By author, Nat Newman
Following the traditional route to publication can be hard work. Not only do you need to write a fantastic book, but you also need to resonate with an agent or publisher at just the right moment. For some people, self-publishing is a Plan B – the fallback route if they can’t crack the major publishers.
For me, when I decided to publish my novella The Office of Dead Letters, I knew right away that indie publishing was my Plan A. It made sense for my genre, my time scale and, to be honest, my frame of mind.
Self-publishing my debut book has been an absolutely rewarding experience. There was a lot to learn, and at times it was tedious, but it has been the stepping stone I needed to get going.
So if you’ve been put off by the idea of self-publishing, allow me to give you six reasons why you should consider it your Plan A…
1. You will finally start
Like a lot of people, I’ve dreamed of being published for as long as I can remember. I enrolled in courses and attended workshops. I had short stories published in journals and even won competitions. But I never really actually put my heart and soul into finishing a novel and getting it published. I kind of assumed it would just happen, without me having to do anything about it.
I’d actually been approached by two agents after winning a short story competition, but I didn’t have a book-length manuscript ready at the time. Two years later, I still didn’t have anything ready and they stopped asking.
Frankly, I was afraid to start.
The main reason I decided to go indie was to force myself to take that scary first step. I was listening to a podcast about diving, and the coach said that everyone is afraid when they stand on the diving board. You can stand there all day long and the fear will never go away.
The fear only stops after you start.
As writers, we’re afraid of a lot of things. We’re afraid of rejection and we’re afraid of success. We’re afraid of writing ‘the end’ and we’re afraid we’ll never finish the bloody book.
If fear of starting is holding you back, then you should definitely consider self-publishing. Because once you’ve done it, you are on your way. You can say you’re a published author. And nobody can ever take that away from you.
2. You will set an achievable goal
If you’ve ever thought ‘I’m going to publish a book one day’ you’ve committed an error that many of us do. You’ve set an unachievable goal. It’s not that you can’t publish a book one day, but it’s kind of an airy-fairy statement – ‘a book’ and ‘one day’. What do they mean?
I’d been saying the same thing for years. And then finally I decided to make an actual solid achievable goal. I changed it from ‘I’ll publish a book one day’ to ‘I’ll self-publish the first novella in my series by the end of the year.’
Boom. Game changer. I now had a solid goal.
- I knew what I was going to do: publish my novella.
- I knew when I was going to do it: by the end of the year.
- I knew how I was going to do it: self-publishing.
And I even had continuation goals. By saying ‘the first novella in the series,’ I committed to writing and publishing more books in the future.
3. You’ll be too busy to procrastinate
We all know that procrastination is a constant plague for the writer. Your house is never so clean as when you need to finish that chapter.
As my very wise mum always says, if you want something done, give it to a busy person. When you decide to self-publish, you’ll find that you’re too busy to make excuses. Between researching ISBNs and finding an editor, writing a marketing plan and hiring a book cover designer, reading everything you can find about other self-published authors and taking courses, you’ll discover a momentum that will keep pushing you forward.
Every time I learned something about keywords, or read a great bit of advice, or discovered a new concept, I was compelled to keep learning more. It’s like falling down a YouTube rabbit hole, except that in this case you’re learning more and more about the whole publishing industry.
Keeping busy and that excitement will keep pushing you toward your goal – which is to publish your book.
4. You can say you’re a published author
After spending a few months editing my novella, all while teaching myself everything I could about self-publishing, I did the scariest thing possible – I set a launch date for publication. I put it on Amazon and Goodreads. I told my friends and family. I made it Facebook official.
The countdown was now on. I had 30 days to finalise all the bits and pieces I had been working on. There was no more time for excuses – I just had to get it done.
And on 1 August, my book went live. This was it. My baby was out there to fend for itself. Would people like it? Did it even make sense? I knew my beta readers had been positive, but that’s not the same as your book falling into the hands of a complete stranger.
But there was nothing I could do now. It was done. I had done it. I was a published author.
That excitement was further compounded when friends and family started posting their pictures of my book arriving in the mail and sending positive messages.
I’ve been a writer for a long time – but now I can say I’m a published author.
5. You’ll get your name out there
A lot of writers don’t like the idea of building their author platform or promoting themselves, especially if they haven’t published anything yet.
Well, once you’ve published a book, you don’t have any more excuses. If you want people to buy your novel, you need to start putting yourself out there. Connect with other writers, build your newsletter list, be proud of your achievement, share what you’ve learned and engage with your readers.
On your website and in your Twitter bio, you’ll be able to say “Author of…”
When you tell people you’re a writer, you won’t feel like a phoney. You can actually show them – look, here’s my book on Amazon!
That tangible book will be just the push you need to be able to work harder on your author platform and start to define yourself as a writer.
6. You will become unstoppable
The best part of self-publishing is that once you start, you won’t want to stop. It has been an absolutely exhilarating journey and I’m not slowing down. I’m already hard at work on the sequel to The Office of Dead Letters, and I plan to bring it out before the end of the year. I have a growing list of other books that I’ll be publishing over the next 18 months.
A lot of the writing process can be intangible. Except for the part where you actually put your bum in the chair and do the writing, everything else is a mystery. Will you actually finish it? Will anyone publish it? And who on earth is going to read it let alone like it?
It’s time to make your writing dreams a reality. Turn them into something tangible. Find your best manuscript, polish it until it shines, and don’t be afraid to self-publish it.
If you really want to follow the traditional route, you can still consider self-publishing. You could be waiting years for a contract – but if you have something great to share now, why not put it out there?
One of my favourite coaches says, ‘There is no finish line; there is only the starting line.’
So if you want to start right now, and become unstoppable, self-publishing should definitely be your Plan A.
Nat Newman is an award-winning writer whose short stories have appeared in journals such as Granta, Structo, Brittle Star and Shoreline of Infinity. In 2017, she won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the Pacific Region with her story “The Death of Margaret Roe”. Her debut novella The Office of Dead Letters is out now. Find out more at natnewman.com