What’s the toughest part about self-publishing?

Author Fair 2007
Self-Publishing or indie publishing? Choose what’s best for you.

Last month, me and Kemya Scott of Phisco Marketing held a Social Media and Self-Publishing Facebook Chat. There, a chatter asked me, “What’s the toughest part about self-publishing?”

That was a few weeks ago, and I still don’t have a better answer than, “it depends.”

Where do you want to go as an author? If it’s “just to get your name out there,” most of the well-publicized self-pub places specialize in that. The aim of those places is to get 100,000 authors selling hundreds of books, not hundreds of authors selling 100,000 books. That’s not a secret, but it’s also not the toughest part — deciding how to go.

Say your plans are bigger than a couple hundred copies. In that case, go indie with your own company.

Indie authors are automatically anonymous, and there are lots of us, good and bad, out there. Changing that — getting shelved, notoriety in media and social media circle, etc — is an uphill battle. You need trade reviews (which are hard to get unless you pay for them), an attractive cover, snappy back cover copy, and engaging writing in order to even be considered.

Still, in my opinion, not the toughest part.

When you succeed, the bookseller will shelve you and take between 45%-55% of your retail on each sale. You get what’s left, minus your Cost Of Goods, 90 days after the sale occurred (60 for digital on Amazon after your total owed reaches above $10).

That part is pretty tough to swallow.

I spent a few thousand dollars promoting The Lost Testament. We had a book launch party and invited 50 guests (about 20 showed) and the media (none). I hired a publicist for a few months, flew to Philadelphia for two book signings, and did the virtual book tour rounds.

I don’t know what I expected my sales to be after all of that, but I wanted it to be more than what I got.

For my second and third books, I did more of it myself. Part of that was necessity because my advertising budget had shrunken considerably. The other side of the coin is that I wanted more bang for my buck, and either you spend time learning a new craft, or pay someone who knows that craft. In my case, the knowledge was valuable enough to sacrifice the time to learn.

THAT’S the toughest part, to me — all of the D-I-Y. If you’re an author, what was yours?

4 thoughts on “What’s the toughest part about self-publishing?

  1. This is the reason why I chose to publish in e-format for Kindle and Nook. I make 65-70% of the cover price and don’t have to deal with bookstores, the distribution of paper books, or do signings. 🙂

      1. With sales of paper books declining every month and e-books climbing, it’s a minor loss, in my opinion. People are reading on their Kindles, Nooks, phones, iPads, and other tablets like never before. I want to focus on the market that’s growing, not the one that’s shrinking.

  2. The hardest part about being an indie author is finding ways to get your name and your book out there for people to find. My novel, “On Unfaithful Wings”, is on Kindle with over a million other books. How does someone find it? Giveaways, advertising, social media, blogging, etc., etc., etc. Many non-writers think writing a novel is hard work…they should see what’s involved after it’s written!

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