I was blissfully naïve when I decided that self-publishing my book would be easy. It is a lot of work.
In some aspects, the publishing process is better than it was 10, 20 years ago. You don’t need a literary agent or fat publishing contract to print your book. Several vendors are happy to assist you with getting your book printed in eBook and/or paperback form.
I ultimately choose Amazon and their parent company, CreateSpace, because their service is free on the front end. Amazon provides you with tools and other resources to create and publish eBooks. CreateSpace, which will produce your work in paperback form, has similar tools that help you create the cover, market the book, and handle loads of other questions. Both venues take a hefty cut of the total price. I was deeply saddened to see that my dreams of making writing a full-time career likely will not come true. Unless I sell millions of copies, my proceeds won’t even pay for that glass of champagne I featured in the first blog post.
So, yes, anyone can publish a book. That’s also the bad part. When my book is published, it is akin to tossing a pebble in the ocean. Literally hundreds of thousands of books are out there. How can I get people to notice my humble work?
I suppose that’s where the literary agent and traditional publishing house comes into play. All the work I must do on my own would be done by them. I created my own web page. I took the photo that appears on the cover of my book and designed the cover itself. I formatted the book for publishing on both Amazon’s eBook and CreateSpace’s paperback sites, which were two completely different formats. For the most part, I edited the book on my own.
You can find people out there who would be happy to perform a lot of these services for you. Someone would have been happy to design the website, edit the book, et cetera. All of those things cost money, though. When it is your first work, it is hard to justify the expense. It is especially difficult when you have no idea whether or not you have a prayer of making money on the venture.
For that reason, I have done a lot of the work myself. Some snarky folks will say it shows; well, help me for free then. Tell me what I should have done differently – in a nice way.
I would be remiss if I did not mention a very valuable resource that I used. As a fan of Outlander, I discovered a podcast called “The Scot and the Sassenach.” The couple who produced the podcast reviewed each episode of the series. It is a brilliant podcast conducted by two writing professionals. They provide an interesting prospective.
They also offer loads of writing classes (both free and paid) on their website, storywonk.com. They will perform all sorts of other services for you – help you with editing, design, et cetera. I found an offer where they would take the first 25,000 words of your novel and provide a critique. It was not terribly expensive, just $100 at the time. I considered the price to be very fair, especially when I received the feedback.
The review was admittedly disappointing at first, because I thought I was finished. However, the criticism was constructive. She helped me to see problems I had with various aspects of the book. In fact, I eliminated the first few chapters and started over. She is not a fan of prologues and wanted me to scrap it, but if I was “stubborn,” she suggested that I write it from a different character’s point of view (POV). I did, just to see how it would read – and the prologue in the book today is the result. It is far richer and ties the story together much better than the original.
If you are thinking about the self-publishing route, be prepared to do a lot of work. Set a budget for what you are willing to invest. Know that you may never, ever recoup that cost. Then, you can decide how much you can do yourself and how much you must pay someone else to do.
Do I wish I had a literary agent and big, fat publishing contract? I really don’t know. I imagine you must relinquish a certain amount of creative control. That’s really the big reason to go with self publishing – it is all you. No one imposes a deadline. No one tells you that you cannot say something. Some people may find that overwhelming. Some may find it liberating.
No matter which way you go, though, the key is to start writing! I do not believe this will be the venture that will rescue me from my job. I probably have a better chance of winning the lotto. However, that is not my primary reason for writing. I have a story to tell-and now I am finally able to tell it.