A Self-Publishing Journey | Writing and Publishing 101

My experience is limited to my own book, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned along the way. We don’t have to be experts to move forward with confidence in our words and story, and I’m the perfect example of that. I have plenty left to learn, but I didn’t let that hold me back from writing and independently publishing a book.  Here are my answers to your questions.

What are the ways to publish?

There are three main types of publishing: traditional publishing, self-publishing (aka independent publishing), and hybrid publishing. 

TRADTIONAL PUBLISHING: You submit a carefully crafted book proposal and present it to different publishers.  You might have an agent work with you to do this. A large platform (followers on social media and an email list) are very important in the traditional publishing industry.  If your book is accepted by a publisher, you begin to write your book.  You receive a sum of money upfront for writing the book, while the publishing house takes care of all fees (cover design, formatting, editing, etc), and maintains a large amount of control over the book.  They are the industry experts! They know what sells and how it all works, so you may not have much say in things such as the title of the book or the cover design.  You make a small amount royalties per book sold (after you’ve sold enough books to “cover” your initial lump sum payment).  You have ability to get into bigger bookstores and you have the respectability of being supported by a publisher. You have a team helping you along the way. You are still largely responsible for marketing and selling your book to your own platform, although they will give you support and help.

SELF-PUBLISHING/INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING: You write the book yourself.  You find ways to edit, format, design, and finalize your book.  You can hire these jobs out or DIY them. You may have to pay quite a bit for these services to be done well.  You maintain creative control.  You’re responsible for all marketing and sales.  You keep all money made on the book after you pay back your expenses.

HYBRID PUBLISHING: You write the book and pay a publisher a large amount to help you with the process.  They have a team to give you design, editing, and formatting help.  You maintain a large amount of creative control.  You make royalties on the book but they are shared with the publisher. 

An article explaining this in better detail: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/self-publishing-vs-traditional/

Why did you self-publish?

 I chose self-publishing because I knew approaching lots of publishers and getting refusals would just be way too discouraging for me—with it being my own story it felt too personal to face rejection.  It can be a difficult industry to enter into.  Since I had a clear vision of how I wanted the book to be and wasn’t sure it would be something that a publisher would go for, I felt confident pursuing it myself.  I also wanted to have the book completed on a faster time-table.  Submitting proposals and traditionally publishing can take many years, and I wanted to have my book out sooner than later.

In the end, I chose to figure it out on my own through a writer’s group (hope*writers), lots of reading online, and asking questions. I self-published through Amazon KDP. The final process through Amazon itself was super easy, but after the initial hurdle of writing the book it did take a while for me to get everything formatted and done in the way I wanted to prepare it for Amazon.

Originally, I was going to hire somebody to do my interior book formatting and cover design, but soon discovered I wanted to learn those skills myself.  I used the money I would have invested in paying designers to take classes on graphic design at creativelive.com.  I learned how to do Adobe Illustrator and InDesign to create the cover design and interior formatting of the book myself. I did hire someone to edit and proofread.

What did you think about self-publishing?

NEW BREED OF INDIE-PUBLISHERS.  Self-publishing doesn’t have the stigma it once had for being “the books that just didn’t cut it” in the traditional publishing world.  Yes, there are lower quality self-published books out there, but there are plenty of great independently published (indie) books out there, too. Just as the internet has broken down barriers to independent musicians, it’s done the same for independent authors.

DISCIPLINE AND MOTIVATION ARE A MUST.  You have to be pretty motivated and have a clear sense of where you want the book to go because in the end you’re the only one pushing it forward, whereas if you go traditional route it is much easier to have a team guiding you. It can be a lonely journey to independently publish, and this is where having a group of writers (such as hope*writers) surrounding you is essential!

CONSIDER YOUR OVERALL GOALS. A traditionally published book can reach a lot more people, but it has been interesting to see how the self-publishing industry has grown with online book sales.  My personal aspirations were not to make a living off of my book, but to spread a message of hope.  If my desire was to become a career author and write many books, I probably would have pursued traditional publishing.  My financial goal was to be able to pay back the initial couple thousand that I invested in writing groups, trainings, graphic design classes, and costs for self-publishing, and I’m glad to have done that.  While my countless hours of writing, editing, learning, and formatting may never be fully repaid, I didn’t enter into self-publishing thinking it was a big money-maker.  There are many people who self-publish with an extremely limited budget, but I found that having some money invest in my process made the end product exactly what I wanted it to be.

GOOGLE IS MY BEST FRIEND. There are so many resources to find out how to self-publish.  Using Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark are great places to start (you can use both if you purchase your own ISBN).  Read blogs and tutorials and learn as you go!  Both Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark are Print-on-Demand services that print and ship your books as they are ordered.  Amazingly, this means you will not be stuck with boxes of books gathering dust in your garage.  It makes self-publishing easier and less risky than ever.

I hope you feel inspired to write and consider publishing your book.  It’s easier now than ever!

You can find my independently published book on Amazon: Grieve, Create, Believe: Process Your Loss with Intention and Truth

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