Why I Self-Published

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.


Amazon US

Amazon UK

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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51 Responses to Why I Self-Published

  1. T.F.Walsh says:

    You’ve done such an awesome job… keep going and never look back:)

    • TBM says:

      Thanks, Tania. That means a lot. You are in the midst of releasing your own book and you know how much work is involved. Not to mention self-doubt and fear. I wish you the best of luck!

  2. I think you’re doing a fantastic job.

  3. Do you have any idea how much I admire you? To have done this all on your own is an incredible accomplishment that I don’t think I would ever have the confidence or nerve to do myself. To think about it is one thing, but to actually follow through right to the end is another thing entirely. You should be very proud of yourself, and I think this blog is really going to help others who are considering self-publishing and give them the boost they need to follow in your footsteps :).

    • TBM says:

      I can’t say I did it all alone. My editor, cover designer, formatter–they all helped immensely. I have so many supportive bloggers who offered their services out of the kindness of their heart, including you. So many other authors offered advice. And my partner who encouraged me every time I decided to quit. Without my partner this wouldn’t have been possible and I am so lucky to have such a wonderful person on my side. Thanks for you kind words, Cindy. Each wonderful comment helps me move forward.

  4. Hilary says:

    500! Wow! that is amazing! Congrats! I am right behind you in the self-publishing (and I am so thankful that you are my new friend because you have great advice and insight). rejection is sole crushing – initially – but then you get over it – and expect it – because of the 100 or so queries an agent receives daily they may sign about 5 new clients a year…. seriously? I had to try sending queries because that is my personality. But the more I traveled down this path the more I wanted to self publish – traditional publishing is a very slow road. If you get an agent then they have to sell to an editor. Then they re-edit the entire book – regardless of your thoughts – they own it – and you still have to market like mad… Doing it yourself is way more fun, you have more creative control and you really learn a lot. Sure, selling is hard, but like you mentioned, there are never any guarantees and at least this way you know you did it all!

    • TBM says:

      It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and I hope to continue our friendship. I have the PDF of your novel and I can’t wait to start it this weekend. I’m a slow reader so I may not finish it this week, but when I do I’ll review it. And when you do self-publish feel free to take over my blog any time you want to promote. It’s all yours.

      When I really started to consider the traditional route and the amount of time and work I thought why not just give it a go myself. I’ll never know if it was the right decision. It feels good so that’s enough for me. And the amount that I have learned is extremely valuable. Every day isn’t rosy, but I do enjoy my job most days. I didn’t think that about my last job.

      I wish you luck with your journey in self-publishing. If you ever need someone to listen to the struggles I’m always here. I may have some advice but even if I don’t, I have ears and will listen.

  5. Colline says:

    This was so interesting to read. I love reading about your experience and the decisions you have made. I look forward to reading more.

  6. Caroline says:

    I think there are pros and cons. I personally would go the traditional way and only after having been turned down 125 times I’d try to self-publish but for a very specific reason. If you are lucky a number of agents and editors will look at your book and point out what’s wrong or right with it.
    I see now that your book is a niche novel but that can be an advantage.
    It all depends on the market. But being careful is important, rater self-publish and everything that comes in goes to you than having some leech get everything. The important thing is – it felt right right to you and that’s what counts.
    Btw one of the first blogs I ever followed Mmd Guillotine self-publishes all of her historical novels and gives quite a bit of advice too.
    As far as I know, she self-publishes because she is scared to find out no publisher would want her books.

    • TBM says:

      I’ll look into Mmd Guillotine’s blog. Thanks for the tip. You’ve mentioned in the past that you’ve written a novel. Have you been contacting agents and publishers? The editor I worked with was wonderful and not shy about telling how to improve my novel. I learned so much from that experience. And I hope to take that knowledge and improve my future books.

      Are you willing to share your specific reason why you wouldn’t self-publish right away? No pressure, but I am curious.

      • Caroline says:

        Yes, as I said, I want the feedback from a professional editor or agent and I wouldn’t want to self-promote. It’s just not me. There are some books I might self-publish but many others I would not. I think it’s too much hassle if you really want it to work.
        I haven’t contacted anyone. the German market is very different from the UK/US and the biggest chunk of my writing so far has been in German. I’m writing in English now (even translating some of my German stuff) and been taking courses since two years, once I’m ready I’ll look for an agent.
        One needs to do what’s in line with one’s personality. Both ways can work very well.
        I suppose after 125 rejections I might have a different opinion. 🙂

      • TBM says:

        I totally understand, Caroline. I support writers who pursue all and any method of publishing. What I want is more books to read and I’m not really concerned how they get on the market as long as they do. Last time at the London Book Fair I heard a lot about hybrid publishing: authors who have some works traditionally published and others they self-publish. I hadn’t thought of that before and I found it very interesting and tempting. And I heard a few agents who were completely supportive and encouraged hybrid publishing.

        I wish you luck with your writing. I know from reading your reviews that your book will be beautiful. And you read so many wonderful authors who have such a way of describing scenes and building characters. I imagine your story would be the same. Can’t wait to read them and review them on my blog.

        I’m curious about the German market, why it’s so different. Let me know if you would like to write a guest post on that. I would love to learn more.

  7. Beth Ann says:

    This was such a great post about the whole decision and I am so glad that you shared this! Have you read A.P.E. Author, Publisher and Entrepreneur How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki? Chris got that for me last year and I read it and it gives some insight into the whole process also. I have such deep admiration for you and for anyone who does this—-I can only imagine how much work it is every single day. I don’t take rejection too well so I would have to really toughen up if I decide to publish, huh?
    I guess the thing to remember is that there are so many different types of people in our world and we all have different tastes in reading —it just falls to reason that it may take awhile to find those who “like” your writing.
    Thanks for sharing this and for your willingness to engage other new writers and help them with reviews, etc. That is what it is all about in my humble opinion.

    • TBM says:

      I haven’t read Kawaski’s book yet, but I just purchased it. Thanks for the tip. I’m always looking to learn more.

      You’re right, not all of us like to read everything. it takes time and patience to find readers who want to read your book. That’s the best part of the ebook revolution–the shelf life is so much longer than in actual bookstores. Now a book doesn’t have to make a big splash within a week. Instead it can build momentum slowly. I’m not looking to become a NY Times Bestselling Author. I just want to survive really and to do what makes me happy, which is writing.

      And keep sending authors my way. I’ve met two fantastic people through you and thanks!

      • Beth Ann says:

        I think your philosophy and goal is perfect. It would be a bonus to be NY Times Bestselling Author but doing what makes you happy is the perfect reason to do what you are doing. Carry on, my friend.

      • TBM says:

        Thanks, Beth Ann. Being realistic is key when taking on this type of work. Otherwise it would be too depressing.

  8. The first step is always the hardest.
    Glad you made it! 🙂

  9. Geoff W says:

    Over 500 copies!? Go you! I even mention in my review which’ll be posted next Monday (I can send you the text if you’d like) that I’m always super hesitant about reading self-published books but that you’d impressed me with your novel.

    • TBM says:

      Ah, thanks, Geoff. Can’t wait to read the review and thanks for having it in the schedule. I don’t normally look forward to Mondays 🙂

  10. What a great post 🙂 And so informative. I didn’t realise about the limitations of publisher promotions. Makes you think…

  11. Anna says:

    Sounds like a good challenge! I think the best rewards always comes after your very own hard work. The uphills and downhills will make the experience even better and you’ll most likely learn a lot about your own abilities too. And what you said about marketing, along with word of mouth social media really is a big help for people who “do it themselves” nowadays! 500 copies is an excellent start – you must be doing something right! 😉

    • TBM says:

      Thanks, Anna. I love to learn new things and I’m really learning a lot about this business. Social media is an important part. The trick is not to get sucked in so I keep writing. Balance is key. I do love meeting bloggers and authors from all over the world. We are very lucky these days to have so much connection with others. Have a wonderful weekend. I know you’ve been working a lot, but I hope you have some time and energy to do some sightseeing this weekend.

  12. The Guat says:

    Holy Crap! 500 definitely deserves a toast. The fact that you self-published and 500 people have bought is awesome. AWESOME! I can’t tell you how happy I am for you and glad that you’re hard work is paying off. In truth I was a little scared of the self-publishing world because I would have no idea where to start so I am glad that you started up this second blog … you know pioneering the way for people like me. I would totally love to hear the rest of your journey and how you selected your choices that way I can dive in and follow your example 🙂

    But dude … seriously you should definitely be happy. I know we want to sell thousands and be on the Oprah show, but 500 is definitely a good start. Congrats my friend!

    • TBM says:

      Thanks, Dude. I’m pretty shocked myself about selling 500. When I hit the publish button on Amazon the book didn’t go live right away. Well it did during the night. While I was asleep I sold my first two copies. I was shocked the next morning.

      Don’t worry, I plan to share more of my journey. It’s filled with ups and downs. I really recommend Penn’s and Gaughran’s books as well. They helped out immensely.

      Are you considering self-publishing?

  13. 500 copies sold!! Whoo-hoo! That’s terrific. Keep on, keeping on. You are doing such an amazing job in marketing and promoting. Something I’m in awe of because I’m so terrible at it. I think I’ll have to look into those books you mentioned.

    What is great about being an author in the year 2013 is that we have so many more avenues open to us. I think you have a great point about the topic — as a lesbian romance story, your novel might have had trouble finding a home with a “traditional” publisher. Though hopefully that won’t be the case much longer. Publishers are always looking for untapped niches. Hence, paranormal romance. 🙂

    • TBM says:

      The books mentioned in the post are super helpful. And thanks, I keep thinking I need to do more with marketing, but there are only so many hours in the day. One thing at a time, I keep telling myself. One thing at a time and it will get there. This is a wonderful way to work on my patience and fortitude.

      Maybe I should write a lesbian paranormal romance! that’s not a bad idea.

  14. Novroz says:

    Hi TBM 🙂
    This is my first time commenting here 🙂
    500 copies already?? wow!! Cheers for you and hope it’ll sell more in the future. Good luck on your battle

  15. pattisj says:

    Various speakers at our writers group have talked about how publishing houses have changed, and a lot of them rely on the author to do the marketing. Glad you are selling books, that’s the goal!

    • TBM says:

      Times are tough for publishers and I understand that. It’s a great learning experience and I’m enjoying it. Thanks, Patti.

  16. Sunshine says:

    you GO, Girl! congratulations and best of all, you gained a ton of wisdom through this journey. i bet that is worth everything! 🙂

  17. Great post. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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