Self-published authors: please do it well

It might be a bit dramatic to say but self-publishing isn’t well perceived. In 2018, French author Samantha Bailly self-published her 17th novel, La Marelle. Even though her readership followed, she received messages telling her off: she would “end the publishing industry with her behaviour.” The reactions were extreme, to say the least. But why do authors turn to self-publishing in the first place?

For many of us writers, self-publishing has solved an issue. Because the traditional path (being edited by a publishing house) can not handle the growing number of manuscripts, writers turn to self-publishing. Needless to say that self-publishing is faster than the traditional way: you write, you edit, you publish. You can publish a book in just three to six months if you want to. It’s as simple as that.

However, I think it has such a bad reputation because you can find a lot of things in self-publishing: good and bad. If I have no doubt that Samantha Bailly has delivered a great product – because yes, a book is a product -, I can’t be sure for other self-published books.

When I was eighteen, I bought an indie book from an author at a fair in the South of France. It was my first experience with self-publishing and, even though I enjoyed reading the book to a certain extent, I couldn’t help but being annoyed by too many spelling and grammar mistakes within the story. In a desire to help, I emailed the author to tell him what I had found. The answer, though, wasn’t what I would call ‘polite’ but the main excuse was along the lines of “publishing is hard”.

Because yes, that’s just that: an excuse.

Self-publishing a book is hard because you’re doing so all by yourself. You’ve got to write the book, to edit the book, to proofread the book, to design the book cover, to format the book, to choose how you’re gonna print it and distribute it and market it and so on. It’s hard because you’re turning yourself into an entrepreneur. You have to shift your mindset and stop being an hobbyist. And it’s freaking hard.

But you don’t have to do it alone!

I think asking for help is what makes the difference between good and bad self-publishing. Of course, it’s not going to be for free but if you truly want this to work, you’re going to have to spend a little money. So, please, ask for a professional proofreader or copy editor. Ask for a professional book cover designer. And if you’re not confident to do your marketing yourself, you can even ask for a little help from someone or from books. In the end, spending that money will be worth it (if you’re serious about it).

How is it going to be worth it? Because people have a short attention span. They’ve been attracted by your cover? Great! They’ve been convinced by your back cover blurb? Amazing! But if they’re bugged by too many issues within your text, they will just put your book down and never come back to you ever again.

Whether you’re choosing the traditional or indie publishing way, you’ve got to face the same issue. And that is to get in front of your readership. As the book industry is flooded by books every year (more than 68,000 books were published in France in 2017, so imagine how it can be in the whole world), you’ve got to put yourself under the spotlights or nobody will read your work. But make sure your book is the best version of itself before, or will be all for nothing.