Self-Publishing: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Truth
The advent of the self-publishing revolution took the literary world by storm. Suddenly, there was an option available to authors that didn’t leave them at the mercy of the big publishing houses. This would open the floodgates for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of books to be published that might never have been considered by a big publishing house. Let’s discuss this, shall we?
Self-publishing gave authors something they had never had before with their work. Total creative control. The author could make every decision from what to write, how to edit, layout, formatting, style and cover and every step in between. You also had the creative control of when and how to release and what direction the marketing would take. It was power in the hands of the author on a completely unprecedented scale.
This, in theory, is amazing news for the literary community. Big publishing houses always took the lion’s share of the royalties, decided what, if any, publicity would be made, who could be published and when the books would be released. They controlled every aspect of the book, once the author signed the contract. Self-publishing put all of that control solidly in the hands of the author.
While this is great news for an author who already has a following and knows how to put their material together for publication, it also created a new challenge for a new author. All of these steps that were formerly handled by the publishing company, now had to be figured out and completed by the author. It’s really a lot of work, if it’s done right. The reward is 100% creative control and all of your royalties, minus the percentage taken by your platform. That can be huge, if you have a following and can generate the sales. But having the freedom to control every aspect of the book’s production is a huge thing for an author.
If you are taking the self-publishing route, you need to know that it’s not all royalty checks and five star reviews. There is a lot of work ahead of you. I’m not just talking about the writing of the book, in the first place. I mean, there is a lot of work ahead of you once the book is finished. I’ll explain, so bear with me.
By not signing with a publishing house, you have elected to handle all of the writing, the editing, the re-writes, the second editing, the layouts, the formatting, the cover and the uploading process to get the book onto the publishing platform (usually Amazon). Then, you get to handle all of the publicity and marketing, as well. Believe me, that is a hell of a lot of work.
The Editing. Do not skip this step as it is crucial to the quality of your book. If you can’t afford an editor, go over the manuscript as many times as necessary to find as many errors as you can. Ask around and find a friend (someone you know and trust) and have them go over it for errors. You can even find editing services online. Some are reasonable and others quite expensive. Your book will only be as good as its editing, no matter how well written. Investing the time and/or money in editing is invaluable.
The Layout/Formatting. It’s not just a matter of taking a Microsoft word document and uploading it to Amazon. You need to have the document set up and formatted how a book is supposed to look. Without that, it’s just going to look like you uploaded a document file and called it a book. Formatting and layout are key elements to making the book presentable. Without it, the book will not look professional and will likely not be taken seriously. Formatting is important because it presents your writing in such a way as to compare it to the books from the big publishing houses. You want it to look like a book and that takes some work.
Marketing/Publicity. This is where the real work begins. The thing is, unless you’re a JK Rowling or a Stephen King, you’d be doing it all on your own even if you were with a big publishing company. Publishers rarely, if ever, put money into publicity for an unknown author. As the author, it is your responsibility to find and cultivate an audience. It is even more critical when you self-publish. Getting your work the attention it deserves takes an unbelievable amount of work. It might be the hardest part of the entire process.
Then there’s one of the biggest drawbacks to self-publishing. Unless you make a huge name for yourself, most places won’t take you seriously. Conventions, magazines, podcasts, television people and many others, won’t take your work seriously without a big following. Some doors will remain closed to you, despite the fact that you have a book in print. I was once told by a big name author that I won’t name that being self-published made my books no better than fan-fiction. I won’t tell you who said that, but I guarantee you’ve heard of him. It’s a common attitude found in a lot of the “old school” people and groups. Be prepared for it to raise its ugly head. Now, there are authors out there that are referred to as the “Kindle Millionaires” who throw a monkey wrench into that old way of thought. Author’s who’ve made it big as “indies” or self-published authors. Hugh Howey comes to mind. He’s a fantastic writer who really knows how to promote himself. He, and others like him, are putting the old publishing model on its ear.
Now for the Ugly side of self-publishing.
It’s true, there is an ugly side. For every book out there by a self-pubbed author who has gone through the trouble of getting editing done, good layouts, cover and professional layout, there are literally hundreds that just threw the book together to get it out there and see if it makes any money. Books that are thrown together with so many grammatical errors, misspellings, bad writing and so on… and they are clogging up the market.
When you release your book, you’re going to have to get noticed among a sea of “self-pubbed” books that never should have seen production. They’re not just limited to one genre, either. You can search any topic on Amazon and find more books that are junk than are quality. Anyone who throws more than a couple of hundred words together can slap a bad cover on it and sell it on Amazon. They’re out there by the thousands. You will have to work twice as hard to be noticed among all of that. Then, as a self-pubbed author, you have to overcome all of that to be taken seriously as a writer.
Unfortunately, that’s the reality of the self-publishing movement. You can do it, though. Study your craft, write well, use an editor, have clean layouts and formatting, get a good cover and learn how to market your writing. If your passion truly is in writing, then learn how to do it well. Make your work stand out from all of the ones that are just thrown out there without any real effort to make them worth reading. Learn your craft and take the time to polish your skills. It’s not impossible, but it does take time. Your writing is part of you. Show that in the best way possible.
There are how to books and files available out there, most of them for free, that will teach you how to do the things you need to do. How to format and layout the manuscript for uploading to your platform. How to market. How to handle the publicity. It’s all available to teach you how, if you are willing to learn. Google will show you a ton of resources available for authors. If you can’t find any, shoot me a message and I’ll be happy to help you.
Invest the time in your writing to make it the best it can be. Don’t be just another “book” thrown onto the internet to see if it will sell. Take the time to do it right. It’s an investment in yourself and your writing. The Kindle Millionaires are living proof that you can make it big as a self-published author. Take the time to learn your craft and to do it right. Don’t be lost in the sea of badly written, produced and published books out there. It’s up to you to do the right way. If your writing is your passion, then you owe it to yourself to put that writing out there among the great books by thousands of authors that did it the right way.
I’m happy to help with any of the steps, if I can. Be safe, be smart and be awesome. Your writing deserves to be the best it can be.
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