Independent publishing. Not so long ago this was viewed as the last resort of publishing, the option for those who couldn’t hack it as a “real” author. Then the internet and huge entities like Amazon became a part of our daily lives and the conversation changed. In today’s world, independent publishing is quickly closing the gap to traditional publishing, making itself an alluring choice for writer’s eager to get their book in the hands of readers.
However, nothing, I repeat nothing, is ever simple when it comes to producing a book. I personally pursued the independent publishing option, and it was not a walk in the park. There’s a lot to successfully publishing independently that you don’t see at a first glance. I did as much research as I possibly could and still had so much to learn through trial and error. Some lessons were easier to learn than others, but I do have the top three things I wish I’d known going into independent publishing.
1. You’re responsible for your book at all levels of production.
This may seem like a no brainer, but it still managed to catch me by surprise. I thought “sure! I get how this works! I’m responsible for all of this!”, but I hadn’t considered just how many decisions come down to you. If there’s a problem you’re the one that has to solve it. There’s no one else calling any of the shots but you. ISBN work? You’re up. Book sizing? Your call. Distribution and wholesale choices? All you, baby.
If this is a big problem for someone like you, do what I did. When people ask me about the business side of publishing a book I always joke that the smartest business decision I ever made was realizing I wasn’t very smart when it comes time to business. Instead of trying to handle it all myself, I made alliances with people who are well versed in the realm of business. For the past year or so my Dad has been my business manager. I trust him in all areas business and do my best to set my ego aside and yield to his knowledge. His help is completely invaluable. You can’t put a price on someone knowing their stuff and knowing it well.
2. There’s so much you have to learn it’s not even funny.
Leading up to the publication of The Fantastic Adventures of Captain Acorn, I barely had any time to just write. All of that time was going into learning everything I could about independent publishing. I can’t even begin to tell you how many nights I stayed up way past a reasonable bedtime to finish some publication research. Since you’re taking on all aspects of publishing your book, there isn’t really any step that doesn’t require some effort on your part. There’s no “someone else will deal with that” You’re the someone else. You’re always the someone else. If you’re going to pursue independent publishing you have to be ready to do a lot of learning on the entire process.
In addition to finding your agency to publish through (which is a lot of research in itself) it’s absolutely imperative that you learn everything you can about their process so when you pull the trigger and publish it’s smooth sailing for your book. I filled an entire notebook with notes on the service I was using and I still feel like I have more to learn. It’s a lot, and you should know that now.
There is one thing you can take comfort in. This is the most learning you will ever have to do on this process. The next time you write a book (because you’re totally going to, right?) you’ll be able to rely on all the work and research you’ve already done. With you’re next book, you’ll get to draw on this wealth of information that you’ve been stockpiling with this first book. So don’t worry! It won’t always be this difficult or intense!
3. You’re still going to deal with a lot of “no”s.
It would be easy to assume that independent publishing is a great idea because it takes out the rejection game that traditional authors get from publishing houses. That’s simply not true. Independent authors deal with the rejection game just the same as other authors. The difference is that rejection is shifted to a different place.
For independent authors, the “no”s shift to leading up to and after your book is published. You have to advocate so actively and fiercely for your book to make it stick. The “no”s come as you try to promote and pitch your book to people who could launch it into prominence.
In the weeks before the release of The Fantastic Adventures of Captain Acorn, I spent hours compiling lists of influencers, promotors, bookstore owners, and bloggers to pitch my book to. I wrote email after email after email after email and got really good at making peace with radio silence. I quickly lost count of how many different people I contacted but I can count on one hand the promoters who took a chance on my book (shout out to you awesome people again!). I got so many “no”s to my book it’s not even funny.
So if you’re considering independent publishing because you think you can avoid rejection, you’re in the wrong place. No author can avoid rejection. It just comes with the territory and is something we have to learn how to handle. I’ll tell you a not so secret, though: the more you can overcome rejection, the stronger a writer you will become. So either way, you’re set up to win here if you can be tough enough to grow.
Publication is not for the faint of heart, whether traditional or independent. You have to come at it with the knowledge that you don’t 100% know what you’re doing. The sooner you can admit that to yourself, the sooner you can start closing the gaps in your knowledge and suddenly your book is that much closer to being in the hands of readers. Maybe it’s just me, but that seems more than worth the steep learning curve.
Let’s find some joy,