Today, Irish author and blogger Catherine Ryan Howard is holding down the fort. Catherine has successfully self-published her non-fiction travel memoires, and has recently released her first novel. Known for her tell-it-like-it-is, down to earth personality, Catherine's here to bust a few self-publishing myths.
Take it away, Catherine.
Five Misconceptions About Self-Publishing
1. It’s easy.
Oh yeah, sure it’s easy, if by easy you mean twelve-hour stints, week-long formatting migraines and at least one moment per day when you feel like you’re drowning in the depths of a black abyss where no one is ever going to buy a single one of your books again... Well, maybe that last one is just me. But self-publishing is not easy – at least, it’s not if you do it right. I have encountered hundreds of self-publishers since I started on this misadventure and I can say with some authority that all the successful ones have something in common: they take it seriously. They treat it like a business they’re starting up; they’re an entrepreneur and the book is their first product. And what would you expect to have to go through to get a business off the ground? Long hours, caffeine-induced insomnia, stress, pain, tears, blood – you get the idea. When you hear of someone uploading their book to Amazon on Friday and buying a house in cash on Saturday, read beyond the headlines – you’ll usually find via the author’s blog that this “overnight” success actually took five years. As the physicist Richard Feynman reportedly said, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.” Well, I definitely don’t understand quantum mechanics but I do know this: if you think self-publishing is easy, you aren’t doing it right.
2. It’s a get-rich-quick scheme.
Somehow I’ve managed to drag myself away from polishing my gold-plated Louboutins and counting my many millions to write this paragraph... oh, wait. I’m almost 30 and I live in a bedroom the size of a telephone box at my parents’ house. Yes, we’re all very proud. You can make money self-publishing but if you do a) you’ll be one of the lucky ones and b) it’ll take a lot of hard work to get to that point. Keep in mind that every minute of every day someone is self-publishing their book – maybe even every second of every day. (Maybe even every nanosecond...) And how many self-publishers can you name who have sold enough books/made enough money to work their way into the news? My dear point, I believe I just made you.
3. “It’s Only Camping!” Syndrome or The Idea That Crap is Acceptable at 99c
Some years ago I had the misfortune of working as a campsite courier on the south-west coast of France. Part of our job was to clean the customer accommodation – large tents, mobile homes and chalets for which people paid vast sums of money to stay in and pretend they were roughing it. Whenever anyone complained about a stain on the floor or dusty window, we’d shrug and say, “What do they expect? It’s only camping!” Unfortunately, some people have adopted a similar attitude about self-publishing. I mean, you’re only charging 99c for your novel, right? So you’re hardly going to spend a couple of hundred on a professional design, and you’re definitely not going to spend four or five times that getting your book edited, copyedited and proofread, right? That’s just crazy talk! People aren’t expecting much for 99c, are they? Well, um, yes, they are – they’re expecting a book. And books generally come correctly formatted, in English that makes sense and with a cover that doesn’t look like several house pet enthusiastically vomited upon it during the production process. If your book is poop, you might well sell a few thousand copies of it – but you won’t sell anywhere near as many copies of your second book, if you manage to sell any at all. When I hear self-publishers protesting that they “can’t afford” to get the basics done, I need to sit on my hands to refrain from strangling them. (And I’m a nice person, generally-speaking). If you can’t afford to self-publish, don’t self-publish! Skipping a professional cover design, editing and proofreading will, in the long term, be the most expensive thing you ever do because it will cost you sales. It might even nip your self-publishing career in the bud right at the start.
4. 99c e-books only sell because they’re 99c.
Do you need to pay your phone bill? Well, all you have to do is sit down for a few hours, poop out (by way of your keyboard; keep it clean, people!) 70,000 - 100,000 words, upload it to Amazon, set the price to 99c and then sit back and wait for the phone bill money to come a-rolling in, my friend. I mean, that’s how it’s done, isn’t it? Upload, set at 99c, sell millions, repeat as required. Yes, somehow people have got the mistaken impression that 99c equals #1 bestseller. They either express this in a derogatory way (“Well of course he’s sold a gazillion books – he’s only charging 99c for them!) or put a positive spin on it (“My novel is so great that people will be exploding from the joy induced by getting it for a mere 99c!”) but whatever way they say it, they’re wrong. A low price can help sell a book, but it won’t do it all by itself. To confirm this, just look up some 99c self-published novels on Amazon and check out their sales ranks. Or, publish one yourself. You’ll soon find out.
5. You have to do it because all agents and editors are horned demons who meet once a month to drink pig’s blood and entertain each other with stand-up based on our worst query letters, and if there’s any chairs spare they sell tickets to Amazon, chain bookstores, Apple, etc.
There are many different reasons to self-publish. I self-published because I had a book that didn’t have an existing market, but I was able to make one; it’s the kind of book that even if it was traditionally published today wouldn’t do well on the shelves, but I’ve sold over eight thousand copies of it. Talli is self-publishing her next book because she’s recognised that she has the ability to replicate the success of her previous books on her own, and so doesn’t need the traditional model for it to do well. My blogging friend Roz Morris self-published one of my favourite writing books, Nail Your Novel, because it was too short to be a traditionally published book. I think these reasons reflect that we’re smart, bright, organised women who know a thing or thirty-six about selling our own books, and are as hard-working as we are realistic. (Ladies, you can pop those fivers in the post now...) We make, if I may so and I think I will, very good self-publishers. But if you’re getting into this because you can heat your house for winter by burning your rejection letters, or because you’ve taken a business decision personally, or because and at least three literary agents have a restraining order out against you and you want to SHOW THEM ALL, you’re not going to succeed. Spite doesn’t sell books, and bitterness doesn’t make me want to read your blog. Plus, you scare me a bit. So stop wasting your energy hating on an industry staffed by lovely people who love books (just not yours – oooh, burn!) and put it into being a good self-publisher instead. Simples.
Catherine Ryan Howard is a 29-year-old writer, blogger and enthusiastic coffee-drinker. She currently lives in Cork, Ireland, where she divides her time between her desk and the sofa. She blogs at www.catherineryanhoward.com.
About Results Not Typical:
The Devil Wears Prada meets Weightwatchers and chick-lit meets corporate satire in the debut novel from Catherine Ryan Howard, author of the bestselling memoir Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida. Through their Ultimate Weight Loss Diet Solution Zone System, Slimmit International Global Incorporated claim they’re making the world a more attractive place one fatty at a time. Their slogans “Where You’re Fat and We Know It!” and “Where the Fat IS Your Fault!” are recognised around the globe, the counter in the lobby says five million slimmed and their share price is as high as their energy levels. But today the theft of their latest revolutionary product, Lipid Loser, will threaten to expose the real secret behind Slimmit’s success...The race is on to retrieve Lipid Loser and save Slimmit from total disaster. If their secrets get out, their competitors will put them out of business. If the government finds out, they’ll all go to jail. And if their clients find out… Well, as Slimmit’s Slimming Specialists know all too well, there’s only one thing worse than a hungry, sugar-crazed, carb addict – and that’s an angry one. Will the secret behind Slimmit’s success survive the day, or will their long-suffering slimmers finally discover the truth? Available now in paperback and e-book editions. Buy from Amazon UK or Amazon.com .
Have a great weekend, everyone!