Q10: The Worst

(This question is part of a larger subseries called Perpetual WIPs: Self-Published Authors. For the remaining questions, see here.)

What have been the worst parts of self-publishing?

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Getting the word out is hard, especially now that the market is so crowded (and you’re a bit shy at promotion). Finding a reader base and the time for promotion, tour stops, etc. all while working a full-time job, editing freelance and for a publisher, and writing can be extremely overwhelming.

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The stigma. Hands down, that sucks. I have had people say, “I didn’t read your book at first because it was self-published but now that I read it, I’m really glad I did!” And while I understand, that saddens me. I spent six months with a professional editor on this manuscript, poured blood, sweat and tears into it (sorry for the cliche), and I hate there is still a stigma. I understand some of it is deserved, but there are so many wonderful indie writers.

The other part I didn’t like is all the promo. I know I’ll have to promo myself if I am published traditionally, but at least I’d feel like I had *some* backing. It’s so hard to promo yourself from scratch as a debut author.

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Spending the money up front. There’s really nothing else I don’t like.

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The worst part of self-publishing is watching your traditionally published friends do AMAZINGLY well right out of the gate. Controlling ones own envious reaction to the incredible success of others is excruciatingly hard. Harder than I thought it would be. I’m definitely happy for all authors who do well and succeed, but there’s also the nagging voice in my head that tells me I could have been just as successful if I had an agent, a book deal, a better idea, etc. I try to counteract the nagging voice by being as supportive and gracious as possible to other writers who struggle as much as I do. I try my best to mentor and help other self-publishers in the attempt to even the playing field and make self-publishing a viable option for many authors.

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The ANGST. Before I had any sales to speak of, wondering whether I would be a total laughing stock. It was terrifying.

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The endless wondering whether anyone actually cares about what I write.  I inject a lot of myself into each of my books, and there are times when I worry it’s not resonating.  But then someone tweets me, or leaves a review, and that knot in my gut eases just a little.

Never completely goes away, though.

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The burnout. Doing everything yourself is crazy. I still scratch my head, wondering how I did it the first time and how I’m going to do it again with the sequel. If you can afford to, delegate what you can.

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The marketing. Especially when you’re a brand new face, it’s difficult to get people to give your story a chance. Many reviewers won’t even look at a self-published book, never mind bother reading it. When you’re relying on word of mouth to boost your sales, the word “self-published” can be a killer, although that has changed some in the past few years. The stigma still persists, however.

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Having complete control over everything. 😉 I’m not a business person. I’m not manager material. Even with a great team behind me, at the end of the day, everything fell on my shoulders. It was way too stressful for me. I just want to write the books.

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Everything is on you. If you fail, you’ve got no one to blame. It’s terrifying and there’s still people who will make you feel like shit while you do it. That’s really hard.

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The flip side of being in control of everything is that there’s no one else to blame—or, more seriously, no one to shoulder some of the pretty substantial workload. It’s stressful, having all of your success or lack thereof squarely on your own shoulders.

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I think the biggest thing for me is that there’s no one way of doing it, so you have no idea if what you’re doing will work. It’s all an experiment at this point, and there are no guarantees that you’ll be successful. And I’m the kind of person who likes to be successful, so that fear of failure is still tough to deal with. Of course I suppose you have that with any book, trad or self published.

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Trying to keep a release schedule I can stick to, in terms of when I’ll finish the book, then send it to beta readers, then make sure my developmental editor is queued up and turns it around quickly, then on to my copy editor and hopefully she still has my slot open, then on to my proofreader, then get it formatted and off to reviewers and hope they have time to read my book soon, and all of that by the release date I’ve announced to my readers months ago. I lose sleep over that 🙂

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