This month, we’ve asked experts in the field the following question: For those who’ve self-published your books, what have been some of the pros and cons?
Please, please treat your book just like it is being published by a major publisher. That means hiring a professional editor and proofreader, cover designer (and researching what works in your genre before you work with that designer), and matching your social media ads to your cover. This can all be done on a budget using pre-made covers, negotiating with designers/editors and DIY where your skills allow (but please know the limit of your skills and hire a professional when needed). If you want to be taken seriously, you have present like every other professional writer out there.
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The pros of self-publishing my book were that I could write it however I wanted. I didn’t have to write for word count or put anything in that I didn’t want to. I also got to decide on the timeline for finishing the writing, completing the editing, and choosing the cover art. I had total control over the entire project. By using Amazon’s KDP platform, I could make my book available in both ebook and print format, and with the print-on-demand feature, I didn’t have to create a huge inventory of printed books I may or may not sell, or give away.
While I had complete control over the project, I also didn’t have any help. Publishers do a lot of things for authors, including the editing, design, and even some of the marketing. While the author is still involved and does a lot of the work, the publisher helps tell an author what needs to be done and keeps the author on track to do it. A few friends of mine have used publishers and I have been amazed at how much promotion the author has done, but it’s apparent they are getting direction from the publisher. Of course, the publisher has a financial interest in selling more books.
I believe it comes down to a tradeoff: Do you want more control over your book or do you want more help getting it published and out into the world.
Author of The Fast and Easy Guide to Networking for Introverts: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08MTZ8T85
Putting together a street team can help take some of the pressure off you when it comes to getting the word out there about your book(s). Getting reviews for your book is the most challenging because that is what really helps sales and helps get endorsements. Develop your social media strategies and choose which works best based on your audience. Since my audience is mostly on Facebook, that is where my focus was. Have a book publicist or a public relations firm is essential, as it places the burden of promotions on the experts. Expect to budget at least $5,000 a month with a minimum one-year commitment to achieve optimal results.
I have self-published four books and I recently started my own publishing company. For the most part, self-publishing has been a gratifying experience; however, as I began to take book writing more seriously, I noticed some issues that I had not considered before.
1. Most critically acclaimed award bodies only accept work from established publishing houses. I was strongly considering submitting some of my future work for popular book prizes, but much to my surprise, most will not accept without backing from a formal publishing house.
2. Don’t expect to see your book on any shelves in a bookstore. Once again, planning for my future releases to be highly visible and in the hands of the public, I hit road blocks attempting to get my books on the coveted shelves of Barnes & Noble. If you do not have a highly converting audience and if you are not one of the approved vendors, then you can kiss your self-published dreams bye-bye.
These are just a couple of issues, but not deterrent. I put on my big girl pants and just started a business: Greenehaus Press.
While there are a lot of benefits to self-publishing like better profit margins and more control, one thing that really hurt me in the beginning was sourcing the right book cover designer, editor, and formatter. I ran into problems in not only finding the right ones, but also keeping the costs low. Most published authors don’t have to do this step.
There were a couple of times I tried doing them myself, and it was a bit of a mixed bag. While I have enough skills at Photoshop, my covers were never where they should be. Using tools like Atticus.io, I did learn how to format my books well enough. But I’ll never skip editing or self-edit my books again. That really hurt.
The key is, after having done this many times, I now have my go-to editor, book designer, and the right software to help me format my books. But when I first started, this just about crippled me and seriously hurt my first couple of books.
I feel if you are an author who is also a very organized business-minded person, you will thrive with self-publishing. You must be able to create workflows, timelines, budgets, and networking opportunities. Another pro is that in the age we live in, it is so much easier to be a published author by self-publishing; we have so much access to information on how to accomplish this and to find freelancers to help with the parts that may not be your strength. Because of this I have established my own publishing company, Starlight Publishing, where I have two more books in the works, one of which is a guidebook specifically helping artists with self-publishing their
own high-quality art books.
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Thank you so much for including me in this! It was wonderful to read all of your responses as well!