What factors should I keep in mind if I want to self-publish a book? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
When asked about self-publishing, my honest answer is that I think self-publishing is a very tricky beast, and while it seems like the easy way to go, unless you are a writer in a specific genre (romance, for example), I think it can lead to disappointment. I opted to self-publish my fifth novel because I thought I could do a better job on it than a traditional publisher after my discouraging experience with my fourth book. I was listless and unhappy with the shifting winds of the publishing world, and I already had a pretty good built-in audience, so I wanted to give it a go.
Because I'd had all the experience within the publishing world, I put the book through all the paces that it would have gone through had I opted for a traditional publisher. I hired a veteran editor, I hired the designer who did my jackets at Random House, I did extensive copy-edits and galleys, etc. The finished product wasn't much different than what would have come out of a traditional publisher, and I think that's really critical: just because you're self-publishing doesn't mean that it can be amateurish or unpolished. Also, I think it is super, super, super important to go through a very hearty editing process. One thing that is very difficult to learn is when your book is really done. Even now, on my seventh book, I probably go through five or six rewrites, and I think that with self-publishing, it's too easy to just upload something that isn't ready to be put out into the world.
From there, you still have marketing to deal with. I think aspiring self-published authors underestimate how difficult it can be to get eyeballs and readership (again, certain genres do well, so this isn't a blanket statement). I had a film deal and a lot of press to help me out, so I felt secure with it, but, for example, when it came time to consider how to handle my new novel without having locked in a film deal, I wasn't sure that I had the reach to sell as many copies as I hoped, and ultimately, I chose not to self-publish again. Competing for readership is very difficult in this crowded marketplace, so my advice is to really consider how you will do that and to have a plan. I seem to recall that the average self-published book sells fewer than five hundred copies. That's your friends and family, and that's not enough. So be sure that you have done your research and have a marketing plan beyond posting it on Facebook.
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