5 Things I Learned from Self-Publishing My First Book



1. Checklists are Crucial: I learned this after having to upload several corrected versions of my book – even after it had already been published and put up for sale. One of the most frustrating instance was finding out I needed to justify my inner text rather than having a ragged right margin. I had JUST ordered 3 author copies to gift to friends and family when I found that out. Good thing my friends and family at forgiving. But it was at that time, I started making checklists of everything I needed to do or double-check before uploading the book to any platform. It still doesn’t guarantee there won’t be mistakes, but the great thing about self-publishing, is you can correct your book anytime you want!

2. You Have to Sell the 1st one for WAY Less Than it’s Worth: Wild Horses Don’t Stop at Whoa started out with a $1.99 price tag for the ebook version and $8.99 for the paperback version. That’s pretty cheap to my way of thinking. But, I wasn’t selling ANY. So, I dropped the prices to .99 for an ebook and just over $7.00 for the print. I still have barely sold five copies, which frustrates me to no end. I can’t give away it for free because I didn’t enroll it in KDP. It’s always disheartening when you have to downgrade a piece of creative work you’ve poured your heart and soul into, but those are the times we live in.

3. And Even with the Lowered Price-tag, it’s Unlikely You Will Sell Many Copies… At All: See above. Still have only sold about 5 copies. And have one review. But, to be honest, my expectations for selling this book were pretty low. Though I did my best to put out as quality a product as I could, I viewed it more as a learning experience.

4. It’s Awesome to Have a Say in EVERY Aspect of Your Book: This is absolutely the piece de resistance of indie publishing. You control just about everything with your book. If you are artistically inclined, you can design your own book cover. If not, you can search for your perfect graphic artist and pay for a cover that will suit your needs perfectly. No need to settle or accept something you don’t really like. I was very lucky to have a hookup with an incredible photographer, Paulina Kurylonek, who allowed me the use of one of her photographs. Incidentally, the horses in the photo are from the International Society for the Preservation of Mustangs and Burros preserve in South Dakota. Paulina and I visited there several years ago. A lot of the material in Wild Horses drew inspiration from what I saw and experienced there.

5. Marketing Your Own Book is a Full-time Job: This sort of goes without saying. I list it here because if you are determined to be an indie author, you REALLY need to look at your skill set and decide if this is something you can do effectively. Part of the reason Wild Horses has sold so dismally is because I just don’t have the expertise to market it well. Though I contacted several bloggers to see if they would review it, I never heard back from any of them, which tells me I probably did not approach them in the right manner. I also just do not have the time to invest in intensive self-promotion. I barely find time to work on the works-in-progress I have on my plate. My marketing efforts consist of blog posts here and Facebook/Twitter notifications. None of which result in sales or even heightened interest. I can’t afford to attend conferences and workshops and I don’t have enough community contacts to hold my own book launches/signings. This is where a traditional publisher comes in handy. Even if a traditional publisher does not invest much money into marketing you as a new/midlist author, the fact that you have that connection (as well as a legitimate publisher’s logo on your book) opens doors and makes people more interested in checking out your work. Local bookstores and libraries are more willing to host you as an author. Readers take you more seriously. In short, you are a much safer bet than if you go it alone. Therefore, you, as the author, do not have to spend QUITE as much time fighting for recognition. You still have to do a lot of your own marketing, make no mistake. But maybe you don’t have to shout quite as long/loud or include a weird, interpretive dance to get noticed.


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