The Tribulations and Jubilations of Being Self-Published

Guest Post by Patricia Marie Budd

I’ve been queried on a few occasions to offer advice on how to get published. There is very little I can say in response to this, as I know the people asking really want information on how to get picked up by a conventional publisher. I, on the other hand, am self-published and it has been nearly ten years since I have attempted to find a conventional publisher. Once I took the step forward into publishing my own work I never looked back.

I did attempt finding a conventional publisher once. I sent off thousands of query letters and received numerous PFOs in response. One day I looked in the mirror, inspected my grey hair, and decided I wanted to see my book in print before I die (my writing career not really beginning until after I turned 40). So, I turned my attention towards companies designed to help individuals like myself self-publish. These are referred to (and not so kindly) as vanity presses. The name itself is meant as an insult to the writer who uses one. It suggests said author is vain and refuses the advice and guidance that comes with a publishing house. In other words, self-published authors do not want to get any feedback, especially not from an editor. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to my approach to writing!

My first novel, A New Dawn Rising, went through very rigorous professional editing. iUniverse, the company I paid to help me get my work into print offers three levels of editing: an editorial evaluation; line-by-line content editing and proofing. I took advantage of all three editing services for my first (and second) book! I am proud of what I have written and am determined that whatever I put out into the reader market is going to meet industry standards. All my novels are thoroughly edited before going to layout and print.

This, of course, is a costly venture. The editing alone requires a substantial investment, anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000 American. Start saving now if self-publishing is your intended route. Also, don’t quit that day job, as it will help keep the books coming.

With self-publishing a writer needs to be attentive to more than just plot, character, setting and theme. The writing process is only the beginning. Once the novel is in print, before that even, comes the marketing scheme. No one is going to sell your book for you, and, your book is not going to sell itself! I don’t care what anyone says, books don’t just fly off the shelf. I highly doubt they did for Dan Brown either when he first started out. You have to get out there and do all the selling your self. If someone is going to review your book you will have to find this person and then convince him or her that a self-published book is worthy of a review. This is extremely hard as the prejudice against self-published authors is extreme. The belief is that the only authors worthy of publication are the ones picked up by publishing houses. If you’re book is that good, the reasoning goes, a publisher will look at it. So, 99% of conventional news sources won’t even look at a book from a self-published author.

Getting reviewed was the hardest task of all. I sent copies of my novel to every newspaper I could find in Canada. I also went onto the Internet and sent off queries to as many on line magazines that review historical fiction as I could find. I later spent a huge chunk of change hiring a marketing consultant who got me one more review. I am very proud of the fact that I managed to get six very positive reviews for my first novel, not an easy feat being it was self-published.

It’s not just about getting reviews, either, you need media exposure through radio, TV and magazine interviews. You need posters and bookmarks and anything else you can think of to help you promote and sell your book. Also, you need to get your book inside stores. Once you have convinced a bookstore to carry your book you are still the one responsible for seeing that it gets sold, not the bookseller. They have thousands of books that they sell and a few sales of your book will not make or break their till. If you want your book to sell you have to get out there and sell it!

That brings me to author signings. This is where the majority of your books will sell. People want to meet the author, learn about the book, ask questions about why you wrote it, how long it took, and so on. You will talk to dozens of people and only sell to one or two. A lot of people will talk and talk and talk, sucking up all your time and never buy. Do not give up. Every book sold is a victory! Hell, every time you talk about your book to a person you have achieved a victory!

Bookstore managers have told me how the average consignment author doesn’t sell many books, if any at all. They are always happy to see me and book more signings with me because I have a great track record. When I do a signing I stand. Sitting is suicide while standing sells. Like I said, the reading public likes to meet the author but they are intimidated by the ones who sit behind a table. I never sit at a signing. I am always on my feet greeting customers, offering them bookmarks and telling them about my novels. I also make sure I get noticed by wearing a regency era dress (the time period of A New Dawn Rising). This costume attracts attention and people want to know why I am dressed up. I then have the opening I need to tell them about my historic novel.

I am now branching into a new means of advertising my work. For Hadrian’s Lover (soon to be released) I created a Facebook page. This is more than just a page to sell my novel; it is also an activist’s page. I wrote Hadrian’s Lover to support the LGBT community and my Facebook page must accomplish that task as well. So my page is both a promotional vehicle and an LGBT* straight alliance. I do recognize how important this page is as a means of getting the word out about my upcoming novel but I also see it is a necessary venue for LGBT* and straight people to come together in friendship and understanding. I hope my page will help combat homophobia. When I write I do so in the hopes of changing the way people think and feel about others. Ideally I would like to instill a sense of love and understanding of humanity in others.

So, what does all this mean for someone who wants to be a self-published author? You write because you have something to say. You write out of love. You never give up because writing and sharing your ideas is who you are. It is not easy getting your work out to the reading public but try you must. Not only must you try, you must never give up. It is a long, hard, road one filled with financial pitfalls and emotional train wrecks but if you keep on writing and keep on selling, well, you may never be a success but I can guarantee you will be happy. Why? Because you are doing what you love and you are sharing your expression. Oh, yeah, one more thing, don’t give up that day job.



Posted on August 11, 2013, in Blogging Authors, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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