I published a book in 2019. It’s a memoir. It’s a short read but intense and raw. Its pub date is a little iffy because I am still working on print formatting, but the official date on the ISBN and copyright registries is May 14, so we’ll stick with that.
Absolutely everything about my debut book screams “cheaply self-published!” and I am perfectly okay with that. Because the experience of publishing it boiled down to one objective: I just wanted to get it done, start to finish. That’s it. Nothing else mattered. I just wanted to be able to say “I published a book.” And that is exactly what I did.
There are so many rules and guidelines to publishing your first book. It’s a lot to take in, and is overwhelming for those who are entirely new to writing and publishing for those who just want to write. There is a ton of pressure to do things “right” the first time, right out of the gate. There’s this constant fear of “looking” like you’re self-published and overall just foolish if you aren’t able to navigate an intricate, complex process perfectly the first time.
Here’s a little secret: Self-publishing is a chicken-or-the-egg situation. Either you build an audience and save up nearly ten thousand dollars and do it all the “right” way with a pre-launch, an actual launch, marketing campaigns, giveaways, buying reviews, not to mention getting into bookstores… or you can do it like I did and learn as you go.
In either case, your book will still scream “self-published!” from the rooftops. I personally don’t see the value in stressing out over everything else that has such a steep learning curve for newcomers. It’s incredibly unfair and bizarre gatekeeping to expect first-time authors to do all of that, whether or not they have the help of an agent or publisher—the process remains the same and the author needs to be informed, no matter who completes the task.
So I just… wrote the book, published it, and decided to worry about the rest later.
Nordisco is by no means a masterpiece, but it is special to me and I believe that it is at least an entertaining read. I did everything involved with this book aside from editing. I (obviously) wrote it, revised it, designed the cover, registered the copyright, bought the ISBN, formatted it, wrestled with book printers and a shoestring budget for months… I mean everything.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to invest in creative services to make your first book beautiful, professional, and polished. If I had the money I would have done it, too. I set up a budget and tried to kick-start it with campaigns and the like. I still owe print copies to people who have been waiting almost a year to have it. But in the end, what mattered more to me than anything else was holding a copy in my hands, knowing I created it.
The true reality of the self-publishing world doesn’t really differ that much from traditional or mixed publishing: money wins. Flat out. Amazon requires no less than $100 to budget for a single campaign; Goodreads needs $600 to promote a giveaway. That’s after the thousands in editing, formatting, and design. At least, unlike Facebook, they’re honest about what an effective ad budget is, which usually requires at least one comma.
In my experience having the book available helps my case much more now that I’m building an audience. I can include “Author has published…” on my footnotes and bylines and lead them to my site or Amazon link. I’m not on any bestseller lists but it does work now and then. For me, right now, that’s enough. Next time, I will do more, work harder, invest more, campaign earlier. But right now I just want to write and get paid for it. If that means you’re willing to throw me three to ten bucks to read more of my writing, that’s cool! If not, enjoy the next post and the one after.
Nordisco is not perfect, but it’s the best I could do at the time with what I had. I already know I will do better with my next book. As I build my career, I want a reminder of how I started and to see noticeable improvement with each new publication. No writer is perfect or will ever truly master their craft because there is always an opportunity to learn. If I can see evidence of doing just that and entertain and inspire people enough at the same time, that makes me the most successful author I could ever hope to be.