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  • [She Self-Publishes] The Wide and Wild World of Self Publishing
[She Self-Publishes] The Wide and Wild World of Self Publishing
Written by
Emily Suess
January 2013
Written by
Emily Suess
January 2013

I'm happy to introduce a guest author on She Self-Publishes today. Dava Stewart, fellow friend and writer from Smiling Tree Writing.

As a reader and a writer, I have watched as the rise of self publishing has rocked the world of book production. Watching the changes to how books are distributed, I wanted to learn more, so in August of 2012, I began interviewing writers. Traditionally published, self published, and industry experts have been kind enough to share their knowledge and help me gain an education about writing. In November of 2012, I self-published my own book, 52 Tips for the Reluctant Marketer, and have co-authored a second book that will be published in February of 2013.

Through the interviews and my own experience self publishing, I’ve learned far more than can be shared in one short blog post. However, a few important points come up repeatedly, and they are worth noting.

You have to actually write something if you want to be published.

This may seem silly, but it is a big deal. Reading Facebook Pages dedicated to self-publishing, and LinkedIn group discussions, and talking to aspiring authors makes it clear just how many people have big plans to market books they haven’t even begun writing.

It’s a whole lot easier to think about writing a book than to actually schedule the time to write one. And, even if you do schedule the time, you might just find yourself staring at a blank screen, or checking Facebook one more time before you get started.

One of the best ways around the procrastination problem is to use a timer. Start small, and just set the timer for 10 or 15 minutes and write, no matter what for the whole time. The idea of writing a book gets overwhelming when you get right down to it, so you have to build the habit of writing.

Writing a book is only one part of the self publishing process.

It is the main part, but there are other things to think about. Cover art. Formatting. Story editing. Copy editing. Thinking about all of it might leave you feeling defeated. It’s not as hard as you might think.

What you need depends in part on what kind of book you are writing. Fiction and nonfiction require different types of cover design. If you are going to have a print on demand version of your book, you will have different considerations (like font size) than if you are publishing only an electronic version.

There are plenty of freelance editors and designers who are usually happy to talk to authors. Get in touch with a few and learn a bit about what they do. Or, spend some time reading a some of the helpful articles available through Amazon, Smashwords, and other publishing platforms. Chances are, you have the skills to do what you need to do.

Beware of companies that sell packages to help you self publish.

The idea of paying one price and having everything else taken care of tempts many writers; that’s why there are so many companies selling those kinds of packages. Sadly, finding a package that offers what you need is probably more difficult and often more expensive than it should be.

Then there are contracts. If you take the package route to self publishing, read the entire contract. In fact, take it to an attorney if at all possible. Your rights are at stake. The most successful self published authors that I’ve spoken to hire editors and designers on their own. Formatting is easier than you probably think.

For every piece of advice you read, there is a contradictory piece of advice somewhere.

Write and publish one book, make it the best book you can, then market it for all you are worth. Write, publish, then start writing your next book; don’t even think about marketing until you have several books published. A pre-designed, off-the-rack cover will work just fine. You should always hire a designer to create a custom cover if you want to sell any books.


It will take some experimentation and time, but you will have to figure out what works best for you. That’s the beauty of self publishing. Authors have control of their productions schedules, their work, and how it is marketed and distributed. The world of self publishing can be big and scary, but once you find what works for you it can also be lots of fun, and even profitable.

Dava Stewart is a freelance writer and owner of Smiling Tree Writing. To learn more about self-publishing and independent authors, check out independent writing on her blog. Follow Dava on Twitter @DavaStewart.

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  • Susan Noelle Bernardo

    Thanks, Dava!

    I recently self-published a children's book called Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs.  The illustrator Courtenay Fletcher and I are good friends - and we knew this book needed to be out in the world as quickly as possible.  We raised the money on kickstarter.com - so our marketing began before the book was even a reality....the beauty of crowd-funding is building an amazing group of supporters waiting for its birth -- who want to see your book grow up and live happily ever after!

    Now that we have books printed, we continue to look for innovative ways to get it out into the world.  As Courtenay says - it's like starting 30 little snowballs at the top of a mountain and watching to see which ones gather speed and size.  We are: reading it to schools, sending it to bloggers, donating copies to children's charities, developing a curriculum guide, researching grants, getting reviews and interviews, approaching distributors, meeting with librarians, and learning to navigate social media.  It can be frustrating but it is so very rewarding - especially when we get feedback from readers who tell us that the book is already making a difference in the lives of children.

    We wouldn't thumb our nose at an offer from a big publishing company - especially if it meant getting the book to a wider audience of families who need its healing message about love.  But if it doesn't come, that's okay!  We feel grateful that we have the opportunity to self-publish and promote this baby of ours - and trust that it will find its way to exactly the right audience.  And now...I need to spend a little time WRITING...I'm revising a YA novel that I have been working on for years!  Thanks for the reminder ;)

  • Julie Luek

    I like your first point. Yesterday, my daughter walks into my office after school and reads through my to-do check list I keep on a white board. She sees "write" and starts laughing. "You have to add that to the list?" she asked.  I told her absolutely. In a day filled with demands, I have to make the time to yes, actually write.

    Your final point is well-taken too. There is lots of advice there, sometimes conflicting- about almost any subject connected with writing. My thought is go ahead and read it all, heed it,  then find your way through it with your own style. 

  • Jill A. Shure

    Thanks for your insights. I might also add that the industry changes very quickly. From year-to-year things evolve in marketing and producing books. Amazon's programs are constantly updated. And the new devices being sold give readers greater access to content.