Self-Publishing is Not for the Faint of Heart!

Self-published books/authors are considered second rate…

Self-published books have a less than stellar reputation among those in the literary world presumably because the work is not good enough for conventional publication. However, I think the main reasons might be that too many authors have not chosen the best path for “self-publishing”, i.e., not enough guidance from industry professionals, or they have rushed their work to print before it was ready. I fell into the latter trap with Just Maagy Book 1 in the Maagy Series. I should have taken more time and had more eyes on before hitting “Submit”. I gave readers a less than perfect product. It diminished the quality of what should have been a great story but for a few typos and grammatical errors, not to mention my love for compound sentences! Fortunately, I was able to submit a revised text and corrected most of the problems. My writing has grown from book to book because of my experience with Just Maagy.

Aspiring writers sometimes fall prey to the way-too-many self-publishing companies out there on the internet that promise a great result for a cheap price but deliver an inferior product, giving the entire industry a bad name. Some (not all!) of these mom and pop production companies do not offer the support and advisory resources needed by fledgling authors to help them turn their art into products worthy of public recognition. Novice wordsmiths might be excellent with their words but not so much at graphic design. A good self-publishing company should provide these services. Poor quality in print, paper, graphics or interior set-up gives the impression that the material between the covers is inferior also.

I had a recent comment on my business Facebook page that said, “…I’ve never read a good self-published book.”; another said, “As a self-published author, you seem arrogant…”, as if, were I conventionally published, my attitude would somehow be more justified. This outlook on self-published authors and their work is not confined to readers only. Booksellers in general, both corporate chains and indie bookstores, share the disdain. This is a battle I fight daily in my efforts to get my books in the hands of more readers.

Make no mistake, self-publishing The Maagy Series was my choice…

I was not rejected by conventional publishers. I never submitted my work to a single one. After an entire weekend of researching literary agents – the guys we now have to go through to even have a shot at getting to a mainstream publishing house – I found the websites of all these companies so egotistical and their criteria for submission so daunting that I cried for three more days. My hopes of ever getting my 10-year project of heart and soul in front of public eyes were dashed on the rocks. I wanted to hit “Delete”. I was so discouraged. That’s when my husband advised me to go the unconventional route and publish my own work, especially since I was adamant about not giving up my art to an editor whose job it is to make the work commercially acceptable. This had been a big stumbling block for me from the beginning. I had spent 10 years writing a story that I finally felt others might want to read, and I didn’t want it hacked to death. When work is submitted to a literary agent, an editor is hired before it even goes to the publisher for consideration. It would mean letting my words be changed and manipulated into something that I would no longer recognize nor own. It was a huge decision to make this commitment of money and faith without having the backup of a large company, but after much discussion, we decided self-publishing was the best way for me.

In my opinion, choosing the right company is key to success for any self-publisher…

So, back to the internet where I was fortunate enough to land on Archway Publishing, the online subsidiary of Simon & Schuster Publishing Company. I was offered a myriad of support services from publishing consultants who guided me along the way – for free I might add – to packages which include experienced and talented graphic artists. I provided my own artwork for covers and interior black and white illustrations . The designers were happy to work with that, but Archway has an illustration house that authors may use for additional fees. Services also included editing options, ISBN numbers, Library of Congress copyright registration, and availability for purchase in over 15000 sites worldwide. For an author to tackle all this individually would be a daunting task. A good online company – and there are many out there – will also have marketing options available and author support.

Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart or an empty wallet…

As a self-publisher, I have paid for all of my services in advance, and it’s not an inexpensive venture. I chose the packages that best fit my needs. Each additional service not included in the initial package costs extra. Excellence comes at a price. However, if you visit my website, www.justmaagy.com, and take a look at the books, I think you’ll see that the production quality is first rate. The most important aspect of all is that I maintain complete ownership of my intellectual property. Not to belabor the point, I’m not sure all publication providers have as much. In my opinion, I got the biggest bang for my buck.

Self-publishing must be approached as a business with marketing as the key to success…

We hear the phrase, “starving artists”, and believe we must buy into the program. Artists are not often really good at monetizing their passion, but it is essential to change that mindset in order to sell self-published books. This is the piece of the puzzle I’ve struggled with the most for a variety of reasons, naiveté being the biggest. I’ve finally accepted the inevitable and hired marketing firms to do this dirty work. In order to justify the costs involved with being the captain of my own ship, I had to adopt the attitude that this is not just my art but my business.

If I were going to open a jewelry boutique on a trendy downtown street, I’d have to rent the building, remodel it, get permits, licenses, insurance, inventory, etc.. Then I’d have to advertise and market the hell out of it. I would be down at least a hundred grand before I ever sold the first piece. With that comparison in mind, what I’ve invested in my books so far doesn’t look quite so staggering.

The downside of Self vs Conventional publishing, is that the publishing house would take care of all of these aforementioned details. All I’d have to do is write brilliantly and show up for the bookings! However, said publishing house would own – lock, stock, and barrel – my entire series of seven books (four are in publication with three on the way). My take would be about seven percent of profit after the initial signing fee had been recouped by the publisher. Then I’d be obligated to give the literary agent ten percent of the seven percent leaving me about two cents worth for my trouble. By self-publishing, I retain fifty percent of each sale after production and shipping costs. But remember, I own every word, so I can take my product and walk anytime I want. That’s not likely unless the offer from some other entity is so tremendous I couldn’t refuse it.

Self-publishing is NOT for the faint of heart…

The past five years of navigating upstream in the book selling market has been a difficult and frustrating process. Bookstores not interested in having local author events; people who read and love the books but don’t review (we live and die by reviews!); the enormous cost involved in marketing and publicity; the cost of attending events and festivals and the travel expenses to get there; these are just some of what we as self-published authors face to get our work out in front. We really don’t need the stigma of being thought of as second-rate by the book-selling industry. We self-publishers are a brave and hearty bunch. We deserve better from our conventional colleagues. So, pick up a self-published book and give it a try! You might be surprised at what’s out there.

* I especially recommend The Maagy Series, a young adult fiction coming of age story about an impetuous brat princess who grows up to become a fierce warrior queen.

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