Self-Publishing Is Like Planning a Wedding

 

white-flowers-sig

 

If you’re getting married, have been married, or had the unfortunate fate of being involved in helping plan a wedding, these will sound somewhat familiar:

“You can have Aunt Lucille take pictures. Don’t waste money on a photographer. You need a skilled DJ.”

“Have your sister’s boyfriend DJ. Hire a professional photographer.”

“Your mum can bake the cake, but get a designer for the centerpieces.”

“You can make your own centerpieces but not the cake!”

“Have an open bar or everyone will be pissed.”

“Have a cash bar or everyone will be pissed.”

“No matter what you do…”

“If you have to cut corners…”

And so on.

So here I am, planning a wedding. A marriage of words, thoughts, ideas, dreams, technology, design, and marketing.

How I’m to untangle all the information and advice, I truly don’t know.

Self publishing is kind of a DIY project. (Thankfully, not all of it since DIY and I don’t really get along.)

Authors everywhere have their own ideas of exactly what you ABSOLUTELY CANNOT do yourself and what you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD NOT spend your money on. I actually like this because, through their own experiences, they are helping other writers. Which is a lovely thing to do.

However.

The differing opinions are mind-boggling.

“You must hire a digital artist for your cover.”

“You can make your own cover in Canva or even Word!”

“Don’t pay a proofreader. Have your friends look it over. Save your money for marketing.”

“Put yourself out there and sell your own book. You have to get a proofreader.”

“Find someone to format the book or it’ll be a disaster.”

“It’s easy. Just grab it from Word and upload it to Createspace.”

“Take your own author photo…”

“Get an experienced photographer…”

“No matter what you do…”

“If you have to cut corners…”

And so on.

What’s a writer to do?

 

Okay, gentle readers. I know you. I like you. I have your books. (I think you like me well enough.) I really want to know…

Did you self-publish? What were your experiences? What did you do yourself and what did you hire someone for? Any advice? I’m listening. And I’m ready to hear it.

 

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74 thoughts on “Self-Publishing Is Like Planning a Wedding

  1. Hi Sarah, It’s so exciting to hear your questions. Your book must be inching closer to completion. You are right in that there is much advice being given, and much of it differs. I haven’t gone the self-publishing trail with a book, but I’ve done it with a website. I’m not sure that anything I’ve learned would apply to a book so I won’t share it.
    I have read a number of self-published books though, so I can add some opinions as a reader.
    Hire a professional proofreader at least, even if you can’t hire an editor. Many of the self-published books I have read contain numerous grammatical, word choice and spelling errors. I don’t think it is a good look and discourages me from reviewing or recommending the books. I know traditionally published books sometimes have errors too. With that many words it would be impossible to not have some. However, I find the number of errors in many books I have read unacceptable. It spoils the reading experience for me. Many are probably due to changing a word here or there and not checking that the sentence still makes sense.
    Many of the self-published books I read, I do so in ebook format. The cover is not so important. Most I have chosen because it has been either written or recommended by someone I know or follow online. The cover should indicate something about the book though and not be completely random.
    For me, it is also important to maintain consistency and get your “facts” right. I don’t like it when I’m constantly questioning whether characters would really behave that way, or whether information provided is true. Somehow I don’t think this will be a problem for you.
    I’m sure you’ll get a great assortment of advice from others more qualified to give it, but I appreciate the opportunity to have my say. There are a couple of books I’ve read and just wish the authors had asked me (or someone) to read it before they published it. It’s probably something I should have done with resources on my website too, now that I think about it!
    Have fun making your wedding plans. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • It is exciting. And overwhelming, as you know from launching your site.

      Feedback from readers is priceless! I should have asked that in my questions. (I will add that. Thank you.) Yes, even though I’ve been writing and editing and teaching for years, I know I’ll miss something simply because it’s mine and I’ve looked at it too many times or, like you said, changed something and forgot to change the rest of the sentence/paragraph. I have been thinking about how many people read ebooks and how they rarely see the cover. Interesting. Ooh, yes. I’m big on whether a character would behave a certain way based on what I know of him or her. I think you are very qualified and I’m thrilled to have your advice. Thank you, Norah. 💖 I’ll try to have a bit of fun while I’m at it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for welcoming my comments, Sarah. Feedback is priceless. I always appreciate it! It is very easy for we writers to miss “typos” in our own awesome work!
        I think fun is very important. Sometimes it needs to be scheduled in, or we need to take the focus off the worrying bits and try to find the fun bits (somewhere in the haystack). Easier said that done oftentimes!
        I’m so looking forward to hearing about further progress.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed. Feedback is priceless. And it is easy to miss your own typos. Especially when autocorrect changes “typo” to “hops”. That was awesome. 😀 Anyway, yes, fun. Will try to schedule some in while I’m working on edits. Thanks!

        Like

  2. Hi, on this journey now myself and pretty much thinking the same as you. I have some kind beta readers who have generously given me editing advice and this has been beyond helpful. So in my opinion that is a necessity. I am hiring a blogger friend to do the book cover. The rest is still uncertain… Good luck!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I did the lot myself…apart from the proofing which I shared with my co-writer. They didn’t turn out too badly at all, but I still cringe a bit at the earlier books now… It is a steep learning curve – and we will be going back to reissue some of them with a more professional finish 🙂

    I’d say you have two choices… pay for every bit of help you can afford where editing, proofing and cover are concerned and count it as money well invested in what must be something you believe in. Or do your best, learning as you go and be prepared for the cringing…knowing you can go back and alter anything that needs to be altered for a reissue, which isn’t ideal, but will help you learn.

    Either way… good luck!

    Liked by 6 people

    • I know quite a few authors who did a lot (or everything) themselves. It amazes me. I have to agree on the “steep learning curve”. How cool you are reissuing your earlier books. That is a huge benefit to self-publishing.

      I know I’ll be cringing either way but I’d rather it be limited. 🙂 Thanks, Sue!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t have any pearls of wisdom, I’m afraid. We are self published, but nothing much is happening, basically because we don’t really know what we’re doing. Listened to everyone, read everything, but either I am stupid, or haven’t been paying enough attention.
    If you discover that magic ingredient, do tell!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I don’t know what I’m doing, either. Hmm… Stupid? Not paying attention? I believe it is neither of those options. There is simply too much out there. And everyone is an “expert”.

      You have hit on why I wrote this post. I wanted advice from people I know who don’t claim to be an expert but who will share their experience with me because they want to. I trust this will help more than all the articles I’ve read by people I don’t know. I hope some of the comments help you, too. If I find a magic ingredient, I will totally share! 💖

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I have never self-published, but as an equal opportunity reader, I will say this: the self-designed covers are easy to spot because even if they’re good, the flowy Canva font gives it away. A good cover design will set you apart – seriously, I love words and spend most of my disposable income on books, and I judge a book by it’s cover.

    Also, don’t skimp on a proof-reader – unless you want someone like me nit-picking when I leave a review 🙂 (Actually, I’ll proof-read it for you and give you my nit-picking for free :D)

    If you love this book and have poured your heart into it, treat your efforts well. This process should be scary but also exciting!

    Liked by 5 people

    • As Norah pointed out, I skipped over asking readers! Big mistake. I want any and all advice from writers who have been through this process and readers who read self-published books. So, thank you! 💖

      I judge books by their covers, too. Not fair but, well, there it is. And, again, as Norah mentioned, reading a book that clearly wasn’t proofread is not good. It’s so true, now that I think about it, that I’ve read reviews saying the mistakes made it less enjoyable (sometimes impossible) to read. You’re right. I have to “treat my efforts well”. 🙂 Thank you. (And I might just call on you to skim over the numerous mistakes I’m bound to miss at 2 in the morning, eyes glazed over…)

      Liked by 2 people

  6. A lot will depend on individual talents (beyond writing). I hire editors and proofers because I know I am typo-prone. Even with professional help, a few got through, so I am grateful that it is so easy to go back and make fixes.

    However, I consider myself an advanced Word user, so formatting was something I felt very capable of doing in house, but it is definitely not for the easily frustrated or faint of heart.

    A cover is hugely important, especially if your marketing plan involves ads. You can make a great cover yourself, but should you? Once again, the beautiful part about self-publishing is you can always go back and change it your cover either doesn’t work for you or if you just want an excuse to re-launch your title.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We have to know our strengths (and weaknesses) and work with those. That makes sense. I’m pretty good at editing and proofreading (I proof my comments – just saying) but I’ll probably miss some typos just from spending too much time with my words.

      I’ve been using Word for years so…I’ll try formatting. That said, I AM easily frustrated, especially when it comes to technology. I have zero skills in the art department so no way I’d even think of creating my own covers.

      I do like the freedom to reinvent your lovely books and re-launch. (That is if you only do ebook format?)

      Like

      • *note to self – contact Sarah about interest in proofing help when time comes*

        You can update a cover on a print version too fairly easily, though not always for free, on a print version. Createspace lets you approve a virtual proof (though I don’t recommend you do that for something like a cover or your first printing). Ingram Spark however charges something like $25 to issue changes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You can contact me anytime. I wouldn’t call myself a proofreader by any stretch but I’ll probably catch typos while reading.

        Interesting. I know classics (and other books that have been out a long time or enjoyed much success or been made into a film) have been redone in print form but wasn’t sure people generally did that when they self-published. You don’t recommend a virtual proof? You mean don’t get a proof or make sure you get a print copy to proof?

        Like

  7. I’ve self published a few things. To be honest, the experience hasn’t been earth shattering, though I’ve definitely seen more success since I changed my covers.

    Basically, I did everything myself, but bear in mind my two short story collections contained stories that had already been edited before they were published online or in anthologies. So I did the proof-reading and formatting myself.

    And then I did the covers myself. Checkmate has had three covers now, while Harbingers has only had one as I feel like I know what I’m doing now! But again, a caveat; I teach graphic design, so I’m not just someone faffing about on Canva.

    My advice is that do what is realistically within your skill set yourself, but definitely get a couple of people to proofread for you (they’ll catch errors you’ll miss). If your background isn’t in design then pay someone else. I’d avoid Fiverr due to a lot of the artists having a tendency to either reuse existing covers, or to use elements that are actually restricted by copyright. I’ve heard good things about 99Designs, or you could approach your local art college if they have a graphics program and ask if they have any degree students who’d like to have a crack at it. It’ll give them something for their portfolio, and you a free/low cost cover.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ah. You teach graphic design. Well. That’s a different story. (No pun intended.) I’ve never even used Canva so any cover I attempted to design would look like a child’s scribble. No offense to children’s drawings. Your cover for Harbinger is gorgeous so, apparently, you know what you’re doing. 💖

      I’m definitely on board with doing what is within your skill set and hiring out for the rest. Seems the way to go. Thanks, Icy!

      Like

  8. OMG! I have tried to learn about self-publishing as a possible fallback position if I wasn’t completely happy with my publisher, but not tempted to go there yet. But I found your “helpful hints” about wedding planning even more terrifying, and very relieved at not having had to go there. What’s the publishing parallel to roll out without any witnesses to the registry office in Las Vegas? You could try that!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha! Las Vegas wedding. They have drive-thru weddings there. I like the sound of that. No fuss. Hey! We should open a company: Las Vegas Publishing (Enter the Fast Lane to Publication with Elvis) 🙂

      Didn’t mean to terrify you. It’s a bit overwhelming. For me. For others, it seems to be a breeze. *ahem* (Geoff) I think the comments here are awesome. Go with your abilities and hire for all else.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I know, Sarah! It’s crazy making. I started as a traditionally published author and then canceled my contracts and switched them all to self-published. I posted two articles that explained why – one talked about the benefits of traditional and the other about the benefits of indie. I normally don’t post links, but I think you might find them helpful.

    Part I

    Part II

    In a couple weeks, I’ll post my wrap-up of the results, and I’ll give you a hint now that the switch had no downside at all.

    I started out with no money and traded beta-reads and proof-reading with other WRITER friends, so I had at least 5 writers looking at my book. They didn’t catch everything, but they caught a lot. The only downside was that the trade committed my time to do their books, a responsibility that I took seriously.

    I did my own covers initially and have gone back and upgraded most of them. Covers are reader eye-candy, and that is where I put my money first now. I regret not going with professional covers right up front.

    Formatting is something that you can teach yourself from the internet. I use a program called Jutoh for my ebooks, but there are others that are highly recommended too. It was easy (I didn’t have to read the directions) and I’m really happy with it. Createspace paperbacks are very simple and directions are readily available.

    Good luck with your publishing adventure. Sorry for the really long long long reply. Hope it’s helpful!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am SO happy you posted the links. I look forward to reading them. I’ve heard of authors switching to self-publishing from traditional and I’d love to hear about your experience. I like that hint, too. 😉

      Aside from beta readers/proofreaders, cover design seems to be the biggest thing for authors. It really is eye candy for readers. And your covers are stunning. Formatting scares me so I need to just jump in and figure it out. So many authors have said it’s easy. I’m sure I can learn it. *fingers crossed*

      No worries on the length. I am extremely grateful for the reply. Thank you! 💖

      Liked by 1 person

      • With formatting, just don’t be in a hurry and expect to have to tweak and tweak and tweak as you learn. You’ll get better at it with each book. Both Kindle and Createspace let you “view” the book online before you hit the publish button, so you can go back as many times as you need to in order to get it just right. You’ll be fine.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Us self publishers wear many hats, and we all know we can’t multi task and do it all ourselves if we want our work to professional looking. Like any other business, you have to put out some money to get off the ground. I use author friends as beta readers then after rewrites and revisions my book is off to the editor, and then back again for proofreading. I have a fantastic cover designer who is reasonably priced whom I work with to demonstrate what I’m looking for with photos and summation of my book. Then I hire out for formatting. That’s just something I have no interest or time to learn, well worth the reasonable price for peace of mind and professional work. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • We do wear many hats. So many writers do everything on their own but they often have background/experience. I think you’re right that most of us will have to spend some money to get a professional-looking finished product. I’m having the same issue with formatting (though quite a few people say it’s easy). I think I just don’t want to be bothered. 😉 I’ll give it a go but might wind up hiring someone for that, too. If the book has been edited and the cover is beautiful but the inside is a mess… That would be a shame.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I am in the middle of the self-publishing process for someone and it has been extremely time-consuming, frustrating, fun, scary and exciting. It’s a surprise project so more on that in a few months! Good luck to you. Email me if you want to trade tips/experiences.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I loved – LOVED – your comparison of publishing to wedding planning. I would never have thought of it, but it’s true!

    I mentor a kids’ writing group (ages 10-14), and each spring we self-publish our work. The kids design their own front covers, and we ask the parents’ help with proofreading. We usually publish 7-10 softcover books each spring.

    However, our books are not for public sale. The kids’ parents/friends/relatives buy these books, and much is forgiven in the way of typos and front cover design. We do our best to make the books as accurate and lovely as possible, but there are time and money limitations.

    Having said all that, if it were me self-publishing for public consumption, I would spend money on the front cover design and go with dgkaye’s suggestion (above) re: beta readers.

    This is exciting!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Haha! Thanks. It totally is true.

      I knew you taught (mentored) kids in writing but didn’t know you published your work. That is awesome! So how do you do this? How do you publish but not make it available? What an amazing experience for them. I would love to talk to you more about this.

      Cover design. Beta readers. Got it. You’re the bee’s knees. 🐝 Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Lovely post, Sarah. I have to confess at the outset – I’m a proofreader, but I promise I’m not touting for business (my diary is full). I’ve also self-published a couple of books, and from my own (limited) experience I suggest hiring the following – proofreader, editor, cover designer. I do wish you all the best with your book, and if you’d like to drop me an email I’m very happy to chat through options and recommend some lovely editors and proofreaders to you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • 😀 I didn’t think you were trying to get business but thanks for letting me know. Ok, you’re a proofreader and have published. I’m listening. Proofreading, editing, cover. I might just send an email. Thank you very much for offering and for your well-wishes. I’ve other books I’m working on so will need to find a proofreader for those. Just curious… Do you find it easier to proofread if it’s a “good fit”? Meaning you work well with the writer and like the genre or is that not really an issue?

      Like

  14. I always think you invest most in the things that matter most – i.e. if you want readers to buy, then the first thing they look at is the cover – much as my artistic skills might be above average, they are never going to be as good as a designer…. and so I spend money on a designer.

    Editing is the same. No matter how many times you read your own work, you will be blind and read what you think you wrote rather than what you actually wrote.

    the rest… well pay for whatever you can’t be bothered to do and do the rest yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your artistic skills are far better than mine. I wouldn’t even attempt a cover. You know I’m fairly decent at editing/proofreading but you are so right. “No matter how many times you read your own work, you will be blind and read what you think you wrote rather than what you actually wrote.” Yup. Already caught a bunch of mistakes then gave up. As I’m editing, I’m changing things and missing things.

      Like

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  16. This is such a complex subject, so I’ll keep my perspective really brief. You can always ask questions.
    1. Self publishing means that anybody can publish anything (including total nonsense). This dictates a very questionable perspective, by some people in the business, regarding self publishers.
    2. Unless you are a politician,celebrity or a recognized author, a publisher will probably not be too interested in you, and a book store will be reluctant to invest money in stocking books by an unknown author.
    3. What do you know about publishing,distribution, marketing, and the whole business in general? You can write a beautiful story but, if nobody knows it exists, they will not be buying it!

    Summary for me: Determine how much money I was prepared to invest in the project and negotiate accordingly. I contracted with FriesenPress who not only offered wonderful advice re getting my book ready for publishing, but also added a touch of credibility to it in the market place. They also took care of the legal aspects and made it available worldwide to all the major retailers. I did not hire a publicist simply because of cost. Whether that was a good decision remains to be seen!
    All the very best with your project. Colin.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is complex. And these are all true. Some people still look at self-publishing as inferior. I’ve read some horrendous self-published books. I’ve also read some horrendous books by traditional publishers. But I see your point. It’s very accessible. And I believe you’re right in that big book stores will be hesitant to stock an unknown self-published author. As far as marketing, I think this is tough for authors regardless. So happy you are pleased with your publisher. Best of luck to you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I think what you choose to do really depends on your skillset, but it helps to get a second, critical opinion. I do a lot of the work myself, but I feel comfortable doing it. And I’ve had to redo a bunch of it. Now I’m wiser, but some could argue that publishing isn’t a good place for trial and error.

    I do pay for proof reading though, after sending it to betas and critique partners. One last eye to go over it before I send it off to the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I think it comes down to skills. That seems to be the consensus here. You’ve got mad skills. You should be doing most of this yourself. No, publishing is not a good place for trial and error but…um…I’ve seen your older cover and that was gorgeous so not so much trial and error as making it even more beautiful. Anyway, yes, proofreading keeps showing up in comments so I think that’s something I’m definitely going to do. Thank you. 💖 (Critique partners? Online? In real life? How does one go about finding these creatures?)

      Like

  18. You’re brave for even contemplating it. I don’t know if I’d be that brave. Blogging is one thing, but self-publishing,

    Well. The one thing I’d say to do is hire an editor to proof your story before u put it out there. Hopefully a good one will catch all your mistakes before they’re public!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps. I hadn’t thought of it that way. But thank you. 🙂 If you have something to share, I say you should share it. Yes, for sure someone needs to proofread these words. I’m spending too much time with them and I’m bound to miss something.

      Like

  19. I self published, but I’ve tried many different things. Here’s what I’ve done myself always: write, proofread, edit, format text.

    Writing is the easy part. I write by longhand because that’s how I roll so my first proofread and edit happens when I transcribe and I do get a lot of errors filtered out.

    Proofreading is cumbersome, but here’s my process. Read until I find a typo. Fix typo. Make sure it’s right. Start to read again. I have known to start again after having proofread half a book. Just the thought of it pushes me to write correctly. (btw, typos still happen, but the sheer fear of having to read it all again I do believe makes you a better writer). By trade I’m a copywriter in advertising, PR, and communications in general, so my day job is training to be as good a proofreader as I can be. Perfect? No. But good enough.

    Editing is hell. This is by far the most painful part of the writing process because you have to cut parts, rewrite things, and be absolutely brutal with yourself. It’s a drain of a process but again, the more brutal you are, the better a writer you become. I try to be particularly harsh because I need to make sure that what I’m publishing is worthy of my mom’s name, which is my author name. I’ve known to have a bad day of editing and to get real upset at some blunders. But as you go on, you get better at avoiding things you have to remedy. Shadow of a Human was a cake walk compared to editing Only Human, and that’s just my second novel. But you learn where you messed up to avoid those F ups.

    Covers. I’ve used professional designers and have had my wife’s help using Canva. The Human Cycle, the Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore, and Dark Strands were all made by professional artists. but money is an issue and I’ve been blessed to have a wife that knows how to use Canva and did Captured Moments, Pensando en Metáforas, and Twenty Veinte all on Canva and I love all 3 covers. The remaining cover is for Between the Tides, a book I insisted I use a picture I took on the cover with minimum help from a designer… honestly? I’d redo that cover, but I keep it as a reminder of covers and the importance of doing things right. Here’s the thing, in that cover, the book looks great in person but the ebook cover is drab.

    Beta readers: I had two beta readers for Only Human who offered minimum comments but did help me a lot and I had a really engaged beta reader for Shadow of a Human. I think the growth in writing shows and it also shows I had someone telling me to push harder, deeper, and not settle. She is a dear friend and thanks to her, my work has improved a LOT during the years. She’s kind but not soft and pushes me and challenges me. That helped me take a good book to the next level. So a key thing is to find a Beta reader that gets you, that isn’t cruel, but doesn’t applaud all that you do and that pushes you.

    Formatting is a bitch! by far one of the most frustrating parts of the process is formatting and on Createspace, what’s on the screen is what will be printing. Last 3 books? I didn’t have time for a print proof… I gambled, and I was lucky. Ideally get a proof copy.

    As for marketing? I don’t have stellar sales so I’m not the right person to ask. lol. I am working on getting more exposure but still looking for the right formula. Sure my youtube channel is growing, sure I have over 5K people on Twitter, sure I have over 600 on G+ and over 500 on Instagram and Facebook, but I don’t have steady sales, which is mainly down to me focusing on providing content and not plugging my work. It’s something I have trouble doing because I never want to spam, but there’s a difference between spamming and avoiding the topic of your books altogether lol.

    And that’s enough for now lol. If you have any extra questions, by all means ask although as always, the comments offered by people here are gold and shows your community is awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

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