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How To Self-Publish

Autumn Leaf on Vintage Book by EmeraldCutThis one has been bubbling up for a while…

Over the last few months, various discussions have erupted around the subject of self-publishing, specifically how it should be done. There have also been a few blog posts on the subject. There’s been a lot of banter. Mostly friendly, but it has got heated in places. This is to be expected. Creatives are passionate people, and that’s the nature of discussion. As an author who teaches other authors how to self-publish, I weighed into a few of these debates, and in doing so, I came to the conclusions it was high time to write this blog.

I’d like to say something radical: self-publish how you want. It doesn’t f**king matter to anyone but you.

*Large exhale*

I’ve never seen the fantasy genre as vibrant and thriving than it is now. Every day, I’m slinging more books at my mountainous TBR pile. Every time I blink, there’s a new cover reveal, author interview, competition, success story or book promotion I need to gobble up. There are more subgenres than you can shake a wand at. More communication between fans and authors than ever before. All over the net, groups and forums are exploding with tips and recommendations. Indie authors are being championed and seeing broad success. The SPFBO is in its third year, damn it! I could go on and on, but in summary, I’m certain this is the most exciting time for the fantasy genre we’ve seen yet. Both for authors and readers.

Books by Matilde BerkHerein lies the core of my point. It’s a shame to see us authors bogged down in arguments over trivialities of self-publishing. I’ve been in this market for seven years now, and the only time a reader expressed an interest in how I published unless they wanted to do it too. By and large, readers only care about three things: what’s on the cover, what’s between it and how they can get a copy. That’s all I care about as a reader. I’d even boil it down to the simple question of, “what story does this wad of tree hold for me?” Every time I pick up a new book, I’m not looking at spine width or typeface, or the paper weight, I’m hoping it to be the best thing I’ve ever read.

Look at the bestsellers we’ve had over the past few years. Are they getting awards for how their books got to market? No! It’s the writing that matters. The story. The prose. We authors—myself included—should be focusing on that, not trading blows over who has or hasn’t done it what way. Screw that.

Publish how you want. It’s called self-publishing for a reason. Of course, stick to best practices and follow those who have done it successfully. It’s an important process, but do it how it suits you. Don’t sink hour after hour, month after month into getting the book out there. As soon as the bollocks is done with, get straight onto the next book. And the next. And the next. Craft over cover dimensions. Ability over Amazon algorithms. A reader would rather have their mind blown by a book than know it’s got excellent distribution channels.

Captial Hill Books by Marc ShafferSpeaking of algorithms, there’s also been a lot of talk about marketing too – over what to do and what not to do. It’s only natural, as marketing is more amorphous and fickle than the somewhat standardised path of self-publishing. I’ll be the first to say that marketing is a necessary and ongoing part of the job. It needs to be done and trading tips is very important, but there’s a distinct danger of being consumed by it. Writing should come first each and every time. Let’s not get trapped in the idea that marketing is more vital, and spend months chasing new techniques or tricks to get ahead before even thinking about that second book. Write your book first, then you can write your blog about how to write a book after.

I’m not saying this to point a finger anyone, and if I have, I’d be pointing at myself as well. I’m as bad as anyone about yakking on about BookBub rejections and Facebook Ad CTRs. Neither am I saying this to be sanctimonious, and I’m definitely not trying to harsh the buzz and excitement of the current fantasy scene. The only reason I say this is to help ensure this boom continues. I’m a fierce proponent of our genre, and that is where this blog comes from.

By all means, let’s continue to share tips and wisdom, swap publishing tricks, craft ad copy, tweet and be merry, but let’s also remember why the reader engages with us, first and foremost. Not because we’re publishers, or marketers, but because we’re writers.

Title image by Matilde Berk.

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One Comment

  1. MD Presley says:

    “What story does this wad of tree hold for me?”

    Exceedingly well-said, Ben. I would steal this statement and pretend it was mine own were it not already written in internet stone. Alas, I will have to quote you from now on.

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