COMMUNITY LEARNING HUB: ONLINE MODULES

6.9 AN ALTERNATIVE TO AGENTS: SELF-PUBLISHING

Self-Publishing – What is it really all about?

I am a bit of a hybrid author. I have 2 books published with small presses and two books self-published. I also have an agent and am out on sub with my MG neurodiverse road trip book. But how did I actually come to self-publish a book?

When I look back on my journey, I kind of fell into writing by accident and discovered it was the passion I had always been looking for. At the time, I had a vague idea that I needed an agent but didn’t really know much about getting one or how fierce the competition was (ah, poor, sweet, innocent, younger me).

I am currently on agent number 3 and have a plethora of novels on my laptop. Productivity has never been a problem for me. I got to the point in my journey where I just needed to have something out there. Having an agent gave me the confidence to understand I could write, and that my words were valued, but I needed to hold a book in my hands. 

Before I published with the indie presses, the idea of self-publishing was incredibly daunting. All those things that didn’t involve writing I’d have to learn how to do. I was happy for the indie presses to lead the way with their prior knowledge. But when one of the presses went under, and I was left holding The Shadow Keepers in my hands, I knew I couldn’t let it go. So I decided to give it a brand new cover and re-launch it. 

It was a learning experience. One that, although frustrating at times, has taught me so much about the industry and what I’m capable of. I’m no longer just a writer, but a marketer, a promoter, a data analyst and a bit of a psychologist as I analyse what works and what doesn’t.

But what do you really need to know?

The cover

One of the most important things about self-publishing is your cover. We know we’re not supposed to judge them, but we do. It can sell your book for you. You have to make it fit your genre and age category. I spent $250 for my cover (includes E-book & print). There are cheaper deals and there are much more expensive. If you end up with a dodgy cover, if can kill your sales. 

The blurb

The next important part is your blurb. The blurb is what people read on Amazon and other bookshops. It’s what will entice them to read the first page, and them more. Get this right, and you’re heading in the right direction. 

The edit

Next comes the edit. I would not feel comfortable, at this stage in my career, without having a structural edit. This is probably the most expensive part of launching a book and can cost around $1000 for an 80k word book. It is a lot. And it’s a personal choice. If you have critical beta readers and can distance yourself from your story enough to make the hard changes, it’s possible to get away without it. But I need an editor to tell me what to do. 

Formatting

After you have your book written, there’s the formatting side of things. This gave me a huge headache. I knew I would end up self-publishing more than 1 book and so wanted to be able to do it myself. (you can, of course pay for this service, but again, it’s not cheap). After trying various different programs (using the free 30 day trials) I finally went ahead about bought Vellum software. Now, it’s one of the more expensive at $250, but I have it for life, and it works like a dream. I watched the tutorials as I went along and was able to format my book in one afternoon. For The Rise of the Altereds, you may even notice with the chapter headings include a DNA helix, and The Shadow Keepers has a crow. You can add all these bells and whistles just like traditional publishers use.

Loading it on to Amazon (for e-book) and Ingram (for print distribution) was fairly straight forward. If you go for a print version you will need to purchase an ISBN at £80. The benefit of Ingram, who work on a print on demand model, is that book shops are happy to buy from them. Not so much from Amazon. Your choice!

Advertising and promotion

Once you have your book loaded and your release date set, that’s when the work really beings. And that is advertising and promotion. This is where I currently lose a lot of time. There are several stories of bestselling authors who got there through using Amazon or Facebook Ads. I’m not there yet, but I am learning and I’m determined to make it work.

There are a plethora of courses to instruct you in advertising, as well as books, podcasts etc, so it depends on your budget what is possible. Bryan Cohen runs some fabulous free Amazon Ads challenges every quarter. I’m currently enrolled in Mark Dawson. It’s a one off fee but they add fabulous content all the time. I am working my way through the courses and tying things out. So far I have concentrated on Facebook and Amazon ads. Facebook ads are expensive, but get faster results, so for me, they’re good to run for a particular promotion. Amazon ads take much longer but can be much more profitable if you get it right. And there are tons of Facebook forums for authors to help each other with advertising.

Can you self-publish without advertising? Of course! But you’re unlikely to make many sales. The E-book market is crowded. All those people scrolling for books, how will they know about yours unless you shout about it?

Yes, you can contact your local paper, magazine, radio station. I have done all these things. They take a lot of effort for not much reward. It’s fun, but it doesn’t sell books. The advertising sells books. 

The countless rewards of self-publishing

Self-publishing is not for everyone. You need the dedication and perseverance, but there are so many rewards. It will depend entirely on your motivations and what you want out of it whether it’s right for you. 

For me, I don’t intend to go with an indie press again. I much prefer having the control, and a higher cut of the royalties. I will still pursue traditional deals, I’d like to have some of the effort taken out of my hands. But even if you do have a traditional deal, the promoting never stops and it isn’t much different. You may have a publicist who gets a famous author to blurb your book, or get you into a festival or a guardian review, but it’s up to you to get yourself out there. All of my traditionally published friends are still doing a lot of this themselves. 

Just because it sounds like hard work, don’t let that put you off. I have not looked back since and feel very proud of my achievement. I wrote and produced a book all on my own! Like writing, the production is a learning curve, and there’s no reason why you can’t do it too.

And I’m right there to cheerleader you along!

Next Topic: 6.10 Submitting to agents: Everything You Need To Know About… Agents!


Marisa Noelle is the writer of middle grade & young adult novels in the genres of science-fiction, fantasy & mental health. Her books include THE UNADJUSTEDS, THE RISE OF THE ALTEREDS, THE MERMAID CHRONICLES – SECRETS OF THE DEEP & THE SHADOW KEEPERS. She is a mentor for the WriteMentor program that helps aspiring MG & YA authors. When she’s not writing or reading or watching movies, she enjoys swimming. In the pool she likes to imagine she could be a mermaid and become part of some of her make-believe words. Despite being an avid bookworm from the time she could hold a book, being an author came as a bit of a surprise to her as she was a bit of a science geek at school. 

Marisa had plenty of ideas for career and still regrets not moving to Hawaii to train dolphins and pretend the real world didn’t exist. Struggling with anxiety led her to the field of psychology. Heavily influenced by underdog movies such as The Karate Kid she realized her mission in life was to help other people, through any medium. Embarking on a psychology degree, she wanted to emulate her hero, Jodie Foster, from Silence of the Lambs and actually tried to secure work experience at Broadmoor. Thankfully she left the idea of criminal profiling behind, but uses many of these aspects in her novels.

Now a full-time novelist, she lives in Surrey, UK with her husband and three children.

Check out her website at http://www.marisanoelle.com.  

Or visit The Unadjusteds website at http://www.TheUnadjusteds.com.

What to get in contact with Marisa:

Twitter & Instagram: @MarisaNoelle77

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/marisanoelle77 & http://www.facebook.com/theunadjusteds

Self-Publishing – What is it really all about?

I am a bit of a hybrid author. I have 2 books published with small presses and two books self-published. I also have an agent and am out on sub with my MG neurodiverse road trip book. But how did I actually come to self-publish a book?

When I look back on my journey, I kind of fell into writing by accident and discovered it was the passion I had always been looking for. At the time, I had a vague idea that I needed an agent but didn’t really know much about getting one or how fierce the competition was (ah, poor, sweet, innocent, younger me).

I am currently on agent number 3 and have a plethora of novels on my laptop. Productivity has never been a problem for me. I got to the point in my journey where I just needed to have something out there. Having an agent gave me the confidence to understand I could write, and that my words were valued, but I needed to hold a book in my hands. 

Before I published with the indie presses, the idea of self-publishing was incredibly daunting. All those things that didn’t involve writing I’d have to learn how to do. I was happy for the indie presses to lead the way with their prior knowledge. But when one of the presses went under, and I was left holding The Shadow Keepers in my hands, I knew I couldn’t let it go. So I decided to give it a brand new cover and re-launch it. 

It was a learning experience. One that, although frustrating at times, has taught me so much about the industry and what I’m capable of. I’m no longer just a writer, but a marketer, a promoter, a data analyst and a bit of a psychologist as I analyse what works and what doesn’t.

But what do you really need to know?

The cover

One of the most important things about self-publishing is your cover. We know we’re not supposed to judge them, but we do. It can sell your book for you. You have to make it fit your genre and age category. I spent $250 for my cover (includes E-book & print). There are cheaper deals and there are much more expensive. If you end up with a dodgy cover, if can kill your sales. 

The blurb

The next important part is your blurb. The blurb is what people read on Amazon and other bookshops. It’s what will entice them to read the first page, and them more. Get this right, and you’re heading in the right direction. 

The edit

Next comes the edit. I would not feel comfortable, at this stage in my career, without having a structural edit. This is probably the most expensive part of launching a book and can cost around $1000 for an 80k word book. It is a lot. And it’s a personal choice. If you have critical beta readers and can distance yourself from your story enough to make the hard changes, it’s possible to get away without it. But I need an editor to tell me what to do. 

Formatting

After you have your book written, there’s the formatting side of things. This gave me a huge headache. I knew I would end up self-publishing more than 1 book and so wanted to be able to do it myself. (you can, of course pay for this service, but again, it’s not cheap). After trying various different programs (using the free 30 day trials) I finally went ahead about bought Vellum software. Now, it’s one of the more expensive at $250, but I have it for life, and it works like a dream. I watched the tutorials as I went along and was able to format my book in one afternoon. For The Rise of the Altereds, you may even notice with the chapter headings include a DNA helix, and The Shadow Keepers has a crow. You can add all these bells and whistles just like traditional publishers use.

Loading it on to Amazon (for e-book) and Ingram (for print distribution) was fairly straight forward. If you go for a print version you will need to purchase an ISBN at £80. The benefit of Ingram, who work on a print on demand model, is that book shops are happy to buy from them. Not so much from Amazon. Your choice!

Advertising and promotion

Once you have your book loaded and your release date set, that’s when the work really beings. And that is advertising and promotion. This is where I currently lose a lot of time. There are several stories of bestselling authors who got there through using Amazon or Facebook Ads. I’m not there yet, but I am learning and I’m determined to make it work.

There are a plethora of courses to instruct you in advertising, as well as books, podcasts etc, so it depends on your budget what is possible. Bryan Cohen runs some fabulous free Amazon Ads challenges every quarter. I’m currently enrolled in Mark Dawson. It’s a one off fee but they add fabulous content all the time. I am working my way through the courses and tying things out. So far I have concentrated on Facebook and Amazon ads. Facebook ads are expensive, but get faster results, so for me, they’re good to run for a particular promotion. Amazon ads take much longer but can be much more profitable if you get it right. And there are tons of Facebook forums for authors to help each other with advertising.

Can you self-publish without advertising? Of course! But you’re unlikely to make many sales. The E-book market is crowded. All those people scrolling for books, how will they know about yours unless you shout about it?

Yes, you can contact your local paper, magazine, radio station. I have done all these things. They take a lot of effort for not much reward. It’s fun, but it doesn’t sell books. The advertising sells books. 

The countless rewards of self-publishing

Self-publishing is not for everyone. You need the dedication and perseverance, but there are so many rewards. It will depend entirely on your motivations and what you want out of it whether it’s right for you. 

For me, I don’t intend to go with an indie press again. I much prefer having the control, and a higher cut of the royalties. I will still pursue traditional deals, I’d like to have some of the effort taken out of my hands. But even if you do have a traditional deal, the promoting never stops and it isn’t much different. You may have a publicist who gets a famous author to blurb your book, or get you into a festival or a guardian review, but it’s up to you to get yourself out there. All of my traditionally published friends are still doing a lot of this themselves. 

Just because it sounds like hard work, don’t let that put you off. I have not looked back since and feel very proud of my achievement. I wrote and produced a book all on my own! Like writing, the production is a learning curve, and there’s no reason why you can’t do it too.

And I’m right there to cheerleader you along!


Marisa Noelle is the writer of middle grade & young adult novels in the genres of science-fiction, fantasy & mental health. Her books include THE UNADJUSTEDS, THE RISE OF THE ALTEREDS, THE MERMAID CHRONICLES – SECRETS OF THE DEEP & THE SHADOW KEEPERS. She is a mentor for the WriteMentor program that helps aspiring MG & YA authors. When she’s not writing or reading or watching movies, she enjoys swimming. In the pool she likes to imagine she could be a mermaid and become part of some of her make-believe words. Despite being an avid bookworm from the time she could hold a book, being an author came as a bit of a surprise to her as she was a bit of a science geek at school. 

Marisa had plenty of ideas for career and still regrets not moving to Hawaii to train dolphins and pretend the real world didn’t exist. Struggling with anxiety led her to the field of psychology. Heavily influenced by underdog movies such as The Karate Kid she realized her mission in life was to help other people, through any medium. Embarking on a psychology degree, she wanted to emulate her hero, Jodie Foster, from Silence of the Lambs and actually tried to secure work experience at Broadmoor. Thankfully she left the idea of criminal profiling behind, but uses many of these aspects in her novels.

Now a full-time novelist, she lives in Surrey, UK with her husband and three children.

Check out her website at http://www.marisanoelle.com.  

Or visit The Unadjusteds website at http://www.TheUnadjusteds.com.

What to get in contact with Marisa:

Twitter & Instagram: @MarisaNoelle77

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/marisanoelle77 & http://www.facebook.com/theunadjusteds