To Self Pub or Not?

That is the question many writers are asking themselves nowadays. Many who haven’t published a book the traditional route are trying out self-publishing to see if it works for them.  Authors published by NY pubs are waving goodbye to the ‘big machine’ and going it alone.  Some are doing very well.  Others are finding out self publishing is a lot of work.  But the thing is, it’s a new option that is changing the face of publishing virtually day by day.

Myself? I like the ‘big machine’, and hope to publish with an established publisher for as long as I can write stories readers will enjoy.  I appreciate that after I’ve spent a lot of time creating the best story that I can, I can then hand it over to the pros and let them turn it into a book.  I like working with editors, because every single book that goes through the editing process, I learn something new. Seriously. And I like gleaning information from all aspects of the publishing industry because learning new stuff rocks my world.

Now, that said, I’ve self-published a few of my backlist titles, and just put out an original historical vampire romance in the middle of June, FOLLOW THE NIGHT.  And I’m going to continue to self publish—because that rocks my world, too.  I’m going to have my cake and eat it too.  I want the traditional publishing structure because I know that is my bread and butter, but I also want to do it myself simply because I enjoy the process of creating a book.

I’ve said this about self publishing: Self Publishing can be very easy – if you do it wrong.  If you do it the right way, it involves blood, sweat and tears, baby, but it can be very satisfying.  I mean that, if you enjoy writing, editing, formatting, cover creation, marketing, distribution, sales, and all the millions of details involved in book creation, then self publishing is for you.  If you’d rather someone else handle the details, then stick to traditional.  And yet you can still self publish if you don’t like that stuff, because nowadays you can hire people to do everything, from formatting, to cover art, to promotion.

My one stickler for self published authors is that you must hire an editor.  Some may not agree with me, but I’m standing firm on this one.  I believe every author needs an editor, someone with fresh eyes to look at your work.  You’re too close, I promise.  Even if you get a few critique partners to comb over your work for you, it’s better than no editor at all.  Trust me on that one.  With the deluge of self published books out there, you want to put out a quality product that will make the readers happy they spent the money on your book, and make them return for another.  I hired an editor for FOLLOW THE NIGHT.  I’m very pleased with the result (but I will warn you, it may be the biggest expense in the process of putting your book together for publication).

This is what I enjoy about doing it myself.  Formatting for digital is a long and sometimes frustrating process.  It makes me scream at the computer, pull on my hair and wonder why I ever thought I could do this on my own. Yet, when I finally get to that perfect format, and the meatgrinder (or whatever process you use online) says ‘yes, it’s good’, then I literally let out a shout of joy.  I did it!  Cover Art.  I love designing my own covers. I’m no Photoshop expert. How it works is I start with some images I’ve found at stock art sites and ideas and try to make those ideas come to fruition. Doesn’t always work, because I haven’t mastered the program, and the images at stock sites never really match exactly what you want, but if it comes close, I’m very happy. I like picking title fonts and colors and capturing the mood of the story in the cover art.  As well, I’ve gained an appreciation for the people who do my covers.  Interior formatting for print copies.  This is my favorite! I design the interior look of the printed book, from the front matter, which includes reviews, teasers, title page, copyright page, to the text font (I love Garamond! It’s the sexiest utilitarian font out there.), to the ad for my next book in the back.  I can put a fancy font on the chapter headings, do a drop cap to start the chapter if I feel like it, set the margins how I like.  The time spent on interior formatting is long and detailed, but it is the most satisfying part of the whole process.  When the whole thing is done, and I’ve digital copies online and a paper copy in hand, I just want a huge freakin’ magnet to pin that puppy on the fridge and shout “I made that!”  I don’t think you can imagine the joy it gives me to create a book.

So that is why I will continue to self publish, but yet, it takes a step second in line to the work I write for the traditional publishers, and that’s the way it should be for me, right now, at this point in my career.

So what about you?  Have you been considering self-publishing?  Have you done it?  Do you prefer traditional publishing only?  What if you’re a reader?  What’s your opinion on self-pub vs. traditional?  I’m curious!  And if you have any questions about the process of doing it yourself, go ahead and ask!

You can buy FOLLOW THE NIGHT in all digital formats at Smashwords. It’s on sale for only .99 cents for a few more days if you use the coupon code: SF75V.  You can also get it in digital and paperback at Amazon (not on sale there), and soon it will be available at iTunes and B&N and various eRetailers online.  If you’ve read FROM THE DARK, it is a prequel to that story, because it features Jane Renan’s parents.


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24 Responses to To Self Pub or Not?

  1. Leanne Banks says:

    Michele, great and timely blog! When I read how excited you get about designing the covers and the fonts and the interior formatting, I thought, gulp, this may not be for me.All those details. All those decisions. I currently have a few out of print books that I could possibly self-publish, but I’m lollygagging because sheesh, I have a hard enough time writing my books for Harlequin without messing with all that! You must be incredibly prolific. I’m a crawler when it comes to writing. That said, I get very excited when I hear that published authors are self-publishing. Keep hearing that song “Sisters are doing it for themselves.”:)

    I agree with you 150% on needing an editor for everything we put out there!

    Huge congrats on FOLLOW THE NIGHT!:)

    • michelehauf says:

      Leanne, that’s the reason I gotta keep doing it – it makes me happy! But for those who cringe at the idea of all the work, like I said, you can pretty much hire anyone to do any and all aspects of the process now. I think once you give it a try, you might enjoy it. But yes, you have to balance it with the stuff you do for traditional publishers.

  2. Helen Brenna says:

    I stand in awe of you, Michele! I would love to self-publish but have nothing finished in my files that hasn’t already been traditionally published and I will very likely never get any of my rights back on any of my published books, given all my contracts are from 2006 and later. I’ve toyed with the idea of a novella, but the process sounds daunting. May give it a shot sometime soon, though! I’m so, so curious!

    • michelehauf says:

      That’s what’s cool about self-pubbing is that you can ‘give it a try’. If you like it, keep doing it, if not, you’ve learned that about yourself. 🙂 I still have my very first book (sold in ’93) that I haven’t gotten my rights back yet. As a lesson to any new authors, when signing a contract, 16 years for reversion rights is NOT GOOD. I don’t think any publisher actually has that long of time frame in their contracts anymore, but do read those contracts carefully!

  3. I’m not published in fiction, but embraced the self-publishing (or indie publishing, as I prefer) route when I read the encouraging articles in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post two months ago. A friend designed my awesome covers (you can see them at my blog, I was told NO WAY going with a friend–get a professional. Covers are too important (which is true). But no one could have done a better job–and I loved getting to choose my own images of my characters. Poring over hundreds of hunky photos–tough job!

    That said, I didn’t skimp on hiring my editor. DO NOT HAVE A WRITER FRIEND BE YOUR EDITOR!!! Please hire a professional, someone who edits all day long and knows your genre. I lucked out and found someone with decades of experience in the traditional publishing houses, but who had just started her e-book editing business. So, her rates were reasonable compared to some of the quotes I’d gotten–and she could work on my books months before the others would. As you said, Michele, it will be the most expensive part (I’ve paid $500 for my novella and first novel editing services). But her advice has been invaluable and, when these two books are published next month, they will be the best books we can make them.

    For others who don’t have a “name” in romance novel writing, it’s also a good idea to have a “marketing” piece. I had written NOBODY’S ANGEL two years ago and, after quitting my day job in April, picked it up again (finally). It was the first in a trilogy. But my RWA chapter mate told me about the marketing piece (she gave away her first book for free). I wasn’t ready to do that, so I thought, I’ll write a prequel novella telling how my three Masters come together to start their sex club. MASTERS AT ARMS is the result–and an amazing story. While I hate that I can’t give the three their HEAs until their stories come out, the depth of character I gained from writing it is amazing.

    Amazon won’t let new authors give away free books, so I plan to price it at 99 cents. Readers will try a new writer for 99 cents. I’ll only get 30 percent royalties, but it’s my hook to get readers to try me. The novels will be priced at $2.99 (where the 70-percent royalties kick in–so I’ll make $2 a book, which sure beats what the NY houses pay).




    Marketing is a non-issue, because whether you go with a publisher or you independently publish, you have to market your own books. (Okay, the exception being publishers like Harlequin with an amazing subscription service.) In March, I established a presence for my pseudonym on Facebook where I engage with people, share my characters (literally–it’s getting to be like a revolving door around here with readers asking me to send them one of the Masters from time to time)! Too many writers blow working social media. They post nothing but links to their blogs or where to buy their books. Yawn. I’ve been told by a pre-fan that I’m the EF Hutton of Facebook. “When Kally talks, people listen.” Someone new to Facebook friended me and I was the first to accept her. I asked how she’d heard about me. She told me a friend at work who loved Cherise Sinclair’s books (as we all do!) had been told there’s a new writer on Facebook who looks like she’s going to have some amazing books. I’ve only posted excerpts at this point–and already there’s word of mouth. Score!

    You also have to support other writers first, then yourself. I’m just starting a secret group on Facebook for writers and readers of BDSM-themed books. The list of those wanting to be added is approaching 60 members–and I only announced it yesterday. But this will give us a way to connect with the readers AND help promote my fellow authors in this subgenre.

    Okay, back to my final revisions! I have my first book coming out in three weeks. Woot!

    Good luck, whatever you decide to do, folks!


  5. michelehauf says:

    Thanks for the additional hints and help on self-pubbing, Kally! Yes, social networking/media is a HUGE part in self pubbing. I don’t think you can self pub successfully without the social media aspect of it, I really don’t. So if you’re not on FB or blogging or doing something online to create a following, and you think you just want to jump into self pubbing, I think you need to build up your followers first. Just my opinion, but am interested to hear what others think about that. 🙂

  6. loisgreiman says:

    Wow. All good info. I, too, am still in love with the machine. But sometimes it doesn’t love me back. My first three scottish romance novels written back in the 90s will go on sale on line this fall along with my seventh Chrissy McMullen mystery. But I’ve got a ton to learn.

    Who did you use for an editor, M?

  7. Terry Odell says:

    Michelle – more power to you. I’m hiring out cover art for my self-pubbed and back list titles, although I also have 2 kids who can deal with adding titles, etc., if I give them images. And you’re absolutely right–if you want to do it well and have a quality product, it’s NOT that simple. You have to be willing to devote time to the process. For my one “original” book, as opposed to a back list title, I did pay an editor and a cover artist. I haven’t tried creating a print book yet–still dealing with getting them right for the e-stores.

    Terry’s Place

    • michelehauf says:

      Terry, making the print book is fun! And it’s so satisfying to hold that copy in your hand. CreateSpace puts out a really nice product.

  8. Talk about timely, Miss M, this subject has been on my mind for months. I was able to get the rights back to 7 of my single title books before the door (probably) closed, and it’s some of my best work. None of the books is available digitally. New copies of the oldest one are listed for sale on Amazon for over $100. Yeesh! Who would pay that? Even for a damn good book.

    So I started looking at self-publishing those books. There’s no way I can prepare them for digital publishing myself AND write more books AND teach my occasional Loft class AND take care of 2 kids AND keep my sanity, so I explored various options for hiring the work out. The options are there, perfectly good options for those of us who don’t have Michele’s considerable skills. I could do that, but I’d still have to market the books, and that’s the detail that harbors the devil for me.

    About a week ago I decided to try something else. I made a call, and within a week I went from dithering to dancing on air. Since the announcement has officially made Publishers Marketplace, I guess I can talk about it, so I will. Tomorrow.

    If you already know…shhh! Tomorrow is another day.

  9. Great post, Michelle. I’ve published over 80 books with a traditional publisher and haven’t been able to get my rights back on one of them. But I had one book I still had rights to, so I self-pubbed it as an ebook. Because I’m proud of it and because the process interested me. I’m pleased with the finished book, but what a job! And I hired a formatter *and* a packager to sell it to everyone but Amazon and B&N–for those two, I uploaded it myself.

    Will def be checking back to see why Kathleen is dancing on air! 🙂

    • michelehauf says:

      Wow, no rights back on 80 books? Bummer. But what an accomplishment! 80 books! Here I was dancing with myself at the Harlequin party because I got my 25 book pin. Hee. I have a long way to go to catch up!

  10. Ugh. I need to learn how to spell. 😉 I meant, great post, Michele!

  11. I have dipped my toe in self-publishing. I put up a backlist novella and one full-length book, others to follow soon. I’m so glad that they can be out in the marketplace again! It is a lot of work, but fun to be able to watch the numbers and control things like covers. I wish I had time to really learn Photoshop. I now have someone doing my covers for me because it just was taking up too much of my time and I have deadlines to meet.

    But congrats to you, Michele!

    And Kathleen is such a tease!

    This isn’t self-pubbing, but I think it’s kinda cool that my very first book ever will be available through Harlequin’s Treasury program starting tomorrow.

  12. Michelle, any chance Follow the Night will ever be available in any kind of hard copy? I’ve been wondering about Jean’s parents’ story every since I read From the Dark, but my eyes aren’t up to e-reading a whole novel. Great post, great info.

  13. Michele Hauf says:

    Nancy, yes the paperback copy is available at Amazon right now! Search the title and my name, and you’ll find it.

  14. Pingback: TOP TEN: The divide between the published and the self-published | Chazz Writes

  15. Kylie Brant says:

    Fascinating, Michelle! And I’m not surprised at all that you handled all those items yourself! I completely agree on the copy edit as being imperative in the process, at least when the book hasn’t been published before.

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