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.
Answer by Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of six novels, including In Twenty Years, on Quora:
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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