The Realities of Self-Publishing

Writers need time to write. No matter how many things we do well, if we want to be successful, we will have to trust a lot of the details to other folks.  

Since October of 2005 when I began writing my first novel, I have been faced with many decisions and challenges. I would be lying if I said it was easy, however, my confidence has doubled since I decided to take my career in my own hands while collaborating with other professionals along the way.  Presently, my book can be found in local bookstores or ordered from any of the big booksellers, and my website provides a hub for all of my endeavors, from book launch parties to guest blog posts. Who would’ve thought?

ASK MORE EXPERIENCED WRITERS AND EDITORS FOR HELP

After completing my first draft, my path crossed with a gentleman with decades of experience in the publishing business as a publisher, editor and author himself. He was kind enough to read the first several chapters and then request my entire manuscript! After receiving his eight-page letter, I took his suggestions to heart. Though I disagreed with some of them, I agreed with most of them and he became the first person to help reshape my manuscript.

After the first redraft, I began my search for a copy-editor to fine-tune my manuscript. If I ever gave advice to a writer, it would be to find a professional, someone who does this for a living; not your best friend or your English Literature professor, but a professional copyeditor.  Their job is to read your manuscript with a critical eye and a fresh lens, not boost your ego. My copyeditor advised me on which paragraphs to toss, those that needed to be moved around and at times helped me refine the point of view. 

IF THE AGENTS DON’T BITE, MOVE ON

Now all I needed was an agent. I spent the better part of 2008 querying dozens of agents, but only one asked for the first 50 pages of my novel.   After too many rejections to count, I was beginning to rethink my position as an unknown author.  How long would I have to wait to get my novel out into the world?  How could I leave my fate in someone else’s hands, anyway?

I began to think the unthinkable: self-publishing.  I purchased some reference books on the subject and ask several people whose opinions I trust. Coincidentally, two out of the three of them mentioned the same publishing company and I took that as a sign. Despite what you might have heard about self-publishing companies, not only am I happy with the company that was recommended to me, but my on-going relationship with them has been fantastic.  They are professional, prompt and supportive.  Can’t ask for much more than that. 

BUILD AN ONLINE PRESENCE TO REACH YOUR READERS

All authors need to market themselves, but especially self-published ones.  As a self-published paranormal romance author trying to finish her second novel, I constantly struggle with finding the time to write and promote my work.  True, writing is a very solitary process, but that’s where it ends.  Collaboration is key if you want to reach readers. And the burden is bigger on self-published writers, who are navigating the writing world largely on their own.

It is especially important to market yourself online, where so many readers gather to find, discuss, and buy books. I knew I needed a website and chose a company founded by a young couple with experience not only in graphics, but also in editing, marketing and copywriting, I hired them to get my novel (and me) “out there” online. I gave them the first few chapters of my book, plus a few websites of other authors that I admired and turned them loose.

When they suggested a social media marketing plan that included revamping my presence on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook I was a little nervous.  Though I have been blogging for years, Twitter is something I was hesitant about, but I was encouraged to try it. Twitter can be a crucial tool to an author’s online success.  Honestly, I still feel tentative about it, but I take my career seriously enough to work at the hard stuff!

Now, in addition to Twitter, I have an author page on Facebook, Goodreads and Amazon.com. I allot time each day to connect with other writers by reading their blogs, commenting and promoting them as well.  As I learn more I feel more confident and in charge of my own success. I encourage the support of other writers as well as depend on them for their honest opinions. We champion one another yet understand the painful process of personal expression. No one will feel the trials and tribulations, nor the magic gleaned from a sentence well-written, like another writer.

ADVICE TO OTHER WRITERS

If I had to distill it down to a few sentences, the might include:

  • Take social media seriously.
  • Become a part of a community on-line.
  • Support other writers by buying their books, blogging about them and being a consistent presence on their websites.
  • Read as much as you can.
  • Pay for professional services

Oh, and if you have a moment in between, don’t forget to write!

Denise K. Rago is a paranormal romance writer whose first novel, Immortal Obsession, was published in September 2010 by Createspace.  Read more about the author’s paranormal romance novel, Immortal Obsession on Denise K. Rago’s official literary website and blog.