5 Things I learned from Self-Publishing


1. Writing the book is easy

I never thought I’d say that, but it’s true. Writing the book is the most doable part of the process. I know how to write a book, not perfectly or without flaw, but I can do it. Even on those nights when hitting the word count feels like slogging through waist deep sludge, each clicky-clack of the keyboard a stab of self-doubt, I know that ultimately, I can do it. Maybe it’ll take longer than I expected, but it’ll be done.

(This includes the editing process. I feel like I’ve gotten to a point where I know how to refine a story. Given enough time, I can make something that’s ok be good.)

 

2. Marketing is not easy

Unless you have some expertise in marketing, or have the funds to hire professionals, you’ll probably be lost just like I was (still am). Marketing is a whole other beast from book writing. And, two self-pubs deep, I still haven’t mastered it. This alone can be a fulltime job, and if you don’t have a good marketing strategy, you’re going to be ignored.

 

3. No one cares

No one cares about your book. And without a good marketing campaign it’s likely readers won’t want to give it the time of day. Which, honestly, is understandable. Especially if you’re in my category and you haven’t caused any ripples in the pond. The few folks who do stumble onto your work will pass on reading it because they can’t be sure it’s worth their time. And that’s fair. This is why the marketing is so important, it garners some legitimacy for your work.

 

4. There’s still a stigma

Unless proven otherwise, a lot of folks assume self-published books aren’t worth their time. Under edited, error ridden, and poorly formatted works have made readers wary. Again, this one is understandable. I even contributed to it with Moon Breaker, which when first released wasn’t edited properly. Because of this, self-pubbed works have to fight an uphill battle to legitimacy.

Unless you can garner a small following willing to vouch for your books quality, most are going to pass it by.

(Even then, I’ve noticed some reviews for self-published books tend to include “pretty good for an indie” or something along those lines. This only adds to the stigma, implying an indie book’s quality peaks at a lower bar compared to a traditionally published one.)

 

5. No feedback is worse than bad feedback

Maybe, if you’re like me, you might be worried that you’re book is going to get swarmed with nothing but negative reviews. But one of the first problems is actually getting reviews. If you’re book isn’t getting in front of eyeballs than you’re not going to get any constructive criticism, and I’ve found that to be worse than negative criticism. (Again, this goes back to the necessity of marketing.) This can also hamper your progress, it’s good to keep a finger on the pulse of your readers’ thoughts, it’ll help allow you to course correct for future books. Without any feedback, you’re working in a vacuum, and you are never a reliable critic of your own work.

(Although, I want to note there’s a difference between getting a few bad reviews and having something be notoriously bad. The latter is pretty difficult to achieve as long as you put the work into your book. It won’t be perfect, but so-bad-it’s-good tends to be the result of something going viral and is actually pretty rare.)

Your book has just joined a deluge of content, sputtering out the end of a pipe into a careless ocean. This is the part that really crawls into the back of my brain. It feels like lobbing your work into the abyss and just watching it fall until you can’t see it anymore. Something about the fact that no one is reading it is worse than people reading and disliking it.  

 

Postscript

And that’s the list. It barely scratches the surface, but I wanted to talk about some things involved in self-publishing aside from making the cover and copyediting. There are a myriad of sources for those online. I wanted to stress the fact that marketing is an aspect that can’t be ignored when self-publishing. If you don’t take it seriously (which I didn’t) you’re going to have a bad time.

If you’ve self-published something, what are some things you learned from the experience?