12 Things Every Self-Publisher Should Know

12 Things Every Self-Publisher Should Know
(before publishing)

christmas tree made of books with ornaments

CC image “Boekenkerstboom” courtesy of Bibliotheek Kortrijk on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

In this day and age, where it seems like everyone is publishing a book and a lot of them are touting how easy that is (ha!), it’s important to remember that none of those books was published by magic. In tribute to the “12 Days of Christmas,” below is a list of 12 things every self-publisher and independent author should know.

Traditionally, the holiday season means a barrage of tips on how to market-slash-use-the-holiday-to-promote-your-book. While tying your marketing to the season is a great idea, your publishing plans should not begin and end with this fixation.

12 Tips for Self-Publishing

1. Remember: it’s your project.

If you don’t do it, no one will. This goes for writing, editing, budgeting, marketing, staying on top of timelines, and more. Be ready to be hands-on—which includes knowing the people you hire to help you (#11).

2. Be a pro.

Millions of books are published in the United States alone every year, at least 700,000 of which are independently published*, most of them by people who treat publishing like a profession. Your book will not succeed if you don’t do the same. Be a professional.

3. Writers’ groups, conferences, and trade expos for publishing offer great information.

If you are new to independent publishing, you don’t know what you don’t know. Get informed.

4. Not all publishing services companies are your friend.

This is hard for me to say, since there are so many quality people with integrity working in independent publishing. Some “full service” companies are not what they seem. They charge a lot of money, up-sell you on more “marketing,” and you lose oversight and creative control of your project. Isn’t creative control one of the reasons you are self-publishing to begin with? (Not to mention keeping more of the returns—see #10.)

5. You can write a book in 30 days, but you sure as hell shouldn’t publish in 30 days.

Quality control of every facet of your book goes down the toilet. Do it right.

6. Know your audience.

This is critical for your writing, and more: also cover design, marketing, packaging… the whole nine yards. “Everybody!” is not an audience. Who do you want to reach, specifically?

7. You need a plan for your book once it’s published.

What do you want your book to achieve? How will you get there? This is not incidental information and you need to think about it before you publish.

8. Speaking <> Writing

Speaking opportunities are a great way to spread the word about you and your book. If you are shy or introverted or scared of public speaking, you still need to consider this option. Speaking leads more people to your book, and your book leads more people to you for speaking engagements. This is a great outreach and promotional choice.

9. Repurpose your content.

You may have more material than you realize. Chapter ideas, blog posts, speech topics, short video themes, and social media outreach can (and should) feed into each other. Don’t drive yourself nuts by reinventing the wheel. If you’ve been writing a blog or speaking, that is great material to include in your book.

10. Keep your rights.

Publishing service providers mentioned in #4 will often include the purchase of an ISBN in their package of services to you. This is not a good option because you lose control over sales and distribution rights, two great ways to generate income and promote your work. Again, why are you self-publishing? You should benefit and you should have control. Keep your rights and get your own ISBN.

11. Hire someone to help you.

This ties in to #2, be a pro. Hire people who are excellent at what you don’t like to do or are not good at. DIY for the whole process is exhausting and unlikely to be your strength. Publishing, editing, and creative professional trade organizations are great places to start looking for help.

12. Be aware of holidays/special events.

Yes, I started this post poo-pooing the spate of holiday-related content you are going to find online for the next six weeks. However, it does pay to be aware of what’s going on around you. Look at the calendar for the next year and ask yourself what relates to events or topics in your book. These are opportunities for you to showcase your work and spread excitement about your book and you should use them! Notice I am NOT saying to drop everything else in the next six weeks… unless you’ve already planned this outreach (#7).

The bottom line

Stay grounded and seek information. Don’t rush. If you treat independent publishing as a professional endeavor and stay focused, you can reap tremendous rewards, and stay sane in the process.


*Association of American Publishers. “U.S. Publishing Industry’s Annual Survey Reveals $28 Billion in Revenue in 2015.” Accessed November 28, 2016. hhttp://newsroom.publishers.org/us-publishing-industrys-annual-survey-reveals-nearly-28-billion-in-revenue-in-2015

Bowker. “Self-Publishing in the United States, 2010-2015. Print vs Ebook.” Accessed November 28, 2016. http://media.bowker.com/documents/bowker-selfpublishing-report2015.pdf

Thoughts, questions, comments, suggestions, and blarney (bonus points for wit):