Forget the Hype: Some Harsh Realities of Self-publishing
Michael T. Owens
We’ve heard the success stories of self-publishers who sell thousands of books and later land traditional publishing contracts. I’m fortunate enough to be both traditionally and self-published. Even though self-publishing requires more work, I enjoy the freedom. However, I suggest before anyone jumps feet first into the world of self-publishing, be aware of these not so nice realities:
1. Major media outlets won’t review your book. Avoid wasting your time, money, and energy blindly sending marketing materials to major publications like the New York Times. If you’re not a celebrity, a well known figure, or well-connected, don’t expect your book to be reviewed—period. One of the few exceptions would be having an amazing personal story behind your book (i.e. You escaped dying in a tropical jungle by drinking rain water and eating tree bark). If you don't fit any of these categories, and most of us don't, focus on smaller media outlets starting with your local area first. They’re more open to reviewing independently published books.
2. Your book will be judged by the cover—and the inside. Many self-publishers try to design their own covers, typeset their own books, etc. to save money.
However, when it comes to your book’s design, don’t cut corners! If your budget is small, wait until you have the capital to hire professionals. First impressions are extremely important.
3. Most of your sales won’t come from bookstores. Stop worrying about getting your books into bookstores. If they decide to carry your book, great! Focus more on attending events, conventions, festivals, and conferences. Don’t wait for readers to find your book, find them first!
4. When selling face-to-face, people are buying you, not your book! Some people purchase your book just because you seem “nice” or “funny” not because your book sounds like the next great American novel. Being appropriately dressed, cheerful, engaging, and confident, goes a long way.
5. Strangers will purchase books quicker than friends.
Your family and friends will often ask for freebies.
Resist! Make them pay! You are running a business and they shouldn’t mind supporting your efforts.
6. You won’t have a crowd at every book signing. Poor store promotion and bad weather, among other things can affect turnouts. Think of a signing as a live infomercial for your work. Regardless of the turnout, if everyone has a great time they will tell others.
They will buy your book and tell more people and so on. There is no such thing as a bad event! Learn something from them all.
7. You won’t get filthy rich! If you’re
self-publishing strictly to get rich, you might have better luck going to Las Vegas or Atlantic City!
8. Your review copies will be sold! Some book clubs, reviewers, publishers, and editors, will sell the review copies you give them! It sounds immoral and underhanded, but it happens all the time. Look at it this way: as long as your book is being seen or read by someone, it’s a good thing.
9. Success won’t happen overnight. Overnight success stories are rare in the publishing business. However if you stay persistent, informed, and connected, the sky is the limit!
10. Giving away your book is standard practice. In addition to giving away review copies, giving books to opinion shapers is sometimes better than a costly advertising campaign. Imagine the exposure your book would gain if a well-liked athlete or entertainer endorsed it.
Research the self-publishing industry before you get started. With careful planning and a positive attitude, producing your own book can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
Michael T. Owens is an author and a filmmaker living in Florida. Visit him at http://www.getmynovel.com or