(or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Amazon)
Last December, I dipped a toe into the ocean of self-publishing with my short story, Hide and Seek. The world of publishing has been changing for a long time, thanks to the internet and that beautiful creature called social networking.
Through self-publishing, authors no longer need agents or publishers to get their work into readers’ hands. This route also gives us a heck of a lot more creative control over everything from the actual content of the book, to formatting, to the way the cover looks.
There are pros and cons to each path, of course…but I’ll cover those some other time. Today I’d like to go over the five most important lessons that I learned on my first foray into this world.
Lesson 1: I Need Patience, and I Need It RIGHT NOW
Did you just finish writing your masterpiece, and you can’t wait to get it into the hot little hands of your readers? I know the feeling. When I’m writing, it seems like my friends and family are all asking the same question: “When can I read it?”
I want nothing more than to be able to tell them, “Right now! Today! Go buy it, and please God love it and tell everyone you know!”
Photo via Mememaker
The desire to give my readers what they want drives me, keeps me writing, and definitely kept me from pulling out my hair while I was figuring all this publishing stuff out for the first time.
However, it’s a desire that needs to be reigned in just a little and tempered with a lot of patience. I’m telling you right now, everything took longer than I thought. If you’re about to self-publish for the first time, I strongly recommend that you pick a release date that is about three months out…and that’s if you’re already sitting on a final version.
Lesson 2: Self-Publishing Costs Money
Ever fantasize about going back in time and investing in Apple or Google when they were just starting out? Well, you can’t. Sorry. But get ready to invest in yourself, baby.
How much it costs to publish your book is completely up to you, but be prepared to spend something. While budgeting, consider how much money you’re willing to put into this project and potentially never get back. That’s the reality to face… you might not earn it back on this one.
Photo via Quickmeme
I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on publishing Hide and Seek, so I budgeted the money that I had into three key categories:
- Editing & Proofreading. This one is key. I spent 90% of my budget here. No matter how many times you read through your manuscript, there is no substitute for a professional.
- Cover Art. With a good cover, strangers who have never heard of you will be more willing to take a chance and buy what you’ve written. Oddly enough, the old saying about not judging a book by its cover doesn’t apply to actual books. I’m not artistic enough to do my own so I sprung for a pro.
- Marketing. I saved some money by doing most of my marketing on my own, including posting about my book on reader forums, handing out business cards like they were candy, setting up an online launch party on Facebook with guest authors and prizes, sending an email to my mailing list, and asking friends and family to help spread the word by forwarding my announcement emails and sharing my posts on social media. (Don’t forget to ask people to add your book to their shelf on Goodreads!) I used my small marketing budget to help amplify my own efforts by splurging on a targeted Facebook ad and buying a slot in an audiobook newsletter with high readership.
Lesson 3: Checklists Are Even More Fun Than I Previously Thought!
I’ve always loved that satisfying feeling of crossing something off a To-Do List. I love it so much that, sometimes, I’ll add on things I’ve already done…just so I can cross them off. Ooooh, yeahhhhh.
Later I’ll be crossing “Write a blog post about self-publishing” off my list for the day, and it’s going to be sweeeeeet.
Photo via Memesvault
Since I was a total newb to most of this process, I used this self-publishing checklist to help me feel more confident about the steps that I was taking. It’s full of advice, and lists all the general steps in a nice, concise manner.
Lesson 4: There Is No Wrong Way to Get Your Book Out There
Photo via Imgflip
I debated about this one for a while. At first, I was just going to release Hide and Seek as an ebook. Then my mother, grandmother, and best friend demanded printed copies of my short story that I could autograph for them, so I decided to release in paperback as well. Then, my great-uncle expressed an interest in listening to the story on audio book and my format list continued to grow.
As it turns out, releasing the book in multiple formats gave me extra opportunities for marketing, and it cost me exactly $10 more than releasing in only one. Using KDP for my ebook, CreateSpace for my paperbacks, and ACX for my audio book, it was actually pretty easy to take advantage of all three markets.
Lesson 5: Turns Out My Heart Fits Comfortably in My Mouth.
During this process, I second-guessed every single decision I made. I drove my husband crazy by forcing him to look at covers, listen to audio book samples, and read my story and blurb dozens of times. I obsessed over my cover art, changed my release date three times, and my hand literally shook above my mouse while I clicked “Submit” and published my book on Amazon. I’m not exaggerating: I have at least six new gray hairs.
However, all that being said, I’d do it again. I will do it again. And again. And again. Self-publishing isn’t the right choice for every manuscript, but I’m confident it was the right one for Hide and Seek. If you’re reading this because you want to maintain total creative control and get your writing out there, do it! Your fingernails will grow back…mostly.
About the author: Caryn Larrinaga is a writer living in Utah with her husband and their cats. Despite obtaining a degree in Anthropology (which is much cooler than you might think), she explored several career paths before deciding that she had to follow her passion. Suddenly, writing fiction was the only thing that made sense. When she’s not reading or writing, Caryn likes to spend her time swearing at video games and guzzling chai tea. You can find her supernatural novelette, Hide and Seek,on Amazon.