Going it alone: 6 reasons to self-publish your novel

This is a guest post by Donna Brown

Nobody said the life of a writer would be easy, but it must be a shock to every indie author’s system to finish the final page of their novel and realize that the work has only just begun!  Never have there been so many decisions to be made in such a short space of time, ranging from which editor to use to whether or not to hire a cover designer or try and produce your own artwork.  Forget being a writer; you’ll need to become a master marketer, a superb salesman, and a networker extraordinaire!  And somehow, in and among all this, you’ll need to be working on your second book to ensure that all the interest you generate doesn't ebb away over time.

If it sounds daunting, it’s because the decision to publish independently is not one to be taken lightly and requires a great amount of commitment and dedication, which is why it has always baffled me that anyone would look down on books from independent publishers or small presses.  These are professionals whose commitment to their work is so strong that they will spend 40 hours a week doing a separate ‘day job’, come home and look after the kids and then stay up until the small hours polishing their manuscript or doing research for their next book.  There are probably junior doctors who put in fewer hours than indie authors!

So why would anyone choose to publish independently?  Surely it’s nothing but work, work, work?  Hard work it may be but there are actually great benefits to it:

 

Control

You've spent months, perhaps years, working on your novel so nobody knows it better than you.  Who else is better informed to network with readers and market the book?   From book trailers to bookmarks, from book signings to book groups, you can decide how and when you want to promote your book to the world.

 

Feedback

Being thrown into in maelstrom of promotion, marketing and networking might seem overwhelming, but there are fantastic opportunities to take from it, not least of all the possibility of getting direct and constructive feedback from your readers.  If you’re working on your second book, it is incredibly helpful to receive this feedback as you’re writing and know what the readers like or dislike.  So instead of writing novel one and having novel two written before your first ever sees publication, you can be using readers’ comments to shape your second novel into a tour de force as you’re producing it.

 

Education

Publishing independently can seem a minefield, but look back after six months to a year and you’ll be stunned at all the things you've learned.  From effective social networking on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to principles of good cover design, blurb writing and Amazon page setup, things that seemed utterly impossible in the beginning will become second nature.  The skills you learn as a new independent author will remain with you throughout your writing career.  Not only that but they’re often transferable to other areas of your life.

 

Friends

Yes, publishing is a difficult and competitive world, but it’s also a world with a number of helpful and friendly inhabitants.  Groups like the Indie Author Group on Facebook or the Indie Book Collective are full of people who are either in the same position as you and willing to provide a friendly ear or support or veteran indies who are happy to share their experiences and knowledge.  You’ll be amazed at how many people you come to genuinely care about and you’ll soon find that their good news becomes everyone’s good news: what’s good for one independent author is good for the community as a whole.

 

Pricing

Publishers have to cover costs that are often much higher than the costs you incur publishing independently, and on top of that there are royalties to pay and they want to make a reasonable profit.  It’s true that they have the tools and resources available to help them sell more copies but even with a big publisher behind you it can be difficult to convince people to spend $9.99 on an unknown writer.  Setting your own pricing structure means you can set a low price and encourage people to take a chance.  It also means that you can update the price easily in order to run promotions, offer discounts in line with events you are taking part in and so on.

 

Promotional opportunities

While there’s still some skepticism about indie authors and publishing, there is also a growing respect for authors willing to commit such time and effort to getting their work out there and a realization that these are often very talented people who care more about having their work seen and getting good feedback, than landing a publishing contract and having it all taken out of their hands.  That means that indie authors benefit from a growing number of initiatives aimed specifically at indie authors, such as the recent Indie Book Blowout.

So, while there’s no disputing the indie publishing avenue is incredibly hard work, there are also amazing rewards to reap from it if you are willing to go the distance.  Commit to the long haul and you’ll walk away with more than just a book: you’ll walk away with a wealth of education and experience, some amazing new friends and an amazing sense of achievement that it will take an awful lot to rival.

Good luck authors!

About this post’s author:

Donna Brown is a self-employed consultant and freelance editor, who blogs regularly about books and writing and also writes short stories.  She is married to fantasy author David M. Brown and they live in Yorkshire, UK with their six rescue cats.

Donna is currently organising ‘Adopt an Indie’ month (November 2011), bringing together authors, bloggers and readers.  You can find out more and register to take part at http://adoptanindie.bookbagsandcatnaps.com.

Sandra Keith

Yesterday I happened upon a self-published book that was free with a certain code. I couldn’t even finish the first page. Badly written, badly formatted, etc. It was the typical vanity publication all true writers are afraid of receiving from the printer. As for me, I’m sticking with the publishing houses.

    Diem Burden

    Sandra, I have just finished Jean M Auel’s final book in her long series Clan of the Cave Bear. It’s called Land of Painted Caves. It is possibly the worst book I have ever read. It cost me a whopping $14. It comes from a long-standing publishing house.

    Using your philosophy, should I give up on books from publishing houses?

    (and I bet it was far cheaper than the crap you read?)

Shelly Goodman Wright

You’re advice still goes for traditionally published authors. In this day and age, even the biggest publishing houses only spend a few thousand to promote new authors. Where does the majority of their promotion money go? To promote the big name authors. Sad, but true. I’m being published traditionally, but I’m already blogging, holding drawings for those to join my website, doing author blog hops, and anything else I can think of to get the buzz about my Christian Romance/Suspense novel out there. My novel won’t be out in bookstores until around February, but my goal to sell at least 200 copies before the official release date. I’m enjoying the marketing aspect and I’ve had time to write two more novels.

Thanks for post. I enjoyed it. I do agree somewhat with Sandra about some of the self-published book being badly written. If someone does go that route, make sure to pay a good editor. Once someone is put off by an author’s writing, it’s really hard to get passed it if they publish anything else. Make sure to really take the time to polish your work and NEVER publish a first draft!!! My novel didn’t get picked up until after eight rewrites (and critiqued by peers–not friends).

Good luck and Happy Writing!
Shelly Goodman Wright
Author of A LIGHT INTO THE DARKNESS coming out FEB 2012

    Emlyn Chand

    Great insights, Shelly. I agree that self-publishing needs to be approached with the same level of professionalism as traditional publishing (maybe even more). I also agree that the promotion before a book’s release is vital. I’ve been advertising Farsighted actively for about a month and we’re still a month away from the release.

    I blogged my thoughts on self-publishing and how it should be approached earlier this week on my author site. The article is called “Why I’m self-publishing even though I already have a literary agent” > http://ow.ly/6CP6n

    If indie authors put TLC into their work, we can turn that low-quality stigma around. The movement is already gaining momentum.

    Emlyn

Vanessa

This is a brilliant article that will encourage Indie authors to keep it up and entice new authors to take control of their ‘babies’.

MLGoodell

I was born with the gift of writing. I majored in History in university because that seemed to be the field in which I could get the highest grades with the least amount of work because most courses required papers.
Unfortunately, I was born without the publishing gene. I have spent my whole life writing and not being published, until, five years ago, 16 years after having written the best book possible, I decided to publish it myself. The vanity press editor told me my novel was too good for me to have to pay for it. He suggested a couple of options. I picked the first one (failed to do requisite research), PublishAmerica, and the joy at being published rapidly changed to shame.
Now, having a second novel (and having reread it last night and pronounced it good), I suspect I am forced to Indie publishing because the link with PublishAmerica has forever tarnished my name in the industry.
I hate the world.

Comments are closed