What is self-publishing?
Simply put, it’s writing and publishing your book on your own, without the involvement of a traditional publisher to help market and distribute it.
The traditional publishers you would have heard of are:
The difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing.
Overall direction. When you self-publish, you can determine your own timeline and budget. For instance, if you want to only write 1 book a year, that’s great! If you want to write a trilogy in 1 year – up to you.
If you were working with a publisher, they would give you a timeline to work to so that your book/s fall in line with their marketing. By the way, this can be great as it can give you the motivation you need.
Budget – when you self-publish, you are completely in charge of how much you spend on every aspect of bringing you book to life such as the editing, proofreading, front cover and advertising costs.
A publishing house will pay for editing, proofreading, book covers and advertising.
All kinds of people!
Self-publishing is a great way to either dip your toe into the world of writing or it can give you a great understanding of the publishing world if you wanted to go down the traditional publishing route.
You can self-publish what you want, when you want, how you want. It can be a massive learning curve and can (for some) turn into their full-time (lucrative) income.
However, it’s not all roses when it comes to self-publishing. I’d be lying if I said it was easy.
But, I want this post to also feature what you can do.
Self-publishing challenge 1: Finances
Self-publishing can be done on the cheap.
If you wanted, you can self-edit (or use free editing software), design your own book covers and upload to amazon and then pray…
But, I really recommend against this.
Of course, if it’s on your bucket list to write 1 book in your life and that’s it-great.
But if you wanted to take this self-publishing a bit more serious, you need to invest in yourself and your work – and yes, it can start to cost. However, you will enjoy the results.
What to do?
Learn, learn, learn.
Learn about writing fiction as much as you can so that your baseline standard gets higher.
Don’t do what we did in the beginning where we didn’t do as much research as we should have when it came to an editor, and we ended up paying double; once for the original editor (to get rid of them) and then another editor to re-do it.
The same thing happened with a proofreader that came ‘recommended’ by a printing company we used (but we didn’t look them up) and we then had to spend £1000 getting the proofreading done again for our debut novel ‘Meet me At 10’.
Weirdly, I’m glad we did it as if you have a look at the reviews for ‘Meet Me At 10’ we have never received a review mentioning editing or proofreading. That’s because we researched and invested in professionals who either offered a free trial of their work or they came recommended from somebody you know who has used them.
So, make sure you research your editors and proofreaders. Most editors offer a free chapter so you can see how they work.
We use Gary at Bubble Cow – click here to check out the website. If you do use them, tell Gary we said Hi!
For your front cover, you can go onto websites like 99 designs where you can pick your budget (and quality of the graphic designer).
I would honestly recommend you get a graphic designer for your front cover. I’ve seen some really bad front covers and then the author has wondered why their books are not selling.
Despite what we think, people do judge books by their covers. But rather than spending loads of money, do your research, use websites like 99 designs where you can preview the work before you pay, otherwise you’ll end up having to get it done twice which will cost you even more.
Self -Publishing challenge 2: Creating an audience.
The problem with self-publishing is it’s all down to you. The positive with self-publishing is… it’s all down to you.
If you are motivated, you will smash it. If marketing isn’t your thing, you may struggle.
You need an audience to sell to. It’s that simple. And because you would have taken the steps I mentioned before, your books will be of great quality so that your audience will keep coming back.
What to do?
Spend 1 day just setting up a twitter, Instagram and Facebook account for your author name.
(You need a facebook account for your author name as you won’t be able to run ads on a personal facebook account and also, it is better to keep things separate).
You don’t have to be a marketing genius, but you do have to put yourself out there (this is what a publisher would do).
At first, just post general things about writing and share things an audience would find beneficial (even if it’s nothing to do with your book).
In fact, out of 10 posts/tweets, only post around 2-3 about you. You want to be of service to your audience so they recommend you.
Do not spam. I’ve done it in the past and it doesn’t work, trust me.
Instead, try this – click here.
Publishing houses have massive social media networks and readers flock to them wondering what new releases or offers are on. The publishers provide a service and seem to be trusted.
If you are just starting out, you need to build that trust, and that takes time, hence why I said to do it right away.
Once you have set up your social media accounts, I really, really, really, really (have I said it enough?) recommend you set up a mailing list.
Click here for info on this.
I was that person that just kind of ignored mailing lists. I was in denial and didn’t want to think about setting it up.
I was wrong.
An email list is something you will be able to own so that instead of somebody just buying your book and going off into the sunset (and then you having to pay more money to advertise to them – that comes next), you will keep them forever- as long as you don’t spam them and they leave.
We have used a few different mailing list providers, but if you’re like me, you like simplicity – we are busy, aren’t we? So we use Mailerlite.
But how do I get people on my mailing list?
You give away something for free.
I literally struggled to get my head around this- don’t be like me. I was that person who was like ‘I’m not writing a book for free!’
Think of the reader’s journey.
There are millions of books on the amazon ‘shelves’.
Why on earth should they buy yours?
They are more likely to buys yours if (the front cover looks good, the reviews are good – which you would have got by getting a great editor and proof reader) and if you came recommended and/or they had kept seeing you post really relevant information on your social media.
If they have already read your work through a free short story, prequel, or book, the risk factor of investing in a ‘new’ author is almost zero. They know your style, they will have got to know you through your social media posts and emails. Instead of a name on amazon, you are a real person.
You can ‘pin’ your tweet (which is a tweet that also stays at the top of your feed) where you offer your free book. The reader downloads it and automatically goes onto your email list where anytime you have news, offers, a new release, you can let them know. If they entered their email, they are already showing they are trusting you. Don’t let them down with nothing but spam. Treat them nice – recommend deals or other author they may like. They will like you for it.
Self -Publishing challenge 3: Advertising
Advertising can be expensive. Really expensive when you start and don’t know what you are doing.
The main advertising platforms you will have heard of are amazon ads and facebook ads. But there are more such as BookBub ads and Google ads.
I’ve spent longer (and lots of money!) on amazon ads and facebook so I feel like I have more knowledge on them.
The difference between the two is that with facebook, you can spend lots of money without many results if you don’t know what you’re doing.
With amazon ads, it is the opposite. Sometimes it is actually difficult to get them to spend your money. But if you know what to tweak, then they will start to eat into your advertising budget.
But, both platforms are great for getting your book out there.
What to do?
Learn about advertising. The platforms do change, so I would recommend YouTube videos that are the most up to date.
Literally type in ‘Amazon advertising for authors’ (and then the year to make sure it is the most relevant).
Do the same for Facebook advertising.
It is important to test and make mistakes. You WILL lose money at first. But I always see it as ‘I haven’t lost money, I’ve invested in data’.
Trust me, those worries soon disappear when you start to really master advertising and for each £1 you spend you make £3-4 back.
There are self-published authors who spend £30,000 a month on advertsing (gulp!) but they EARN £100k + .
Doesn’t seem such a bad idea now, does it?
But…. They will have made LOADS of mistakes along the way and would have spent weeks, months, even years testing and tweaking.
We are all still learning and are all on a journey so don’t worry.
Self-publishing challenge 4: People looking down on self-publishing.
If you self-publish, you are likely to hear the words ‘Oh, so you’re published?’. And then you feel like you have to explain that ‘No, I self-publish’. For some reason, their eyes glaze over as if to say ‘So you’re just pretending at being an author?’.
It can be so dis-heartening. But if you join author/writing groups on facebook (which I really recommend you do) you will see that we have all experienced it.
What people (who are not in the business) don’t realise, is that self-publishing is hard work – really hard work. In fact, it shold be celebrated because we have to learn the art and craft of writing, sourcing the right professionals to edit, proofread and design our front covers, work to a budget, fail and try again, build an audience… and repeat.
I absolutely do not take anything away from traditionally published authors (I know some personally) as they had to jump through lots of hoops to get their publishing deals, but once published, their sole focus is writing (and some marketing to be fair) but a self-published author has to wear lots of hats and be good at all of them to stand a chance of succeeding.
What to do?
Stop explaining yourself.
I learned this a while ago. Whether it was getting older or what I don’t know. But I literally don’t care what people think that we self-publish.
I’m so proud of how far Hackney and Jones have come.
We have branched out to non-fiction, low content, no-content and activity books for kids.
Click HERE for the full selection of Activity books.
We had to learn it all and we made LOADS of mistakes.
People don’t see the hard work or mistakes you make. But its those that make you more resilient and wise.
To be honest, I don’t take it personally now if people think self-publishing is the ‘pretend’ way, I know we work our socks off. But I don’t need that validation. Just read our books and tell us we don’t take it seriously. Most of the time people don’t understand or are not aware. I may briefly explain what self-publishing is, but if they look like they are not interested, then it’s not my job to convince them.
If you have followed all the steps I have outlined you won’t need to worry about convincing anybody or getting their validation as you will be succeeding or learning or both.
Spend time around people who are levelling up and you will feel more inspired.
Self -Publishing challenge 5: Lack of Confidence in Work
Every single time you press ‘publish’ you will get butterflies.
That’s because you care about your work.
But, like I’ve said, if you have taken all the steps before-hand, you will have set yourself up to write and publish the best work you can.
We all get nervous, trust me.
We are writing a crime series (DI Rachel Morrison series) and each one, we feel is better than the last, but the very second we upload I suddenly think ‘Ahhh it’s rubbish!’.
Being completely honest, that’s more about me and my lack of confidence that what is actually the truth.
What to do?
You will reduce your anxiety about your work by:
Reading 1 star reviews of books in your genre on amazon and making sure you don’t do that.
(Here’s a real-life example of a 1 star amazon review on a crime thriller book)
Eg: “A ridiculous backstory” – so make sure your backstory isn’t ridiculous.
Poor quality writing – unbelievable characters – so, make your characters believable and ensure you pay for a quality editor.
“the story was far fetched” – make sure yours is believable.
Now read 5 star reviews of books in your genre and do more of that!
(I had to put this review in here as it backs up what I was saying about having a social media presence )
“This novel came to my attention when the author mentioned it on Twitter….”
“Her characters so lifelike” – Make sure your characters are 3D, they will be flawed, silly, serious and always act the right way.
“strong but vulnerable female lead” – Most people would think the main character has to be all strong, but your readers will love your characters being vulnerable some of the time.
“good descriptions of the town and around” – so make sure you do your research of the area where your book is set, as you can see, it matters.
So if you are:
Paying for quality editors
Paying for quality proof readers
Paying for a quality cover designer.
Letting beta readers read your book before you hit ‘publish’.
Does doing all this guarantee you a bestseller?
But it will reduce your anxiety.
Once you press ‘publish’, sit back and congratulate yourself.
You have just done what millions of people say they would like to do, but haven’t.
It is a beautiful journey that only gets more exciting…
See you in the next one.