The Joys (& Pitfalls) of Self-Publishing Part I
What an adventure the last ten months have been. Deciding it wasn’t too late to write a book, if I really wanted to, has changed the course of my life. Granted, it’s pretty late in the game for a course-changer . . . but it’s not TOO late. And I know, because I did it!
I could sit around now and complain and grumble that I should have done this years ago, and had decades in which to hone my craft, but of course that would be a big, fat waste of time. I can’t go back. I don’t get a redo. And who’s to say it would have worked out better, anyway? Back “in the day,” writers had to run the gamut of submitting bulky manuscripts to publisher after publisher, hoping someone would see the merit in their hard work. Usually, they suffered through the indignities of rejection slip after rejection slip. Sometimes, they never managed to find a publisher who believed in their book. That’s all changed now.
The digital age has ushered in so many wonderful things (and some not-so-wonderful ones) that someone my age is often completely mind-boggled at what’s out there. Me, I decided at 52 I didn’t want to be left behind, so I’ve tried to keep up enough to know which things I enjoy and find useful, and which just seem like major time-sucks that have no redeeming value in my life at all. One of the things I love the most is my Kindle. For me, digital books are fantastic for so many reasons, I can’t even list them all here. I don’t see it as an either/or situation where readers have to choose between digital and “real” books. My Kindle is part of my library. It’s not the whole library! It allows me to expand my book collection, which is pretty large, without expanding my house. But more on that another time.
Today, I want to talk about what it means to a writer, especially a new writer, to have the ability to write a book and put it “out there” for the world to see, all by his or herself. This is a gift from on high! Yes, there are self-published books out there that are dreadful. People with little skill and no idea of what an editor is can throw their books up on amazon. But the reverse is true, as well. People who are very good writers can and do publish their work by themselves, from start to finish, and have it out there for a reader at a much more reasonable price. This door has opened and will be used by writers of every level, but sharp readers will usually be able to tell when a book is worth their investment of both money and time.
I would very much like to hear from others who have tried self-publishing, and hope that some of you (and I know you are out there) will stop by with a comment or two. I’d like to expand the thread with a few more posts about my own experiences, as well. Perhaps it will help an aspiring writer or two who are afraid to give self-publishing a try.
In no way do I mean to disparage traditional publishing methods, though they can cause roadblocks and frustration at times. I love ink on paper, too, and hope that publishing houses will be able to adjust to the current trends and stop falling by the wayside.
One last thing for this post (but there will be others). Editing. I often find typos and small errors in books I’m reading. Even books by big-name authors, published through well-established houses. It happens. But a very distinct advantage of self-publishing a digital book is that you can fix mistakes, quickly and easily. I discovered this fantastic piece of news within hours of putting my book, Wake-Robin Ridge, up on amazon. I found a typo. GAH. After twelve Beta readers had searched, and I had searched dozens of times, and my very capable editor had worked hand in hand with me, still something slipped by. I fixed it. Voila.
Now I am in the process of going over every chapter with a fine-toothed comb, and checking, yet again, for any errors. I don’t like them. I won’t accept them. When I find them, I will change them. And I want to let everyone who has already purchased a copy of my book know that if you find an error, it will be fixed, and you will be assured of a free replacement copy of the book. Hopefully, there are no more mistakes. The couple I found were not major things, and obviously twelve other readers never noticed them. But they needed to be fixed, as do any other typos that anyone finds, anywhere. Try doing that with a traditionally printed book. Not so easy, eh?
Self-publishing is easy. Self-publishing is inexpensive. But it comes with its own pitfalls. You still have to be sure you have a good editor if you want your book to look and sound like a professional wrote it. You need good editing software to catch the most glaring errors before it goes to your editor, but that will not replace your editor! You still need lots (and lots and lots) of eyes on the pages to proof for small typos, and to give you feedback on whether your story is working the way you want it to. Self-publishing should not be an excuse to get away with dumping sloppy writing on the public. Not every book has to have grand literary ambitions. Mine certainly doesn’t. But every book should be as well-written as you can make it, formatted correctly, and as free from typos and grammatical mistakes as is humanly possible.
For me, being in charge of my book from conception to delivery was an amazing experience, and a fantastic opportunity to learn something new every day. I can’t wait to do it all again, and in fact, am working on just that. It is the perfect answer for my writing needs.
Have you self-published a book? I’d love to hear about some of your experiences. What was the hardest part? How did you go about your formatting? Did you use any software to make your job easier? How did you find a good editor? Cover designer? And then, there’s that tricky partner of self-publishing . . . self-marketing! 😯