This video is a shortened version of the blog post.

Self-Publishing is the new and improved “Get-Rich-Quick” theme of this decade. You see the adverts all over the internet: “Write a book, publish and become an instant celebrity, millionaire, guru or pick-your-title-of-choice in just 24 nano-seconds”. Then all you have to do is follow all the so-called experts and use their tricks and traps to blast you to the top of the best-seller list while you sit back and rake in the royalties, taking ‘selfies’ (self-portraits) of your feet on a beach.

What a truckload of sewage!

Self-publishing is an honourable and respectable way to build your career. But like everything else in life, there is no magic wand that instantly transforms the kitchen maid into Cinderella with a shimmering dress and glass slippers, or in this case a J.K. Rowling look-a-like.

Just before I list some of the realities of self-publishing I just want to make something clear. I am not an expert. Yes, I have published 15 books and made some money from them. Some of them have sold really well. There are others that have not sold a single copy.  I am learning new things about writing, publishing and marketing every single day, but I will never know it all.

It is Hard Work.

Nothing happens without some form of work. In your case you have to write.

Writing takes time. Good writing takes even longer. When you write your first draft of an article or book, it is not perfect. You need to review it. Have you missed an important point? Is there a gaping hole in your plot? Have you got the grammar right?

Once you have reviewed your writing, you then need to send it out to someone else to read. They will pick on things that you have missed with your biased eyes. Then you need to re-write it again. The process takes time. Eventually you will have a finished product that you can release to the public.

Even if you use an outsourcer to do the bulk of your writing, you are still going to have to go through their writing to ensure that they written it with your voice. Did they cover all the important points? Have they checked their facts? The process is identical. It takes time.

That requires commitment, discipline and a good work ethic and the work does not stop once you have written the book.

You are Not Just a Writer

As a self-published author you have multiple roles to play: Writer, designer, editor, copy-editor, publisher, marketer, public relations officer, media consultant and agent.

If we take just the publishing process and break it down, there is a long list of boxes that have to be ticked to make sure your book is actually available for sale.

  • Which distribution platform to use
  • Formatting and converting so that your work is readable on that platform
  • Cover Design that ‘pops’ and grabs instant attention
  • Keyword Research for your title and description
  • Book Description optimised for searches and capturing potential reader’s interest
  • Appropriate category selection
  • Set up the Distribution Channels within your chosen platform
  • Pricing
  • Uploading your book
  • Reviewing online/print version
  • Book goes live

If we look at the marketing role you have to ask yourself a few questions before even starting the marketing:

  • How will people going to find you on the internet?
  • How easy is it for potential readers to find your book?
  • Can they get a free chapter of your book?
  • Do you have a mailing list of your readers?
  • Can people pre-order your book?
  • Where can they buy your book?
  • How will you tell them about your book?
  • What promotion strategies are you going to use?
  • How much money do you have to spend on marketing?               
  • How are you going to differentiate your book from the millions of other books available?

Once you have asked and answered those questions you need to put together a marketing plan with step-by-step actions that you need to do.

There is work involved in every role that you have to play when you are self-publishing.

No-One Cares

There is only one person who genuinely cares about the success of your book and that is you.

If a friend promises to leave a review on your book or mention it to a few friends but does not, then find someone else who will. Don’t waste your energy on complaining on why they did not. They may have had some serious issues of their own to deal with.  Just shrug and move on.

Even if you are paying someone to perform one of the tasks or roles mentioned above, you are the only one that has the most to gain in seeing your book becoming successful. You will need to follow up with your service providers to make sure that they are following the plan you laid out for your book.

It is your responsibility to ensure that all the bases have been covered and that your book has the best possible chance of success.

Nothing is Free

Everything you do in getting your book published is going to cost you. It’s either going to cost you money or it will cost you time. If you have a limited budget then doing everything for yourself is the only option and that is okay.

It may take you a little longer to get your book published and available for sale, but you will need to be frugal with your time allocation. Make sure that every hour you spend on your book and any of the associated processes is productive and has a tangible measurable result at the end of it.

If you are going to use outsourcers for part of the process then make sure they are reputable and reliable. There are many shady folks out there that promise you the world or best-seller status but there are no guarantees. Let me say that again.

There are no guarantees!

You may never sell a single copy of your book

Your book may be a complete flop for any number of reasons. It could be bad writing, poor presentation, ineffective marketing strategies, drowned in the tidal wave of new books available or even global-warming. Okay the last reason might be not be applicable, but my point is your book could fail spectacularly. I am of course speaking from personal experience here.

After all that hard work, blood, sweat and tears, no-one is interested in your book. It is heart breaking. You have two choices here. You could either decide to find a tall building with a slippery ledge, declare dramatically that you will never write again for those illiterate buffoons who clearly have no idea just awesome you are, or … you could write another one and try again.

Suck it up, find out what went wrong, make a better plan and do it again.

If You Cheat, You will Turn Into a Pumpkin

With so many people promising you instant gratification in the self-publishing industry it is sometimes hard to resist those shiny magic wands, but a word of warning. Some of them are just costume jewellery. Do your research. Make sure that the techniques that they are advising you to use are ethical and do not contravene the Terms of Use for the publishing platform of your choice.

If you abuse this remarkable opportunity that the likes of Amazon, iBooks and Nook have given us as self-publishers, they will shut down your account. Boom! No questions asked. And it is really difficult to get it re-instated. I have read so many horror stories of promising authors that have ignored this warning and paid the price. There is no happy ending to that story.

You need a plan

One of my favourite movies is “The Field” with Kevin Costner but I fear that movie did more damage than good to people with the phrase “If you build it, they will come”.

If you write it, they will not come.

You need a solid action plan and the commitment to make it happen. Each day action’s must be planned, executed and then evaluated as to its effectiveness.

Writing a basic to-do list is a good start and once each item is completed you can tick it off and move onto the next task. Split your to-do list into the different roles you have to manage. This allows you to multi-task in that while you are waiting for your editor to review the book, you can start on some of the other tasks required for marketing etc.

You can download a basic overview of a plan from my group on Facebook (Secrets To Publishing A Book). Just ‘Request to Join’ and then you will have access to it at no charge.

Now having said all that above, I truly hope that I have not put you off publishing your masterpiece. You have a story to tell and someone needs to hear it. I just want you to be aware of the challenges involved but there is nothing more satisfying than writing your book, publishing it and then selling it.

It feels great. So go and do it.


P.S. You can download a PDF version of this blog post here in the store

Harsh Reality of Self-Publishing PDF

Diana Heuser specialises in Publishing Resources for Authors at her business site Secrets to Publishing a Book. You can also join her free Facebook group here or join her Elite Membership Group.

You can follow her on Google +, LinkedIn and Twitter or visit her personal website.

Send to Kindle