way. I made mistakes, but I learned.
And you can, too.
I self-published my first book, A Hidden Fire in October of 2011. That seems like ancient history now, but it’s really only been two and a half years. At the time, I was told that self-publishing would sink any serious literary career. I’d never get an agent. I’d never make any real money. I’d be mocked by any serious review sites. That was the common wisdom at the time.
I didn’t care. At that point, writing was something I was really just doing for fun. I was writing fan fiction, along with original fiction. I was posting stories on my blog, trading stories with friends (some of whom are still my beta readers today and others who have published their own work.) I was having a blast.
Fiction was fun. It was my stress relief. It was my escape. And after I heard about self-publishing (Thanks again, Lydia!) I figured it might be a way to make some money, too. I hoped to write and publish enough that over the next five years, I could make writing and publishing fiction some or most of my income. But really and truly? I knew NOTHING about the publishing business. Nothing. Nada. So how did I go from hearing about publishing to publishing my own work eight months later?
I researched what was out there about it, most notably Joe Konrath’s “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing” and Dean Wesley Smith’s “Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing.” I read (and continue to reference) an excellent manual by David Gaughran called, “Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish, and Why You Should.” I read The Passive Voice to get a feel for what was current in self-publishing news along with some of the business and legal side of this business. (Passive Guy is an Intellectual Property attorney.) And I read blogs. A lot of them.
And then I just did it.
See, here’s the thing. Self-publishing is NOT for everyone. Some people want to work within the traditional publishing system. And if they have a good agent who gets them a fair deal, then I celebrate that. To each their own. It’s common to vilify big publishers on a lot of blogs, but you’re not going to find that here, because I know for a fact that publishers, big and small, are full of people who LOVE books. You don’t get into working for a publisher for fame and fortune. You do it because you love books. And I have a lot of respect for that.
But for those writers who DO choose self-publishing (and there’s more and more of us all the time), I want to warn against any service that wants to charge you money for a package deal that promises to take all the work out of self-publishing, but really probably just takes a lot of your earnings.
I’m not talking about hiring an editor or a cover artist for an agreed upon price. I’m not talking about translations or audio productions where you have another artist’s (yes, translation is an art) work riding along with yours. I’m talking about paying someone to load your books onto Kindle Direct Publishing or Smashwords. I’m talking about giving someone a percentage of your work in exchange for something like formatting.
Please don’t do this.
I’m going to write a short series over the next few weeks about my publishing process and how I’ve chosen the professionals I work with. Most will not be epic posts like this. I’m just hoping to dispel some things I’ve seen cropping up online. Because I want writers to be successful. I want them to succeed. And I want them to keep as much of their well-earned money as possible.
Is self-publishing difficult?
Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.
Is it doable?
You can do this. It’s not rocket science. If you can write a good book, you have the smarts to publish it. Prepare to wear some different hats. You might be surprised how much you like the way you look in them.
II. BOOK COVERS
V. MARKETING/PROMOTION/SOCIAL NETWORKING
VI. LEARNING TO JUGGLE WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND