To publish or not to publish…
That’s a good question!
Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer. Making the decision to publish a book is very personal, and many factors need to be taken into consideration.
You spend months, maybe even years working on writing a book. You slave and bleed over every word, every detailed description, every conversation and interaction between characters until you finally type the last word. But the journey isn’t over yet. It has only just begun.
Once the final word is put on paper, the arduous process of revising and editing begins. However time consuming, stressful, or mind-numbingly mundane the editing process can be, it is a necessity in the writing process. Afterall, you want your book to be the best it can be, right? So you sit for hours on end rereading, rechecking, and correcting, over and over again, errors, inconsistencies, and word choices to make your book “perfect” (for lack of a better word). You instill the help of others and ask for a second set of eyes to read through the manuscript you’ve put your whole heart into. They will criticize. They will correct. They will cut and shred and rip apart every aspect of your work. That is their job. You will tear this manuscript to shreds and read it over so many times that you are tired of looking at it. It’s all part of the the creative process.
Ok. So now that you have the perfect story, what are the next steps? Do you take the plunge and publish it, or do you sit on it and never show another living soul as long as you live?
Before you make that decision, there are many things to think about. First off, how open are you to criticism? How well do you take feedback? Do you have the time and patience to contact agents and publishing companies? Do you have thick enough skin to handle rejection? Are you willing to change your book’s content or sell off the rights to someone else? Do you have the resources available to seek alternative publication options? Have you researched these options? Have you considered every option and not limited yourself to just one path? Do you have the funds available, should you choose the self-publishing route, to cover the formatting, editing, and marketing costs of publication? All of these are important questions to ask. Publishing a book involves many things. Things I had no clue about when I first began this process.
Over the last five years (Has it really been five years?), I have learned many things about the publishing world. First and foremost, book publishing is an extremely competitive environment. There are millions and millions of books out there, and in the scheme of things, the author is merely a tiny minnow just trying to survive in a much larger ocean of bigger fish. Unless you stand out in the crowd, no one will even know you exist.
Many writers are under the misconception that they can publish a book and the sales will come. This is a load of BS. Sales don’t just come. Marketing involves a whole other layer to book writing that I knew nothing about when I began this process.
The whole “sell your book” process begins well before publication even happens. Marketing must be on the back of your mind from the minute you begin writing. Who is your target audience? How will you reach this audience? Where will you find people who might potentially buy your book, and how do you get them interested without constantly shoving your book in their face? (That is a huge turn off, by the way).
Content is your main selling point. What is your book about? Is it unique with content no one has written before? Can you summarize it in 30 seconds or less and make it interesting enough that people will want to buy it? Is the title catchy? The book blurb on the back is probably one of the most important things you will write. It can either make or break sale potential. Choose your words carefully.
Although people say you should never judge a book by its cover, they do. Does your cover look professional? Does it match other books in the genre and have “eye-catching” appeal? Is it colorful, but not cluttered? Does it pop and make people want to pick it up? These are all factors to consider. And if you don’t have the skills to do this sort of thing, where can you find someone who does? Do you have the funds available to pay for their services, because they will not and should not do it for free. To me, this is an art, and a skill I don’t possess.
The outside of the book must look great, but formatting the inside is just as important. Different book formats require different formatting and file types, something I know next to nothing about. Kindle versions require one file type with specific formatting requirements, whereas paperback books require a completely different type of formatting. It’s confusing, and unless you are an expert on this and know precisely how to do it, your book could end up in the Kindle store with the spacing all messed up. If not done correctly, the margins in your paperback could be off or words and paragraphs could be cut off or sized incorrectly. I hired someone to do this, which goes back to my previous statement of having available funds. Hiring out for these services is costly.
You now have solid content, an eye-catching cover, and proper formatting. Now what? Selling! How do you sell this book that you’ve slaved over for months? Pricing your book is definitely something to seriously consider. Remember that the publishing world is highly competitive, and in all honesty, who wants to purchase a $20 book from a no-name author? Most people don’t. If you want to compete in this world, you have to offer something no one else has. You have to give people a deal and make the price they pay worthwhile. This has limitations. It costs publishers money to print out copies of your book. The price you/they charge has to be enough to make a profit. And unless you are Stephen King, JK Rowling, or James Patterson, there is absolutely no guarantee that your book will sell enough copies for that to happen. You are a writer no one has ever heard of. Buying a book written by you is risky. Consider your cost carefully. Lower is better; there is less risk involved.
How comfortable are you with social media? These days, you can’t get attention (although I HATE being the center of attention) without being active on social media. Everyone uses social media in one form or another: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and a handful of others that seem to be popular today. You might be able to reach some potential readers through social media, but don’t count on it. Most people don’t use social media to look for books to read or discover new authors. They use it to socialize, in a sense. If you don’t have the time, energy, or patience to manage multiple social media accounts, no one will even know you exist as an author. I would strongly advise you NOT to constantly post your book online. Quite frankly, no one cares, and you will lose engagement and followers if you are constantly shoving your product in their faces. Think about it. Do you like it when people push products on you? Do you like the presence of ads constantly flashing in front of your face? Well, your followers and people you interact with on social media don’t like it either. Use the internet to make connections, not as an advertising agent.
Are you comfortable speaking or reading excerpts in front of an audience? Are you able to set up an appealing author table and talk about yourself and your work at events? How do you sell yourself at book signings? What “brand” do you have? (Yes, that’s a thing). Do you have the support, resources, and connections needed to sell books at events? Joining local writing groups can sometimes help with this. They tend to have an “in” with local agencies and know about upcoming events. Some even work together to set up booths and tables as a group to sell books. You can also research events through media sources and find upcoming events through local agencies and news articles or speak with other authors, if they are willing to share that information. Making your presence known and getting yourself out there is a full time job in itself.
Then, once you sell your first book and find your first reader, you face the fear and uncertainty of whether or not they like your work. What kind of review will they give you? Will readers spread the word about your writing? Will you sell more books? Will the months you dedicated to this offer any sort of financial compensation? Will others enjoy your work? They might. They might not. As writers, we live in this world of constant judgement. Our writing lives hang on the opinions of others.
While you’re debating and contemplating all of this, you are probably working on writing your next book, where the process begins all over again. But by this stage in the game, you are feeling so overwhelmed and have so much self-doubt, not only in yourself but with the entire process, that lifting a pen can sometimes be a challenge. Yet you keep at it, and one way or another, you find the energy to write.
So the question remains, should you publish that book you’ve written? That depends on you. Are you willing to dedicate the time, money, and energy needed to do so? Are you willing to face criticism, rejection, and judgement? Are you willing to do the necessary research and find the proper resources needed to publish and sell your work? Are you willing to make your presence known to the world without any promise of results? If you are, then go ahead and publish.
I’ve published five books over the last five years. Would I do it all over again? Yes, I would. I have no regrets. In fact, I’ve gained much knowledge over the years and learned many hard lessons about the publication process. That alone has been worth the ride. As a result of all this, I have changed a few things with every book I’ve published. I’ve used the knowledge I’ve gained about the process, taken advice from others, and changed my thinking to make the experience easier and less stressful for myself.
To publish or not to publish…you decide.