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Is self-publishing the right way to go for your upcoming book? Here’s a personal experience that will help you decide.
This is a post that has been in the making for long. I have been often asked about the why, what and how of self-publishing. I hope the below account of my personal experience with it, will at least provide a glimpse into this phenomenon of publishing by self; one which is slowly but surely gaining the status of an accepted alternate option, if not a norm, rather than be dismissed as an unsettling exception.
I am a self-published author by personal choice. Not that I keenly explored traditional publishing or even believed that any of my books stood a chance of making it out of the slush pile, leave alone being accepted by any well known traditional publisher.
My writing and publishing journey started almost six years ago, after I decided to take a relaxing break from my successful corporate career spanning sixteen years. Inspired by my kids and my husband, I revisited my passion for penning down stories. Driven by the love, encouragement and support from family, friends and young fans I considered making the books available to a wider audience. The final deciding factor that accelerated the process was the irresistibly sweet appeal made by my husband and kids to see the books in brick and mortar book stores.
After some online R&D, I decided early-on in my journey that self-publishing was surely the way to go about realizing my goal, considering the phase of life I was in. Moreover, the drive to impress my kids was immense. It propelled me to dive right into the realm of words without a second thought and into the world of publishing with a methodical approach. The tremendous emotional support from my husband and parents and encouragement from close friends and cousins fueled me further. I began to independently publish in 2012 and there has been no looking back since.
I started with publishing the stories in kindle format before proceeding to publish print versions. After some initial hiccups and hesitation, I rolled up my sleeves and started understanding and getting hands-on with the various aspects of the self-publishing life cycle. This included forming a virtual team or tapping into my own resources or filling in from my personal board of directors where needed, to cover proof-reading, editing, type-setting, formatting, illustrations, book and cover design and printing for each book followed by identifying and expanding distribution channels, promotion, marketing, branding, selling, networking. This is the point when I realized that rather than remaining a smooth sailing journey it had turned into a veritable adventure. A most humbling and uplifting one. One that I didn’t mind at all. Not one bit, as I began to understand what it truly means to publish a book. What it takes to pursue dreams and to own the risk, knowing that the odds are clearly not stacked in one’s favour when it comes to publishing one’s writing.
I finally began to understand the pains and tribulations from a traditional publisher’s point of view. A great plot line, excellent writing, perfect editing, a spectacular book cover, popular genre and any other embellishments, cannot guarantee a best seller. Despite all this a book can sink without a ripple in a vast lake of forgotten books, taking with it all the efforts, investment and dreams. The magic ingredient that can make it a bestseller is still as elusive as can be. It made me empathize with the challenges faced by the publishing industry to keep that alternate world of stories alive at all costs. A human need and intent as ancient as the stories etched and depicted on stone by the early hunter-gatherers.
With the traditional reader base in the world steadily declining and being replaced with a new breed of smart phone scrolling readers, the onus lies on the writers and publishers to make a concerted effort to grow the reader base and expand and retain the readers’ attention span.
Overall it is an intense, fulfilling and ongoing personal journey and an enriching learning experience. I have managed to publish 10 titles in ebook and print versions and make them available on major online retail stores like Amazon and Flipkart, Sapna apart from book stores like select Crosswords book stores, Just Books libraries, several School libraries, at book fairs, Lit fests and select independent book stores. I started blogging independently, writing for online blogs and began to experiment with creative photography along the way.
The progress has been slow yet stable and promising. I operate on a conservative budget, balancing time, effort and investment to sustain and grow modestly and steadily rather than aim for giant leaps. I keep improvising with each new book and each new edition of my already published books.
The greatest benefit I see is that it allows me to learn and grow at my own pace, without compromising on life’s priorities.
The downsides I see are that to begin with, self-publishing obviously lacks the open public acceptance and validation that naturally comes with traditional publishing and people tend to approach a self-published book with skepticism. But I am seeing that change with each new book I publish.
It goes without saying, self-publishing demands a certain level of self-discipline, else it can turn into a wasted endeavour.
I end this post with a message to all the established as well as aspiring self-publishers out there – I believe that the ultimate idea is to hang in there, keep the dream alive and kicking, stay open to feedback and keep applying the learning that you pick up along the way. And in the process don’t forget to enjoy doing what you love to do. Write!
First published here.