The Challenges that come with Self-Publishing your Novel.

Posted on Posted in The Prolific Author

Be Aware of the Challenges that come with Self-Publishing your Novel.

Writing any work of fiction is a solitary occupation.

Publishing your own novel, on the other hand, is a collaborative and very public experience which can feel both exciting and terrifyingly daunting in equal measure.

Some authors relish the opportunity to write what they want, how they want and in the style they want. Others are more than a little terrified of walking across a rickety bridge without a safety net to catch them if everything goes wrong.

Publishing that manuscript means that you have to step back, be objective and act as the midwife who will deliver that story to the readers.

Many authors struggle with the concept and feel isolated and out of their depth. They want to write books, not spend hours trying to learn the layers of technical and word processing techniques needed to transform your Word Document into a file which will be accepted by an eBook author platform.

You book has to become a product. A data file. Not precious words that you laboured long and hard to create, but a Kindle 8 mobi or ePub format file which has to be manipulated to meet the demands of online book retailers.

Why is this important?

Self-publishing is intensely personal.

This means that each of us has to find our own way through this bewildering minefield of information in the strange new world of self-publishing.

*Without getting lost,

*Without losing sight of our end destination and

*Without giving up and turning around and heading back home again, because it is all too hard to deal with.

Message Stones


Image Credit: MorgueFile. Message Stones

I am a scientist by training, so when I decided to self publish my first full length crime book, Deadly Secrets, I set about learning as much as I could as fast as I could about the best practices on self-publishing a genre fiction novel.

What I discovered is that, over the past few years, a whole industry has been created exclusively to serve the growing number of independent publishers.

I ran a simple Internet search this morning, March 2014, for the words ‘Publish an eBook,’ and there were 25,400,000 results.

There are literally thousands of books on the topic, hundreds of websites and blogging sites specialising in self-publishing, while self-styled gurus pontificate and throw selected statistics around to confuse and grow their own platforms.

Online training courses charge hundreds of dollars to let you into ‘the secrets’ of digital publishing, and countless specialists and cover artists offer services for the independent publisher.

All looking to make money from authors who need help and support to publish their work.

All looking to take advantage of the emotional investment we authors make in our work. They know that we are not simply publishing a data file but we are sharing our hopes and dreams and aspirations the moment we press Upload.

Over the past twelve months I have spent weeks of time trying to educate myself on the best practices in self-publishing a genre fiction novel. This is an enormous time commitment, without a clear understanding that the investment will be repaid.

I have read hundreds of articles and books and I am still finding my way, but it is clear that the business savvy author has to acknowledge that there are many challenges that come with deciding to publish your own work.


The Disadvantages of Self Publishing

  • The costs of Self-Publishing can be greater than you think

You have already invested a huge amount of physical and emotional energy in the creation of your manuscript. This is your work and you are passionate about making sure that it is the best that you make it and that it is ready to be shared with readers.

The bad news is that you are about to invest a lot more time, emotional energy and money in learning the new skills and techniques necessary to successfully publish this book on your own.

For example:

  • Traditionally published authors will receive an advance payment against future potential royalty payments.

When you self-publish you don’t have the nine to eighteen month delay between your manuscript being accepted and going into print. So you have to carry all of the costs of producing your work and publishing it until you receive the income from sales of your book.  There are a huge number of decisions to be made which have nothing to do with writing the next book.

  • Traditionally published authors will be edited and copy-edited in-house by the publisher who pays for the cover design, promotion into book stores and all of the admin associated with loading that book onto online retailer catalogues.

The quality of the finished book is all down to you now.

  • The combined costs of the marketing, promotion and distribution of your published book will be at least twice what you will expect.

Many launch campaigns can last for a month, full time. This is hard work and you have to plan meticulously to carry out all of the steps in a logical sequence.

As Jack Canfield, co-author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul”, said, ‘Writing the book is only 10% of the work, now you must figure out how to sell it’.

  • Higher Royalty Payments weighted against Smaller Sales Volume

Traditional publishers may be able to place your printed into bookstores and large supermarkets and attract premium prices for your novel. They have marketing and promotional budgets and place advertisements in trade magazines and social media.

Bookstores and large supermarkets have so little display space that the hard fact is that it is very unlikely that any bookstore would be willing to stock a print on demand [POD] printed version of your eBook. They cannot return them for credit and unless you have a dedicated following of readers, your book will be lost. They certainly would not be interested in hosting an author event for a POD book unless your work has unique local interest.

As a result you should expect to have the majority of your sales of both print and eBooks through online bookstores.

This is where ‘Discoverability’ becomes crucial. Especially for authors who do not have an existing fan base.

  • You hold onto all of your Publishing Rights so you may need to hire a specialist lawyer or literary agent to handle translation or other rights.

Most literary agents will not represent clients who only self-publish. They cannot earn their 15% from the online sales since they did not negotiate the publication rights.

You are the publisher so you need to subcontract licencing your rights to that work to a specialist. So you need to weigh up the costs of the contract work against the potential financial gain from these additional sales. This takes a lot of time and money.

  • The challenges of working from home

Your family members may not understand the difference between being at home and accessible to them, and working from home.

Distractions can come in all shapes and sizes and without a clear plan of your objectives it can be very difficult to achieve what you need to do in the time you have available.

Time management and self-discipline are essential in running any home business, but are especially important when you have to create new fiction and run a solo publishing business at the same time.

 flickr. chris connelly

Photo Credit: Chris Connelly/

The cost versus the benefits is something only you can decide on.


One thought on “The Challenges that come with Self-Publishing your Novel.

  1. Hey Nina,

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Great work!

    I agree that self-publishing one’s work entails a lot of challenges, but with the right mindset and proper research, it can be a painless process.

    Authors really need to understand the pros and cons of self publishing before they get into it. Just because everyone’s doing it, doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to go.

    E-Publishing Rights: A Fight Over Greed or Accessibility?:

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