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Writer's Corner > Self Publish or not?

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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (saraheb94) | 5 comments I wonder if anyone could help me please...

I am currently writing my first young adult's book and I suppose you could accuse me of looking ahead here, but I'm thinking about whether or not to self publish using Amazon for example, or whether to send a copy of the manuscript to a Publishing company.

I would like to get my story out there because I think my idea is quite original and my friends and family agreed.

Although I don't want to lose any authortiy over my work by going through a publishing company, I doubt I would be able to handle the process of self publishing along with all the promotion etc. as I am a student teacher and have a very busy schedule.

Futhermore, I don't even know what would happen if I gave my book to a publisher(the process and such).

I'm also at a loss of knowing which publisher to try and use. I know that it would be best to look for a publisher that already has books of the same style as my own, but that is proving difficult.

Could anyone recommened the best course of action or tell me anything that may help me make the right decision?

Thank you :)

message 2: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Bunn | 40 comments Sarah, congratulations on writing your book. Huge achievement. As far as your questions...I'll give you my two cents. There's a lot of different ways to answer, so I'll ramble a bit.

First, what exactly do you want out of publishing a book? A career? Validation as a writer? Income? You probably need to answer that question first before drilling down on which way to go.

Anyway, I'd encourage you to spend some time reading the archives at Joe Konrath's blog. He's kind of the curmudgeonly demigod of self-publishing. Highly opinionated and definitely not right all the time. However, very worthwhile to read. You'll find a lot of discussion there of the pros and cons of trad vs self publishing. He comes down mostly on the self side, with arguments about the statistical odds of getting a traditional deal (basically nil and even more nil these days), as well as discussion of how money flows easier (if your books sell, of course) via self-publishing (ie., bigger royalty percentages).

As far as promotion and self-publishing, if you're going to go the self-pub route, I've found that promotion isn't all that necessary, other than getting some seeds going via friends and Facebook and some low impact stuff. The most important things are: write a good book, get it edited by someone vicious, have a professional cover done, good blurb, and then get it all up on Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. And then, the next most important thing is to write another story. And then another one. Writing more stories and getting them out seems to be the most effective form of promotion.

If you somehow land an agent (statistically very difficult), who then somehow lands you a publishing deal (statistically very difficult), your baby is out of your hands in a lot of ways. The editing is out of your hands, mostly, the schedule of when the book is published is out of your hands, the cover is out of your hands. Unless you land an amazing deal, they probably won't spend much on marketing.

Obviously, I'm coming down more on the side of self-pub here, as that's the route I chose (with decent results).

Anyone else have some thoughts?

message 3: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (saraheb94) | 5 comments Christopher wrote: "Sarah, congratulations on writing your book. Huge achievement. As far as your questions...I'll give you my two cents. There's a lot of different ways to answer, so I'll ramble a bit.

First, what ..."

Hi Christopher! Thank you kindly for your reply.

To answer your question about what I'd like out of writing, I think first and foremost I would like people to read something I have poured my heart in for weeks on end. I would hate to self publish and have nobody read it! I suppose this could happen going the traditional route but it some how feels less likely to me. Perhaps I'm wrong?

However, I'm not really after a career in writing as Also, I am already at University studying to become a Primary School teacher, so my loyalties lie there, but I have always fancied writing books along side my career as a teacher. I suppose this means I'm not in it for money either but as a student every little helps - as they say.

I wonder if you could answer a further question, as I think I'm currently heading down the self-pub route? :)

As regards to the cover, do you know any good places to get one done? Or could I make one myself? I actually know nothing about the illustrative process or even the process about how a book is put together. For example, I have no idea how the layout of my words on Word Processor would look on the pages of an A5 sized book.

I think my lack of knowledge calls for some more in depth research on my part and guidance from others who have done it before, because I have known nobody who has written a book before so I suppose you could say this is all very alien to me!

Oh and thank you for the direction to Konrath's blog. I'm looking through it now and probably will spend most of today doing! It looks very helpful, so thank you again :)

message 4: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Bunn | 40 comments Covers, first. If you're going trad, of course, then you don't need to worry about this. It'll be done for you. Self-pub: there are slightly different requirements and recommendations all over the place. I'd say go with the Smashwords parameters as they pretty much can be used everywhere (Amazon, B&N, tweaked for print versions on Createspace, etc.). 1600 pixels wide by 2400 pixels high. Save to a high quality jpg.

As far as actually designing a cover, I would urge you not to make one yourself unless you really know how to design. Amateur covers tend to turn off prospective readers. Not always, but usually. There are some self-pub books out there with amazingly lousy covers that sell well, but I would argue they are statistical exceptions. One place to explore for designers is to send an email to and request Mark Coker's list of cover designers (prices range from around 40 to 100 bucks).

Wanting people to be able to read your book is a great reason. Just gotta figure out which way will work better... I think if you spend some time on Konrath's blog, that might help you figure that out a bit better. Like I said, he isn't the be-all and end-all, but you'll find the archives thought-provoking. Anyway, I hope some of this helps. Ping me if you have any other questions. Another spot to investigate is the Writer's Cafe on the Kindleboards. Kind of a mixed bag. There's some great info on there, some very nice and helpful people, but also a lot of stuff to wade through and discard.

message 5: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (saraheb94) | 5 comments Christopher wrote: "Covers, first. If you're going trad, of course, then you don't need to worry about this. It'll be done for you. Self-pub: there are slightly different requirements and recommendations all over the ..."

Okay will do! Thank you very much for all your help :)

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Sarah, I would recommend the style guide from Smashwords to tell you how to format your document if you want to self publish an ebook. It's free to download from their website. Even if you never use Smashwords, you can format your ebook for Kindle or anyone using the tips in the style guide. It creates a good looking file that works well. The style guide is a bit wordy, and quite long, but if you follow it carefully it's great.

If you want to self-publish a paperback, that's another issue. I use Createspace for my paperbacks, and try to stick to their templates very closely, which you can download from their website. It gives you a font you can use, the margins, and a lot of other things already in place. You can tweak things, of course, and would probably need to to suit your book, but the template helps a great deal. It will give you a decent looking book which will be easy to read. I hope that helps :) Formatting an ebook or paperback can both be done in Word.


message 7: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (saraheb94) | 5 comments Mona wrote: "Sarah, I would recommend the style guide from Smashwords to tell you how to format your document if you want to self publish an ebook. It's free to download from their website. Even if you never us..."

Thank you very much. This is very useful to know! I will give both websites a try :)

message 8: by Pauline (new)

Pauline Ross (paulinemross) I'm not a writer, just a reader, but I hope you won't mind if I put my two cents in here anyway.

You've asked about self-pub versus trad, but there may be a third option which would be better in the long run. You don't mention whether this is your first ever book, but if it is, I would respectfully suggest that you don't actually do anything with it at all. When you type 'The End', save the document in a folder labelled 'Finished work - do not open for 1 year'. Then start with a new, clean, empty page and start work on another book. And when you finish that, start a third one.

Why? Because I read a great many self-pubbed books in a year (around 50 or so), most of them the first published work of the author, and although they often incorporate terrific ideas, I see many similar problems in them. It's not just typos (although there are plenty of those), but poor character development, cliches and repetitive phrasing, subplots which disappear, head-hopping POVs, plot-driven character actions, stilted dialogue and the inevitable telling rather than showing. Writing needs talent, but it's also a skill which needs to be learned. Writing fiction is rather like buying a new filter coffee machine - you have to throw away the first two or three brews before you get something worth drinking.

Now you may be the exception to that, and your first work may be astonishing, but if so, it will still be astonishing in a year's time. On the other hand, if you write a couple of other books and then come back to the first, you may be astonished at how bad it now seems to you, with that extra experience under your belt. Then you can start rewriting and editing and polishing. Then you can reach out to beta readers. Then you edit and rewrite again. Then and only then do you need to start thinking about cover art and the like.

I hope this doesn't sound too negative to you. There's a school of thought that writers need ten years of experience before they're worth publishing, and while I don't agree with that, I do think it's important to make sure that your first published work is the very best it can be and that means leaving it to rest for a time while you perfect your craft. You sound young enough that you have many decades of writing ahead of you, you lucky thing, so you don't need to rush. Of course, you may have been writing for years, with a drawer full of completed manuscripts, in which case disregard this post :-)

Whenever you do decide to go for it, self-pubbing is the way to go. Who needs a mountain of rejections from publishers? Amazon makes it (relatively) easy for you, there's a huge number of friendly authors willing to help out with advice, and however many copies you sell, you make more money. But you need to be prepared to spend money to get a polished, professional product out there.

One other thing: the YA pool is a very large one, and it's full of piranhas. Step out of line and they will eat you alive.

Whatever you decide to do, the very best of luck with it, and whatever happens, keep writing.

message 9: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (saraheb94) | 5 comments PaulineMRoss wrote: "I'm not a writer, just a reader, but I hope you won't mind if I put my two cents in here anyway.

You've asked about self-pub versus trad, but there may be a third option which would be better in t..."

You're right, I am a new to writing and this is my first book.I appreciate your advice so thank you.

I intend to leave publishing until I leave university in three years time anyway, as I will have more time to manage it. So my book will get that time away, for me to then analyse it with a clear mind when I get it out to dust.

I suppose I am just very excited and I want to learn as much about the publishing process so I am prepared when the time comes.


message 10: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Bunn | 40 comments Pauline, that's very good advice!

message 11: by Jeffrey, Lentarian Fire Thrower (new)

Jeffrey Poole (authorjmpoole) | 2287 comments Mod
Yes, that definitely is a good idea to finish the book you're working on and then put it to the side for at least a year. Come back to it later and you'll personally cringe.

Now I personally didn't do that. Maybe I should have, but the other side of that coin is that I have readers telling me over and over how much improved the second book is over the first. I've thought about going back to "clean it up", but then I also get annoyed whenever someone else does that with a book, movie, play, etc. So I've decided to leave my first alone and let that be a testament to how far I've come as a writer.

Just my two cents! :)

message 12: by Libbie Hawker (new)

Libbie Hawker (L.M. Ironside) (lmironside) | 15 comments I will also throw in my opinion of your situation, for whatever it's worth. :)

Yes, it is possible to make a sustainable income off of self-publishing (although it's not a PREDICTABLE income...what makes it sustainable is continued effort in the form of writing more books, not in the form of promotion, as well as thinking ahead clearly enough to SAVE UP the money you do make so you've got a healthy amount laid by for the lean months when you don't sell a lot.)

The most important factor in your success is having a good product that consumers (readers) want to buy. Most people have not written a book that readers want to read the first time they try to write a book. Or even the third or fourth time. Generally it's a good idea to join a writers' group (in person or online) to get some unbiased critique of your work so you can see where you need to improve, as well as what you're truly doing well. Friends and family will think everything you do is fantastic because they love you. You need less emotionally invested feedback to gauge whether your book is really ready for publication.

While you've stowed that first book away for a while (a year may not be necessary, but give yourself plenty of time to let it sit so you can gain some distance from it) write another book. Preferably not a sequel, so you can spend some time away from the characters and settings in the first one. Not only will that give you some objectivity on the first book, but you'll have spent that time away from it practicing writing -- always a good thing!

As to whether you should self-publish or pursue traditional publishing, that's a personal decision. A couple of years ago you couldn't have said or done anything to convince me to self-publish. I was absolutely certain that it was a loser's game and that the only way to be a "real" writer was to traditionally publish. In large part I had that mistaken belief because I was spending too much time on a very dogmatic and wrong-headed online community that's got its head in the sand and doesn't want to see the future slapping it in the face. After years of life and potential income WASTED trying to get any of my books picked up by a traditional publisher -- any traditional publisher -- using two different literary agents, I finally self-published one book out of desperation. And it's gone so well for me that now you would be hard-pressed to convince me to do anything BUT self-publish (when it comes to ebooks, anyway.) Personally, I think self-publishing is a better thing for both writers and readers, as it gives an opportunity to good writers to find their receptive audiences (and to make a fair wage from their work...something you'll learn about on Joe Konrath's blog, which another poster recommended to you. I recommend it, too). It also provides readers with FAR more variety than they ever had before. This is a win-win.

As for myself, I have one self-published book out now and have just released another under a different pen name (very different kind of book; probably won't appeal to many readers of my first book.) It's too early to tell what the second book will do, but the first has steadily earned more and more money every month. A year after I first self-published it, I am now making the same amount of money from it as I am making from my day job. By the time my wedding rolls around next year I should be able to quit the day job and write/self-publish full-time, if my sales stay strong. In another year from now, I'll also have at least four more books out, and they should generate comparable incomes. Not trying to brag; not trying to intimidate anybody. Just trying to make it clear (without throwing around specific figures) that it is indeed possible to have a writing career via self-publishing.

So my opinion is clear...I recommend self-publishing *when you have a book good enough for readers*. But ultimately the choice is up to you.

For now, just focus on making your books as good as they possibly can me. Without excellent books you won't go far, whether you're looking at self-pub or traditional.

message 13: by Libbie Hawker (new)

Libbie Hawker (L.M. Ironside) (lmironside) | 15 comments And re: your question about covers. I think they are extremely important. (As a reader, I have bought many a book, even ebooks, based solely on a great cover and/or title.) Don't make one yourself unless you have serious design skills. Lots of freelancers make ebook and paperback covers for reasonable prices. You can expect to pay up to $200 - $500 for a great cover, and the cost is worth it. You can often find designers who are just starting out, looking to break into cover design, looking to build up a modern portfolio, etc. who will be willing to design a cover for you for $50 or even less! Shopping around is the way to go, but remember you get what you pay for.

message 14: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Bunn | 40 comments Great advice from Lavender.

"When you have a book good enough for readers..."

That's vitally, painfully important. Find beta readers who are extremely cruel and honest.

message 15: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Hi,

I have not tried the trad pub route- I am way to self conscious for all those rejection letters;)

I suppose you could do both. Send your manuscript to some publishers if they say no then you could go the other route.

Personally I would say self pub, it gives you way more control. As for covers- yes as above, the other way you could do is speak to art students, designers they may do something on a budget or even free for their portfolio. Whether you get something you like is another matter but if it is free it is worth a try:)

You could try something yourself, it may not look great but if you aren't intending to publish for a while.

Create space have templates, as do Lulu which are free so you can have a look.
Another thing you might want to look at is Scrivener. There is a free trial and it isn't that expensive. That might suit your teacher training as it is good for keeping notes.

Be realistic too, I see so many people on KDP Amazon thinking they realise and book and suddenly they will make megabucks. Unlikely, you might, intially make a few pounds/dollar or whatever a month at least until you have a couple of titles. Marketing wise- facebook, tell your mates/family get them to share on tweet/fb/ google+ etc. Use forums (like this) and be patient.

message 16: by Libbie Hawker (new)

Libbie Hawker (L.M. Ironside) (lmironside) | 15 comments Yes -- it took nearly a year before I was seeing any income worth taking seriously from KDP/Amazon. However, it is now a major source of bill-payin' money for me (over $1000 per month from one title alone.) So if you have a good product and you are PATIENT, it can and will pay off. It takes a while for word-of-mouth to catch on among readers.

message 17: by Lena (new)

Lena Horn (lenahorn) | 5 comments Since most of your questions seem to have been answered here, I just wanted to add this tidbit about marketing:

Most new/unknown authors will not get marketing/promotion from their publisher. It will be your job to do that, just as it is if you self-publish. Of course, there's a chance that the publisher loves your book so much that they give you a generous budget for marketing, but that's unlikely (not because you don't have a good book, but because you're new).

Good luck with your book :)

message 18: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Lavender wrote: "Yes -- it took nearly a year before I was seeing any income worth taking seriously from KDP/Amazon. However, it is now a major source of bill-payin' money for me (over $1000 per month from one tit..."

Oh really, awesome. That is excellent. My book has only been out hmm 4 months now. Hopefully the next one will be soonish and I have a collection of short stories I am working on. The next one in the series after my WIP will be a novella.

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