I’ve had books published for five years now, but I’ve never looked at the physical editions of my books in my hands and thought, “Wow, this is amazing,” until now.
This is one of the benefits – and hassles – of self-publishing. Because there’s still a stigma that “self published” equals “half-assed,” or something one does if they aren’t good enough to land an agent, it’s been so easy to look at my work and nit-pick it to death: the spine color looks like it’s bleeding less than a millimeter onto the cover. The bar code isn’t perfectly centered on the back. This font choice looks less than professional. My OCD attacked me and demanded I focus on things that I perceived as flaws, while the average reader likely wouldn’t have noticed.
I wasn’t able to see that even the act of writing a book – something many people don’t do – is an accomplishment.
While it’s important not to second-guess something you worked really hard on, it’s also true that stereotypes do exist for a reason: there are a lot of self-published books out there that look as if the authors cut corners. Maybe the cover photo isn’t the right number of pixels, and the cover design itself follows the template that Createspace offers for beginners (but only someone who has used Createspace before would know this). Or the margins are too wide (or not wide enough).
I say this as someone who made all those mistakes once.
In the beginning, I designed, edited, and formatted the books myself to save money (some of those editions might still be floating around). But I wasn’t satisfied, and I knew that was for a reason – more than just my inner critic lying to me again. I was convinced by older mentors to try again.
Once I finally saved up for professional graphic designers and editors, the differences were so clear. I still have a copy of the first edition of Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter, to show how far I’ve come. It’s a prime example of how NOT to self-publish.
Unfortunately, there will always be authors out there who seek to boost their own platforms by putting down the publishing choices of other authors. I liken it to the Breastfed versus Bottle-Fed debate in the world of publishing, with “breastfed” being “traditional” (through an agent) and “bottle-fed” being self-publishing. Both choices are perfectly valid! It’s up to each individual author to decide the path that is best for their “baby.”
I was confident about the stories I wanted to tell, and how I wanted to tell them. I read books similar in genre as “research,” and employed several beta readers I trusted to provide me with honest feedback. And I worked with cover designers and interior formatters who previously designed books that would go on to earn coveted places on best-seller lists. So when I hear that criticism, “Self-published authors are just lazy, untalented, etc,” I have to remind myself that I did re-trace my steps to smooth over those corners I cut in the beginning. I recognized my errors, and I fixed them. I now have nothing but pride in my work.
Sure enough, the cleaned-up version of Confessions was the one to crack Amazon’s top 100 books in personal growth during a sale…and then for almost a week after the sale had ended. It was the first time that royalty money put a full tank of gas in my car.
Of course, I’m sure my books will contain mistakes somewhere. Traditionally published books do as well: it’s hard to avoid, when both are made by humans! But when a self-published book is produced well, you should be able to hold it up next to one that came from a publishing house, and not be able to tell which is which.
I have had so much overwhelming support from both friends and family over the years, but please remember that the best way to support an author is to purchase her work. This is important for both traditional and independent authors, but independent authors lack the backing of a publishing company to help with marketing – and of course, we are given no advances.
The next effective way to help an author is still through word of mouth, whether in person or via social media. If you have read my work, brief reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are always appreciated, even if they aren’t glowing. Or simply recommending it to a friend.
Thanks again to everyone who has followed me since the beginning.
Like this post? Check out Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic, now available on Amazon.