For many authors, self-publishing a book can be the best way to get a book into print! But in the publishing industry, it’s always important to look (and research!) before you leap. And so we’ve devised a series of questions that authors should ask themselves before taking the plunge into self-publishing.
Self-Publishing Your Book: Are You Ready?
Question 1: Do I believe my book is suitable for a specific and widespread audience, and will have a place in the self-published market?
If you’ve studied the market and assessed your competition (as opposed to just having a vague idea about it) and you believe that your book has a chance at finding a home among other self-published titles, this is a good foundation for marketing after you self-publish.
Question 2: Have I considered how to transition from querying agents to self-publishing, or vice versa?
Some writers prefer to start by trying to get traditional deals with publishing houses; others hold off writing query letters to literary agents. Either way, it can sometimes (but not always) be difficult to transition between self-publishing and traditional publishing, so make sure you have all the best tools to make the leap if necessary.
Question 3: Do I have the attitude and perseverance I’ll need to self-publish?
If the idea of self-publishing your book is exciting to you, then proceed! You’ll need lots of energy and motivation to give your self-published book the launch it needs. The trick is to follow your heart. If the idea of self-publishing sends a little tingle of optimism up your spine, it’s a good sign you’re heading in the right direction.
But for some authors, that optimism takes some work and soul-searching. If the thought of self-publishing brings waves of trepidation, consider why this is: Are you unsure of the process? Daunted by the amount of work it will take? These worries don’t necessarily mean you should forgo self-publishing…just that you should get some help and background information from an industry official or a fellow writer before you start!
Question 4: Do I know what to expect from the self-publishing process?
Many people self-publish with dreams of hitting it big. We’ve all heard stories about self-published books by no-name writers that shook up the best-seller lists (Paula Hawkins, anyone?). If your dream is to land among them—and if you have the marketing strategies and the stamina to do so—proceed!
Granted, some authors may be daunted by hearing that for every one self-published book that you actually hear about via national media coverage, there are thousands that you don’t. It’s true that self-publishing companies report varying numbers, but it’s also true that some self-published books will sell copies numbered well into the thousands. It all depends on the strength of the author’s platform and personal networks. It also, of course, depends on the strength of the book!
Question 5: Do I have an appropriate book marketing plan?
Making your book available on Amazon or on the Barnes & Noble website won’t make you a star. How will anyone know it’s there?
Self-publishing goes hand in hand with self-promotion. And that means: blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, book-touring (in person or virtually!), meeting people, giving stuff away as promotion, advertising, etc. Though this may seem overwhelming, the bottom line is this: If you’re a go-getter with a clear vision, your advertising dollars might convert into sales.
If you’re not really into self-promotion, that’s entirely okay—but know that, if you want to garner book sales, you’re going to have to learn the ins and outs. (Don’t worry—this is far less intimidating than it sounds!)
Question 6: Do I have a good support system?
Your self-publisher’s primary job is to design and print your book—and that’s pretty much it. Though many self-publishers offer marketing packages these days, be prepared for the reality that a significant portion of the legwork will still fall on you, the writer. If you have questions about how to land a speaking gig at a library or whom to turn to for Twitter advice, it’s not your publisher’s responsibility to answer.
Few professional book authors go it alone. They have a team of people to help answer questions, make decisions, and offer encouragement. As a self-published writer, it’s a good idea to join a network of people who are trying to do the same thing you’re doing. Ask your family and friends for help. Join an organization of writers. Hop on a forum. Swap ideas. Find out the best places to advertise, the best places to avoid. Enthusiasm is contagious! You’ll learn lots and have fun.
Question 7: Do I have a plan that matches my budget?
There are two big up-front costs to self-publishing:
- The cost of paying the company that will create your book.
- The cost of advertising, marketing, and publicity.
Ask a lot of questions when you sign with a self-publishing company. Some will seem to be very cheap when a writer signs up, but then authors will pay nearly full price for their actual books (and/or will be required to purchase a certain number of books), leaving no room for the author’s mark-up (and no room for profit). Some self-publishing services will cost a bit more up front, but then will have lower printing costs (so that authors make more money per sale).
And then, after your book is ready, it’s time to promote. Having a big budget for promotion can certainly help get the word out about your book. Some authors “pay” for promotion with their time spent on free social media sites. Getting out there and promoting should be a big part of your plan if you’re hoping to make some strong sales.
But remember, all the money or promo in the world won’t be able to create a bestseller if the book itself does not capture the public’s attention in some way. Word of mouth is a very powerful form of promotion—if not THE most powerful form. But it’s also the element that writers have very little control over. There’s just no telling what will (and will not) catch on.
If your book does well, there’s a chance you’ll recover your investment or even make a profit. Self-publishing can be very rewarding for your wallet and your soul!
QUESTION: What self-test questions have we missed? What do you recommend writers ask themselves before self-publishing?