Foray into Self Publishing

Sunday, June 19, 2011

We all know about the old stigma attached to self publishing so I won’t discuss that, except to say I never dreamed I'd think about taking that route.  I wanted to be published traditionally and nothing else would do. Well I got published traditionally and I’ve changed my tune. Late this year,  I'll venture down the self-publishing road for the reasons outlined below.

Control – I Want It!
Distribution – I know what I’m told about the distribution of my novels by my publisher and by what I see online. Getting the book imported and distributed in Jamaica has been an uphill struggle.  I think the struggle is winning. If I publish my own work, I’ll know EXACTLY where it is available and to whom.

Pricing – I understand the costs my publisher incurred by taking on my book/s and why they have to sell at the price they do. The downside to that is the fact that nobody’s buying my books because there are thousands of other novels readers can buy for much less.

Marketing  - I’m not going to say that no marketing has been done by my publisher, but I’m not sure what it involved. In 2008, my marketing efforts started with Writer on the Go, a blog that was eventually taken over by a phishing operation. I had to abandon it. I started my marketing plan there and since then I’ve ventured feet first into pushing my work both locally and on the internet.

Disappointment with the Traditional Model
The traditional route is not what I envisioned it to be.  I expected marketing/PR, my books available all over the place, stuff like that. Didn’t happen. The reviews I got from book clubs are those I initiated myself. I thought all this stuff was par for the traditional publishing course. My publisher was gracious enough to send out the books to be reviewed.  I have another book out and my publisher was kind enough to provide copies for a giveaway I ran on this blog.  There are no reviews for Dissolution yet, but I’ve initiated the conversation about getting it reviewed.  Need to follow that up.

Product Marketability – (Does anybody but me give a hoot about what I'm selling?)

My work-in-progress is about three female friends who have relationship problems. Two of them end up having extra-marital affairs. The third isn’t married but – as I put it in the book – ‘is handicapped by bad taste in men’.  Needless to say, all three find themselves up to the eyeballs in problems, some of which have disastrous consequences. The second book picks up seven years later with a new set of problems.

I’ve put out some feelers, but nary a bite has come my way. No matter how well written the story, if publishers/agents think don’t think it will be a commercial success, they won’t buy it.  I remember one publisher telling me that Jamaica is a hard sell. I didn’t believe it for a second. I thought it was more a case of your-book-isn’t-up-our-alley-so-no-thanks.  I was right not to believe because that same book was picked up by another North American publisher.

Given my doubts as to whether any agent/publisher will buy a story about two cheating women and one who takes a while to wise up and stop being a convenience for an inconsiderate boyfriend, I might as well publish it myself. (Yes, that was a humdinger of a run-on sentence).

Hubris or Plain Old Pride

I could have said I have a story to tell, but I’m gonna call this plain old pride or as puts it ‘an excess of ambition’. I’ve proven myself as a writer. Two of my books are published and the third (contracted to Wild Child Publishing) will be going through a second round of edits shortly. 

I’ve gotten good responses to my pet project from other writers on my network and my main beta reader.  I’ve taken advice and done some rewriting. I’m still rewriting.  I’ve breathed life into these women. I love them and think their story is unique.  If I can believe what my reviewers tell me, Dionne, Justine and Kyra are worth showing off before John Public.

I’m back to control, not in terms of distribution, marketing and pricing, but with respect to ownership. I want complete say over some of my work. Distraction and the sequel Sweet Music Man will put me in that position.  I’ve been studying the business of self publishing for months because I do copious reading and investigating before taking on any new project.  

Sitting in Limbo
(Not my cup of tea)

I go crazy if I'm not immersed in something or other. Writers produce, submit and wait, and wait, and then wait some more.  Last year, my YA project went on submission. The editor had compliments about my writing style and asked for the full manuscript.  However, the be all and end all is that I won’t hear back from them until they have words with the education ministry about a plot point in the novel. I don’t know how government ministries work in other countries. In Jamaica, there’s a strong possibility that I’ll be dead before the ministry ever responds.  Soon as I’ve placed Distraction with an editor, I’m on to my YA books.

Based on the fact that the main characters in these books are ordinary – no witches, wolves or vampires, I might also have to publish them myself.  

We’ll see.

Any of you out there thinking seriously about self-pubbing? If not, what would make you consider it?


  1. Hi Joy,

    I love reading your insights into publishing since you're ahead of me in the game. As you know, the ink is barely dry on the contract I just signed. I hold no hope of getting rich or even making much of anything from my book. This in itself is a disappoinment after all the hard work I put into it. Most authors certainly get the short end of the stick.

    I'll be watching your journey into self-publishing with interest, who knows, I may follow you down that road.

  2. This was an interesting read, and I'd definitely be open to self-publishing as well if it came to that. I haven't given either route a go yet but when I'm ready, we'll see!

  3. I don't know if I'll self publish or go the traditional way, but you made some really good points. I don't know if the publishing industry will frustrate me or not. I would love to be in control, though, just like you.

  4. Jeanne, when I got that first pair of contracts, I told myself that I was looking for a foot in the door and I got it, so I still have to be grateful. It's a huge boost to know that a publisher thinks your book is good enough to publish, so hang on to that. You never know where this first contract will take you and there's also the knowledge that you are now trodding a road that many persons have yet to travel. Wishing you every success. You certainly deserve it.

    Trisha, thanks for stopping in. I like to explore all my options and this is another, so...

    Madeline, let's hope you get a major contract when it's your turn so you don't have to worry about all the stuff I have.

  5. Thank you, Joy, for writing exactly the kind of post I was hoping someone would, a post from a published author who has tried it both ways and can speak candidly about the pros and cons of both.

    Like you, I swore I'd never do anything except traditional publishing, until a good friend of mine and a family member both asked the same question: Does self-publishing really deserve its bad rap, or do traditional publishers want you to believe you're selling out? Whoa, that gave me pause, especially after I got to thinking more about it. Authors already are responsible for so much of our own publicity, it takes away one of the biggest advantages I saw with traditional publishing, a powerful network.

    After the research I did regarding Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle, it is something I now would consider. I think it would work for an author who is good at managing his or her own deadlines, working the publicity machine, and doing professional-level editing or knows someone who is. Self-publishing, especially with e-readers, could mean the author keeps a larger percentage of the profit as well.

    I'll admit it's the stigma thing that sticks in my craw, but now that I'm questioning if there really is a stigma, I'm beginning to believe that the tenets of self-publishing are the wave of the future and that authors like you will reverse people's perceptions. Perhaps it would help if we remembered there is a distinction between vanity publishing and a well-written, well-edited book published outside the Big Five.

    Thank you again for an incredible post!


  6. Self publishing is hard. But in the end if you write because you love it then you want your books read. That's why my book is free at the moment, yes I'll attract some awful reviews from those who just snatch it up cause it's FREE but then I'll also get some genuine readers who are looking forward to book 2 :)
    It's hard, takes courage and you have to put up with some mean attitudes thanks to being an Indie. But in the long run, it's all yours and you can make of it what you will :)

    Good luck!

  7. I would consider self-publishing, but it seems like an awful lot of work. I'll try the traditional route first.

  8. Hi JL,

    It was an interesting and insightful post. And you made all valid points.

    All the best if you do go the self pubbing way!

  9. Hi JL,

    I'll be following your writing journey. The industry has changed drastically in the past couple years. I think both ways have pros and cons, but self-pubbing is the way many of my excellent writer friends have chosen to go.

    I have an award for you on my blog. Stop by and pick it up!

  10. Thanks for this post. I read it with interest because, while I'm nowhere near any kind of publishing yet, who knows how things will stand by the time I am?

    I think if, like you, you've done as much research into self-pubbing as you can, and you know the pros and cons, then there's absolutely no reason not to go for it.

  11. This is a really interesting post! I'm sure there are many authors out there who are doing the same thing, but it's not common knowledge. Good for you for knowing what's best and going for it! I'm re-tweeting this post. :)

  12. I completely understand. And control seems to be the operative word. There are lots of people finding success with self-pubbing. I think the trick is understanding what's involved before taking the plunge. Those who go in the most prepared seem to be the most successful.

  13. I've decided to go with self-publishing myself. I've been waiting for an agent on three books, going through the god-awful query process and then the wait. Well, the latest agent said she couldn't place the book. I have a feeling she just didn't want to be bothered trying. So I'll place it myself.

    We'll see what happens.

  14. No worries, Michelle, I’ve been thinking long and hard about self-publishing. I’ve also been reading everything I can find on the subject. I’ve also followed some indie blogs and I’m there watching for news on indie authors and current publishing trends.

    On the point of selling-out, everybody’s doing it. What do I mean? Abbott Press (which I believe is owned by Writer’s Digest) is now on the bandwagon and is offering – to quote them – ‘Self Publishing Prestige The Writer’s Digest Mark of Quality” What this means is that you can self-pub through them and have their seal of approval. To me, this is just another way for the big guys to still be in some form of control. Not to say I’m against using them.

    The point is that, they too recognize that times have changed and they’re just making sure they’re still making money. Can’t fault them for that. Also, can’t fault the writer who wants to get their work out there with some guarantee – for what it’s worth, since that still does not ensure people will buy the book – that it’s not something of low quality slapped together to make a dollar.

    Agree that you have to be focused to venture into self-pubbing. I’m not very disciplined, but I’m aware of a network of writers who are good at what they do. They have impressed me and will work with me on my projects. Of course, I have to do my part with helping to market, etc.

    Having read a few self-published books, I understand the importance of editing. Fortunately for me, the three self-pubbed books I’ve read so far have been excellent.

    I’ve seen the backlash that can come from putting out shoddy work. Can’t remember the name of the lady, but a few months ago, there was a brouhaha over her book. Her book was reviewed by a blogger. She didn’t like the review didn’t handle it well and it led to hundreds of comments, which I read through. People who didn’t even read the book, but flocked to her Amazon page and had a field day. I felt sorry for her, though her words were unacceptable. I hope she’s recovered from the bad reviews and hateful comment. If she’s thinking, she’ll get a new penname and start over. Anyhow, I went off there…

    I’ve seen some authors who’ve self-pubbed successfully. My thinking is that once you have a good product, even if you don’t make money, the satisfaction of being in charge of what you’re producing is enough. Yes, I’ll wholeheartedly say that there is a distinction to be made between
    vanity publishing, and to quote you, ‘a well-written, well-edited book’ that’s not with a major house.

    Glad to share, Michelle. I’ve learned so much from other writers over the years!

  15. Nicole, your first sentence says so much. I realize that just from trying to get attention for my book before it was published. A self-publisher won’t have many moments to rest and even with everything that you do, there is no guarantee that people will buy your book/s.

    I think yours is a smart move, especially if you have a wonderful product. I wouldn’t worry a whole heap about bad reviews, because I’ve seen some awful ones for books that I know are good works of fiction. Writing for the love of the craft is what we do and will continue to do as long as we’re breathing and consider ourselves writers.

    Christine, there’s no doubt it’s a lot of work. Most of us are idealist and have to prove that we can get a publishing contract the regular way. There’s nothing wrong with that. I had to be published traditionally to prove something to myself. Weird, but that’s how I am.

    Nas, thanks for commenting. It’ll be a challenging road, but I believe the experience will be well worth the challenges.
    Lyn, thanks so much. Yes, both ways do have their positives and negatives and I too know some talented writers who chose to self-publish. One author I met online (K.L. Brady) created such a stir with her book that the book she published was taken on by Simon and Schuster. She’s still self-publishing meantime.
    Thanks for the award. I’ll come by.
    Sarah, thanks for visiting. I don’t know as much as I should, so I’m still trying to absorb as much as I can while I prepare the books I want to publish.

    Thanks, Laura. I think more and people writers are seeing the advantages of being in control of their own work. It’s uphill going, but if you’re willing to put in the time to write the best book possible and get it edited and marketed, it brings a sense of achievement and satisfaction.

  16. This is a terrific post - thank for sharing your thoughts from traditional to self!

    I do think if all avenues (traditional) are exhausted, I will self-pub my book.

    Best of luck to you! I think your WiP sounds very marketable!

  17. Tara,

    Thanks for stopping by and for your good wishes. Ill be slogging onward.

  18. JL, I think this is a wonderful idea. I don't see any stigma attached. Lots of my neo-pro friends are doing it, and some of them are making a decent amount of money. More than they did from trad publishing.

    The thing is that there's no reason you can't do both. It's not an either or situation. Kudos to you.

  19. Thanks, Deborah. The fact that writers can do both is a wonderful advantage.

  20. I totally get where you're coming from. I'm currently publishing with a small publisher but I do wish I had more control over the final product.

  21. I never considered it. I started querying in '94, when I was a teenager. Self-publishing existed, but it wasn't as prominent as it is now with so many avenues to take. I can see why some authors take that route. There have been success stories. In the past two years I've read some good, even excellent self-published books. There are still many doozies out there, so authors need to be mindful hiring an editor and having multiple eyes read their work.

  22. Medeia, it wasn't something I ever considered either, however, as Deborah said, it's great that a writer can do both.

  23. Interesting reading, and I think your reasons are very valid - and I can certainly relate to them. You seem very clued in, and I'm sure you'll find success with self-publishing.

  24. Thanks, Talli. I'm learning all I can before I plunge off the deep end.

  25. Thanks for your kind words, Joy and as always, thanks for sharing your wisdom with me. I will be forever grateful.

  26. No worries, Jeanne. The journey is less lonely if we have company along the way.

  27. Self-publishing is never something to be ashamed of when you do it. I've read some great self-pubbed books. Good luck!

  28. Traditional publishing is struggling to survive. Even when the big publishers were solvent, the author was dumped after a couple of months, so I doubt that going the independent route is going to be much different for many.

    I believe it is only the BIG authors - Lee Child, Harlan Coban, the Kellermans, James Patterson (who uses a team of writers anyway) et al, who are going to be published by the big companies from now on.

    This means that the next level of authors will be turning to contract publishing (the new term for self publishing), which will be a two-edged sword.

    On the one hand, Independent Authors will have control over their work and be able to get all their royalties. On the other, the market is going to be crowded with literally thousands of authors scrambling for a foothold. This of course, comes down to marketing - an activity which goes full circle back to being set adrift by the publishers.

    I have Contract Published - but I did not do it myself. I chose to go with a contract publisher and it cost me just over $2000. For that I received one on one attention, 50 copies of my book, and EVERYTHING was done for me.

    My contractor distributes my work worldwide in paperback and e-reader, POD and put it on Ingram (who charge $150) and Nielsens databases at point of publication. He also helped me work out country by country pricing for both formats, worked hard with me on choosing a cover. In fact, went many extra miles for me and for his other authors.

    He takes his client's books with him when he attends writing festivals and plugs them along with his business.

    I have published my second book with this contractor (he works with international authors as well as Australian) and intend to go back for my third.

    All in all, I am saying that contract publishing is no longer stigmatised. All we have to do, is make sure that our work is of a high standard and our marketing the very best that it can be.


  29. Diana, based on all you've said here, I need to do another interview
    with you.


Don't be shy, I'd love to hear what you think.