Today I have the very talented Samantha Ferguson with me as a guest blogger. Does the name sound familiar? It should. I ranted and raved about her superb novel, The Secret Diary of a Checkout Girl last year, which earned one of my rare 5 star reviews because it was FANTASTIC.
Don’t remember? Check out the review here!
But that’s not why Samantha’s on my blog today. Instead, she’s here to give authors considering taking the self-publishing route an insight into the process. The ups, the downs, the marketing. A lot of what she says here I couldn’t have said better myself, so dive right on in and enjoy!
Should I Self-Publish? The Ups and Downs of Self-Publishing
Self-publishing is on the rise. In fact, it’s up a massive 437% from 2008! So maybe you’re thinking, “Hey! I wanna piece of that action”, but you’re just not sure if self-publishing is for you…
Well, worry no further. In this article you’re going to find out! I’m going to list the three major UPS, and the three major DOWNS of self-publishing, from my own personal experience, to help you come to a decision.
- Answer to No One
Creative processes, particularly writing, are subjective. Not everyone is going to like the same thing – for example, I hated Fifty Shades of Grey, but millions of people clearly disagree with me. This subjective take on writing makes the old way of publishing seem a bit out-dated to me.
Why wait 8+ weeks for a response from an agent who has barely glanced at your work to tell you, “the plot could be deeper”, or, “your main character could be more of an ass”?
With self-publishing, you don’t have to wait for/or listen to anyone else’s opinions but your readers. You also have the luxury of setting your own deadlines and working at your own pace, ensuring you can get your book out when you want it, how you want it.
- You Learn A Lot
I published my first book last year, and since then I have learnt SO much about the world of publishing – and I’m willing to share it with you! Aren’t I kind?!
One of the most important things you learn through self-publishing is how to think of your book as a product. Once you’ve finished the final draft, you have to cut ties and start thinking of your book as just another item on the shelf. It’s hard at first, but it gets easier.
The selling process can be split into two sections: Promotion & Distribution.
Promotion involves spending a lot of time online, talking to people and spreading the word about your book. And I mean A LOT. You’ll want to tweet a few times a day if you can, and show your face on other social networking sites too – like Facebook…
You should also think outside the box about getting more exposure – contact local newspapers, your university (if you are a graduate), and bloggers that love books – like the lovely Liz who has so kindly let me post this blog!
Distribution, on the contrary, involves stepping away from your computer screen, and, if you’re anything like me, away from your comfort zone. For the online distribution of my book, I used Amazon for the eBook, and a self-publishing company called CompletelyNovel for the hard copy. But, getting the book into brick and mortar stores took a lot of leg work. Again, I mean A LOT.
It can be really nerve-racking to go in to a shop and ask if:
- They support local authors, and
- If they will sell your book
But, after the first “yes”, it gets easier. Even enjoyable!
If you need more help getting ‘psyched up’ to go into book stores, watch this episode of The Apprentice. It really helped me gain more knowledge and confidence on how to approach independent booksellers.
- More Money
Let’s get one thing straight: being a published author does not equal big bucks. My book sells for £6.99 (£2.91 on Kindle) and I get 70% royalties which is equal to (after you take away production costs, tax etc.) £1.65 per copy sold. Every single distributor earns more money per sale than I do. I’m telling you this because I let it eat me up at first, but I soon realised that I shouldn’t – and you shouldn’t! Writing a book is an amazing thing to do, an incredible achievement, and making money should just be a side-bonus.
The great thing about self-publishing is that there’s no agent getting a cut of that money, and no publishers either. I don’t know how much agents/publishers take, but if my profit is £1.65 without them in the picture, I can guess that it would be a lot less with them included.
And now for the downs…
- You Have to Spend Money to Make Money
Whilst we’re on the topic of money, I thought I would make this my first ‘down’ of self-publishing. Authors don’t get free copies of their books; they have to buy them like everybody else. And it’s very important that you do buy a copy to proofread it one final time and make sure everything is perfect. More often than not, it won’t be, and you’ll have to buy another proof copy. Before you know it you will end up with a bunch of books that look like this…
But, hey! If you become a famous author these copies are going to make some serious money at auction!
If you’re really serious about getting your book out there, then you will also have to spend money on advertising. There are tons of different ad options on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, and so on. All of which are relatively reasonable in price. But again, this is something you will have to pay for before you see any real gains.
To put a positive spin on things, I like to think of it as a hobby. Instead of pouring money into slot machines or bars, I spend it on advertising my book – sounds pretty sensible now, doesn’t it?!
- Promotion is HARD work
I know I touched on this above, but I didn’t really go into how time-consuming it is. If you have a full-time job, then expect to have no free time whatsoever in the first few months of advertising. I spend my lunch hour writing tweets with the hashtags #1lineWed, #FridayReads, and #BookBoost. Then I come home and write blogs (like this one!) whilst repeatedly checking and replying to tweets and Facebook comments.
I’m not saying I don’t enjoy it. If I didn’t enjoy it then I could (and would) stop. But, I also enjoy seeing my family and friends, and it’s hard to make time for people when you’re always glued to a screen. The best thing to do is write a schedule that allows you enough time promoting, but also enough time off, and try to stick to it!
- The Doubts
When you’re self-publishing your first book, or even your second, or fifth, you can have many doubts.
- Is it good enough?
- Are my characters likeable enough?
- Is the twist too obvious?
- Is that where the story should end?
The list could go on and on. I think that these doubts stem from that old way of publishing that is still lingering around. You may think to yourself that if an agent or publisher hasn’t read your book, and therefore hasn’t deemed it ‘good enough’, that it isn’t good enough.
The best thing to do to get rid of these awful doubts is to ask other people to read your book for you. It can be a big ask, most people have busy lifestyles and it could take them a while to read a 300 page book.
So why not offer it out to people that love reading?
There are lots of people online that love reading and will give you an honest review of your book in an exchange for a free copy. It’s a great way to get unbiased feedback, and an even better way to gain some confidence – there’s no better feeling than a stranger saying they love your book!
Thanks for sticking with me through this rather lengthy guest post! I hope that this will help you come to a decision on whether to self-publish or not.
Thanks for reading. X