I visit a lot of blogs about publishing, writing and related topics. There’s a huge interest in self-publishing, and it seems that many developments in the publishing world are helping to stimulate that interest. New technologies, new devices, new formats are making it easier and easier for authors to get their work out into the world by making an end run around the gates that the gatekeepers are so fervently guarding.
Balancing the interest and opportunities is the drumbeat of warnings, prejudice and downright threats that seek to discourage people from diving into the independent publishing pool. “You’ll ruin your career.” “My friend spent $10,000 and all he has is a garage full of books.” “We’ll be buried in an avalanche of crappy books.”
It seems pointless sometimes to engage with these attitudes, since there often seems to be a fixed idea behind them: self-publishing is for losers, people who couldn’t get published any other way. And nothing you can say will change this view. It’s my opinion that this attitude arises from some need for personal validation, but hey, that’s just me.
This Is For The Winners
Many people “win” at self-publishing. That’s because there are lots of reasons why authors decide to publish their own books. Some self-published books aren’t even meant for sale, and will never change hands for money. Some are published for reasons that have nothing to do with monetary reward, career advancement, or ego gratification.
People are funny. Given the chance, tens of thousands of ordinary people have decided to publish their own books over the last few years, and more are certainly on the way. I applaud every one of these authors for taking their destiny into their own hands, for turning a deaf ear to the people who said “You can’t do it,” or “You’ll look a fool.” They accomplished something. They expressed themselves in the world—these are not small things.
So I’ve put together this list of ways that you can “win” at self-publishing. In this context, “winning” can be a moment of tremendous personal satisfaction. It can be accolades from your peers. It can be the joy of accomplishment. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a writer. What would “winning” be for you? Here’s my list:
26 Ways to Win at Self-Publishing
- You finally get the book finished, printed and in your hand: you win
- At last you have a chance to fully explain the ideas you’ve been thinking and talking about for years: you win
- You get an interview in the local paper as a “published author”: you win
- You send a copy of your book to your ex mother-in-law: you win
- You get interviewed by a local radio show and people actually call in to ask questions: you win
- You’re invited to write an article on your specialty in a trade magazine, and they actually publish it, referring to you as the author of…: you win
- You create a course based on your book and sell it to the local adult education center: you win
- You speak at the Lions or Elks or other fraternal club on the subject of your book: you win
- The local bookstore lets you have a book launch party for your book, and everyone shows up: you win
- You wander into an indie bookstore in another town, and find your book on their shelf: you win
- You gift wrap a copy and hand it to your mother, watching her unwrap it: you win
- You send an autographed copy to your 8th grade English teacher: you win
- You take a table at a street fair and sell your book, encountering people who just want to talk about your subject: you win
- You overhear coworkers talking, and one mentions that you’ve published a book: you win
- Every one of the people you care about tell you how much they love your book: you win
- You give a talk to a local writers’ group about self-publishing and find yourself answering many questions: you win
- Your dad pulls you aside at the next family gathering and tells you how proud he is that you dedicated the book to him: you win
- Your alumni news writes you up with a picture of your book cover and some nice blurbs: you win
- You send an advance copy to someone you’ve never met, but who you respect, and they send you a glowing endorsement to use: you win
- Readers keep asking you when the next book in the series will be out, and you know they mean it: you win
- You realize you’ve sold enough books to pay your printing bill, that all the rest are profit: you win
- You receive a request from someone you don’t know for permission to quote from your book: you win
- You open your mail and find a check from your distributor that you didn’t expect: you win
- A friend at a party asks if you’re still looking for an agent, and for a moment you don’t understand the question: you win
- Your local library buys two copies of your book: you win
- You start to think about other books you’ve always wanted to write and can now publish: you win
The secret is this: when you publish your own book, you get to decide what winning looks like, how success feels. You’ve taken back control of your writing destiny. You know winning comes in many ways, in many small moments, and you can finally relax and savor them.
Takeaway: When you self-publish, you get to define success, to set goals for your own publication. In a way, you’ve already won.