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How NOT to self-publish your book

Two years ago next month, I hovered my mouse over a little button that said “Publish”jenny and clicked it. It was one of the most terrifying and exciting moments of my life.

Being an author wasn’t something I ever expected to be… but then again, I guess neither was a blogger. It was New Years Eve 2010, the ball was about to drop to ring in 2011, and I thought to myself “Well… I’ve never had a resolution before… I think I’ll write a book!”

The decision to do so was that simple. I knew I had a story to tell, and I wanted to tell it. It was also that simple to make the decision to self-publish. I had a blog. I had some readers. Why not? People might want to read what I have to say! I didn’t know how many, and I didn’t really care much to think about how, exactly, my book “Musings of a 20-something Mom” was going to be successful. I can do this whole self-publishing myself. Research? I don’t need no stinkin’ research! Once the book was completed about 6 months later, I ran my happy ass over to Createspace (an Amazon affiliated print on demand self-publishing service) and not very long later, my book was available for purchase.

It used to be said that the only people who self-published were those who had been rejected by every agent and publishing house under the sun, but that’s simply not the case anymore. People self publish because they want more control, you make more money per book sold, no deadlines or editors, really there are a million reasons. Like mine. It just felt natural to me to forego trade publishing for self publishing.

Looking back at my journey, I don’t do so with regret. I don’t regret self-publishing, or the path I chose. I didn’t really realize how much I loved being an author until after I’d already taken the plunge.
My story isn’t what standard publishing houses would call a “success story”, and even though my book isn’t on the NYT Best Sellers list, I’m proud of it as a whole, and proud of how many people have read it and been moved by it, or related to it; laughed and cried with it. That being said, if I could change ONE thing, it would be my lack of research going into this.

Releasing a book might feel like sending your child off to kindergarten for the first time (or if you’ve been working on it long enough, college) but it needs to be treated like a business. Self publishing a book is like going into business for yourself and should be treated as such.

Being that I never did my research and I’m still learning and trying every day, there isn’t a ton of advice I can give you, but I can give one big tip: Don’t be like me! Look up how to promote a self-published book, websites to get it reviewed on, authors to network with. Read until your eyes feel like they are going to bleed and your head is going to explode, and then read some more.
Sure, you might get lucky and write in a popular genre that TAKES THE HELL OFF in sales from day 1. It’s kind of like winning the lottery, we’re not all so “lucky.”

Promote yourself and then promote yourself some more. The best advice I’ve heard lately is that no one is going to hear about your book unless you’re talking about it. It’s all you, my friend! You worked hard on it, be proud of that- tell people about it! Don’t sit around and wait for success to happen, MAKE it happen! That’s honestly advice that should be applied to anything you really want in life.

Most importantly: KEEP WRITING! People who love the things that come out of your brain are going to want more of it- and that’s a pretty amazing feeling.

If you love the things coming out of MY brain- you can head on over to Amazon and download my book, Musings of a 20-something Mom, for FREE today through Friday! Just another thing we self-pubbers can do thanks to Kindle Direct Publishing!

Posted on October 23, 2013 by Holdin' Holden 6 Comments
Holdin' Holden

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  • Just finished reading your book. Totally loved it. And don’t feel bad about having wanted a girl and being disappointed. I wanted my first child to be a boy; and when the technician announced it was a girl — I yelled “God Dammit”

  • Thank you for this, your journey… I am a designer and made a few books of art that I made into Createspace. Some successful, some failures… I the idea to have a book tour over the summer, gosh I burned out fast. I shared stories of my past and encouraged people to find their way to my “books”, I found more people were interested in my stories. I am okay with this, so I cut my tour and have decided to write the book to the stories.

    Sorry I am glad you took your path and learned the right and wrong ways… the main thing is to keep moving forward.

    • If there is one thing I have learned in this process, it is that my path was never meant to be the easy one! It’s when I look back, and then look forward that I quote Robert Frost to myself: “I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”
      Good luck to you, Jeremy!

  • I just finished reading your book and am working my way through your blog posts.
    I’m sorry you had to go through such a hard time with a few “evil mommys” and all the stress of a sick baby, but I’m glad you carried on writing your reality.
    I totally understand about feelings that seem so intense during gestation that just seem so stupid and unimportant after birth. I spent so much time panicking during pregnancy that I wouldn’t be able to love my son and would resent him because I loved my baby daughter so much and had only ever wanted one girl. He was unplanned and conceived just a few months after giving birth to my daughter before I’d even had a period and while the doctor told me I still couldn’t get pregnant. I was so scared and ashamed about not wanting him right up until he was born. Secretly, of course – I didn’t tell a soul how I was feeling and faked being pleased and excited if anyone brought the subject up but mostly tried to pretend it wasn’t happening and didn’t do any preparation for his coming. Once he was born, I took him into my arms, looked at this tiny, red, wrinkly, gunky, hideously ugly bundle of screaming anger and fell head over heels in love. A feeling that has never changed even at the times when I wish he had an off switch or on those, thankfully rarer but still real occasions, when I wish that I could, legally and without risking permanent damage, bludgeon him into unconsciousness for a bit so we could all have a rest. I felt so stupid for ever having been concerned about not loving him or worrying I would have to force myself to take care of him when I didn’t really care for him. In fact I feel far more protective of him, than I do of my planned and precious first born girl. Mostly because she’s way more sensible, has no health problems, behaves far better, and usually shows me off as a a parent. The boy mostly tends to show me up.
    People who think parenting style or ability is everything in how a child behaves, should come and take a look at my two. With just my daughter in public, I can pretend I’ve got this parenting thing all figured out and hold my head up high. In public with my son, my head is usually buried in my hands.

    He’s now so beautiful (huge blue eyes, long dark lashes, a perfectly clear complexion, brown curly hair and pearly white teeth) that people are constantly stopping to admire and coo over him. They assume he’s an angel – until he opens his mouth to speak.

    He has ADHD, a mild physical disability that mostly manifests as a somewhat drunken looking walk, extreme clumsiness, as well as an ability to trip over everything, bump into and then bounce off anything even slightly close to his course. Seriously if he’s in a narrow area, he can do this several times as he runs into a cooler, bounces off, it into the old lady’s shopping cart behind and then back into the same cooler, as he’s catapulted forwards again before falling over backwards and being caught by me and helped to feet that he takes a while to get steady on. To passers-by it looks as if I’m cruelly dragging him around the floor. Door frames, even when he’s in the middle of really wide doors are like magnets to him. You think he’s just about safely through, then bang.
    Anything at all is likely to get hit (wobbly displays a speciality), as he wanders around backwards to prove that he can walk backwards without bumping into things – he can’t, but he refuses to accept that, despite repeated experiences to the contrary.
    He also has other sensory and learning issues so I really sympathized with the trudging round different doctors and the frustration of not feeling like you’re getting anywhere for so long. Being told things are fine when you know they aren’t. Also hearing the negative judgements of people who don’t really know him or me or what he’s going through and so just assume I’m an terrible parent and he’s an obnoxious brat.
    But I also laughed with you about all the types of poop and the wonderful things children say. I laugh-spat coffee over several different areas of my house as I didn’t want to stop reading and put down the book but I still had to do some housework so I tried to do both at the same time.

    I still don’t know why children change their conversational style so much in different places though.
    A typical conversation at home (in a normal tone and volume): “Where do birds go for the winter?” … “Can we go somewhere hot too, like that place in Africa where the elephants were playing in their muddy bath?” … “Can I have some mud in my bath?” … “What if it’s really, really, really, really sunny and hot, then can I have some mud in my bath?” … “Maybe we should take some sun-cream for them so they wouldn’t have to use mud.” … “What happens if you mix red and blue paint?” … “What’s your favourite color? I like blue.” … “Remember yesterday when we played on the swings near the par-cark” (car park but we all call them par-carks in my house now. Gotta leave something for school to do, right?) “and I slid down the big slide threety-two million times.” He demonstrates with a big arm gesture, knocking over the pot of pencils, half gets and half falls off the chair, picks himself up to pick up the pencils but is distracted by something outside. “Look at that flower through the window. I like yellow flowers”…. “Flowers and Flutterbyes.” (butterflies) “I like how flutterbyes open and close their wigs” (wings) “and sit on the ground until you get close and then they go to somewhere else and do it again. They like playing that a lot too.” (not so sure about that one, but hey! He’s never going to catch one to hurt it and they could always move away from the path area and into more inaccessible flowers beds.)

    My overall feeling: He’s so sweet and lovely. I don’t know why I get embarrassed, cross and impatient with him sometimes. I’m obviously a bad person and should feel guilty for not always taking pleasure in his company, his questions and his curiosity. And then something like this happens:
    A sadly true account of a wedding reception that for a number of complicated reasons I had to attend and take my son with me. It was all very quiet chatting while waiting for the bride and groom to show up and the wine to start flowing, except for my child who’s using his “we’re at opposite ends of a huge field” voice. We were wandering round the medium sized pre-party room as I was trying to keep him from getting bored waiting when he got an attack of loud curiosity: “How do girls pee if they don’t have a penis?” … “You know what I can do? I can stand really far away from the toilet and still hit it.” … “Why does that explain a lot?” … “Why is Daddy’s hair falling off his head and onto his privates parts? Will my hair do that?”
    We continued wandering away from the curious group who were waiting silently for my answers and arrived near the restrooms. This obviously brought back memories for my son. “Do you remember the big, stinky poo I did yesterday that missed the potty and then I trod in it and then…Why are you telling me to be quiet?” He bumped into a flower arrangement, almost knocking it over and forcing me to make a clumsy grab at it to right it, at which point people become aware of the near disaster and assumed I was responsible. Thankfully at least he was distracted by this from the previous line of questions.
    “Look!” Excitedly pointing so no-one could be in any doubt about whom he’s referring to and accidentally hitting a smaller child in the face, and earning me a look from the now wailing child’s mother that suggests my child is an evil murderer.
    Unaware of the drama, my son carried on “Look! That man is growing a baby in his tummy” … “Why can’t he?” … “What do Daddies do to help make a baby then?”
    I was saved from answering because he was so busy looking at the now annoyed owner of the beer gut, he bounced into a lady and grabbed at her skirt to stop himself falling, pulling the skirt down enough that she was forced to make a quick adjustment so not too many people saw her underwear.
    He rounded it off but smiling at her red hat and shouting, “Look at that lady with the funny, red head. ”
    At her scowl, he recoiled back into me with such force that I had to grab the neck of his shirt and then staggered a few steps to stop us both falling at which point the slightly batty old woman to the side, who I’d had to swerve violently to not run down, misunderstanding the erratic movements, barked at me, “he knocked into that woman by accident you know, you can’t punish him for that, so let go of his neck or I’ll call the police on you, you CHILD ABUSER”. I mumbled something about not punishing him and being sorry and tried to rush him away by the hand.
    He’d missed that exchange as he had his attention wrapped in something on the small table over the other side of the room. He started pulling me towards the table, in his usual weaving way that looks very off putting to strangers and elicited a few sideways comments about me being drunk already and what a bad parent I was to get drunk so early at the party and especially with this poor boy having to try and keep ME from bumping into things.
    While keeping his eyes fixed on whatever it was on the table, he shouted at the very top of his voice. I LIKE WANKING. AND I LIKE IT WHEN YOU WANK WITH ME. You could have heard a pin drop as I turned bright red and headed for the exit, when just to top it off, he said in loud protest BUT I DON’T LIKE IT WHEN YOU PULL TOO HARD. I was dragging him away so I understood that, but to this day I’m not sure what he meant by wanking. At the time I was so intent on getting him home without a repetition that I didn’t dare ask about what he meant and by the time we were safely home and I’d recovered enough to ask what he’d seen on the table and find out what he’d meant by wanking, he’d forgotten all about it.

  • It’s good to hear you’re still happy with your decision. I’m not self-publishing, but my publisher is tiny (as in 10 books so far), so self-promotion is definitely on the horizon. It scares me a little, but I believe in this book too much not to give it my best.