Taking the Plunge into the World of Self-Publishing

Until a few weeks ago, I had completely dismissed the idea of self-publishing my work. I’d heard of a few success stories, sure, but I felt very attached to the idea of having my memoir published by a traditional publishing house. I knew the odds were good that I’d barely make any money that way. But hey, writers shouldn’t expect to make money from their work, right? We write because we love it, and that’s all that matters.

That’s what I kept telling myself even after I found out that most new authors never even earn out their average $5,000 advances and only make about 10% of royalties after they do. I still believed that traditional publishers had the power to make me a “legitimate” writer with a nationally distributed book, and that self-publishing couldn’t provide that. Turns out, I was wrong.

I started doing some research, and purchased the ebook, “Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish, and Why You Should” by David Gaughran, which I highly recommend. I discovered that self-publishing is becoming an increasingly legitimate and profitable pathway for writers to publish their work. Not only do you get to keep around 70% of your book’s royalties, but you retain full control over the content, the cover, and the book’s distribution. And, with ebooks, you don’t even have to worry about printing costs and distribution. Anyone with an internet connection can read your work.

Yes, I will agree that allowing people to publish anything does launch a lot of work into the literary canon that probably has no place there. But it’s up to us as readers to figure out what’s worth reading, and that’s not hard to do. It only takes a moment to determine whether or not the author has put serious time and effort into publishing their book.

As an experiment, and more importantly, as a way to start getting my work out into the world while I write my full-length memoir, I’m going to publish one of my essays as an ebook. I plan to go all out in terms of hiring a professional editor and cover designer for the project. I want to give it a real shot and see what happens. I also plan to blog about my experiences for those who are interested in learning more about the process.

What do you all think about self-publishing? Have any of you self-published before? I’d love to hear your experiences.

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7 replies to “Taking the Plunge into the World of Self-Publishing”

  1. I don’t have anything against the world of self-publishing, and I’m so thankful it’s a growing industry for all of us writers out there. But, I dream of traditional publishing – I won’t lie. I’m going to exhaust my efforts before self-publishing. I hope that’s not a mistake.

    Good luck to you! 🙂

    1. Alana says:Author

      I still dream of traditional publishing too, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. A lot of people give traditional publishing a shot first, and I may even end up doing that with my full-length memoir at first to see how it goes. I do worry about the miniscule royalties and giving someone else control over my work, though. Some people have gotten their self-published books picked up by major houses even after those publishing companies rejected their original manuscripts, so that’s also something to keep in mind.

      Thanks for the comment, and good luck to you as well!

  2. Greetings from a fellow platform campaigner!

    I think we all dream of a contract with a big publisher, but it is good to be realistic about your odds. There are many points of failure along the way. Even bestselling authors write books that are loved and championed by their agents and editors, only to get shot down when they reach the publisher’s marketing department.

    Publishers are in a tough market. Your book has to have the potential for an enormous audience (read: bestseller) before they can risk their scarce resources on it. Certainly, many of the books they select do not end up on the bestseller list, but that is their goal when they evaluate your work.

    If your book does not fit well into the hot book market of the moment, you might want to aim for a smaller publisher that focuses on your niche, or accept the responsibility for self-publishing your own work properly.

    It sounds like you’ve done the latter, Alana, and I wish you the best of luck with your publishing adventure. I’ll be right behind you!

    1. Alana says:Author

      Thanks for the comment, Daniel! It’s really great that the publishers don’t get all the say anymore and that writers can take control of producing their books.

  3. Your blog reminds me of where we were two years ago in deciding on continuing with traditional publishing or going indie. BTW, there’s a difference between indie publishing and self-publishing. Indie is when you have creative control over everything; self-publishing is using a service like Lulu or Xlibris. We went the indie route and it’s been a fantastic trip so far. We even blogged about our experience from the time we started up until we published our first book. Check them out at http://www.pantheoncollective.com/about.

    I actually had a literary agent shopping my manuscript around for over a year, but no book deal. So I joined forces with two friends and started our company The Pantheon Collective. And yes, you can make money. With three books (and a fourth one coming), we pull in about $800 – $1000 a month. We expect this to increase with the fourth book. We will soon add an Author Services division, too (for editing, ebook formatting, marketing plan, etc).

    Of course, you have to promote your butt off, but going indie is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

    1. Alana says:Author

      Thanks for the clarification. Sounds like you’ve had a lot of success in indie publishing. Congrats!

  4. The art of getting published these days is a rare commodity indeed. Many times, authors that are in the market of trying to get published will write umpteen query letters, send off countless chapters for initial review to agents and then receive the “Thanks, but no thanks, Don’t call us, we’ll call you” letter. Dejected and frustrated, the author pulls themselves up by the bootstraps and hones their manuscript once more, writing an even more intriguing query letter to the next agent or publisher only to get continually rejected. This what makes self publishing so appealing.

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