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Five Tips For Self-Publishing Successfully

Back before Curious Corvid existed, I decided to self-publish. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or where to even start. It was an exciting, fast paced action story – or at least that is how it felt.

Now that I have come out the other side and turned it into a full-fledged business, I am not too proud to say I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning, most because I just didn’t know any better. Research is important and as you go, you will see that every self-published person has their own personal preference. It’s a matter of taking what you do know, navigating what you don’t know and kind of blending it all together into something that works for your journey.

In the spirit of community and personal growth, I would like to share with you some things I have learned in my writing journey. I am still learning and probably always will be, but that’s the beauty of it all. Things will never get old!

“Write for the right reasons – ie yourself.” - Kerry Wilkinson

Before self-publishing, I did investigate traditional publishing. That is what writers do, yes? We, emblazoned with the fire of a pen (or handy cell phone notepad), write a piece so stirring that it will melt a hole in the publisher’s desk.

Or at least, that is how I felt. My first run in with a publishing company was a vanity press. I would have been sucked in had it not been for a lengthy article on pending lawsuits I stumbled across on Google. Vanity presses are not created equal but a key tell of a vanity press is ‘packages’ you are required to buy in order to publish your book.

These can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Vanity presses offer special marketing and expertise that make it sound like a real steal. But there are some downsides.

Many writers starting out cannot afford that kind of investment. In traditional publishing, the company invests in your book upfront without a cost to the author and that is why you receive royalties. Depending on what you are writing, it can take the author a long time to make back their initial investment making it harder to keep publishing books.

Vanity presses may not always specialize in a genre or theme. This means that they likely publish a huge variety of books making it harder for you to reach your target audience. I’ve seen some vanity presses that publish everything from cookbooks to fantasy fiction!

Always be thorough in your research for publishers. Vanity or not, presses are not created equal and they should have the goods to back up their promises. Your press should reflect your aesthetic or genre and be as passionate about your project as you are.

“For a long time now, self-publishing has been dismissed as an act of vanity – mainly by frightened executives in publishing houses, who hold up terrible examples of self-published works and say ‘See? This is why we exist.’” - Hugh Howey

As for traditional publishing in general, the story I had to tell was of a personal nature and I did not want anyone to censor me or make me into something I was not. Control and authenticity are and always will be important to my work and these things are what drove me to self-publish. I wanted to be me, not a “more marketable” me or a more “sensationalized” me because I knew what I had going was good enough as it was.

Self-publishing requires dedication. All the work done by a traditional publisher falls to you. Marketing, editing, formatting, strategizing, design, planning and of course writing – all just a small synopsis of what you must do.

I know, it sounds super overwhelming. It’s a lot to take on as a single person. Let me break it down for you and give you some highlights on the advantages of self-publishing.

  • Control. Highlighted above, this does not solely apply to content. You also have control over distribution, appearances, signings, giveaways, and more. It is your book, and you can do as you like (within reason!)

  • Higher royalties. No matter how you publish, you are going to have to pay people to print and distribute your book. Traditionally published authors do not get a high percentage of royalties, in fact some of them take home as little as 10%. You must write and sell a lot of books to get rich off that, let alone pay your bills.

Self-published writers can keep up to 100% of their profits, depending on how they go about it. Even publishing through Amazon lets you keep up to 70% of your royalties! Big difference there.

“Whatever you may have heard, self-publishing is not a short cut to anything. Except maybe insanity. Self-publishing, like every other kind of publishing, is hard work. You don’t wake up one morning good at it. You have to work for that.” - Zoe Winters

  • You pick who reads, proofs, and edits your book. Ah, the importance of connections. You have control over how much you spend and who you spend it on.

  • Deadline? Never heard of it. I work on my time, in my own goals.

  • Faster publishing. If you want to get published by a well-known traditional publisher, chances are you are going to need a good agent if you want them to ever see your manuscript. And unless you have connections and a history of publishing to back you up, that will be a challenge.

If you thought writing the book was the longest and most time consuming, think again. Publishing a book can drag on for a long time, a year or more. With sites like Amazon, you can have a published book in less than 24 hours. It’s fast and instantly accessible.

These are only a few of so many other variables: owning your rights, faster and more frequent pay days, opportunities for niche reading and publishing, etc. But for every perk, there is also a downside. I can not stress enough that self-publishing comes with a workload and hours of research.

In my opinion, it is worth it if you have the drive, and you are willing to do the work. There’s something satisfying about saying that you made your dream happen. You get to decide what’s on the docket and where everything is going.

And don’t let haters get you down. There has always been a stigma about self-publishing. If you self-publish, it means you are not a “real” author because nobody wanted you and your words were uninteresting.

“Be confident in your work, but be careful not to put a book out into the world until you are sure that it is your very best work and professional in all respects (writing, editing, cover design, formatting, etc.). As with anything, you get only one chance to make a first impression, and every reader deserves a quality product.” - Darcie Chan

You don’t need anyone to validate your writing experience and journey outside of yourself. Are you passionate about your writing? Does it bring you joy? That’s all the validation you need.

Traditionally published authors are still in the limelight, but Indie authors have emerged in great numbers with just as much, if not more, to offer. Plus, self-publishing is not a new phenomenon. Authors such as Margaret Atwood, Frank Baum, Beatrix Potter, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, T. S. Eliot – just to name a few all self-published.

And yes, they were traditionally published as well! There is nothing wrong with some blending between worlds. Who cares as long as you are happy and achieving your goals?

The point of publishing is to get our stories out there! Some modern and traditionally published authors even started as being self-published (Chistopher Paolini, Inheritance Cycle; Andy Weir, The Martian; E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey). You can have both, you can have one, you can have none. It is purely up to you and what you want out of your writing.

I challenge you to really analyze what you want. Here are some questions to percolate on as you begin plotting your destiny. Yes, your destiny. Who do you want to be? What do you want to represent? What is the story you are trying to tell?

How much time can you realistically set aside for your goals? What kind of money are you willing to invest? Is it a one-time thing or do you want to go further and publish all those stories simmering inside you?

“Anyone who says it’s easy to self-publish a book is either lying or doing a shitty job.” - Nan McCarthy

The answers to these questions will help you decide which mode of publishing is for you. If it is self-publishing, we can then determine what that looks like for you. It’s also totally okay if you think on it and decided you’d rather stick to traditional publishing. There’s really no wrong or right answer. This blog is simply to help guide your self-publishing journey. Next week I’ll be diving into the next steps of self-publishing so be sure to come back! In fact, check back every week for a new blog post! I promise it won't always be about publishing, but it will be interesting. It gives me a chance to connect with you and hopefully make your writing journey a little easier. So, until next week, remember that we may be different species but we are all part of the same family, so be kind to yourself and kind to others and I'll see you next week!

Ravven White is the founder of Curious Corvid Publishing, author of bestsellers I Am Ravven and The Cry of The Ravven. Her debut novel, The Sentimental Dead, arrives this Halloween. You can find her books on Amazon, Kindle, and in major bookstores worldwide. She lives in a castle under the sea with her loved ones. You can usually sense her arrival by a curious flapping of wings.

You can learn about all our Curious Corvids by visiting their author profiles on the website, following us on our social media, joining our discord, or by buying our books. Every purchase helps pay our bills which means we can write more compelling literature that is both odd and unusual.

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