Considering Self-publishing? Prepare for the Journey

Considering Self-publishing? Prepare for the Journey 1024 576 Reader Views

by Author and Poet JoAnn Vega

You wouldn’t embark on an extended journey without making plans, getting prepared. The same is true for indie writers considering self-publishing.

Scan any number of writing magazines, resources, authoritative reviewers like Publisher’s Weekly or Kirkus, or bestseller lists and you will find few from self-published indie authors. Despite the higher threshold for credibility for self-publishers vs traditional publishers, more memoir writers are choosing self-publishing. Why?

Indie authors who craft memoirs have lived experiences they want to share. Publishing a memoir, tackling unfinished business, are bucket list items. For an indie writer who wants to see their story in print, the surest and quickest route to publication is self-publishing.

The question is, are indie memoir authors prepared for the journey that lies ahead? After all the effort to craft a narrative of 40,000 or more words, the journey to publication has just begun, not concluded. Self-publishing requires multiple roles and responsibilities, skill sets beyond creative writing, a budget of $5k, and at least a year to shepherd a polished manuscript through production, publication, and launch.

How do I know? I self-published two books before the advent of POD [Print On Demand] technology and social media plus two during the pandemic while I encountered and recovered from a life-threatening illness. I encourage would-be indie authors to make an informed decision about self-publishing and offer five tips for working with a Publisher.

Let’s start at the beginning.

What’s does the book publishing market look like? Here are some interesting statistics from 2022 I gathered from a non-commercial research organization:

  • More than 3 million books were published; close to 2 million were self-published.
  • More than 330 million nonfiction books are sold each year; 80% of sales are for adult nonfiction.
  • Memoirs and biographies are the best-selling category of adult nonfiction book sales.
  • Memoirs and biographies are more popular in PRINT than in a DIGITAL format.
  • Of authors who have published their first book in the last 10 years: 1,200 traditionally published authors have earned $25,000+ a year and 1,600 self-published authors have earned $25,000+ a year.

A staggering number of books are published each year, including a growing number of self-published books. Adult nonfiction, especially memoirs and biographies, have enduring appeal. There is a growing market for self-published books along with increased credibility for indie authors who produce well-crafted books.

Now ask yourself two questions.

Do you want to be the publisher or collect royalties?

Having self-published two books before POD became a cost-effective option, I didn’t want to undertake all the responsibility of becoming the Publisher and: register as a DBA [Doing Business As]; collect sales tax; store and ship books; or pay for a print run. My goals were to: minimize my administrative responsibility; collect royalties; maintain control over my work; increase my engagement with others; and sell thousands of books.

Make sure you read a prospective self-publisher’s Terms of Service [TOS] before you take the plunge. It was sobering to review the top Publishers’ Terms of Service (TOS) and essential. Understand what the publisher does and what you as the indie author are responsible for. The Publisher formats, publishes, prints, and distributes the book and issues royalty payments. The indie author underwrites all the expenses, determines pricing, maintains control over the work, and is responsible for marketing and sales.

Have you identified the META data?

After book production services are purchased and the manuscript reviewed and approved by the Publisher, a Production checklist must be completed before Production will start. This includes META data: book description, sales summary, target markets, BISAC [US Standard Book Categories & Subjects] codes, platform, launch, book interior formatting options, cover copy and graphics, design, and back cover!

The business end of self-publishing is critical. Even if you have the resources to pay someone to prepare the META data for you, basic questions have to be addressed, including: Who is the book for? How will you reach targets? What is your budget? What are your competitors doing? In 5 sentences or less, what is the book about?

Would I advise others to take the plunge?

Yes, but only after they’ve made an informed decision to self-publish, crafted a polished manuscript that has been professionally copy-edited, and created a working strategic plan. The work of tracking distributors, seeking reviews, and sales using social media or email is continuous. 

Indie memoir authors who [1] educate themselves about the self-publishing process and requirements, [2] establish goals, [3] reframe delays and detours as learning opportunities, [4] work collaboratively with book production professionals, and [5] commit themselves to the long game will discoverthe journey is bumpy, exhilarating, and life affirming. I didn’t give up and neither should you.

About the Author

Jo-Ann Vega is a published author and dynamic speaker with 30 years of experience designing, presenting, and evaluating learning programs for academic, business, and community groups. She has twenty years of experience as an adjunct, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses on management and leadership. She wrote a column on career management for EEO Bimonthly, a national magazine, for five years. She is the author of Navigating the New Job Market; and co-author of Workforce 2000: A Challenge for Business & Education.

She has 10 years of experience delivering ancestry and history programs as part of a University Lifelong Learning Institute and to community members. She incorporated what she learned about history and the Italian character into her memoir. She inaugurated a Celebrating Italian Americans Series program at a local library two years ago.

Recent publications include Wolf Woman & Other Poems [2022]; Moments in Flight: A Memoir [2021]. Lifewriting essays, Serendipity, and Empathy in the Time of Covid [Volume 21 and Volume 22 of Story Circle Network’s Annual Real Women Write Anthology, 2021-2022]. Several poems published: MusingsThen & NowAwaken, and In RemembranceAwaken, a poem, is scheduled to appear in Wild Librarian Press’ Anthology [2023].

Jo-Ann Vega lives with her life partner and canine companion.


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