Journey of Self Publishing

So a little funny that I have two blogs in a row that have to do with self publishing since I’m getting published traditionally, but there you have it. The following is by a highly esteemed author friend, Jessica Bradshaw. Enjoy…

At some point every writer has to decide whether or not they wish to become an author. The difference? An author is published. A writer is not. First off, a writer must decide if they are writing for themselves, or to share. Those writing for themselves may never pursue publishing, but those who want to share MUST share…and there are a thousand different ways, from blogging and tweeting to printing books. If, however, the writer wants to make money, the game changes…entirely. A decade or two ago, things were simple…and limited. Today, even though things are a bit more complicated, our options are OPEN. For those of us who want to share our stories with the world – whose sole intent is NOT to make money, our options are limitless. That said, the avenue I originally selected – traditional publishing – ended up a non-option. Not because I’m not competent, or because I lack plot, imagination, and decent characters, or because my query letters suck. It turns out my trilogy is too outside the norm, and therefore is not marketable. Intense, fascinating, and beautifully-written, (according to half a dozen agents and a few editors,) but not marketable. I am not alone in having written an unmarketable manuscript, and I have learned that my manuscript does indeed have a niche…just not one a traditional publisher is willing to persue. Let me be clear: I’m not looking to profit. I just love to write. My first novel cost me six months of my life…just in research. 40 typewritten pages of research, actually, all stored on my hard drive. It also cost me two more YEARS of writing, revising, editing, editing, editing…and the end product is completely different from the beginning. I LOVE to write. I confess, I’m also being selfish: I want my children to grow up seeing their mom’s books on the shelf, knowing that their mother defines herself as someone – authentically Jessica Bradshaw – instead of something: “Mother,” “Wife,” “Homemaker.” Their mother is a real person, creative, intelligent, passionate, eager, imaginative…and capable of more than dishes and laundry. I wanted – NEEDED – to see my book(s) in print. And if traditional publishing wasn’t an option, self-publishing was the avenue I had to pursue. I confess, too, that I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into. It’s rather like child-bearing: Had I known exactly what I was in for, I’d probably still have done it, but I might have given it a little (or a LOT) more consideration. What does self-publishing really entail? Why is it such a challenge? Allow me to elaborate. You write. You edit. And edit and edit and edit and edit and edit, and find beta readers to slap you with the occasional “THIS BITES” and edit and edit and edit some more until you have a book you can be proud of. Both practice and patience make perfect. But then there’s “ready” for publishing, and “perfected” for publishing. Proof time. With traditional publishing, a typo is their fault. You’re perfect. With self-publishing, a typo is ENTIRELY YOUR FAULT, and EVERYONE KNOWS IT. So you proof and proof and proof, and maybe hire someone to do it so you have a fresh set of eyes on the manuscript you’ve been poring over for years. Once perfected, you choose a self-publisher. Then a binding and size and paper type and color and layout and font type and size. If no template is available, you must create one, and then move your manuscript to it. But when you do that, something will get screwed up. Something always gets screwed up, and you have to perfect it. You’re in charge of title pages, pagination, author notes…even figuring out where to put blank pages, and how many. Then you create a pdf from the template and upload it.

And what about a cover? If you’re writing YA, like me, it needs to be a photo-realistic cover, so you’d better have experience with photoshop (AND images licensed for your use!) or a VERY capable cover artist. (I’ve got one for you, in case you’re interested, and she’s VERY reasonably priced. Check out here site HERE and tell her I sent you.) Covers take time and money, of course, so be prepared…and make sure you have rights to the images used, or you could wind up in court. And while you are working on the cover, you’ll also need back cover text. More likely than not you’re a writer, not a marketer, so plan on that taking a while.


Now, cover done – lord-willing, it meets the specifications of your publisher! – you upload it, wait for your book to process, order (at your expense) a proof copy and…WAIT. When it comes, REVIEW IT. Something will be wrong, you’ll correct it, re-upload your brand new pdf, wait for processing, order another proof, and if the planets are properly aligned, you can release your book for publication and order your own copies…after you “sign” agreements and submit your ssn for tax purposes and set your pricing and choose your distribution lines. And of course, you’ll want one of those distribution lines to be your website. You have a web address, found a host, and paid a web designer, right? (And an author site? Facebook fan page? Twitter account? A professional headshot, writer bio, excerpts, etc?) Now hook up your paypal account to your website so people can buy directly from you…at the price you agreed to in your contracts. Order enough copies to cover people who might buy from your site, because it’s actually YOU selling and shipping them. You’ll also need your book in ebook form. (I highly recommend smashwords for simplicity and ease of distribution.) You have to RE-reformat your manuscript in ebook style, but after two or three hours of major frustration you’ll get it…eventually. Oops! I forgot about press releases, marketing., SEO, a writer blog, RSS feeds, merchandising, arranging your own appearances, signings, and offering your self-published book to major bookstores on commission. Did I say challenging? I meant nearly impossible…unless you’re REALLY motivated. I am. I’m tired, but motivated. Out hundreds of dollars, but thrilled. Oh, and still enjoying my day job: motherhood. Good luck, all, and if ever you consider self-publishing, I’m here with you!