5 Things I've Learned From Self-Publishing (So Far)
Little did I know before beginning my author journey was that there was more than one way to publish a book. In fact, there are three ways to publish a book:
As I became more familiar with these different publishing methods and talked with various authors who have gone different routes, I had to determine which way I wanted to go. Something I want to make clear is that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to publish. Everyone gets to decide what works best for them, what they want to be involved in, and what they can invest in.
For me personally, self-publishing was the path I chose to take with this first book. Why? Because I enjoy learning processes and seeing the full picture. Honestly, that's what helps get my creative juices flowing - understanding the WHOLE process - from start to finish.
I also know myself well enough to know I like to have control of what I can. This book is special to me in so many ways and it was important for me to have my say throughout the whole process and work directly with each individual who is supporting me.
But choosing self-publishing comes with a lot of work! So I wanted to compile what I've learned so far in my self-publishing journey. I am sure there will many more lessons I get to learn, but these are what I've experienced thus far.
1. You wear every hat.
First and foremost, you are the author. Honestly, that was the simplest part of this whole process. You are also the recruiter, project manager, marketer, art director, promoter, public relations coordinator, accountant, business manager, fulfillment and distribution center, and more that I'm probably not thinking about.
While traditional and hybrid publishers support much of the above, it's a lot more involved in self-publishing. Could many of the above could be supported by others? Yes. You can certainly hire help, but it all comes down to how much you want to spend or how much time you have.
For instance, for this first book I plan to handle all fulfillment and distribution because I have the capacity to do so. We'll see how that goes!
While at times I am definitely a little skeptical about what I've begun, I'm more excited to be able to understand the whole process and bring this book to life by being involved every step of the way.
2. Finding an illustrator was harder than I thought.
This one surprised me the most. I was not prepared for the amount of time and how difficult it would be to find an illustrator.
There are a few factors that come into play when searching for an illustrator.
The first one was style. It probably didn't help that I had this vision and seeking the style I wanted felt like I was searching for a needle in a haystack. Scouring portfolios and social media, looking at other books and more, it was more time-consuming than I imagined.
Next was availability. It happened a few times that I did find an illustrator I liked, but they were not available for a long time. Could I have been patient? Yes. But I set a goal that this book gets to be published this year, so that wasn't going to work. So it was back to the search engines and Facebook groups to keep looking.
Another challenge I was not prepared for was that some illustrators do not want to work with self-published authors. I can totally understand why, but there were some definite moments where I'd found contenders only to find out they didn't work with self-published authors.
How did I end up finding my illustrator? I'm in a Facebook group for children's authors and someone shared a photo of the cover of their book that was just completed. I LOVED the artwork, so I zoomed in on the book cover to see who the illustrator was. Her name is Beth Snider. I found her website, we connected pretty quickly and, to my excitement and astonishment, she had an opening to work on a book! I honestly couldn't believe it. The timing couldn't have been better and I believe there was purpose in this timing.
3. Creating a book (can be) expensive!
Okay, well, this can be subjective, but in self-publishing, you put up the upfront investment. I've learned that a book can be as inexpensive or as expensive as you want it to be.
Below is my current list of known expenses:
Book designer (if your illustrator does not provide this service)
Website domain and hosting
International Standard Book Number (ISBN)
Distribution costs to recipients (postage, mailers, labels, etc.)
Marketing materials (promotional materials, printing, giveaways, and ads)
Fees for selling on other platforms (Amazon, etc.)
Kickstarter rewards and fees
The items above that are the most variable are illustrator, book designer, printing, and marketing. What do I mean by that? Those are all items that can have a large variance in expense. For instance, one illustrator may be $80/page and another $150/page. Your illustrator may also provide design services or maybe they don't. You may decide to do print-on-demand instead of offset printing. You may opt to spend as much or as little as you want on marketing your book.
As I've worked and made these decisions, I keep the "you get what you pay for" saying front and center. If you want a high-quality book that's going to look like it was traditionally published, it's probably going to be more expensive. And it's not just the printing when it comes to quality, but also the content. Hiring an editor, in my opinion, is extremely important to assure your book will resonate with readers.
4. It's hard to self-promote. But you gotta do it.
This one is funny to me because my career has been in marketing and advertising, which means promoting others. But when it came to myself, well, that was a little more challenging. I've used to have this mindset that self-promotion was selfish or that what I had to say wasn't that important.
As I decided to go down this path, I knew that mindset needed to shift. What I came to realize was that I was actually being selfish by not sharing our experiences with others. We've been through a lot and how we've handled managing our kids' food allergies is anything but perfect, but sharing knowledge is important to supporting others and supporting others has always been my intention with this book.
So self-promotion is a way I can support others. To show others they aren't alone. To show others possibilities and opportunities.
It's not natural for me, but I'm working on it everyday and keep reminding myself that the story I get to share could in fact save someone's life one day. And that is the most important.
5. Connect with others.
I've used to be more of a lone-wolf. It wasn't that I didn't like people; I love people, but in regards to projects, I would get really focused and just plug away by myself, only asking questions and participating when I felt like I needed something.
Having no idea what I was doing or how to do it sort of forced me to connect and learn from others. I joined multiple Facebook groups, started reaching out to other authors personally, asked lots of questions, and basically just became a sponge.
Connecting with others brings me so much joy. I've come to realize that it's in this connectedness that this book will be successful. Being able to support others, collaborate together, ask questions, and learn from each other are all incredible benefits. This community I've found is incredibly generous and knowledgeable and I'm truly grateful for it.
I know there are many more lessons to be learned as I continue down this path. I realized some of these lessons can also be applied to everyday life - playing multiple roles, lack of connection we want, and confident self-promotion! My advice to you is keep going! Make time to connect. Take time to breathe. But keep going!