So, you’ve written a book. You might be thinking now what? Being bombarded by all of the different publishing routes you could take may feel overwhelming. Should you publish your work online? Should you publish print copies of your book? Should you self-publish your book, or reach out to traditional publishers? Self-publishing gives writers total control over their books. Deciding which path to take depends on your goals.
Take a look at this top ten list of things to know about self-publishing to help you determine the best option for you:
1. Self-Publishing Can Mean Many Different Things
When you decide to self-publish, you open your world up to many different possibilities. This path doesn’t just include one right way. You need to decide whether you want to self-publish your work online, in print or both. Maybe you want to dive into the audio book world too. Websites like Wattpad allow writers to publish their work online for other users to read. Those with goals of receiving feedback from readers and don’t necessarily want to make lots of money off the book could consider publishing on Wattpad. But if you look to make money by selling eBooks and print copies of your book, you can use other websites and platforms. Not only that, but another option includes hybrid publishing, a mix between self-publishing and traditional publishing.
“The reason I didn’t go self-publishing is I felt I needed some help,” the author of Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim: A Memoir from the Great March for Climate Action, Ed Fallon said. “The hybrid offered help, and you know I still had to do some of the work. A bunch of the work. But it offered a bunch of help that was really good.”
Writers who don’t want to go through the publishing process completely alone could consider hybrid publishing. Hybrid publishing also includes many different forms, but overall, it grants you more control over your work than traditional publishing. However, hybrid publishing can get expensive because you pay for services, such as editing and book design. Feeling a bit overwhelmed already? Don’t worry. The internet can help educate you on the complexities of self-publishing. Make sure you take every piece of advice with a grain of salt. Consider each source and its credibility.
2. Consider Your Goals When Determining if You Should Pursue Self-Publishing
You must determine your goals for your book to decide if you should take the self-publishing route. If you want the goal of getting your writing out into the world for people to read, then consider publishing your book online on a website. If you want to make money off your book and get large-scale recognition, you’ll need to consider much more. If you hold dreams of making the New York Times Bestseller list, self-publishing may not be the best route for you. When you self-publish, you and only you get tasked with selling your books to others. How do you do that? Keep reading to find out.
“So if you want your book out now, if you want to have control over it, if you want to make a higher royalty, then self-publishing is for you. If you’re okay to wait a while, if you’re okay to make less of a royalty, then traditional publishing might be for you,” self-published author of Love in the Age of Quarantine and self-publishing coach, Katie Feltmate said. “And it’s also if you really don’t want to handle any of the work of, you know, being the person that oversees the design of the cover or the editing, then yeah you might want to try traditional publishing instead, if you’re uncomfortable with kind of making those decisions and getting involved in that level.”
As you can see, deciding whether you want to pursue self-publishing takes a lot of education and evaluation. Explore all of your options. Weigh the pros and cons. If you don’t feel up to being the sole decision maker, don’t feel bad. Just be honest with yourself.
3. Consider Self-Publishing’s Reputation
Unfortunately, some people think self-publishing authors don’t qualify as serious authors. Although self-publishing gained popularity in recent years, it’s often stigmatized and associated with the idea of being for amateurs. Because of this, gaining mainstream success can seem hard when self-publishing, but not impossible. Several self-publishing authors publish highly successful books. You ever heard of The Martian? Being aware of the risks of self-publishing only helps you as an author.
“Historically, self-publishing has carried with it a slight air of ‘disrepute’ because there’s a sense that if the book were good, a mainstream press would have wanted it,” Drake University Professor Amy Letter said. “There’s also just a general social tendency to want to read/see/hear things that other trusted people have already read/seen/heard and deemed ‘good’—which when you think about it is all the publishing industry is, it’s an institutionalized way to meet our desire to have our content ‘vetted’ to a presumed standard of quality.”
If you hold serious dreams of self-publishing your own book, don’t let this fact discourage you. Instead, use it to fuel you. Prove people wrong. Write that bestseller. Determination and perseverance are your friends throughout your self-publishing journey.
4. Don’t Forget to Edit
The decisions you make when editing your book when self-publishing depends on your goals and your audience. While you can do a lot of the editing yourself, getting a pair of fresh eyes to look at your writing helps you find previously missed errors. You’ll be surprised how much you can miss after staring at your work for hours on end. Not only can another person help point out grammatical errors, but they can give you feedback on the strengths of your piece, as well as areas that could use improvement. You must also decide what types of editors you want to work with.
“Maybe you want to do a beta reader first. They just read it for you and let you know some holes, plot holes,” self-published author of Honor Thy Mother, Maurice Draine said. “For your second phase you want to do a line editor. Somebody who can help you like reconstruct sentences. And then once you have fixed those issues that your beta reader pointed out, maybe that your line editor pointed out, the last phase before publication, then use a copy editor. That’s the last phase. You don’t want to use the copy editor first because what they’re doing, they don’t really care about your plot points, your plot twists, your character’s internal struggle, the external struggle. The copy editor just cares about punctuation, sentence structure, things in that nature.”
An important decision during the self-publishing journey includes deciding who will edit your book. The more editors the better. Asking a close friend or family member to edit your writing could work great for some. But remember to pick an experienced editor. If you consider yourself as someone with big ambitions for their work, you might want to hire and pay for an editor or two. Hiring a trustworthy editor helps ensure that your book falls in good hands.
5. Putting Your Book on a Platform for Pre-order Can Help Create Hype
Putting your book on a platform for pre-order can help build your potential audience before the book becomes published. Not only that, but you can send the pre-order link to potential reviewers where they can leave reviews before the book gets published. Those reviews grow importance when potential readers browse your book and consider buying and reading it. Even though you may feel tempted to publish your book as soon as possible, you can’t rush into things. Take a deep breath. You must make sure that you did everything you can to promote your book before getting published.
“Once you’ve finished your manuscript and you got your cover, no matter how anxious you are to throw that book out there because it’s burning a hole in your pocket, you spent so much time, probably a year to write this book, hold on for another 30 to 60 days until you get at least ten reviews,” Draine said. “Then put the book out there. And it will be hard to do though, to contain yourself, but try.”
Although taking the extra time may feel painstakingly frustrating at the time, you’ll thank yourself later. Putting the word out about your book before it gets published helps ensure readers when it finally gets published. Self-publishing takes patience. Each decision you make requires a lot of consideration. Try sitting with a decision for twenty-four hours and see if it still feels right. So much can change in just a short amount of time.
6. Receiving Reviews Can Help Sell Your Book
Another great strategy to help sell your book includes sending your book to good, reliable sources. You could try reaching out and asking other authors to read your book and give you their thoughts. You could also reach out to other book communities, such as Facebook groups or Goodreads. If their comments say great things about your writing, ask if you can publish their review on your website or social media pages. Or you could see if they would be interested in recommending your book to their readers and supporters. You never know what new connections you could make.
7. You Must Work Hard to Sell Your Book
Once you finish writing your book and you decided how you want to self-publish, you’re still not quite done working. If you want to gain many readers, you must put in effort selling your book. No one will know about your book unless you market it. But lucky for you, you can promote in many different ways. Use as many strategies as you can to gain readership.
“Small presses and mainstream presses are parts of a system, a machine, for publicity and distribution,” Professor Letter said. “And when you self-publish, you’re just a lone gear out in the world, and you’ve got to build all the connections yourself. You have to do all the publicity, all the distribution.”
One way of marketing your book includes holding public events and giving talks about your book. Consider going on a book tour and read excerpts to an audience. You gain more readers and publicity. You could also reach out to news outlets and do interviews discussing your book. Imagine all the new readers you could gain.
“The first thing I did was, it came out in November, then on December 2nd I hosted a public reading. I sold 60 plus books at that. I had a really good turn out,” Fallon said. “And then I went on the road, and I toured. I did readings in Iowa City, Sioux City, and Cedar Rapids. I can’t remember where else. And then I went around the country as well. But you know, that’s proven to be the best way to sell the book is just to go out.”
Today, social media pretty much runs the world. So why not use that to your advantage? Create Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages to promote your writing. Post daily stories documenting your writing and publishing progress. By doing so, you create a fanbase before your writing gets published. Don’t forget about TikTok. Film videos sharing information about the content of your book and the importance of your writing. Creating a website for your writing portfolio can help people find you.
8. Try Using Book Promotion Sites
Another way to get your book out into the world includes using book promotion sites, which have their own readership subscribers. These sites feature categories, so you can focus targeting the category that fits the genre of your book. Next, you set a date when the site promotes your book to its readers in that category. But you may need to use more than one because these sites usually limit to one book promotion every 90 days.
“It’s really cool for authors to use these sites because they give you a quick jolt, but it’s not longevity. It’s very very short. It’s like a quick sugar fix, you know,” Draine said. “Like if you drink a Red Bull, you might be super energetic for maybe 30 minutes before you crash. That’s kind of how book promotion sites are. They’re like a can of Red Bull.”
Consider using multiple book promotion sites and staggering them across the course of several days. When the sales from the first book promotion begins to dwindle, your second book promotions can begin. That way, you’ll see steady sales. You can continue staggering the dates of the book promotion sites for as long as you want, or as long as your wallet allows you. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, consider other methods.
9. Self-Publishing Includes Many Costs
Unfortunately, most things in life come with a price. This includes self-publishing. Depending on what path you take, you may see costs that come up. You can decide to pay for an editor or two to look over your book. Or you might need to pay a designer to design a cover for your book. Although you could make money selling your book, you will make purchases without knowing when or if you’ll get that money back. As you make decisions on your self-publishing journey, keep these costs in mind and don’t take financial decisions lightly.
10. Put Yourself Out There
If you dream of getting your book out into the world, that takes a lot of time and effort. When self-publishing, you handle every step of the process all by yourself. You must make every decision, and you can’t be afraid to make mistakes. This process includes trial and error. Your book won’t become popular overnight. You must sell. No matter how awkward you feel, you need to talk about yourself and shamelessly plug your book. You worked hard on your book, so you should be proud to show it off.
“With self-publishing, you know you’re making all of the decisions, so you need to be able to make decisions and be confident in your vision,” Feltmate said. “There’s no one here telling you, you know, what to put on your cover or how you should format your book, but that’s the really beautiful piece of it too is that you have that autonomy and that choice to create whatever you want to create.”
When self-publishing, you also can’t crumble before you take a big leap. Whether that means deciding to hire an editor or scheduling public readings, you must commit to making the effort. If you decide to publish your book online on a website, you need to just go for it. It can seem scary when the public reads your writing. But in order to receive feedback and let your work touch people’s lives, you need to believe in yourself.