So your manuscript is done! You’re thinking about shopping it around to agents or editors. You’re also thinking about maybe self publishing, but you’re not sure what goes into it. How do you decide? How do you figure out what needs to be done?
There’s a lot that goes into self publishing, just to get the story to the marketplace.
Yes, the artistic freedom is amazing. You can take your project, and present in in exactly the way you envision. But with that freedom comes a great deal of responsibility. You’re responsible for the editing of the book, something that can be very challenging for an author to do effectively his or herself. You’re responsible for a great cover. You’re responsible for formatting. You’ve got to figure out where to sell, and in what formats.
This is all doable. But without your best efforts on each of these steps, the chances of successfully self publishing drop precipitously.
You’re going to have to be a publicist as well as an author.
Now, for many authors who publish with small publishers, this is a fact of life, and one that they’ve had to face already. Many authors are in charge of part or all of their publicity regardless of whether they self publish, but for authors who self publish, savvy marketing is a must.
This means figuring out who your audience is, and how to effectively reach them in a cost effective manner. This isn’t an easy thing to do, and for most people involves a great deal of false starts and trial and error. Don’t worry—we’re all figuring out what works best for us. The best way to do this is keep records on numbers so you can tell what’s working, because without numbers it often feels amorphous and like you’re shouting into the wind.
You’re going to have to be a bookkeeper.
If you’re serious about this author thing (and if you’ve finished a manuscript, chances are that you are serious,) and you want to self publish, you’re going to have to be a bookkeeper. This is very sad news for some of us, myself included. There is little I hate more than balancing a check book, but as a self publishing author, you’re in charge of All The Numbers. You need to keep track of the expenses of producing the book, the publicity expenses, what comes in during each accounting period you choose and from the outlets you’ve chosen to use to sell your book. You need to become familiar with profit and loss comparisons, and to set aside income to pay your taxes at the appropriate rates.
Self publishing can be a very rewarding endeavor, both personally and financially. You’ll certainly learn a great deal, and you get the freedom to present your work in your way without others “vision” of how that looks intruding. You don’t have to share the lion’s share of the profits from your work with a publisher. Just be aware that to self publish, you take on all the work of the publisher, all the work of the author, and all the risk of the endeavor. Still want to self publish? Come on in—the water’s fine!