6 Things to Know BEFORE You Self Publish

There’s a lot of hoopla and talk about indie publishing these days (isn’t there always?). If you haven’t been keeping up, I can recommend a couple of excellent posts by Randy Ingermanson, Hugh Howey and the Tsunami of Cash, and Questions About Hugh Howey’s Results. Both articles are detailed and indepth (Randy is a physicist, after all), but both are well worth the read.

I’ve been participating in other discussions, too, and have noticed a couple of recurring themes.

  • Some people are promising instant success to those who indie publish
  • The odds of being successful are so small, it’s pointless to try

DISCLAIMER: None of the people directly involved in indie publishing are making either claim. In fact, every credible source on the subject lays the facts out clearly. Rather, these themes are being carried by people on the “outside” defined as hucksters taking advantage of authors who don’t know any better, authors who have been taken advantage of, and others.

In the interest of helping our readers, I want to offer the following.

1. Self-Published Authors Can Do Very Well

Self published authors can do very well with indie publishing if they follow a few vital guidelines before  publishing.

  • Take the time to make sure every book is the absolute best it can be
  • Get outside opinions from crit partners
  • Put a little time and money into at least one round of professional editing
  • Put the time and money into a professionally designed cover
  • Find the right resource for publishing
  • Start marketing before publication (marketing should never end, but don’t wait until the book is published to get started)

All six guidelines are vital. Authors who are patient enough to put their manuscripts through its paces in each of the categories above will end up with a book that is much better than the first drafts that are published within minutes of completion.

2. Self-Publishing Does NOT Guarantee Instant Success

The simple rule of thumb is that there is no such thing as a get-rich-quick scheme unless  you’re the huckster promoting the scheme. You are not a huckster, but you may be vulnerable to one.

Don’t take anyone’s word about the likelihood of instant success. In fact, don’t even listen to those who are not directly connected to the industry. Go straight to the source. The time you spend reading about indie publishing from the publishers themselves and from others who have indie published will be time well spent.

3. Self-Publishing Does NOT Automatically Relegate You to Publishing Anonymity

You may not be an overnight success with indie publishing, but if you publish no book before it’s time and if you write engaging stories, you will not automatically be consigned to the publishing trash heap just because you choose to self-publish.

If you don’t expect overnight success and if you continue writing and publishing the best books you can, you will develop followers and gain readers.

4. Self-Publishing is NOT Easy

If you self-publish, publication is just the first step in the process. When you decide to take control of your own publishing schedule, you also assume all the control and responsibility for everything else.

  • Preparing your book for publication
  • Marketing your book
  • Knowing your target audience
  • Keeping track of sales and other such facts and figures

If the formatting and cover are more than you want to deal with, there are people who will do it for you for very reasonable prices (not Smashwords people, just other authors, like myself, who offer the service).

Many publishers also provide tips and tools for marketing through their website and through other sources. They also provide information on sales, though the level of ease and detail in getting that information varies publisher to publisher.

To put it simply, be aware that all the things an agent or publisher would do for you if you publish by traditional means will be your responsibility if you self-publish.

5. Anyone Can Self Publish and Should

Nothing is suited to everyone. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all with writing methods or with publishing.

Authors who shouldn’t self-publish are those who are unwilling to prepare their manuscripts from beginning to end, including getting outside partners, professional editing and professional cover designs.

6. MARKETING is essential

Marketing after self-publishing for most authors is no different than marketing for most authors after traditional publishing. No matter how you publish, the majority of marketing is the author’s responsibility.


Needless to say, there are a lot of factors to consider before publishing in any form. The advantage to traditional publishing is that if your book (fiction or nonfiction) needs work, the editor or agent will tell you that. If you decide to publish independently, you need to seek out people who will help you make your book the best it can be.

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