I gave a talk to a writer’s group recently. Several writers asked whether they should get a literary agent or go the self-publishing route. They were rightly concerned about how much time they’d have to put into self-publishing.
You know that I’m all-in with self-publishing, but their questions forced me to think about whether self-publishing is still a viable option for a new author today.
My opinion, FWIW, is that yes, self-publishing still makes sense for new authors today. Traditional publishing will take you longer, and require more time than self-publishing.
Traditional publishing, or self-publishing?
Your challenge with traditional publishing is that it takes time. Even if you get a literary agent quickly and the agent finds a publisher, the process will still take a couple of years.
That said, it’s unlikely you’d get a contract on a book proposal if you’ve never written a book before and without a platform. Your agent will ask you to finish your book. Then you’ll hire an editor before she shops your book proposal around.
A digression. A platform makes all the difference. If you’ve got five million YouTube followers, your agent will shop you around. Your editor will come up with an idea, and assign you a ghostwriter.
Putting it bluntly… If you’re a new author, you must be willing to put upwards of five years into shopping for an agent and getting a book contract… Which means, you might as well self-publish.
If you need a traditionally published book to consider yourself a “real writer”, don’t worry. If any of your self-published books are successful, you’ll get interest from agents and editors soon enough.
Let’s look at some tips to kickstart your career if you’re getting started with self-publishing.
1. Get a website/ blog and build a mailing list of readers
You’ve heard about mailing lists. You’ve decided that you’ll start building your list after you’ve published a couple of books.
Don’t do that. Start building your list now. Yes, before you publish your book. Write a blurb for your book, convert the first chapter into a PDF, and offer it as a free download for subscribers. Post your blurb onto a web page, and start collecting subscribers.
An additional tip; put a link to your mailing list page in the front matter of your books, rather than the back matter.
2. Follow a task plan before you start writing: get a blurb, hire an editor and buy a cover
With the explosion in self-publishing, good editors are busy. Book an editor as soon as you have an idea of when you’ll finish your first draft. Check forums for editors in your genre, or post a project on one of the freelance marketplaces.
Get your cover designed asap too. If you’re doing it yourself to save money, create the cover now. Once your cover’s designed, your book will seem more real to you.
3. Eat your elephant one bite at a time: schedule daily writing time
To publish a book, you need to finish it, so schedule writing time daily. Inspiration is fine, but it won’t help you to complete your book. Time spent on it will.
4. Plot out your year: get a calendar
Your self-publishing success depends on you. You need to be prolific, if you can manage it. Buy a wall calendar, or draw one yourself on a large sheet of paper.
Work out your publishing plans month by month. Put the calendar where you can see it.
5. You need writing buddies: join an online or offline group
If you’re a new author, you can feel very alone. You need support. Join a writer’s group. With luck, you’ll also find a kindred soul who will become your writing buddy.
Self-publishing today: your success depends on you
Ready to jump into self-publishing? Do it. You never know. You may get lucky and become successful beyond your dreams. Start writing. 🙂
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.