Q11: Words of Wisdom

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

What would you tell people considering doing it, whether as a hybrid author or a solo path? What do you wish you’d been told before making the decision?

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I wish I’d been told that I should have planned WAY in advance for the release. I realize this was an error on my part and lack of planning. But I wish I would have sent out ARCs, built up talk, etc. Instead, I focused only on the finished product and then tossed it out of the nest and yelled for people to catch it.

Also, please, PLEASE seek professional editing from a reputable source. My editor made such a huge difference. I just think about her and tear up because she helped me SO much.

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I would tell people there’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of. The worst thing that could happen would be losing a few hundred dollars in the process. I’d tell them you can’t succeed if you never try, and I’d ask them what they’re really waiting for.

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It’s hard. It is so so hard. You can do this with minimal amount of work and be an author. Personally? I spend 30+hours a week working on my books and self pub business. I’m up late, and I’m constantly wondering what will sell and if I messed up and should I order more bookmarks and damnit, I forgot to go to the post office again and I need to pay my cover artist.

It’s a job. A full time job, honestly. But it is the most rewarding thing I’ve done in a long time. I’m chasing my dream, people are reading my stories—I may be tired and going to bed at 2am but I’m happy, and I pass out with a smile on my face.

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Just because it’s a long game, doesn’t mean it won’t work out.  Persistence is the better part of valor, in this case.  Keep going!  And don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you you’re not a “real” writer if you’re an indie.  The publishing world is changing, and some people will have trouble keeping up.  That just means you’re a pioneer.

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That no matter how well or how badly you think you’ll do, every book is different. You’ll be disappointed at your sales no matter what, because someone will always be doing better than you (unless you’re Hugh Howey), so comparing is useless (even though we all still do it). Focus on readers, and reaching them. And remember that this isn’t like traditional publishing – you have all the time in the world for your book to be successful.

The other thing I wish I’d known was how simple it is. The actual task of getting the book out is the easy part. It’s everything else – promo, marketing, etc, that gets tougher.

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I would absolutely suggest it, but warn anyone that you need to know what you’re doing, you need to understand the Industry, and you need to be prepared to get your hands dirty. The little details are important. The book needs to be professionally edited, have a great cover, and look good inside, both for the physical and electronic copies.

As for what I wish I would have been told, perhaps to be patient. Many Indie writers take four or five books to start making real sales. Don’t expect to be one of those overnight bestsellers. Treat your publishing as a career to be nurtured, not a one-hit-wonder.

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I’d warn them that it’s addictive! LOL. As soon as you publish one book, it’s such a rush that you’ll be rabid to put out the next one.

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I would tell others considering self-publishing that it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s not even a make-a-little-money scheme if you do it correctly. If you’re going to self-publish, you should do it because you want to put your books in readers’ hands and be prepared to make little or no money for quite some time after it’s published. Self-publishing is a long-game. It will take a while for your author name to gain traction, to find reviews, to get noticed. And self-publishing ONE book is not the end. It’s the beginning. Self-publishing is part of a long career, be it in traditional or hybrid. You may be self-publishing after a long career of traditional, and it will still take some time for your audience to make the connection and find you if they’re not being marketed to anymore. Self-publishing is a lot of work, a full-time job, much like writing can be.

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Everyone needs a bit of a mentor. Find someone (or a few someone’s) who have been through this process and had good results. Whenever you don’t know what to do, ask them politely for advice.

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If you know which way you want to go, whether traditional publishing or self publishing, that’s great. I would never try to dissuade someone from that. But if you’re on the fence, why not try both? One book isn’t going to decide your career. Write two (at least!) and publish one traditionally and self publish the other. See which one you like better. And see which one earns you more money 😉

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If you’re considering self-publishing, make sure you’re willing to do the work. It’s more than hitting the Publish Now! button. If you put out a product lacking in quality, you’re not just doing a disservice to the book itself, but to your customers. People are paying you for this. Give them their money’s worth.

 Every book is different. Make sure this is the path you truly want for this book. Remember that you have options out there for future books. Self-publishing one book won’t necessarily dictate your publishing career.

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There are a lot of people that would say JUST DO IT, but I would caution that, if you want to have a long, successful career AND the respect of your “co-workers” and peers, you have to have the time and money and talent and drive to do it right.

What do I wish someone had told me? It’s a career like any other. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, no matter how fast it looks like other people are running.

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