I’ve recently been asked what I think about self-publishing, so I decided it blog about it. Everything I’m going to say now is ONLY my opinion, drawn from my experiences, and not the only opinion, or the only way of going about things.
I would always go for a traditional publisher ahead of self-publishing, when you don’t have a track record as an author. Publishers are still gatekeepers in terms of quality control and you learn a lot whilst you’re with them. There are, and have been, some fabulous successes in self-publishing, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. However, there are more good books out there than publishers able to publish them, so self-publishing would definitely be my second choice!
In fact, I have self-published a novel that’s now out of print, Uphill All the Way, plus a few novellas that began life as magazine serials then became large print books for libraries and so I put them out there as a service to readers – some had seen those books on Amazon, but out of print, and asked me about them. These titles bring me in a useful sum each month.
Some authors, who used to have big audiences but went out of favour with publishers, now self-publish and make more money than they ever did when with a publisher. That’s a fact. If you have the audience already, self-publishing can work wonders.
But when you have no track record as a writer, or, at least, not a writer in the field in which you’re considering self-publishing, you do have to look at the whole situation.
i) You can choose Amazon KDP select, which means you can’t sell your book through other channels. It’s supposed to be beneficial because it means you can put a book up for free once in a while, which can cause a spike in sales in your other books, particularly if you put book 1 up free and everyone loves it so much they instantly download book 2. I only have Where the Heart Is on Select and it has never been borrowed but I have put it up for free once in a while and sometimes it has made my other sales go up a bit.
ii) However, the rest of my stuff is available on Smashwords, too, which means it goes onto all platforms, and I get a useful sum from Smashwords once a quarter. I don’t feel the need to take the rest of my stuff away from Smashwords and put it on Select. For me, to have one sacrificial lamb is enough.
iii) I recommend that if you self-publish, you pay for a professional editor. Unedited work is painful to read and attracts a lot of negative reviews online. Avoid negative reviews if possible, although to have one or two is meant to show that your reviews are real and not just created by best friends.
iv) Ditto the cover. Get it done professionally.
v) Do the tutorial on Smashwords and Amazon (or just Amazon, if you go the KDP select way) and make sure your formatting is correct. Bad formatting also attracts a lot of negative reviews. This is a vexed area because even when you’ve got it right, the occasional reader will still say it turned out wrong on her particular tablet or ereader. Go figure.
vi) Or, like me, get someone else to do it, someone with experience. I was v lucky to have a friend who did it for me. I just supplied the text and got the covers done.
vii) Marketing – go for it, because nobody does it for you. Social media is especially useful and every reader expects every writer to have Twitter and Facebook accounts, and maybe LinkedIn, Pinterest and whatever looks as if it’s going to do you good. Look at Goodreads and their giveaways, also.
viii) Blog and website are indespensible. Get on other people’s blogs when you can, too, ditto book review sites. This is where social media comes in because you can see where other writers get interviews/posts/reviews and you can go on the same blog and check it out and ask if they’d do something with you. Some writers have put out so much stuff on their blog (E L James) that it has led to massive success (Fifty Shades). A small proportion, though.
ix) Give people your Twitter and Facebook names wherever possible (@suemoorcroft on Twitter, sue.moorcroft.3 on Facebook). Link everything together, ie have Twitter and Facebook ‘follow’ buttons on your website and blog. I’m just looking into having Pinterest buttons, too, although I’m weary of the whole necessity to do so.
x) Educate yourself. Go to writers’ conventions, network, do workshops, get information out of others.
xi) Hit on local newspapers, local radio. Send press releases. If you can get national, then do so, obviously! But remember that ‘author writes book’ isn’t a story. You need more than that. ‘Author writes book while being held hostage by pirates’ will gain more interest.
Lots of the above applies whether you traditionally publish or self publish. It’s promo promo promo and then, after that, promo!