Monday 19 February 2018

So You Want to Self-Publish?

By Alicia Christina Saccoh

I am a self-published author. 

I won’t tell you how that came about, because it’s a very long and dramatic story. Kind of like a superhero origin story, except both of my parents are alive, my first love has not betrayed me, and my superpower is making characters kiss—as opposed to super-strength or whatever.

What I will tell you is what it means to self-publish. This isn’t a how-to guide or anything like that; I just want to share the basics of this lesser-known career path. 

So, first things first: what am I actually publishing?

I write romance novels. Of course, romance is a vast genre that includes countless sub-genres and niches—but I won’t go into that, because you either know already or couldn’t care less. 

The important part here is the practical connection between my work’s genre and my actual job. See, when you’re self-published, you’re not just responsible for writing down whatever story is camping out in your head.

You’re also responsible for all the things a traditional publisher would take care of, such as covers, editing, marketing and promotion, distribution, pricing, and so on. 

You have to be a businessperson as well as a writer, from watching the chequebook to deciding if your story is even worth being published.

That’s right. Self-publishing means rejecting yourself.

It also means learning your market. To self-publish successfully, you must know your genre and ideal audience inside out. You must learn which reviewers your readers trust, what kind of cover catches their eye, and how many lines of promotional text they can read before getting bored. 

You have to know which semantic fields elicit an emotional response in your readers, and which bore or even disgust them. 

Will your reader come over all hot and bothered at the phrase ‘dirty, dominant and demanding’—or will it remind them of the over-familiar creep at their local coffee shop who doesn’t understand the word ‘no’? 

Somehow, you have to figure out the answer to that question. If you don’t, no-one will read your books. And if you don’t receive regular praise and attention, you will shrivel up and die. 

(Only joking. But you will shrivel up and die without food, which costs money, so if you’re interested in self-publishing, pay attention).

As well as marketing, self-published authors handle the technical side of production. I publish my books digitally, via a single store. That keeps things simple; I don’t have to worry about physical copies, or about dealing with multiple websites. 

But I do have to format my books, and use the appropriate metadata, and all that rubbish. I am not a technical sort of person, and that’s putting things mildly. 

For example, I only recently found out that the ‘.doc’ or ‘.jpeg’ written after a file name affects the kind of file it is. Or shows what kind of file it is. Or something. 

Whatever. I never claimed to be an expert.

Despite my ignorance, I get by—because I know what I need to know. And with a career like self-publishing, that is the ultimate key.

Know what you need to know.

Self-publishing demands a diverse range of abilities. A self-published author must be a writer, editor, designer, marketer, publicist, accountant and businessperson all at once. For those of us who enjoy a challenge, that’s fantastic—but it’s still hard. 

So knowing exactly what you need to know—and therefore, what you needn’t bother with—is vital. In fact, you’re interested in self-publishing, that should be your starting point.

That’s right: I wrote a blog post on self-publishing, just to conclude with the fact that you guys need to research self-publishing.

I may be a professional author, but trolling is my passion. 

About the author
Alicia Christina Saccoh is a final year student at the University of Leicester. She is a full-time romance novelist, writing under a pseudonym, as well as a beauty blogger, social media influencer, and public speaker.

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