3 S.R. Johannes: Thinking of Self Pubbing? Read this

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Thinking of Self Pubbing? Read this

Guys - you have to read this post "The Seduction of Self Pubbing" if you are even considering self pubbing. It is so true and so accurate that I wanted to address it today.

As you guys know, I chose to self pub after some serious hardships with my book not making it in the traditional world after some really close calls. And I would not change that decision now for the life of me. I love where I am.

I do want to say that this road I've chosen is not all glitter and glamour.

I have had people emailing me offline saying that I've "inspired them to self pub". Not first of all - that is always wonderful to hear - I mean I never thought I could inspire anyone. But, before you decide on this path - I think you should stop, take a deep breath, and think through your options. Don't make a rash decision. Every situation is so different. I'm not saying you ( in general sense)  won't or can't be successful. There are many successful self pub authors as there are traditional authors. I dont know how you define your level of success or what you are shooting for. Shoot, I'm flying by the seat of my pants too.

I'm just saying research self pubbing as you would agents and publishing houses. Take the time to check out the details because you don't hear all the nitty gritty things that we self pubbers face. I've tried to share as much as I can but there are daily bumps that I couldnt possibly remember to get into.

Here are a few things I didn't know when I got started:
  • The total investment. To do it right, you will spend AT LEAST $1,000 on your first book - cover, editing, fees to get it up, blah blah blah. To. Do. It. Right. Im not saying you cant do it somewhere for 50bucks. But in my mind that is not the best way. Just my opinion.
  • The time it takes. I started this process in September and it's ALL I'VE DONE - morning, noon and night - just to get my book out there and get it up. Man and I thought I didn't write enough before? Now I'm desperately trying to carve out an hour a day to write.  The self pub marketing takes tons of time. It takes over. It's hard to sit back and pass up any opportunity to keep your name and book out in the crowd. Because when you leave, the book drops off too. 
  • You are one man show. As a self pubber, you are standing on a corner with a harmonica, a pair of cymbals between your legs, bells on your toes, and a guitar in your hands playing your heart out. Meanwhile you are now competing against a 50 piece bands that has dancers and baton throwers and FIRE! They get more attention with one song in 10 min than you get playing songs for a week. You have no marketing team behind you to open doors, do the legwork. You get no advice. No have no credibility or pull in the marketplace. I have a solid marketing background and this process has been so challenging and exhausting for me! And even somewhat disheartening.
  • You don't make much money - you may if you are in it for the looooooonnnnnnggg haul. But don't think you will put out one book and BAM "Welcome to Cash-ola city". Some self pubbed ebooks rise over time - if you put out one after another. Look on amazon - most in the top 100 have several books out a year. Self pubbers count on build momentum. If you don't have a second book coming or in the works soon - you are the news of the day and can easily lose your voice to all the other much LOUDER voices out there. It's different for traditional authors b/c they have names and marketing teams behind them.
  • If you just want to write - this is not for you. You have to wear all hats and writing becomes 10% of your life. If you hat to interview. hate to social network. hate to make cold calls. Hate to put yourself out there. Don't feel comfortable in a marketing mindset. This is going to be extra tough.
Indie pubbing has been the right decision for me - for now. I personally have always believed in the my book (my agent did too) and I waited patiently (years) to give Untraceable every opportunity with my agent in the traditional model. By the time I made this decision, it was for me. It was an experiment to play around. But my book had NO life left in traditional pubbing - no agent would rep it because it had been seen and i couldn't sub to editors without my agent. Or who knows, I may have stayed on the traditional track.

Of course today, I am so happy I made this decisions for me. All the people I've met and all the wonderful bloggers who have supported me. That part of this process is priceless.

Just don't look outward - make a decision that is right for YOU and your book (baby). Look at your platform, your support, your journey, your goals, your writing -  and decide if this path is what you want. If it is what you are ready for. If it is in your heart.

Don't do this because you are mad at traditional pubbing, or are tired of rejection ( cuz trust me you still get rejected if you self pub) or need some quick cash. Because those aren't the reasons that are going to help you.

If your book has life left, if you are getting requests, you may want to let those play out - you may want to keep going. And give your book every chance it deserves. Im not saying that self pubbing is the last chance - Im just saying that its important to think through both sides. Because there are pros and cons to each. There are hardships on both sides. 

The self pub road is a tough one in different ways than traditional pubbing. It is a road I didn't see myself on a year ago. It is a road I happened to come on at a time when the decision was right for me. If my book had sold and I'd stayed with my agent, who knows where I would be. For me - self pubbing was the only place for Untraceable - my book's last opportunity to see a shelf besides my own.

It is the hard road. It is not the short cut. And don't let it entice you without researching. I spent 6 months researching self pubbing, indie pubbing, and marketing options. I just don't want people thinking it is the easy way. 

It's not something to rush into.

It's something to think about.

And if you do go that route - put everything you have into it. Your blood sweat and tears, because that is the only way it is worth it in the end if you don't have the success you dreamed or expected.

And of course - I will be here to support you too :)


Carole Anne Carr said...

Hi, I should add to your list 'it is a way of getting your name out there and with dedication, and well written books, can lead to success, as I have found.'

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

i will push back and say - it depends on what you put out. Ive seen where it has backfired. But yes that is a pro.

Cynthia Lee said...

You have inspired me but I'm also aware that self-pubbing is a LOT of work. When the phenom first starting gaining traction in my mind, I was a bit starry-eyed but I'm old enough to know that running your own business is a HELLUVA lot of work.

Thanks for the tips, though!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

If there is one thing I've learned from you and Susan Quinn and Ali Cross, it's that your paths are NOT easy ones. I'm still holding out hope that I won't have to do it it alone. I'm not made of the same mettle as you brilliant ladies. :-)

Laura Pauling said...

I'd add that if you hate social networking, social media, marketing - you shouldn't trad. publish either, unless you are in the top 1% of those published that are the lead title - like Paranormalcy, Divergent, and the like.
And that is very rare.

roh morgon said...

Great post, and I agree 110%.

Self-pubbing is HARD, no doubt about it. The amount of time and work to do it right is unbelievable, and your writing will definitely suffer.

But it can be empowering as well. I wouldn't do it any other way.

Congratulations on your success - you've managed your book launch and publicity campaign beautifully, and it's paying off.

Nice job.

Now if only I can figure out how you found the time to do it!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great advice Shelli. Just watching you and others independently publish I see how much work it is. It is hard and I'm not sure I'd have the time to devote to it like you have. Thanks for sharing with complete honesty like you have throughout your journey.

ali cross said...

EVERYONE should read this post. Very well said, Shelli.

Jemi Fraser said...

It really is an individual decision - and one not to be taken lightly. Research is the key for sure :)

Cassie Mae said...

This is great! Self-pub. is so foreign to me, it's nice to get some insight.

Hannah Hale said...

Excellent advice! Doing this right DOES take a lot of time....way more than I planned. I'm taking the self publishing route on a book editors wanted but couldn't justify. Every step of very part of the book needs the same amount of focus and critique as the book itself.

Thanks for sharing your journey AND for sharing your expertise of the M-word (marketing for those who haven't seen the first in series).