Where do I begin: To-dos Before Self-Publishing

So you’re a thinker, and as a thinker you’ve been writing, journaling, doodling and/or drawing. Now, you’ve hit the point where you’ve got a draft together of all your creativeness; something that you’re proud of and wouldn’t mind sharing with the masses. And then it hits you like a brick wall to self-publish your piece.

The idea grows, but what is the first step? How can you self-publish your own book?

Answer: The first step is to weigh if you really want to self-publish or go to a publishing house.

Here are some thoughts to consider when thinking about the world of publishing. This is insight I’ve learned from my own self-publishing experience and what I’ve learned about going to a publishing house through other creatives. Let’s weigh the options in several different categories.

1) Control
Self-pub: Going Indie is a freedom ride. Indie is a cool word to use for creative freedom in the any arena, but we’ll focus solely on writing. It allows you to have the freedom to write what you want, how you want to and make direct decisions on how you will market your work.Which also means that you have to have your hands in everything…EVERYTHING! You find your own editors; you find your own cover designers or do it on your own; you put out any and all messages promoting your book; you choose a book publisher; proof all printing proofs and any other components that you need to launch you book. On the other hand…

Pub. House: Depending on the size of the publishing house, your contract, and the publishing house’s processes, you may only have limited freedom when it comes to your cover, and different aspects of your writing style/topic. Commercial attraction is key for many publishers. A lot of times, just like in any industry, a successful publishing house has a good handle on what audiences like and will more than likely drive you to look at writing in a different angle than where you might have started. Which isn’t a bad thing, just different. And rather than having you hands in any and everything, they will take a lot of that work off of your plate. There are some smaller publishing house that ask you to handle the marketing side (social media, book tours, printed/digital promotion, etc.) while they work on getting your book on larger platforms and om circles you probably wouldn’t have been able to get to on your own.

2) Timing
Self-pub: Your finger is on the launch button. You decided to put it out to the public today or wait until next year. Self-publishing seems to give immediate gratification, at least on the end of finally releasing your work to the world on your time. Maybe not so much on the sales side…but maybe so for both.

Pub. House: There are so many steps that can occur far before a publishing house even gets your work. For 10 years, J.K. Rowling submitted her work to publishers before getting picked up. Dr. Seuss was turned down 27 times before his first book was published. And the mighty James Patterson was turned down 31 times before his first book was picked up. But look at them now—staples in the writing community. Legends for their perseverance and dedication to their passion.

3) Dollars
Self-pub: You pay for it all, which will dictate a lot of what and how you do things. Will you do a paper back or just an e-book? If you do a paperback, will you have an in-person book launch event or virtual? How much money do you have for marketing, because you HAVE to do marketing for your book in-order to get visibility? What’s the budget for editors and cover designers? Oh don’t forget about the copyrighting fee. Don’t get it twisted, being an indie author is a business, and just like most start-ups you’re probably going to be in the red your first year. Be prepared and stay optimistic.

Pub. House: The insight I have on the financial aspect with a publishing house is very little, but I’ll share the little I do know. For some, usually smaller ones, you have to finance any marketing that you do (ads, book tours, printed materials, etc.). And some larger publishing houses you don’t have pay anything upfront, but you don’t see anything until you make a profit. Much like what you see in the music biz…but again don’t quote me on this one.

4) Preference
Self-pub: Sometimes making the choice to self-pub or shoot for a publishing house is just a simple preference. Some self-publishers are creative beasts and refuse to the let anyone take hold of their creative pieces. Much like Chance the Rapper, who just turned down 10 millions dollars to stay an independent artist. For some, the value of being your own boss is worth all the work, stress, hours, missteps and all the other obstacles that may come with self-publishing. I have to agree that by self-publishing my book, I woke my soul. I’ve learned a lot and now I’m able to share that with whoever wants to listen.

Pub. House: For some creatives, the reason to choose this route is simply because they don’t want to be all up in the weeds; they just want to write. They don’t mind bringing in experts to handle all the “logistics” behind publishing the book. The less distractions on how to publish the easier it is for them to focus on one thing only—their words. But this isn’t to say they don’t give input, they just don’t execute that portion.

The Grey Area
Times have changed and self-publishing is constantly changing the writing game. So much so that a lot of writers just release their work on platforms like Wattpad, Kindle, serial writing sites or blogs, and then are picked up by publishers. And then there are those who have been picked up by larger publishing houses and decide to switch to the indie route.

Everyone’s publishing journey is different, but one commonalty that I’ve learned from the stories of various iconic and historic writers in both camps, is that their dedication to their craft is endless; their work ethic is superior; and there’s no one who can take their words away from them. Those words keep them breathing every day and remind them to stay focused on the message that they must share with the world.

As I look back at this exciting past year of self-publishing, I’m so happy I ventured out in that avenue, but now after doing all the work, I wouldn’t mind someone taking the reins now.

I’m a true believe that God is in control of everything, and no matter which route you decide to go, go at it 110%. If you’re like me, you really don’t have any other choice because this journey is what is etched in our purpose and we refuse not to live it to its fullest.

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