Last week I revealed why I chose to self-publish my debut novel. In Part 1, I unpacked the benefits of self-publishing. So, for the sake of balance, this week’s post will cover the limitations of self-publishing.
Another author may make a more extensive list, but the limitations of self-publishing basically fall under two umbrellas:
The main reason why people don’t want to self-publish is because you have got to cover ALL of your expenses upfront. You have to invest a ton of cash into the publication and promotion of your book before you can start selling your book baby. (And hopefully, make a profit!)
Like any high-functioning parent, this can cause resentment.
First, there are the obvious costs as you hire an editor and a book cover designer, but then there are all the other costs …
- Editing isn’t a one-round go-around, you have to hire a structural editor ($2000+), then a copy editor ($600 – $2000) and then a proofreader ($500-$1000). For those of you keeping tally at home, that’s three different editors and wheelbarrow of moo-la.
- Unless you want to do the interior formatting yourself (do you really hate yourself that much?), you’ll have to hire a professional interior designer ($300+) or buy a program ($250+); while this will make things easier, you’ll have to invest x amount of time into learning how said program works.
- ARC copies. Once you’ve loaded your files onto your publishing platform/distributor, you will need to order a few copies to check that everything is okay ($100+)
- Membership fee: Some publishing platforms charge an initial sign-up fee (For example, Ingramspark charges $25-$50)
- Marketing: This can be cheap or really expensive.
Affordable apps like Book Brush and Place It charge a small monthly fee ($8-$15 per month). These apps allow you to make beautiful marketing images of your book that you can use on social media and in paid ads (such as Facebook and Amazon). Other platforms like Canva will allow you to make free images, but some stock background etc come with a fee.
You can run your website from a free platform like WordPress, Squarespace or WIX, but if you want a more professional website, then you gotta hand over your credit card.
Again, this can be cheap or expensive. Unfortunately, it may take a little coin to figure out which ads on which platforms result in sales, for example, Amazon Ads, Facebook ads, or Instagram ads.
- Book reviews: Book reviews can cost money, but most reviewers do this for free (thank you kind, generous, book reviewers!). However, it took me SIX months to line up fifty reviews for ETHD. Lesson: This exercise won’t cost you money, but it will cost you time.
I wasn’t sure what to call this section. Independence? Creative Control? Team with an I? Solo? Basically, the other huge limitation of self-publishing is that you are all on your own. No-one is going to hold your hand through this thing. ☹
You are FULLY responsible for every decision involved in the publication of your book.
This is additionally difficult because … despite all the research you’ve done … you still have no idea what you’re doing.
You have to do ALL the research and you have to make ALL the decisions.
You have to research all the publishing/distribution houses. You have to read blogs, reviews and watch YouTube videos to see what other authors say about these platforms. (Note: self-publishing is changing ALL the time, so the internet is full of contradicting advice and old information). Then, you have to type ‘free-lance editor’ into Google and watch as your bank account shrinks to zero. You will spend days/weeks/months trolling through websites and portfolios as you try to decide who you want to hire.
In addition to all this, you also have to learn how to build an author platform and how to online marketing works. Being the CEO of My Novel Inc. is a full-time gig y’all, the only problem is you’re tending to this company at nights and on weekends because, you know, you also have that other job, the one that actually keeping the lights on.
The indie community is a generous one. Every self-published author I have met (in real life or virtually) has been incredibly generous in sharing information and their own experiences. Still, as CEO, you are fully responsible for the success of your novel. This can be exhilarating or terrifying. Usually both.
In the hopes of saving you all some time, money and heart-ache, here are some of the key lessons I learned when publishing ETHD:
- You can’t trust testimonials
- Sometimes you’ll hire a truly stellar professional, but then something happens (they have an accident, fall ill, have a death in the family). This may mean that deadlines have to be extended and the publication date pushed back. If you’re lucky, this happens BEFORE you’ve announced pub date
- Sometimes you can trust testimonials
- Some professionals will be great communicators and they will respond to your emails quickly. Some professionals are … not very good at communicating … and you’ll (maybe) hear from them once a month – despite the glowing testimonials on their website …
- Designing a cover is HARD and so much fun
- Naming a book is HARD and not very fun
- When you show the mock-up designs of your book cover to beta-readers, family and friends and NO-ONE picks the cover you liked … you will start to second guess EVERYTHING. Maybe I don’t know my target audience? Maybe I should re-design all my marketing images and adjust all the copy? If I picked the ‘wrong’ cover, maybe the whole book is ‘wrong’? etc. etc.
- Making marketing images is fun … and kind of a time suck
- So much of marketing feel kind of like you’re doing nothing
- Checking interior formatting takes FOREVER and is mind-numbingly dull
- Applying edits takes FOREVER and you literally live for those tiny compliments and smiley faces your editor has sprinkled throughout the document
- Publishing a book takes about eight times longer than you think it’s gonna take and it’s three times more expensive.
Self-publishing has its limitations, but I knew from the beginning that it was the best option for me.
Becoming CEO of My Novel Inc. has been a huge learning curve, but I’m going to ride this crazy roller coaster all the way to the end. If you’re looking for a ticket, don’t worry, I’ll hook you up with one of the scouts out front. 😉
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