On the Fence About Self-Publishing? Take the Plunge!

I’ve been behind on my blogging here lately. (I have a lot of big projects in the works.) I did read a most interesting article by Bob Mayers of Cool Gus publishing . One thing he said really jumped out at me:

Ultimately, we’re a partner that works with each author as a unique entity.  As part of the very interesting survey about authors put out by DBW, one statistic was that 1/3 of traditionally published authors want to branch out to self-publishing. That struck me.  Because, if you want to do it right, you really can’t “self” publish.  The learning curve is much too steep to risk it.  That’s why most traditional writers I talk to who are considering it say they are scared.  They should be, and I say that nicely.  It’s a scary world in publishing right now, but it’s also a very lucrative one and very wide open for authors who are willing take smart, calculated risks.

I can relate. I get a lot of emails from writers who are intimidated by the process. They want to do best by their work and they want to reach the most readers. Money isn’t the only reason they are considering self-publishing. They want creative control. They have a vision and hope to reach it. But. From the outside looking in, taking a work from manuscript to finished book looks like more than just a big job, it looks unmanageable. I won’t lie. It’s a lot of hard work. It’s not unmanageable. It’s not even difficult (though a lot of hard work) I happen to think that the most important factor in self-publishing is self-CONFIDENCE.


Being the boss is a lot of responsibility. That’s why you need confidence. I’ll let you in on self-publishing’s Big Secret.

If you screw up, you can do it over.

Mistakes in the text? Fix them and update your listings. The cover’s not working? Redo it and update your listings. Don’t like a distributor? Pull your books. Find a new and exciting distributor? Sign up and list your books.

How’s that for a confidence booster? Mistakes aren’t fatal or expensive.

If you are on the fence about self-publishing, if you’re uncertain, or even intimidated, I suggest you look around and take a look at your team. Yes, your team. I bet you have a critique group or beta readers who’d be thrilled to help you shape your writing. I bet you know at least one other writer who has self-published so has some experience to share. Do you follow the important self-publishing blogs and indie writers? You may not know them personally, but they can still be part of your team. They have information and the willingness to share. Valuable stuff.

You can hire a production team. Fee for service, no entanglement of rights, no schemes, and you, as the boss, have full control. (Please, by all that is holy, stay away from the vanity presses disguised as “self-publishing services”) You can hire:

  • Copy editors
  • Book formatters
  • Artists
  • Cover designers
  • Audio production
  • Scanning & OCR conversion (for your backlist)
  • Proofreaders
  • Advertising
  • A marketing consultant

Here’s another of self-publishing’s Big Secrets:

If you’re willing to apply yourself, you can do most of it yourself.

Sweat equity counts. Willingness to learn counts a lot.

Is self-publishing a risk? Why yes, yes it is. Traditional publishing is a risk, too. But so what? The big difference is, as The Boss, you take the big risks, you reap the big rewards. There’s nobody standing between you and your readers. That’s why you need confidence. But you know what? You can fake the self-confidence until you actually feel it. You just have to take that first step and decide to take the plunge.



26 thoughts on “On the Fence About Self-Publishing? Take the Plunge!

  1. It’s like that shampoo commercial, a friend from my writing network encouraged me to self-publish, and then I got two other friends to do it too. Like you, we try to share what we’re learning and help each other. Nobody’s rich, but everyone is feeling proud and accomplished.

  2. JW, Bravo! As a long-time editor (Dell & Bantam), Publisher (Kensington) and NYT bestseller who has turned to self publishing (back list/front list), the fact that an author’s work is almost infinitely editable and fixable is a huge plus. Cover doesn’t work? re-do, re-upload. Weak blurb? re-write, re-upload. Ditto the book itself: the ending, the beginning, perhaps a saggy middle.

    None of this is possible in TradPub. It’s one-and-done. Mega difference!

    • Having suffered my share of regretful moments with traditionally published works along with that sick feeling of knowing that no one at the publishing house cares, the freedom to make mistakes and knowing I can fix them is the very best thing about self-publishing.

  3. It seems like the blog scales are a bit unbalanced to push everyone toward self-pub, but there must be advantages besides the scariness of “doing it all yourself.” For example, we just had an “Evening with the Authors” self-pubs were not invited. Also, Texas book Fest, self-pub not invited again.

    Something else I’ve seen is, the querying process CAN make your ms stronger and prepare you for marketability.

    Also, if you don’t have upfront money for pro-editing it is EXPENSIVE, believe me I’ve looked. Not to mention original artwork for covers. Oh and then there’s the pesky digital formatting, even my self-pub friends say:”PAY to have a pro format it.” Again more money for a struggling writer.

    I’m still not convinced either way. I’m still querying, but building my platform (kick-ass website), getting familiar with social media outlets and have signed up for Create Space…just in case I go that route.

    • Tam, you bring up some good points. There ARE prejudices against self-publishers (though the ones I know who are doing well really don’t care about being ‘snubbed.” The readers matter to them, and the rest of the world can go hang.) I’ve said it before and I believe it now, prejudices have a way of fading against the power of reality. The reality is, some excellent writers are producing excellent work that they are self-publishing. The snob clubs are getting smaller every day.

      As for the cost. Here’s the thing. Every book project has a budget. That applies whether it’s through a publishing house or in a writer’s home office. I’ve seen plenty of projects given a pass through trad publishers because the numbers on the P&L didn’t work out. That’s just how it is. Editing can be expensive, but then again, there are plenty of writer who find ways to cut their costs. Truth be told, if a writing is in need of thousands of dollars of editing, maybe they should hold off until their writing skills are better. No shame in that. And besides, if that same writer who needs so much help submits to the trad pubs, the work will be rejected because the editorial is too expensive.

      The same thing applies to covers. Check out Joel Friedlander’s Monthly Ebook Cover awards. A lot of indies are extremely creative when it comes to making covers on a tight budget.

      As for book formatting, I’m a professional book producer. I charge for my skills. But there is nothing magical about what I do. Lots of indies format their own work. Sometimes as they learn more, they reformat them. Sometimes, when they make some money from sales, they have people like me redo the formatting. It’s not that expensive. For most fiction projects, digital (all platforms) and print on demand formatting costs less than $300. Usually a lot less.

      The real point I want to make is that there is no reason to be AFRAID that self-publishing is too complicated. It’s not.

      • Thank you, thanks for taking the time to explain your points. I do understand what you’re saying. I am in a constant battle with these concepts and choices. What I want is the CHOICE. I want an agent to say, “Yes, I love your book, I can sell it.” Then I can decided if I want them to, or if I want to self-pub 😉

      • Smart writer story. A writer has two novels. Through extensive market research he determined one novel has a niche market. It’s a reader base he’s familiar with and he’s active in some of the communities and knows how to reach them. Trad pubs, not so much. The market is too small to interest them. So he self-published that one. Novel #2 is in a genre that is well represented in book stores and publishers have a history of doing this type of book right. He is shopping it.

        This is what smart indies do. They do their research on a case by case basis, and decide what will give any particular book the best chance of finding its audience.

  4. I think the thing that stops me dead about traditional publishing is that, if you make it big, you do it by making a lot of other people richer. If you do well, they do far better. The economics just don’t work out.

    That, and finding an agent and a publisher to take on something that may not fit their agenda.

    So far, the best deal I’ve seen (given to a few people) is for someone with great ebook self-pubbed titles to get a decent print-only arrangement with a short license period. I believe Hugh Howey has one.


    • For far too long all the power was in the publisher’s hands (and agents). Creatively, they held the power of “life and death.” Those days are gone and I don’t think they’re coming back, and thank goodness for that.

  5. Your comments certainly resonated with me. I’m about to self publish my second book. It is hard but as you say it is not impossible. The biggest hurdle is the fear. It is very rewarding when you’ve done it.

  6. I believe the answers about publishing lie within each of us. We know ourselves better than anyone else, and our decisions should be made after arming ourselves with facts, and then taking a gut check. Just what skills do we have beyond writing? I came to authorship late in life, after a long career as a hired gun writing for everyone else. I also have a strong background in marketing, and understand just what things cost. I didn’t think I had the years it takes to find an agent or publisher, and I chose to take a hybrid road, a journey with which I’ve been extremely pleased because of the professionalism of my publisher and the fact that it also lets me keep my rights. I had the pleasure, albeit a quick one, to hear Bob Mayer last week in Seattle. One thing he said really resonated with me. We shouldn’t begin a full throttle marketing effort until we have at least two books under our belts. I took this comment to also reflect a measurement of our own success as a author in general. My second book will be released in December, and I’m happy that I have not rushed into digital publishing and POD without a greater appreciation of the current state of the industry. Taking my lead from Mayer, I’m toying with my third novel being totally digital, now that I’ve been vaccinated.

  7. Excellent, Rebecca. As for marketing… Traditional publishers never fully cracked the code on how to market books. I think indie writers do a better job. Even so, I wish more would remember what the trad pubs seem to have forgotten. It takes TIME for a writer to develop and TIME to build an audience. The vast majority of “overnight successes” have ten to twelve books under their belts and have put in a decade or more of hard work.

    • SOME of us, for perfectly good reasons, take decades to write. It is a little daunting to realize we’ll never be able to compete based on prolificity (kind of like that one, but you don’t have to). So we need to figure out OUR method. I think a big part of that is going to have to be ‘if it took so long, the quality is part of the reason.’

      • Truth be told, I’ve never noticed a correlation between prolificity (I like it, too :D) and quality. Some writers are slow, some are fast. That’s just how they are. I do know that traditional publishing has not been particularly friendly toward the prolific writers. I know many writers who’ve taken multiple pen names just so they can publish what they produce without being at the complete mercy of one publisher’s scheduling.

        Prolific writers have a distinct advantage in self-publishing. The more works they have out there, the greater their chances of being discovered. That doesn’t mean that someone with one good project should be afraid to self-publish it. A good book is its own reward. And who knows, maybe it’ll become a classic. Plenty of my all-time faves were the sole endeavors by their authors.

  8. Jaye, this is an excellent overview of the process and the pluses of self-publishing. Having been both traditionally published and now self-published, I can vouch for everything you’ve covered here. It’s an excellent way to learn the business, you have total control and the do-overs are worth their weight in gold. Is it easy? No, especially not the first time around. Is it worthwhile? Absolutely. The sense of satisfaction one gets from holding that book for the first time is beyond measure. Bravo!

  9. I’ve been on both sides of the fence, too, and I like it better where I am right now. I don’t know if I’ll go back to writing fiction. I’m getting far too much satisfaction from producing books to worry about stories right now. If I do, would I consider a traditional deal? In my particular position, probably not. I’d have to run a P&L and find out how much a deal like that would cost me, and I suspect it would be too expensive.

  10. Pingback: » The OutRamp Guide to Self-Publishing: Episode #2 - The OutRamp

  11. Pingback: No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links | No Wasted Ink

  12. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post! Agreeed!! I would really take the plunge. It is normal that with self-publishing comes great responsibility. However, you will be the boss of your time and it is a great opportunity also to explore the digital publishing world on your own.

  13. Pingback: On the Fence About Self-Publishing? Take the Plunge! | J W Manus | Cronin Detzz "Writer's Block"

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