Feb 15, 2010

Self-publishing - is it for you?

I'm fascinated with the fast growing industry of self-publishing. Mind you, it doesn't take much to impress me, I'm still in awe that there is 'Internet'. This week I upgraded my phone to an iPhone and I've been over the moon with this amazing technology, although I'm yet to work out why it's so much more exciting than my iPod touch.
Self-publishing has been available even before internet, but it was quite expensive to have books printed, bound and distributed in small numbers. Even if you could afford that, the big issue with self-published books was marketing. Promoting a small-run unknown author was difficult.
But whiz forward to the future... now (yes my retro mind keeps believing that we are living in the future, these are the Buck Rogers years) and anyone can self-publish and the costs begin at...NOTHING.
This new ease of becoming published is met with mixed responses.


  • There seems to be an assumption from many consumers, bloggers and Podcast hosts that open self-publishing produces poor quality products. Litopia After Dark have often likened self-publishing to vanity publishing. To go this route you will be pushing against these opinions.
  • It's hard work. Unless you are prepared to pay premiums to have someone else do the work for you, then you will need to be able to not just write a great book, but edit it perfectly, layout your pages (which is more difficult if you have a nonfiction book as you may want break-out boxes and diagrams) and convert the file to be read online. Then you'll need to work out how to get your book to readers and more importantly, how to get readers to your book.
  • There is a lot of unpolished work on the net, your book will be buried amongst those and people may not be patient enough to keep downloading if they've already sifted through files and files of rubbish books.
  • Podcasting book chapters has worked well for some but if you have a decent sized novel, then you are relying on keeping listeners attention for a long time. Admittedly I have started downloading several Podcast books, but usually loose interest by halfway through.

  • Trail-blazing heroes like Seth Harwood (Jack Wakes Up) have provided great examples of the right way to push your novels via Podcast. 
  • There are a number of locations to place your e-book online now, one of my favourites is Scribd, this is an online community where you can download content (a lot is free) and upload your own work.
  • By providing samples or first works free for download, you can build up an audience. I recently downloaded How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey from Scribd, and although I haven't read very much of it yet, I was inspired enough to purchase Frey's book How to Write a Damn Good Mystery from Amazon.
  • Marketing is achievable with social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. There are many gurus providing information and training on how to give yourself a good online platform, one of my favourite resources is The Creative Penn which has helpful hints, free downloads, e-books on marketing for authors and Podcasts to follow. I recommend this site often.
  • Your market is growing rapidly. I was one of the many who whinged that I could never read a book online. Even as little as 12months ago, I would find papers I needed for my studies and print them out to read. Now I am a hungry consumer of paper books, e-books, kindle books and audio books. I dipped my toe in the water with some free e-books and quickly moved on to happily purchase books to read on my iPhone (hurry up iPad!). My kids have also downloaded several audio books and comic book apps to their iPods, this market is not just for adults. Below you'll see our excited Miss 8yrs getting her mini-laptop for Christmas.

Digital time is a bit like dog years, 1yr =7, so if you're looking for texts on self-publishing I recommend that you check publication dates. I found books on Amazon from 2000, a lot's happened in the last ten years! Check that the blogs you read are recent posts too.

Which way would I hope to go with Dog Show Detective? I'd always imagined it as a paperback series when I started writing (optimistic, but it helps to have an end goal pictured in your mind) but now I love the idea of kids downloading my book or listening to it on their mp3 players during a long drive. There's still a lot for me to learn about online marketing and production of e-books, so for now I guess I should just get back to finishing the book.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing?


  1. Self-publishing is a way of losing money. It won't do anything for your status, your self-esteem, your career as a writer, or your bank balance. It will also ultimately diminish your precious store of hop. Concentrate your energies instead on writing something that someone else (i.e. a publisher) thinks is worth investing their money in.

  2. That should have been 'hope' by the way.

  3. Interesting post, Charmaine. This is definitely something to think about in today's publishing world. I like the way you provide both positives and negatives for us. Great! :-)

  4. Thanks for commenting guys.
    Brian, I enjoyed reading your blog posts on your publishing journey, you've a lot of experiences to share.
    Shannon, hope you've been having fun with your contest on your site, it looks to be a buzz of activity this week!