Self Publishing – Thoughts?

I find myself intrigued lately about the idea of self publishing.  It amazes me that the technology is there to write a book, edit it, package it up and distribute it online through Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords, wherever.  My NanoWriMo book, originally started a few weeks ago as a fun hobby, has become a preoccupation – something I’ve been laboring away at and I really don’t want to give it up.

First of all, it is a long way away from being in readable form.  And obviously, I’d like to try the get an agent and find a traditional publisher route first.

But I have to admit, the self publishing possibility is like a security blanket for me.  The idea that if the inevitable rejections come in, I could, at the very least put the book out there and who knows what happens after that but at least I’d be able to cross a big life’s goal off the ole bucket list.  If only 5 people read it, so be it.  At least it didn’t collect dust.

Does anyone have any self publishing success stories?  Any self publishing nightmares?  Any thoughts, tips, comments, etc.?  It is a topic I’d love to learn more about so please feel free to share.

Some questions of the top of my head:

1)  Where to find a good editor?  Someone who can read through the book, correct errors, give me ideas on how to make it better.

2)  Where to find a cover artist?  I feel like covers have so little to do with the book and yet they can make or break the book.  They can make the book awesome, make readers go, “Wow, I need to read that!” or they can make a good book look cheap, like it was produced by some fly by night operation if they aren’t produced well.

3)  Suppose I wanted to build a fan site for the book.  Where could I find some artists to draw some quality pictures of different characters to post on the site?

4)  Promotions – any ideas?

Thanks in advance,

Bookshelf Battler

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27 thoughts on “Self Publishing – Thoughts?

  1. Christina says:

    I think like you said, self-publishing is a great security blanket: a back up in case you don’t land that agent you’ve always wanted. There are definitely big authors out there who’ve self-published before because their first works weren’t “marketable material.” I guess it all depends on whether or not you wanna reach an audience (which is where the agent/publishing house comes in), or if you just wanna get your work out there! We’re definitely in an age where self-publishing is getting more and more popular so it’s really hard to predict what the good move is!

    • Exactly. I think the best option is to find that traditional land an agent/land a publisher deal, but that feels like looking for a unicorn, to the point where all the hard work that goes into a novel seems fruitless. The idea that if all else fails I can at least get it out on Amazon and other services keeps me going.

  2. checkout createspace.com they can answer a lot of your questions if you want to publish a book without illustrations/with illustrations.

    They supply cover builder and other things necessary for publishing a book that they let you publish in kindle/amazon too for free, and all sorts of services for fees.

    • Thanks Sharmistha, and also thanks for the reblog! Good luck finding someone to help with your book sales.

      By the way, everyone, Sharm is looking for help with book sales. I don’t know if mentioning that to my 3-5 readers, including my Aunt Gertrude, will help, but one solid deserves another.

  3. Mei-Mei says:

    I’ve “met” several fellow bloggers who are freelance editors (and I can tell from their writing they’d be good editors), and several others who have self-published and have good advice (http://authorcharlottecyprus.com/self-publishing-resources/) So, get networking! ~_^

    • Thanks, that looks like a very helpful site. I’ll have to check it out. Also, for anyone interested, Hugh Howey has become my new hero:

      http://www.hughhowey.com/

      He has some good info and how-to videos on his site.

      I’m trying to remind myself that it is a marathon, not a sprint. My goal is to have it written by the end of 2015 and then get it published in 2016, by myself if I have to.

      • Mei-Mei says:

        Honestly, I wish I had your ambition. I’m still in the “maybe I should finish writing this novel sometime” phase…
        Best of luck to you in your endeavor 🙂

  4. Erica Lindquist says:

    Hi there! I’ve self-published a few books and here’s my advise. Take with salt 😉

    1) Good question! Editors are hard to find and often hard to afford. But I’ve got a couple of suggestions. Namely, my own editors. I adore them.
    One is Hache L. Jones, who *volunteers* her time as an indie editor. She’s just great. She is a copy editor only, though, and prefers to get books before they’re published. (I learned that one the hard way!) So have your plot and characters polished before sending your stuff to her. http://www.indiepodium.com/services.html
    If you have some money to throw down on editing, I also highly recommend John McClain. He can do copy edits or more comprehensive manuscript input. He’s great to work with. http://horri-fi.com/?page_id=61

    2) Clothes make the man…or book. Our last few covers were created by damonza.com. Damon is AMAZING, but I won’t lie: He does’t come cheap. Lowest price is just shy of $500. his work is worth the money, but not everyone can afford it.
    I’ve also heard absolutely wonderful things about 99designs.com, too. The idea there is that you submit your idea and different artists make mockups. You chose the one you like and then pay. The pricier the package, the more artists you’ll get. Those start at $300. Still not cheap. But both the Self-Publishing Podcast and The Creative Penn podcasts often have a referral deal that will let you upgrade your package by one slot.

    I’m crap at the marketing part, but if you’re serious about it, I suggest reading Write. Publish. Repeat. It’s basic and has lots of great advice. That’s done by the SPP guys, too.

    Good luck! It’s a wild/fun ride being an indie 🙂

    • Thanks Erica. I appreciate you stopping by. At this point, I’m pretty far away from having something done but it is great to know all of these resources are available.

      Hope you don’t mind if I throw a couple follow-up questions your way:

      1) Suppose I wanted to make a site about my novel – like a fan website. I know, what an ego to think an unwritten novel will have fans, but you know – just a site as a means of promotion. I have some fun ideas on how that could be done. What if I wanted to get some drawings/artwork of some of the main characters just to post on the site?

      2) I noticed on your blog you have a lot of books there – have you found self-publishing worthwhile? For me I feel like self-publishing one novel would be awesome, but to keep coming back to it I’d probably have to see at least a little bit of success. Doesn’t have to be a lot, but just enough sales to indicate there’s at least a small following and it just isn’t me, my friends and family reading it?

      Anyway, something I hope to achieve. I’ve given myself the goal of writing the book by the end of 2015 and then trying to get it published by the end of 2016…so, you know, toward the back half of this decade I should really be humming along!

      • Erica Lindquist says:

        1) Well, I’ve only worked with a handful of artists and to be honest, a solid two-thirds of them left me hanging. One of them even vanished with my money! But the other have been great, especially Rowena Wang, who with all 3 Reforged covers. I really wish I could still hire her. But I digress…
        I found all of the illustrators I’ve ever worked with through deviantART, if you’re familiar with it. There’s a forum for commissioning art and a lot of the artists there are often willing to work for pretty modest fees because they’re still building a portfolio. However, that’s also where I hooked up with most of my flaky artists, too. If you want to work through dA, post an ad on the forum and then look through the people who post back. If they’re bad about coming through on commissions, there’s often some complaining on their personal page.
        Also, be sure to let them know this will be for a commercial project! They will probably be fine with it, but some of the artists there only do personal work or charge differently for commercial projects.
        I’m afraid that’s all the advice I have on the art front. But that reminds me, Rowena did a bunch of extra art for Anvil of Tears… I should post that on my website somewhere.

        2) That’s… a tough question. “Worth it” depends upon what you want out of publishing a book. I got started in self-publishing the same way as many – when I could no longer easily count the number of form rejection letters I received. I got frustrated and self-published.
        Now, I’m glad I did it. Aron and I have a few really rewarding fans out there. People buy a few of our books every day. That feels amazing… but it’s not exactly paying the bills. The success isn’t financial and it probably never will be. That might be because I’m not a good marketer, though. (I reiterate my suggestion of Write. Publish. Repeat. here. Those guys actually make a solid living as indie authors.)

        It sounds like you want to take an active hand in the whole process, so you may find self-publishing a perfect fit. I like it because I’m an anal-retentive little nutjob and I don’t like anyone else to touch my shit. Self-publishing allows me ABSOLUTE control over my books, which is how I like it. But it also REQUIRES that I take an interest in every stupid little thing. I lost a week of writing time because I had to futz with some stupid printing problems. I have to own ALL the software needed and educate myself on a lot of shit that I never wanted to keep up with after college. But damn it, my books look and sound EXACTLY how I want them to in the end!

        For some people, it’s all about the artistic legitimacy. They want to be Authors with the capital A. Or they’re pure artists who just want to write. (If I weren’t so neurotic about control, I’d be one of these.) For them, it’s great to have a publishing house who handles all the editing and cover, etc, and just sends checks for Ramen while the next book is being written. For a lot of people, it’s really worth the difficulty of getting a traditional contract.

        Wow, that ended up long. TL;DR – if you’re ready and willing to put in a LOT of work under a lot of different disciplines, self-publishing can be super rewarding. And for some, very lucrative. But if you just want to focus on writing and have it be someone else’s job to get the book to readers, start querying agents. Uh… once the book is done. Don’t query without a finished manuscript.

  5. FYI – on your suggestion, I bought Write. Publish. Repeat. Those guys are my new heroes. Couldn’t put the book down and they make a lot of sense. Thanks!

  6. This year I connected with two great self-published author. Harry Patz had some great info about all of the questions you bring up: http://thenaiveguys.com/alchemy/. Author Suanne Laqueur is also a fantastic resources and she has LOTS of 5 star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and her book is impeccably edited: http://www.suannelaqueur.com/. Good luck to you 🙂

  7. ndauthorservices says:

    There are some sound opinions presented here, so I will not reiterate or debate the details. As a professional author of 13 out of 15 years in authorship, I can tell you comparatively that your odds of success as an author in the open market are much higher if you succeed in contracting with a professional publisher. Much higher. Of course, it is also much harder to do that than to go straight to a self-publishing portal / service. I have read all of the hype put out by the gurus and POD / ElecPub outfits, and when they talk about success in self-publishing, hype is what you get.

    That being said, I and my spouse / co-author (Barb) do work in the self-publishing realm as a side-line. We enjoy it and have met some great people who think reasonably and rationally about the prospects and still proceed to the challenge. Good for them. Aside from all else mentioned here, you are ultimately creating a commercial product. When it comes time to put that product up for sell, there is nothing else that comes before that consideration.

    This means the product needs to have proper packaging.

    People are in general superficial; some are outright lazy. What is inside the package will only matter in the end if the package looks professional and appealing enough to buy. And with thousands of self-publishers out there trying to “sell” readers on their own work, you can easily imagine the effect of that.

    You may need to invest in packaging or not. With an ePUB that can be primarily about the cover. It is also about the sales copy for the book’s listing. Skip the hype there as well and get to telling the prospective reader (customer) about the product and not about yourself.

    Put the reader (customer) first in everything. Accept and face that what matters to them is not what matters to you. They are taking a risk each time they try the work of an author unknown to them, no matter what side of the industry that author works in . . . no matter how long that author has been around. So at least make the product look like it is worth the risk and sell the customer a good product (inside and out) and not yourself. Let your work–and your product–speak for you… and butt out when it does.

    —J.C. Hendee

    • Hi JC

      Agreed, and thank you for stopping by. True, I think it is definitely important to manage expectations. If I ever manage to get a polished and thoroughly edited and vetted manuscript together, I’ll definitely seek the traditional publishing route. Personally, it just makes me happy to know that self-publishing option is out there. But traditional or self-published, you are right, the product has to look good and be appealing to potential buyers.

      The cover is probably one of the more daunting concepts for me – after all, I’m not a graphic artist and can’t draw to save my life. I did take a peek at the covers you show on your site and they’re worth people taking the time to check out.

      So what advice do you have for people like me? How can we find someone trustworthy and reliable to develop our cover?

  8. Thinking of self-publishing as a security blanket isn’t a good attitude. Self-publishing has a bad reputation because of just that. People have their stories rejected and rather than trying to improve or fix their story, they self-publish. It hurts those who self-published for other reasons and decreases the overall quality of self-published books, making other readers less likely to try other self-published authors. If you just want to get it out there, you can put it on a free story-sharing site (where people are more likely to give you constructive criticism anyways) or just get a few copies printed for family without actually publishing it.

    However, I have a list of resources on my page complete with editors and cover artists.It’s under the self-publishing resources tab.

    • Hi Charlotte. Thank you for dropping by and I hope you had a great holiday.

      I think we are on the same page here. I’d go a step further and say that part of what makes it difficult for the average person to get a foot in the door into traditional publishing is the flood of proposals that publishers and agents get – and I wish someone with more experience would chime in here, but I have a feeling that a lot of what publishers and agents receive is either total gibberish or ideas that might have been good but the submitter didn’t have the follow through to polish their work up first. The result is people willing to work hard and apply advice by professionals to revise and make work better end up getting lost in all the noise.

      Same thing with self-publishing – there are a lot of gems that would have been lost had self-publishing tech not become a reality. On the other hand, there’s a lot of utter garbage being put out there that makes it hard for consumers to weed out what’s good and what’s bad.

      Ultimately, my number one goal is to get into traditional publishing, but I do like to know self-publishing is an option. Personally though, I have too much pride in myself to put out something with my name on it that looks like garbage, so if I ever self publish, the work will be run through the ringer before I put it out there.

    • Vincent Cole says:

      While I do agree that self publishing does open the door for bad writing to end up in print, everything in the publishing industry is changing. Readers want a good book. I believe readers choose a book for its writing and not who published it.

  9. Amanda says:

    The best thing you could possibly do for yourself is don’t be afraid to ask questions. When I first started thinking about self-publishing, I asked a couple of self-pub authors I either knew or whose work I enjoyed who they used as editors, cover designers, if they had any marketing tips, etc.

    And research! Research research research. I write romance, and self-published romance authors have been doing quite all right. Other genres? I don’t know. What kind of market is there for what you’re writing?

  10. Jools says:

    I so appreciate your dilemma as I faced the same. You found my blog so you’ll have seen some of my own thought processes. I just took delivery of my CreateSpace proof copies today and all I know is, I’d rather have those in my hands than another fistful of rejection emails. I can recommend 99Designs as an approach to cover design, and especially the designer who won my contest – check out my blog post: I’ve got it Covered for the full story.

  11. all great questions and good discussion here. food for thought. happy 2015

  12. Vincent Cole says:

    Nowadays, a publishing house will ask about your marketing plans. If you are going to go through the time, effort and expense of marketing your book to readers, you might as well self publish and get a bigger return per book sold.
    Also you have a greater control but it is a lot of work – designing the cover, the inside pages, etc. But it’s a great learning experience.

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