Self-publishing sounds simple, doesn’t it? You publish a book (print or online) without going through publishing companies, which saves yourself the pain of rejection, and saves costs and time. Self-publishing is not just popular among aspiring novelists, but is also gaining traction with companies and freelancers who want to publish books (especially ebooks) that will establish their credentials and showcase their expertise.

While going the self-publishing route can be an easy way to publish and retain complete control over your work, you shouldn’t forget that with complete control comes complete responsibility. This means that you’ll have to come up with the format and cover design of your book, determine pricing, and handle all marketing and distribution. There are companies that offer these services to self-publishers, but they don’t always come cheap, which is a problem if you’re trying to keep down publishing costs.

So, maybe self-publishing is not quite as simple as it sounds.

But it’s not exactly rocket science either, is it?

To be clear, if you want to get published as quickly as possible, with as little fuss as possible, self-publishing is a very good idea. It’s an even better idea if you already have a captive market – or a semi-captive market. For example, if you have a lot of people already following your blog, or if you have a growing reputation in your industry.

It’s also a good idea if you know your audience and have the means to market your book.

It has its challenges

Of the millions of people who have turned to self-publishing, how many do you think have made a genuine success of it?

Self-publishing possibly has more success stories than traditional publishing but, proportionally-speaking, the number is still low. The market is crowded and it’s very difficult to get the attention you deserve.

Common challenges include:

  • Marketing. You should begin marketing your self-published ebook or print book before you’ve finished writing it. Start building up some anticipation in your audience with teaser posts on Facebook, Twitter and your blog. Lobby your friends and family and have them do a little punting on your behalf.
  • Design elements. There is self-publishing software that will help you with the format of your book and cover design, but you will still have to come up with the design on your own. Your other option is to use a self-publishing company that will help you with the technical aspects of format and design, but then you’ll have to pay for the service.
  • Decide whether you’re going to publish in ebook format only, print only or both. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, self-publishing online is far cheaper than opting for print books, simply because you save on print and binding costs. On the other hand, print-on-demand makes self-publishing print books much more affordable than in the past. Use both and benefit from the advantages of both, and you’ll cater to people who would rather feel paper in their hands than read on a screen.
  • Determine pricing. There is a lot of debate about whether you should give away your book (your ebook, specifically) for free, or whether you should charge for it. Some people say that if you’re self-publishing for business, you should give away the first ebook, to prove your worth, and then start charging for any ebooks that follow. If you’re self-publishing your own novel or non-fiction book, it’s best to charge for it. The trick is to get pricing right. You don’t want to charge too much for your first attempt but you don’t want to make it so cheap that people doubt its quality. If it does well, you can start charging more for any subsequent books.
  • Find sellers. Finding sellers is a major challenge for self-publishers and this is where online publishing comes into its own. For example, Amazon has a self-publishing wizard called Createspace that helps with many of the technical aspects of self-publishing and which allows you to sell your book on Amazon, which makes it Kindle compatible. Many book shops keep a sharp eye on Amazon’s big sellers and then request print copies for their book shelves. You can also approach book shops directly, but they are obviously choosy about the books they sell. You can, of course, sell your book from your own blog. The best advice is to leverage all the platforms. You don’t want to limit yourself.

In a nutshell

Self-publishing is brilliant if all you want to do is get your book online as quickly as possible just so you see your name in lights, as it were. However, it takes a lot of hard work if you want your book to succeed. What’s more, the hard work begins even before you start writing your book.

If you’re prepared to put in the work and spend a lot of time on your marketing strategy and focusing on things like creative design, you give your self-published book every chance of success.