Hands up who would like to go into business for themselves?
If your hand remained steadfastly fixed to your side, then perhaps you should reconsider whether you’ve got what it takes to self-publish your own book.
Self-publishing myth #1
Once you’ve written the book , all you need to do is upload it to Amazon and/or Smashwords, or similar, and you’re in business.
Wrong! Your book might be available to the general public, but you’re not in business, not by a long shot.
Successful self-publishing takes a business mindset
In many ways, I’m lucky. I came to novel writing after achieving a degree qualification in business and ten years working in the corporate sector. As I researched options for what to do with my completed manuscript, I quickly began to realise that all my years spent behind a desk marketing other people’s products and services would come in handy.
When I looked at the options available to get my product (book) to market, I summarised the situation as follows:
The traditional publishing model
Author = production
Publisher = distribution and marketing
In its simplest form, writers produce a book and publishers distribute it. Each has their own area of speciality and both parties leave the other to get on with what they excel at.
The 2013 traditional publishing model
Author = production and marketing
Publisher = distribution and marketing
Today, more and more publishers require authors to actively promote their books (unless you’re a Nora Roberts or Stephen King, that is).
The self-publishing model
Author = production, marketing and shared distribution (to the extent that you have to select your self-publishing options and prepare your manuscript for one of the options below)
Amazon and/or Smashwords, Apple etc = distribution (and some marketing e.g. Amazon’s KDP program)
Based on the above scenarios, the question an author really needs to ask is this: do I want to be responsible for the product, as well as distribution and marketing?
The key qualities: do you have what it takes to be a small business owner?
Essentially, you are contemplating whether to go into business for yourself. It’s a widely known fact that owning a small business requires long hours, erratic cash flow in the start up phase, and the harsh fact is that many small business owners fail in the first three years of starting out.
At this point, it’s useful to remind ourselves of some of the key qualities of a successful small business owner:
- Entrepreneurial: as well as living with the characters in your head, you also need to be able to keep one toe in the real world and constantly be thinking of ways to connect with your audiences. Initiative is the key word here. And so is risk. Most traditional entrepreneurs take a risk on a business idea, in your case, you are taking a risk on yourself and your writing (instead of the publisher doing it for you).
- Strategic: you look to the future and you’ve got a plan. You’re prepared to be patient. You’re continually reassessing and analysing that plan based on your experiences and are prepared to learn from your mistakes. Or as we in the business world say, test and refine.
- Collaborative: smart business owners recognise they need to work with others. Even if you’re a sole trader, you cannot physically do everything yourself. Partner with professionals who can add value to your business proposition. In this case, graphic designers, distributors like Amazon and editors.
- Determined: perhaps you are thinking this applies to writers everywhere – after all, if you have the tenacity to finish and edit a manuscript to completion, then of course you are determined! In a self-publishing sense, determination refers to the willingness to do something with your manuscript (not just write it!)
- Action-focused: if you choose to self-publish, you’re the boss and the buck stops with you. You’re responsible for success or failure and you need to be prepared to own it. Those leaning toward self-publishing will be excited by this point and be attracted by the freedom it brings. Those more inclined to travel the traditional publishing route will likely cringe at this concept and experience a pang of anxiety.
Whatever publishing option you choose there are no short cuts, only hard work
For me, self-publishing was something that I gravitated towards and not just because of my marketing and business experience. In my professional career I’ve worked with companies both big and small and I’ve come to realise that I’m not suited to big business – my sweet spot is working in small to mid-sized companies where I have scope to experiment and am not held back by the bureaucracy.
However, you might well be the sort of person who prefers to have a clearly defined role e.g. author, and leave the rest to the professionals. If this is the case, roll up your sleeves, polish your synopsis and get querying!
There is no question that Amazon has changed the publishing world in favour of writers. However, just don’t expect to only write one book, upload it to Amazon and then wonder why no-one recognises your creative genius. You’re not only doing your creative work a disservice, you’re neglecting to give credit where credit is due – every great book needs a solid distribution channel and marketing support. There are no short cuts to success!