Hello again. In my article yesterday, I wrote about being a hybrid author (one who publishes both traditionally and independently) and how my first two books are traditionally published in India as I’m an expat living in America. I’m back today to share my journey into self-publishing, and as I did with traditional publishing, to offer some tips for making your self-publishing experience go smoothly.
With my third novel, I changed genres, venturing into the world of fantasy based in Indian mythology. I was looking at US publishing in earnest, because while my publishing experiences in India had been wonderful and painless, I wanted an international presence. I wanted to be published in the country I called home now. Plus, I was more confident of my craft and my knowledge of the industry had expanded. I thought it would be easier to get an agent in the US or a contract with a New York publisher now. After all, I was twice published internationally.
But it wasn’t. There were plenty of rejections. I knew enough to ignore the form rejections, but I paid attention to the constructive critiques I received from agents and editors I’d come to know, and respect, either online or in person. They showed me where I was going wrong and what I was doing right. I focused on the rightness of my work, and of this industry. And I focused on my love of storytelling. I still do. All I want to do is tell stories. Does it matter how they’re brought into the world? Thinking this, I decided to self-publish both my fantasy novel and my women’s fiction novel. And once again, I had to expand my knowledge of the industry.
My women’s fiction novel, My Last Love Story, was briefly self-published before it was picked up by a US publisher, one I had previously submitted to. It seemed as soon as I stopped trying to force open one door and stepped through another, the first door swung open on its own. And sometimes it happens that way, where one door leads to the other.
Both doors and paths have their pros and cons and, based on my experiences, I’ll walk you through the self-publishing door today.
The benefits of self-publishing
In comparison, self-publishing is a piece of cake, at least until the book is baked. You are the ONLY gatekeeper. You control everything from concept to creation and there’s a great satisfaction in the process and its result that is absent in traditional publishing where very few decisions are in your hands. You are the publisher, designer, marketer, promoter—all rolled in one. You can—and you should—hire professionals for cover design and editing, maybe even for publicity and marketing, and all that is money out of your own pocket and up front. But then, all the money you make on the self-pub is yours alone.
What to be aware of when considering self-publishing…
You may not be able to get your print books into bookstores as easily, or it may not be feasible to do it, so keep that in mind. The biggest stressor for self-published books is what happens after your book baby is published. Discoverability is hard because of the sheer number of self-pubs in the market. Your baby must float above the rest or it will drown. To do that you need to wield social media like a boss, which is the number one publicity and marketing platform available to self-publishers. It’ll be your job to stay abreast about the constant changes happening in the publishing industry, and adapt to them instantly.
And one more point to consider about self-publishing…
The one thing I realized after self-publishing was that the idea of being the captain of my ship was in some ways a myth. It was true insofar as the creation and production of the book, but for its distribution, my fate rested in the hands of the distributors—mainly Amazon. If Amazon changes the rules, the royalty structures—heaven forbid, it shuts down its publishing arm altogether and no one steps in to save the day—then where will I be? So much for having full control of my baby.
The bottom line
There are many ways to publish, and each writer must find her own way. If you want to simply create and not think about the business of publishing, go the traditional route. If that route is road-blocked, try and moonwalk down the self-publishing route. But before you do, learn as much as you can about the industry. Neither path is risk-free or bump-free or the right path or the only path. However, both paths demand one thing above all—that you write a bloody great book in the first place.
FALGUNI KOTHARI is the author of MY LAST LOVE STORY (January 23, 2018; Harlequin/Graydon House), as well as SOUL WARRIOR (2015); BOOTIE AND THE BEAST (2014); and IT’S YOUR MOVE, WORDFREAK (2012). Her unconventional love stories and kick-ass fantasy tales are all flavored by her South Asian heritage and expat experiences. An award-winning Indian Classical, Latin and Ballroom dancer, she now lives in New York with her family. You can visit her at falgunikothari.com