I’ve been self-publishing since 2004 (I subsidy published in 2003–bad move) and in that time I’ve seen pretty much all there is to see in the self-pub biz, everything from wild successes to dismal failures.
I’ve been writing since 2000. It was June of that year that I started writing my first novel, A Stranger Dead. At the time, the publication aspect, well, I didn’t really care about. Sure, I wanted the book to be published, but the how and by whom, I waited till I was done till I figured that out.
In the end I was screwed over by a subsidy company, one, it seemed, that played on my naivety regarding this business.
Regardless, I got the self-publishing bug and most true self-publishers will tell you they suffer from the same ailment as me: the need to do it yourself.
My goal was to always create for a living, at first comics then books. Nowadays I’m doing a bit of both. What I didn’t realize back then was that the publishing business–namely being an author–isn’t all fame and glamor and oodles of cash despite what TV teaches us. Yes, those types of successes and lifestyles do happen, but they are few and far between, which is why there’s a big news story about it when it does happen. Most writers who write full time have a modest income. Other writers still work part time to make ends meet. Others need to work full time and write on the side.
The Self-publisher’s Mindset:
To go into self-publishing thinking it’ll be your ticket to writing/creating full time is like thinking you’re gonna go to the casino and come out with enough dough to buy a house. It could happen, but your odds are ultra slim. That’s how it is.
However, it is possible to go into self-publishing–and I’m talking about self-publishing fiction here; self-publishing non-fiction is much more easier to make a living at–and actually come out with enough money to live on and create for a living.
But here’s the kicker: the “creating for a living” part would only be how you’d spend 10-20% of your time. The other 80-90% is you marketing your creation, networking, making phone calls, sending emails and going nuts in your effort to tell the world about your product.
The self-publisher’s mindset is this: you’re a business. You’re not a full time writer. You’re a full time businessman.
And this is where most self-publishers get tripped up. Too many just want to write and that’s it, which is fine, but if that’s you then don’t self-publish.
The very idea of publishing a book and then waiting for the sales to roll in is ridiculous at worst and self-deceiving at best.
Self-publishing is about investing in yourself, making a business out of your product and name, and doing what it takes to make that business succeed.
It can be a slow process (most likely) or a not-so-slow one (depends on which break you catch; i.e. an article about you in the New York Times complete with purchasing info about your book).
Your mindset needs to be not just on product creation, but product distribution, financial management, the willingness to sacrifice, the willingness to take a risk, the willingness to walk away after a failed sincere effort. Though, I admit, that last one is subjective and perseverance through failure is the better option. The idea is knowing when to call its quits (i.e. after, say, 10 years of trying to self-publish successfully).
You need to understand that you will wear several hats as a self-publisher. The writing one is the one you’ll rarely wear. The marketing, production, networking, designing, and money calculating ones are the hats you’ll have on most of the time.
It’s scary, sure, but it can also be rewarding.
And please–please–whatever you do, know that the first hat you’ll wear if you decide to self-publish is the research hat. You need to understand the different between true self-publishing and what’s being passed off as self-publishing these days.
This is true self-publishing. Anything else is not. Period.
you are the publisher; no one else
you publish under the name of your own company (properly registered with the correct outlets of your country, including proper tax registration); in short, you are now a business owner
you do not use any “services” for printing, only printers, ones that specialize in book printing
you spend money publishing your product; you have to spend money to make money after all
you understand Lulu.com and Createspace.com are not self-publishing companies, neither is any POD place that sell packages for a ridiculous fee and pay you a “royalty”
you are responsible for all production and marketing aspects of your product
you hire an professional editor to edit your work
if you are not artistically inclined, you hire an artist to create your cover likewise someone else to design the interior
you keep track of all monies going in and out of your company (or hire an accountant to do so)
you front all costs for all things
in short: you do everything and are responsible for everything yourself
This is where your head needs to be at. You need to divide the creative and business sides of yourself. If you don’t have a business side, don’t self-publish. If you do and have an intense drive to succeed, then that’s the base upon which to build.