Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Painful Cost of Self-Publishing

The internet is full of people blogging about the wonders of self-publishing.  Ebooks are cutting edge and, according to many, the only way forward for writers old and new.  Most bloggers, however, acknowledge that chasing success is a very difficult race to run.  For some it’s punishingly painful.

Producing your ebook is the easy part in this almost-impossible quest for fame and fortune.  Once you’ve uploaded your precious novel to the various portals that will sell it for you, your work then begins in earnest.  Amazon won’t promote it for you, of course, and without promotion you are literally lost.  After your loyal band of friends and family has bought their copies sales will grind to a halt unless you become very active.

So what do you do?  Well you can sit on social network sites like Twitter and Facebook all day telling as many people as you can how wonderful your book is and begging them to buy it.  Some people might find that easy enough to do, but I’m not one of them.  Perhaps it’s my natural British reserve, but I never was good at blowing my own trumpet.  I want people to discover the good things about me for themselves. Fat chance!  With over 1.6 billion search queries a day, what chance does little old you stand of being noticed by the masses?  Well, unless you have 1.6 billion willing followers, that is.

Of course there are success stories, but they are the exception, not the norm.  The grim truth is, you have to put yourself out there, raise your followers up into the thousands and then, if you can bear it, spam them to death with tweets about your wonderful work in between thinking up  encouraging or witty tweets to keep them interested!  Now I can tweet like a good ‘un about other people’s achievements but when it comes to self-aggrandisement, I cringe with embarrassment.  Writers need nerves of steel, but all the ones I know are as sensitive as dormice.

Review blogs are a great solution, but by no means an easy one.  I’m an ace writer of polite - even grovelling - requests for superior bloggers to review my work of art in the hopes that a kind word from them will send readers flocking up the Amazon in their boatloads.  The fact is that attracting the attention of popular review blogs is almost as difficult as finding a literary agent, which of course, if you had in the first place, you wouldn’t be self-publishing!  Of those that do reply, some can be so abrupt, it’s like a slap in the face.
Of course there are some kind altruists in blogland who will accept your work, though they almost always begin with a warning about how busy they are.  I had one who informed me she would get around to reading my opus in six months’ time.  That’s genuinely how busy and in demand this wonderful and rare species of the human race is.  After all, most do it for love in their spare time and who, nowadays, has an abundance of that in their lives?

Keeping up your own blog (and persuading people to read it), responding to others, writing interviews and guest articles to generate interest in your work is time-consuming indeed.  Meanwhile your next piece of literary excellence sits on your computer neglected and reproachful.  And of course, when you do finish it, guess what?  You have to start all over again…


Deborah Court said...

Great article and so very true. Well spoken, Lyn! Unfortunately most writers are indeed sensitive as dormice and simply not made for the hard business of self-promoting. This is the darker side of self-publishing; sometimes it sounds like a wonderful idea to have an agent or publisher who will do all the promotion and public work for you. Then, finally, you can get busy with the only thing an author really wants to do: Writing.

Carol J. Garvin said...

I came over from Twitter to check out your post. It's refreshing to find someone who admits there is a down side to self-publishing. I think it takes an already successful author to do self-publishing well, although there are always exceptions. I have a friend who has managed it, but it has taken her a massive amount of effort and expense. There are so many challenges to getting a good book out on bookshelves, even with traditional publishing, that I can't imagine trying to do it all myself.

Jeanette Hornby said...

Great post, Lyn. Yes, there are pros and cons to every situation. It's tough out there in the real world. I guess that's why I prefer my fantasy ones. And I will keep writing and hope someone wants to read my work.

Carol Kilgore said...

It's always wise to research the pros and cons before making a decision. There's lots of hype on both sides.

I blogged about receiving the award today.

ManicScribbler said...

Deb, Carol, Jeanette and Carol - thank you for taking the trouble to comment on my article.
I agree, it does take a certain kind of person to make a real success of self-publishing - but there is no doubt that it's the way forward and the onus, of course, is on us to make it work well for us. Onwards and upwards!

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