The Truth About Self-Publishing

Now that I have two self-published books under my belt, one of them previously published by a small-press publishing house, I can say with some certainty that independent publishing is both incredibly rewarding and also not for the faint of heart.

As I see it, the major downside of self-publishing is that, in addition to writing high-quality books, the indie author must do all the tasks normally handled by a publisher. These include:

  • Editing: I highly recommend making an investment in yourself by hiring a professional editor. For me, this is a mandatory step to ensure a quality product. If a reader hates my book because of grammar errors, spelling mistakes, or, worse, unsympathetic protagonists or plot flaws that slipped by my beta readers, she will never return to buy another book.
  • Cover: The cover is a reader’s first impression of your book. An amateurish cover screams, “Novice writer,” and is the kiss of death. Unless you have the skills to design and prepare your own cover, I recommend hiring a professional cover designer.
  • E-book preparation and conversion: This time-consuming work requires patience, the reading of much fine print, attention to detail, and technical savvy. For the technically challenged (like me), it also means a steep learning curve. I was lucky because my husband was willing to act as my technical guru. Or you can hire someone to do this for you.
  • All administrative details involving taxes and dealing with distributers and/or printing houses.
  • All promotional activities including blogging, networking, soliciting reviews, posting to promotional sites, placing ads, organizing book signings, and more. Twitter alone could suck up every spare moment available. However, this isn’t as bad as it sounds because most publishers now expect authors to do much of their own book promotion (also, to my vast surprise, Twitter is fun).

On the plus side, I love, love, LOVE the control indie publishing provides. I can change the pricing, the product description, even the book content, all at will, and if book sales don’t improve, I can change everything back again.

Moreover, I don’t need to second-guess whether or not an agent or editor will reject a manuscript because it doesn’t fit into a traditional genre box and is therefore unmarketable. That means I can write any kind of book I want with no restrictions on the content. The downside of all this freedom is that I might write something no one wants to buy, thus proving that the genre boxes are there for a reason.

The good news is that my first three months of sales as an indie author have already exceeded four years of small press figures. While I still haven’t matched total revenues due to lower indie pricing, I anticipate that my revenues will soon cover my initial costs, and then gallop ahead of the earnings from my small press publisher. I have all the time in the world. Self-publishing isn’t a sprint, but a marathon.

Control, autonomy, and money! Short of a bestseller gone viral, what more could an author ask?

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7 Responses to The Truth About Self-Publishing

  1. Rae Weaver says:

    You have such a positive attitude! I was very encouraged by your post. Thanks for being willing to share your experience and give encouragement to those of us for whom a finished, published book is still a dream.

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      Self-publishing is not easy, but it is satisfying. If I was going to give any advice, it would be to keep writing and keep learning the craft.

  2. LK Watts says:

    Hi Maureen,

    Great blog post! You’re right when you say indie authors have to do everything. You may as well not bother trying if you don’t have the passion, enthusiasm and motivation that self publishing requires. No one has ever thrown together a manuscript, put it out there and earned a million dollars from it overnight.

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      I agree. If only it were that easy. As if writing a novel weren’t hard enough for the poor author, even the most brilliant and compelling book can languish at the bottom of the e-heap if nobody knows it’s out there.

  3. Maureen Fisher says:

    Thank you Keira and Chloe. I recommend authors give it a try. This is more lucrative than small press, probably because I can set a reasonable price and play with the blurb.

  4. keira morgan says:

    Very encouraging article. I will slog on!

  5. Maureen ~
    You are SO right! I have 3 books under my belt: 2 non-fiction and 1 fiction. It’s tough business but ultimately rewarding.

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