Lessons Learned in Self-publishing...
Updated: Aug 3, 2019
Five years ago, a fire flickered to life in me, and I began obsessively writing. I'd always loved it, but in 2014, I suddenly BELIEVED I could make something of that love.
In 2016, I was ready to share the first book in my dystopian series called Slave. It centered around a young woman fighting her way through fear-conditioning. I poured my own struggles with anxiety and fear into that story, and I found myself faced with the big dilemma:
Query agents on a quest to be published traditionally....or self-publish.
At the time, the market was flooded with dystopian stories. After the success of trilogies like The Hunger Games and Divergent, agents were growing less and less interested in dystopian. (Understandably. There are...A Lot.)
The advice I received at the time was that I'd do much better taking my chances as an indie. I took that advice, and I have NEVER once regretted it.
Perhaps you find yourself with a manuscript that either a.) agents aren't interested in, or b.) you feel passionate about self-publishing. Whatever the case, I'd like to offer five things I've learned throughout my self-publishing journey so far. I'm sure this list will change in years to come, but for now:
1.) Self-publishing requires strong belief in your own story.
It's a magical feeling when a person reads your work and says, "This is fantastic. I believe in this." And we all crave it. And this isn't to suggest traditionally published writers didn't have to hold the same confidence and belief. Querying is scary business.
But as an indie author, you're foregoing the thrill of an agent saying those words. Furthermore, you're passing on a publisher choosing your book as one they believe in enough to throw money and resources behind. It's a powerful feeling to be chosen.
Hopefully, you'll garner a few critique partners and beta readers who will give you honest feedback. And hopefully, ideally, some of that feedback will be laced with gleeful belief in your story. You'll get the rush, but in the beginning, it may come in spurts.
None of this is bad, though. Yes, it's a powerful feeling to be chosen. But it's also a powerful experience to firmly believe in your work, and to garner enough courage to convince others to feel the same way.
I've grown astronomically since self-publishing. If you're brave and teachable, you will too.
2.) The pressure is on.
Self-pub books have a bad reputation. To test this, simply spend time searching for prominate book bloggers accepting self-pub books to review. There aren't many.
The largest contributing factor is undoubtedly an issue of quality. Poorly edited text. Bad formatting. Messy or unattractive covers. These are just a few of the problems.
As an indie, don't let this discourage you. Instead, let it motivate. Dig your heels in. Demand more of yourself. Save and invest money if you must. You need to decide how much this dream means to you and what you're willing to do to present the highest quality product you can.
Because...indie publishing is more than your own isolated experience. It's a vast community, and we all rise and fall to some degree based on individual effort. The more of us putting out high quality work, the better the future looks for everyone.
You've got this.
3.) The Community
As I just mentioned, there is a huge community of indie authors, and they are some of the most passionate, encouraging people I've come across. This is exciting, because what better way to grow in your work than to surround yourself with likeminded people?
Better yet, a community of passionate indie writers means you'll interact with people of all skill and experience levels. This is especially great for trading work. If one person has a talent for creating covers, and another has a sharp editor's eyes...why not swap? This happens ALL THE TIME.
When I first set out, I didn't know a soul. Five years later, I have a list of names (friends!) that I call on regularly for advice, read throughs, work trade-offs...and encouragement when I'm struggling.
Give it time. Be friendly and engage. Search for groups on FB.
You don't have to sail alone.
4.) Post-publishing edits
Let me just throw this in here...
Typos happen, right? We've all seen them. Tens of thousands of words...the odds of a mistake slipping through the cracks are pretty high.
In traditional publishing, the power is out of the author's hand to fix this kind of thing. But as an indie, all I have to do is pull up the file, find the typo, fix it...then upload the fresh file to whatever platform(s) I've used for publishing.
Amazon cracks down on badly formatted or poorly edited ebooks. They'll even flag your sale page until corrections are made. The importance of strenuous pre-publishing edits cannot be overstated. But in the case of a sneaky mistake, this is one very satisfying benefit to self-publishing.
5.) Self-discipline is a MUST.
I am not a naturally self-disciplined person. I procrastinate HARD. This is the area in which I struggle the most, if I'm being honest.
But to make a career of self-publishing, you MUST develop in this. Time management, meeting self-imposed deadlines...it's all necessary if you want to generate an income. Pantsing is great as a writing style, but not as a business plan.
I watch a lot of TED talks. I search for articles on entrepreneurship and self-development. I find a lot of motivation in listening to interviews of successful writers and business owners in general. And I try to stay plugged in to the indie community groups.
Surround yourself with the tools you need to grow, and you'll get there. But don't make the mistake of thinking you can make a living writing on a whim. For the majority of indies, it takes intentional time and effort to generate an income. And you SHOULD be paid for your work. So go invest that time. It's worth it.
Above all, if you take nothing else from this, hear me now: if I can do this, so can you. Cliche? Perhaps. True? 100%
The only thing that came naturally to me in the beginning was the writing itself. And I'm still learning, so I can't even say I've achieved all of these other things fully.
Be brave. Keep writing. Believe in your work.
Perhaps we'll run into each other in the wild world of Indie Publishing.
Until the next,
I believe in you!
(PS You can find my books HERE!)