Last December, I readied my first manuscript to be self-published. I had written a story that I was immensely proud of and started work on its sequel. Now I just needed to throw it up online and wait for the sales, right? To be honest, I had no idea what I was in for.
This past year has been a learning experience like none other. Fables of the Flag was published in February and Fables of the Flag: The Surveyor’s Tale in June. Every day since has been filled with learning the ropes of this incredible business. For me, what makes self-publishing difficult is exactly what makes it so rewarding; I have to do everything myself.
Since all my deadlines were self-imposed, I could write as much or little as I wanted each day. If I didn’t want to learn how to format, I was in charge of the search for a formatter. What if I didn’t like my website? Better hire someone to design a new one or else crack open those HTML books. All of this gets either expensive or time consuming VERY quickly. Self-publishing is a full-time job.
The magic here though, is that I wanted to share a story with the world and I did. It’s as simple as that. For those who are considering this, IT IS POSSIBLE. It’s definitely not easy or a goal to be taken lightly. It’s not a business for the faint of heart. Dedication, determination, endurance are just three of the qualities that keep a writer going when the going gets tough, which it often does. The gatekeepers have moved from agents and publishers to the author’s own commitment to detail and professionalism.
To say I was in over my head initially would be a huge understatement. The support activities, such as social media, that go along with self-publishing can be easy to overlook or seem frightening to someone who has yet to dive into them. But, I assure you, they are as essential to success as the writing process itself. Of course you need a first-class story, that’s a given. But the best book in the world never gets read if you leave it under a rock.
So I started to learn how to build a social media platform, get a cover designed, and set up a blog tour. Promotion especially is always a work in progress as technology changes continuously. What works on Twitter won’t work on Pinterest or whatever debuts next week and so, the learning continues.
The result is that there’s no marketing team or publicist to blame if things don’t go well. But when they do, each and every sale feels like a victory. To keep myself grounded, I make sure to remember to have fun. Try new things. If something does not work, switch it up. That’s the beauty of being self-pubbed. Embrace it and it will embrace YOU!
Ethan Coffee left California for a few years to study at Purdue University, but is now back in the Golden State. His series, Fables of the Flag, chronicles Jack Preston’s journey through time as he meets famous figures in American history. The second installment, Fables of the Flag: The Surveyor’s Tale, was released in June. Check out his website, the Fables Facebook Page and follow him on Twitter.