Out There: The Wrong Goal of Self-Publishing

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“I just want my novel out there.”
Ouch.
Too many times lately, I have heard people say this about their self-publishing efforts. Out there. I just want it out there. What does that even mean?

It means a couple things:
First, it means that the writer can find closure to his/her writing process. It means there is a finished product and the creative process has ended. Now, it’s up to everyone else to do whatever they will do with that product: ignore it, read it, praise it, trash it. But the writer can move on. There’s value in this, of course, to have something finished and not on the back burner, to have it stop nagging.

Second, the writer usually means that the story, novel, picture book, or nonfiction book will find readers. Here’s where the writer is wrong. The book will not find readers by itself. Guaranteed.

In their fascinating book, DECISIVE, Chip and Dan Heath talk about one flaw in the decision making process, namely, that people overestimate their own success and ignore solid data in front of them. In fact, most self-published books sell less than 100 copies. If your book is OUT THERE without any support, you will NOT sell copies. Your friends and family–because they love you–may buy copies, but that’s usually the 100 copies that get sold. Do not make this mistake (and how many ways and how strongly can I say this?), you will not sell copies if you do not market.
"I just want it out there." Death knell for a self-published book
OUT THERE–publishing a book without marketing a book is not going to work.
Many of you will ignore this fact: you will convince yourself that your story is different and will beat the odds. OK. Do what you have to do. Put it OUT THERE. But it will not sell.

Unless.

A self-published book needs marketing. That means the publishing house (that’s you!) needs a platform, a network of connections that are proven places to sell a book. The author (that’s you!) needs to be working to support the publisher (Oh, that’s you, too!) to sell the book. This can be accomplished through any number of means: catalogs, speaking engagements and back of the room sales (BOTR), online venues, guest blogging, schools, special sales to corporations, gift shops, and on and on. The venues for sales of books are endless. But you must focus somewhere and work to get your book into those venues.

OUT THERE? You want your book out there? Get it out of your head by doing a small printing and giving copies to friends and family as Christmas gifts. But if you really want it OUT THERE in the world wide market place, get ready to work.

Instead, you should be saying, “I want to work hard to get my story into the hands of the right readers.” Now THAT is a worthy goal of self-publishing.

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4 Comments
  • Beth MaCKINNEY
    June 17, 2013

    The problem is, getting it out there is the worst possible thing a writer can do for his career if his story isn’t ready, and the author is never the best determiner of whether it’s ready or not. Except for the well-trained few, most authors should rely on help from writing professionals in their network who help them objectively determine if their manuscripts are truly ready.

  • Sue Heavenrich
    June 17, 2013

    As Beth points out, publishing the book before it is ready is an issue. Most self-published books I see could use some editorial guidance.

  • Darcy Pattison
    June 17, 2013

    I agree, that publishing before you’re ready is one of the biggest problems.
    But likewise, even a well-written/well-illustrated book can easily be overlooked.
    As a friend recently told me, it’s a Best-SELLER’s list, not a Best-WRITTEN list. Those two are correlated in some ways, yes, but marketing is crucial, especially for a self-pub book.

    Darcy

  • Rosi
    June 19, 2013

    This is an important post full of good reminders for those of us becoming impatient with the process. Thanks.