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Why I Decided to Self-Publish

If you work outside the book industry, you may not know that there is a revolution underfoot.  Amazon is shaking up the publishing world, delighting some and infuriating others.  Lucky for me, I fall into delighted category – with KDP & CreateSpace, Amazon has created the tools for me to successfully (I hope!) publish my own book.

There’s a lot that goes into publishing a book.  There’s the writing, of course, but what no one tells you is that the writing is only a tiny portion of what needs to happen to get a book in front of readers.  There’s editing, proofreading, cover art, print formatting, ebook formatting, printing, distribution, marketing, social media… the list goes on.

In traditional publishing, the writer does the writing, and that’s it.  Well, at least, that’s what I thought.  My understanding was that the point of this whole industry that built up around books was so that writers could write, and everyone else – agents, editors, designers, proofreaders, publicists, distributors, retailers, etc. – could do everything else.  And to compensate these other contributors for their work, the writer shared a significant portion of the revenue from the book.

That sounded like a fine tradeoff to me, so I initially set out on that path.  I compiled a list of agents, started drafting my query letter to pitch my book, and was days away from sending those queries, when Amazon posted this on their front page.  It’s a blog post by independent author Jessica Park who, after getting disillusioned with the traditional publishing industry, decided to publish her own book using Amazon’s tools, and has been very successful doing so.

When I read that article, I had already done a lot of research about self-publishing and had carefully weighed my options to figure out what was right for me.  I suspected that in the end I would probably end up going independent, but some small part of me held on to the dream of being “really” published, so I had decided to give that a shot and use the Amazon option as a backup.  But after reading that post, a few things hit me:

1. I really, really wanted to get my book in front of readers as soon as possible.  The idea of waiting for weeks/months for agents and publishers to read (and, more often than not, reject) my book was killing me.  I’m the type of person who likes to get things done, so this waiting around for other people to act basically sounded to me like torture.

2. I knew from my research that successful books make it because the author puts a tremendous amount of effort into marketing the book and building a following.  Not the publishers and publicists and media people (who I initially had thought were responsible for doing this), but the author herself.  I figured if I needed to do all that work either way, why pay someone else to do it?  Plus, by doing it myself, I could price my book much lower (the ebook version anyway – unfortunately print-on-demand doesn’t have the economies of scale that you find in traditional publishing, so the print version won’t be as reasonable as I’d like it to be) and still make the same amount of money per book as I would if I had published it traditionally.

3. I am a control freak.  I like to make everything perfect right down to the tiniest little detail (I literally have almost 100 pages of notes planning my wedding…), and usually the easiest way to do that is to just do it myself.  Some authors are daunted by the idea of formatting and designing and proofreading their own book, but I’m excited by it.  I know my book is going to be me and I love that.

4. At this point in my life, writing novels is a hobby for me.  Would I love to get paid for writing books?  Absolutely – I would do it full-time if I could make a living that way.  But right now, I am running a successful business and plan to continue doing so to earn a living, so my career doesn’t depend on my acceptance into the publishing world.  My goal at this point is just to do it and see how many readers I can reach.  If all goes well, then perhaps full-time fiction will be in the cards for me.  If not, at least I know I can continue doing this for fun on the side.

So, I decided to self-publish.

Of course there are drawbacks – I’m still nervous about not having a professional editor and proofreader review my book, but I am hoping that getting the opinions of 20 avid readers on multiple versions of the manuscript will have sufficed.  And I won’t get the “approval” from the industry that a part of me still desperately wants – though as Jessica Park said her in post, it’s really readers’ approval that I need, not publishers and editors (readers, I hope you love it!).

But I think it will be worth the effort.  I got the first drafts of my cover art today, and I can’t tell you how good it feels to see my name on the cover of a book.  (Can’t wait to share the final version with everyone soon!)  Looking at that cover, what I realized is that it doesn’t matter who publishes a book – what matter is that it exists, and it’s ready for people to read.

Now the challenge is finding those people!  Up next: Making the Connection – Marketing a Book to Readers

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