Self Publishing: What I’ve Learned.

I always thought that the hard part of being an author was writing a book. Turns out that was the easy part. The hard part is getting people to read it.

Here’s my tale – maybe what I’ve learned can help you.

Part 1 – The Agent

When I finished the first draft of my first book, I had this idea that I would go the traditional route: find an agent, get a publisher, sit back and watch the royalties roll in. Easy.

So I made a spreadsheet of agents in Australia, and I sent my manuscript to the name at the top of the list. Incredibly, a couple of months later they got in touch – they loved the manuscript, and wanted to represent me. There followed a fair bit of back and forth, in which my agent gave me a lot of great advice and guidance, which led to significant rewriting. And then we were off to the publishers. For three years.Without success. The rejections were all very encouraging and apologetic – mostly they referred to the fact that the publishing industry is in crisis, and that publishers don’t like to take risks on unknown writers (see my thoughts on that here) – but they were rejections nonetheless.

Eventually my agent had exhausted all her ideas, and we parted company friends. I still owe her a lot for her time, patience and brilliant advice.

Part 2 – The Assisted Self Publisher

By this time I had another book finished, with a third on the way, but I had lost several years. I wanted to get to market ASAP. I didn’t have the confidence to leap straight into self-publishing myself, so I took the next best route – I found an Assisted Self Publishing company. This turned out to be a great idea.

Ben Hourigan, the owner of Hourigan & Co, turns out to be a very helpful, smart and encouraging person, and he put me on the road to self-publishing. I wanted to learn all about how it’s done by going through the process with my second book, which I really like but I must also admit is not my strongest work. I figured once I had the whole thing down pat, I would hit the market with my first book, which is, if I say so myself, a beauty.

So, working with Ben and his team we got a website designed and built by the talented Dannielle Espagne at Leap Creative, and a cover design created by Andrew Brown at Ardel Media.Working with both these people was an absolute pleasure, and Andrew’s comprehensive briefing process leads to a beautifully designed high impact cover.

Next came the edit. My first book to be published, The Reprint, was the second I wrote, and  by the time I started it I had learned a lot about writing, so the editing process was quite easy. But Ben and his editor, Justin Evans, put a fair amount of work into it and the result was unquestionably an improved book. It costs good money, but it’s worth it.

Part 3 – To Market

So then off we went to market. Ben arranged for artwork to be done, and ebook and Print on Demand copies were made available through Createspace, Amazon and several other online sales sources. In the meantime, Ben introduced me to Vellum, and using this, and InDesign, I was able to create the requisite files to design and create a couple of other books of short stories, which I put on the market quickly and easily. I made mistakes but I have been able to correct them, and the result is that I have three books of short stories and one novel available on my website to date.

Part 4 – What I’ve learned

Finding an assisted self-publisher you can trust is a terrific approach.I trust Ben and his team, but I have also gained the confidence to do a little of the design and artwork myself. However when it comes to cover design for serious works, and especially to editing, you simply must place yourself in the hands of a professional. For my money, Hourigan & Co, fit the bill, but you may want to seek out others.

The biggest thing I’ve learned, though, is just how hard it is to market yourself and your books, even with talented folks like Ben and his team behind you. It’s a tough slog, and I am finding it hard even to give books away, let alone sell any. I’ll persevere, because I believe in my writing and in myself, and because I am growing thicker skin every day.

If you choose to do the same, I wish you every success.