Hello everyone, Meka James here and I’m going to bestow upon you all great knowledge and wisdom on when to self-publish a book. Have you laughed yet? Because I did. I have self-published three books, but I am far from any sort of expert. In fact, I learn more about the process each time. I also gain additional gray hairs and if I were a smoker, my intake would probably double. Though my wine consumption does increase, but we won’t discuss that. So, let’s get started.
When to Self-Publish a Book
When an author sets out to publish their book without the help of a traditional publisher or smaller press, it’s not a decision they’ve made lightly, hopefully. To self-publish a book is not to “take the easy route” or because they “couldn’t cut it” in the traditional world. Each author has their own reasons for going indie. Some of those reasons can include wanting to have complete creative control, or because the timeline from start to finish is set at their pace, just to name a couple.
As I was preparing book 1 for release, I never considered another option. I went into the process knowing I was going to self-publish that book for a couple of reasons.
It started as a blog story so I’d basically already “self-published” it.
It doesn’t fit convention which makes it a hard sell to a publisher and/or agent.
Self-publishing worked/works for me. I’m a slow writer, so the idea of being on a deadline set by others terrifies me. Talk about major performance anxiety. Plus, through the three books I’ve put out and my venture into hybrid territory, I’m learning I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to my writing.
Having input on things isn’t the same as having final say.
Because I self-published the first book, it made sense to me to follow suit with the other two since they are all related to the same cast of characters.
I have a writing friend who decided last year to give up the query life and self-publish her books. The waiting got to her. In fact, she had a book at a small press that had been in a holding pattern for months, she pulled it and published it herself. She thought things through, made a plan, and had a release date schedule set for books she had in the works for making her publishing debut. The timeline going the traditional route didn’t work for her. Self-publishing does.
How Do You Know if You’re Ready?
How do you know if you’re ready to self-publish a book? Well, ask yourself a few questions, starting with why you want to go this route. No reason is a wrong reason, because it’s personal to each individual.
But, I’ll say again, going indie does not equal easy. Not by a long shot.
Did I make a crap ton of newbie mistakes with my first release? Heck yeah! And if I could go back in time and have a do-over using what I know today I would handle things differently. I’d still self-publish that book, but I’d make sure I was better prepared. Like I said in the beginning, I learn more each time.
You have your reason, now let’s talk about getting the book ready. Once it’s finished, and you’ve made your first pass of edits, get other eyes on it. I will say this from experience, getting feedback from a trusted source stings less (if it’s not 100% positive) than getting blasted in that unavoidable less than stellar review. You won’t please everyone, this we know, but getting one or two opinions on your book beforehand will help you in the long run. People not so close to it will see things we as the author might miss. My critique squad is invaluable to me.
Okay, so you’ve had beta feedback, made adjustments, and you think you’re ready to self-publish that book. Don’t hit the button yet. Get an editor. And I know, believe me I know, editing doesn’t come cheap. It can be a hard pill to swallow. Everyone’s financial situation is different and it may not be feasible. Ask me if I had one for the first book. Remember those newbie mistakes I said I made? Yeah, that was one. So if you can, please do. You want to give your book every possible chance of succeeding (whatever that means to you) and fighting against the stigma that self-published books are lesser.
Prepping for Release
Now that your book has been edited in some fashion, you have a shiny new manuscript ready for the world. Time to think release dates. Hopefully during the editing phase, you’ve been thinking ahead, because being indie means you wear all the hats and must multitask like a boss.
Let’s discuss my own experiences with release dates.
Book 1 — April 28, 2014
Book 2 — November 23, 2017
Book 3 — November 23, 2018
You’re probably wondering how I decided on those dates. Ready for the knowledge smackdown? Out of thin air! Well at least for book 1. It had no special meaning. I’d done zilch in the way of research for when the best days to publish were. Nada. As I neared the end of the process, I looked ahead at a date to give myself a deadline and picked. That’s it.
If you’re looking at books 2 and 3 and noticing they are suspiciously close to Thanksgiving, you’d be correct. Book 2 was on Thanksgiving. Was it wise? Eh, probably not. Did I have a reason I picked that day? You betcha. A key moment of my book happened on Thanksgiving in the story. I just happened to be nearing the end of a long journey (notice the gap between books) and it worked out I could have it come out on that day.
I would NOT advise this, people.
But, Meka, you say, you did this twice. Yeah, I know. Just chalk it up to the mom in me being all “do as I say not as I do” (not really, but kinda really). Because book 2 and 3 go together, I set out to release the third on the anniversary of the second. So I had my reasons, but still this is not advisable. Why?
It’s hard to promote. Bloggers, reviewers, etc. are real people with real families and they like to take time off to spend with them. If you’re like me, and you want to do a blog tour, your timing will be all off. This is something to keep in mind. And you want to take time off! Do you really want to be online trying to pimp your book when some of your target audience won’t be around to see it?
Don’t be like me.
You can do some research. See if there are certain days of the week when the publishers release books. This is only my opinion, but you want to avoid those days. If The Big Five release on certain dates, and the next great novel from their best-seller is due out on a Tuesday, say, pick your release day to be something else. This is not to say there’s a perfect day that will be all about you, it’s simply a way for you to maybe get a little more attention for your efforts.
One thing that is very important. Once you set that release date and it’s out in the world, don’t miss it! Life happens, one can never know the future, but if you set a date that may be unrealistic to achieve simply because you think the deadline will be a motivator for you, think twice about that. You want your potential readers to trust you. If you have to keep pushing back a date, that shakes their belief in you. Again, I speak from experience and will reference back to the gap between Book 1 and Book 2.
Self-Publishing Takes Time
Self-publishing a book is not to be looked at as the next “get rich quick” scheme. It takes time, effort, and a dedication to you and your craft. Nothing I’ve said is set in stone or anything. It’s just me, one indie writer, sharing her experiences so they can maybe give a little guidance to future indie writers.
Until next time!