When I first mentioned that I was thinking of self-publishing my first novel on my blog, 50 Year Project, I received a lot of advice and opinions. Some were gung-ho about self-publishing and some were adamantly opposed. One person said she had been to a writer’s workshop and she was advised not to consider self-publishing until she had been turned down by 125 agents. 125!
The biggest warning I received was that self-publishing would take up a lot of my time since I would be responsible for the writing, finding an editor, hiring the cover artist, and then the promotion. There are a ton of other details that pop up occasionally. The promotion is the big thing. Many said that if I went the traditional route, the publisher would do all the promoting for me and I could spend my days locked up in my office writing. That sounds nice.
Since I’m a nerd I started researching my options. One of my fellow bloggers sent me a link to David Gaughran’s blog. For those who don’t know Gaughran he’s a self-published author that writes how-to books about self-publishing. I read some of the articles on his blog and then I noticed he was running a free promotion on his book: Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish And Why You Should. I emailed him and he promptly sent me a copy.
I didn’t close the other door just yet. I started researching publishers. However, my novel is a lesbian romance. I started noticing right away that many of the small publishers who would consider publishing my book were either not accepting new authors or had shut down completely. This isn’t to say there isn’t a market for lesbian romance novels. In the past month I’ve sold over 500 copies of my book. But times are tough for publishers right now, especially small ones.
Finally I found a publisher that I thought would work for me. Then I started looking deeper and read how other authors who signed with the publisher felt about their contract. Many, and I mean a lot, were pissed. More than pissed. The biggest complaint was that the publisher didn’t do a thing to promote their books. This made me nervous. Wasn’t that one of the main reasons to go the traditional route?
So I started digging deeper in Gaughran’s book. He made a really interesting point. Yes if you have a publisher they will do marketing for you. But if the book doesn’t sell right away, their efforts disappear drastically. A new book has a few weeks to make a splash or it gets pushed to the side for other books to make the money. Publishers can’t predict which books will make it big. So they publish a lot of books. One out of five books will actually make a profit. Two will lose money and two will more than likely break even. Do you think a publisher will invest time and money into pushing a book that doesn’t make money the first few weeks? I’m not bashing publishers. They want to make money. Sometimes books take longer to gain readers. If the publisher decides not to waste their time the author will have to promote the book. Or scrap that one book completely and start over since the publisher holds the rights to the book.
I started to think. No matter what, I would have to work hard to get my book promoted. Yes it would be an uphill battle doing it on my own. Not to mention hard work. But querying and waiting to be rejected at least 125 times also seemed like a lot of work and time. Not to mention soul crushing.
What did I do? I started contacting editors and cover artists. I’ll go into more detail about that later one. And I continued doing research. I read David’s Let’s Get Visible: How To Get Noticed And Sell More Books. Then I read Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book. I read a few other books, but these were the most helpful and honest. Even now that my first book is published I’m still doing research. And I’m promoting. Word of mouth sells books. Every day I’m contacting potential reviewers (let me know if you are interested). The more reviews I can get on Goodreads and Amazon the better. Since I’m a blogger myself, I love interacting with book bloggers and seeing if they want to read my book. I’ve made a few friends along the way. Hopefully I’ll make more. I won’t lie; it is a lot of work. Not every day is fantastic. Some days are downright depressing. Others, however, are rewarding. On average, it’s just work. Work that I enjoy.
Yes it’s an uphill battle, but it’s my battle. I love a good challenge. I love being involved in all the details and managing projects. I’ll tell you, in the past year I’ve learned a lot about writing and the publishing world. I’m not an expert, but I’m learning. And I’m selling books. That’s the best part.