I received a comment from a “rookie writer” who’s afraid to self-publish because she doesn’t have any money and because promotion is a dark mystery.
I think the fear is misplaced. The real fear should come from the act of self-publishing, not the cost, which can be minimal, or promotion, which is daunting. A self-published book means that it doesn’t have the approval of an agent, review panel, editor, and publishing house and, therefore, lacks credibility to the buying audience. The praise of friends and family doesn’t count.
When I self-published my novel, Shadow of the Rock, I met that fear head-on. I’d been working on the novel for years. Now I was throwing my baby out to the wolves. Was I going to be obliterated by the steel blades of heartless reviewers? Would a reviewer even notice? Would all my friends and family snicker about the book behind my back?
But I surged ahead, because I had years of the sometimes savage critiques of my novel from the two critique groups I belonged to. These groups, formed under the auspices of the Maryland Writers’ Association, helped me hone my writing, throw out the information dumps, kill the adverbs, delve more deeply into my characters, and refine the plot points. Sometimes the critiques were hard to take, but they were always valuable.
I self-published because I couldn’t get an agent. But I knew my book was a good read; that I had written it well, and that it provided interesting insights into Florida and Moroccan history. It also had the foundation of excellent and painstaking research.
I’ve received two positive reviews from the reviewing media (Midwest Book Review called it “a riveting story of time and humanity, highly recommended”) and positive comments on Amazon.com and from friends and family, I feel good about Shadow of the Rock. Most comments do say it’s a good read and hard to put down.
So my best advice is to write, write more, read books about writing, and join a group of writers to critique your work. That’s the way you’ll grow as a writer, become a good one, and self-publish with confidence.
As for the cost of self-publishing, you can learn how to format your book as an e-book and mount it on smashwords.com (which has a complete manual on formatting) and Amazon.com. This costs little. You can also use a print-on-demand house to print your book, but your book needs a professional layout and cover. This can be costly (around $1300 for both layout and cover) although you could learn to do the interior layout yourself, but it needs to look like a book interior. It needs to look professional. You absolutely do need a professional cover design.
Caution: Don’t self-publish until you know what the business of publishing is all about. Join the Independent Book Publishers Association (ibpa-online.org) and your regional publishers affiliate. Read about self-publishing. Learn. This is a highly complicated business with a steep learning curve.
Promotion, aka, getting the book out of the basement, is another issue, for another time.