5 Surprises About Self Publishing

Jennie NashGuest Blogger: Jennie Nash (@jennienash)

My first six books were all published by major New York houses, including Scribner, Simon & Schuster, Crown, and Berkley/Penguin. I adored my editors and their teams, but I was a midlist writer getting midlist attention, and the midlist was starting to feel like purgatory. For my seventh book, Perfect Red, a historical novel set in 1950’s New York, I decided to self publish. Why I made that decision is a story for another day, and how it turns out, economically-speaking, has yet to be determined. But a few revelations about the process have surprised the socks off me. Herewith, the top five:

1. I underestimated the weight of having the legitimacy of a traditional publisher. When I could say, “My third novel is being published by Penguin,” I was not just a wanna-be hopeful novelist. I was legit! I was chosen! Pitching book reviewers was a breeze. Attending high school reunions was a delight. When I ran into more famous writers, we met as colleagues, exchanging e-mails, making dates for lunch. Now that I am self publishing, I am no different than the crazy cat lady down the block who has been working on her memoir for 17 years or the guy at the street fair hawking Xeroxed pamphlets of his poetry about fruit. People smile indulgently when I tell them what I’m doing. Book reviewers politely decline. My doubts about writing, which I’ve spent a lifetime overcoming, have blossomed like a drug-resistant virus.

2. I underestimated the thrill that comes with being in control – as well as the fear. I get to pick my cover! Set my own price! Make a special holiday edition for my friends and family and send it out tied up with a red bow! When I do something well, I feel like a rock star entrepreneurial author on the cutting edge of the brave new world of publishing. But book publishing is a detailed, complex enterprise requiring a range of skills completely different from writing a book. There are a thousand opportunities to screw up. Suddenly, it’s not just my writing that’s out there being judged, it’s my eye for design, my sense of how readers behave, my business acumen. I used to wonder why it took traditional publishers nine months to produce a book. Now I get it; it’s a lot of work.

3. I understand now why my covers always felt like a compromise. Photos and illustrations and super cool font treatments are expensive and now that I have to pay for it myself, I see that the economics of publishing simple doesn’t warrant that kind of expense unless you expect to sell 500,000 copies – and unless you’re Stephen King, you can’t start out with that expectation.

4. I overestimated my ability to sell books. I have lists of bookstores at which I’ve done appearances, book clubs who have hosted me, readers who have loved my work and bloggers who have reviewed my books. I didn’t think I had to build a platform. I thought that with a few flicks of the mouse, I’d quickly sell thousands of books and build a buzz that would carry me to even greater sales. It didn’t happen, so now I’m out doing what every writer has to do, which is figuring out how to connect with readers – only I’m doing it with a lot more humility.

5. The joy of getting a book into the hands of readers is absolute. Whether my book is published by a team of experts in a gleaming New York skyscraper or by me, all by myself in my office at the front of the house, nothing can dilute the feeling of having a reader connect with something I wrote. Readers don’t care about how a book is published; they care about the story. They want to be entertained, swept away, educated, illuminated, comforted and lifted up – and I want to be the person who gives them those things. When a reader rushes up to say how much they loved my book, all the doubt and angst and decision-making falls away. What remains is pure joy.

Does my experience surprise you, or confirm your notions about self-publishing? Does it make you feel more encouraged to self-publish, or less?

* * *

Jennie Nash is the author of four novels and three memoirs. She has been an instructor at the UCLA Extension Writing Program for six years and has served as a private coach to fiction and non-fiction writers ranging from a British soap opera star to a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Her latest novel is Perfect Red, a historical novel about passion, obsession and the perfect red lipstick. Visit her at jennienash.com.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Taneeka Bourgeois-daSilva on September 6, 2015 at 10:56 PM

    I haven’t traditionally published anything yet, although I’ve gone through the submission process. I self-published my four book, but one day I plan to try the traditional route again. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. You’re right, self-publishing is hard and it requires detail, focus, and organization – among many others skills.

  2. […] 5 Surprises About Self-Publishing by Jennie Nash on Rachelle’s Gardner’s blogTaking the Scary Out of Scrivener – Interview with Gwen Hernandez on Writers in the Storm BlogPublishing and Marketing Your Crap by James Scott Bell on The Kill ZoneWhat Flavor of Publishing Will You Choose? by Chuck Wendig […]

  3. Stefanie @ brokeandbeau on February 5, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    Interesting. I was recently contacted by a small publisher interested in turning my blog into a book. I don’t have major expectations either way, but I really don’t know where to begin in deciding whether it’s a worthwhile use of my time.

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  6. Eko Dinda on August 19, 2013 at 3:37 AM

    Fiorentina not giving up on Verratti

    Agen Bola indo11.com reported, that Fiorentina are set to launch a
    fresh assault on Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti.

    Viola boss Vincenzo Montella was satisfied with
    his options in the centre of the park after David Pizarro changed his mind
    about leaving the club, but the Artemio Franchi outfit may need to sign another
    player now that the Chilean is set to miss at least a month of action with a
    muscle tear. as reported by Indo Eleven.

    Massimo Ambrosini, Josip Ilicic and Marko
    Bakic are all in the mix to replace the veteran in the starting line-up, but
    Montella would prefer to sign a new deep-lying playmaker.

    As a result, Fiorentina are set to reignite
    their interest in long-term target Marco Verratti, despite the fact the Italy
    international has recently signed a new deal at Parc des Princes.

    Ever since he made a switch from Pescara to
    PSG, Verratti didn’t hide his desire to return to Italian Serie A and Viola officials seem to
    believe they can lure him to Artemio Franchi this summer.

    Source : http://www.indo11.com

  7. Andreasratih on August 19, 2013 at 3:28 AM

    Allardyce hails West Ham goal threat

    Agen Bola indo11.com reported, Sam Allardyce does not believe his
    West Ham side will struggle for goals this season, even through Andy Carroll’s
    continuing absence.

    The former Liverpool striker missed his
    side’s 2-0 win over Cardiff City on Saturday with a heel injury.

    Although the England international looks set
    to miss further games, Allardyce is confident other squad members can weigh in
    with goals, having seen Joe Cole and Kevin Nolan secure victory against the
    Welsh side at Upton Park.

    “Sharing it about is what it’s all about, we
    shared the goals out superbly well last year,” he said.

    “Kevin got 10, Andy got eight and the rest of
    the lads got twos and ones and threes all over the park which was great in
    helping us get to 10th.

    “(Modibo Maiga) has got some goals in him and
    we think the more he plays and the more opportunities he gets, the more he’ll
    score. as reported by Indo Eleven.

    “Kevin is a Premier League goalscorer if used
    in the right way.

    “He’s always scored a huge amount of goals
    which is very, very difficult today. There’s only Frank Lampard who probably
    scores more than him from midfield.”

    Source : http://www.indo11.com

  8. […] The same seems to be true of an Indie author. If your voice doesn’t fit what the masses want to read, then you’ll have a difficult time (a) finding a publisher or (b) finding readers as an Indie author. But what’s interesting to me is that even multi-published traditional authors are having a tough time going the Indie route. Check this out – 5 Surprises About Self Publishing. […]

  9. MariePin001 on July 13, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    I wasted two years with an agent I eventually learned had a neurological problem which contributed nothing to selling my manuscripts. I wised up, learned all I could about self-publishing and now have three novels and a memoir out there making a few people happy. “I did it my way” and have no regrets, learned a lot in the process. Sure, I would love to be picked up by one of the majors but if it doesn’t happen, at least I’ve accomplished part of my dream.
    Happy writing and for the post.

  10. kon kaka on June 24, 2013 at 11:41 PM

    Del Bosque happy to
    have options

    http://www.indo11.com reported, Spain coach
    Vicente Del Bosque is pleased to have so many options ahead of his side’s clash
    against Nigeria on Sunday.

    Del Bosque made several changes after Spain’s
    2-1 win over Uruguay, and it made no difference to their form as they thrashed
    Tahiti 10-0 at the Confederations Cup.

    Spain are expected to revert to the team
    which beat Uruguay, but Victor Valdes’ return in goals is the only change Del
    Bosque confirmed on Saturday.

    He said having so many options was good for
    his squad, who need at least a draw to confirm their spot in the semi-finals.

    “Well, there will be few changes with the
    last match, of course. For example, Victor Valdes will be the goalkeeper,” Del
    Bosque said.

    “A part from that, the rest of the players
    will be more or less like in the first match, but we have a lot of alternatives
    and possibilities.

    “In one hand that is a problem for us, but in
    the other hand is also an opportunity to be able to choose between that many
    players.”asreported by Indo Eleven.

    If Spain finish top of Group B – as is
    expected – they will face Italy in the semi-finals and avoid a clash against
    hosts Brazil.

    Del Bosque said he had been impressed by
    Brazil, particularly their attacking play.

    Source : http://www.indo11.com

  11. […] Author Jennie Nash, who self-published after having been published with several major New York houses, confirms: “I thought that with a few flicks of the mouse, I’d quickly sell thousands of books and build a buzz that would carry me to even greater sales. It didn’t happen.”[ref]Blog post by Jennie Nash, January 11, 2013: 5 Surprises About Self-Publishing.[/ref] […]

  12. Marta Weeks on April 10, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    Fear of the slush pile.

    Just read 5 Surprises Of Self Publishing, and posted “great article, an eye opener, back to work…oh but how do I hate even the thought of rejections!” Now I am reflecting on that “fear” and that hate of rejections.
    Do you fear the slush pile?
    It is expensive to self publish, and even though I know some accomplished self publish authors it still feels like by not “submitting” my work to agents and publishers….I am saying that my work is not good enough.


  13. Marta Weeks on April 10, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    Great article, an eye opener, back to work…oh but how do I hate even the thought of rejections!

  14. Kori Miller on April 7, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    I find these types of conversations very interesting. True, if you don’t believe you can manage every aspect of self-publishing, then you probably should keep trying the traditional approach.On the other hand, if you’re an entrepreneur type (We own two businesses, debt-free)then I’d encourage a balanced approach, i.e., don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I self-published in 2011, continue to submit short stories and essays to journals/competitions, and have certain stories tagged for traditional submission vs. self-publishing. It’s not an either/or scenario, in my opinion. Recently, I participated in a webinar in which the host/moderator stated that because the writing carries the book, a fiction author doesn’t need a platform. I believe that is short-sighted. Every author needs to build a platform (not just non-fiction authors or self-pub. authors.) It’s simply in your best interest. As far as the “nose in the air” stigma associated with self-publishing — we all know that’s changing and large houses are playing catch-up. You only live once, why not go for it all?

  15. […] a breakout hit. Obviously this happens. For the majority of self published writers it does not. Jennie Nash says she overestimated her ability to sell her own […]

  16. […] 5 Surprises About Self-Publishing by Jennie Nash on Rachelle’s Gardner’s blogTaking the Scary Out of Scrivener – Interview with Gwen Hernandez on Writers in the Storm BlogPublishing and Marketing Your Crap by James Scott Bell on The Kill ZoneWhat Flavor of Publishing Will You Choose? by Chuck Wendig […]

  17. Friday’s Round Up – January 25, 2013 | Calamus on February 3, 2013 at 10:45 PM

    […] Jennie Nash on 5 Surprises of Self Publishing […]

  18. Sayanta Gupta Bhaya on January 31, 2013 at 7:07 AM


    You post was very informative. I have one basic doubt. I am a wannabe newbie in the writing field and have completed writing a novel. Now I have no marketing skills apart from posting updates about my book on facebook wall or my facebook page if I happen to self publish. Should I go ahead or should I wait for traditional publishers…who as a matter of fact keep on rejecting my manuscript?



  19. […] published author Jennie Nash shares her 5 biggest surprises from her first self-published book at Rachelle Gardner‘s blog. Great insight into both […]

  20. […] 5 Surprises About Self Publishing | Rachelle Gardner – Een leuk lijstje met zeker wat herkenbare punten sinds we Lifehacking met Evernote hebben gemaakt. […]

  21. […] post, Five Surprises About Self-Publishing, is hardly all bad news, […]

  22. | Mauro Corso, attore e scrittore on January 24, 2013 at 7:46 AM

    […] autopubblicazione, vi propongo una storia leggermente diversa. Vi consiglio caldamente di leggere questo articolo (in inglese). In questo caso ci troviamo davanti al passaggio inverso: un’autrice che aveva […]

  23. […] The same seems to be true of an Indie author. If your voice doesn’t fit what the masses want to read, then you’ll have a difficult time  (a) finding a publisher or (b) finding readers as an Indie author. But what’s interesting to me is that even multi-published traditional authors are having a tough time going the Indie route. Check this out – 5 Surprises About Self Publishing. […]

  24. […] Nash on 5 Surprises About Self Publishing (as seen on Rachelle Gardner’s […]

  25. Rolando on January 22, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    Thanks for sharing your story Jennie. I had a comment. You wrote: “Now that I am self-publishing, I am no different than the crazy cat lady down the block who has been working on her memoir for 17 years or the guy at the street fair hawking Xeroxed pamphlets of his poetry about fruit. People smile indulgently when I tell them what I’m doing. Book reviewers politely decline. My doubts about writing, which I’ve spent a lifetime overcoming, have blossomed like a drug-resistant virus.”

    LOL, welcome to life among us, the commoners! Actually, discrimination against self-published authors is one of the reasons to go Indie. Who wants to be associated with a system that exploits writers and with people that look down upon the work of self-published writers and don’t consider them “real writers”? But don’t let your doubts consume you. You will find in the Indie blogosphere many enthusiastic writers and reviewers willing to promote your books. Your adventure is just beginning!

  26. […] I’m delighted that it’s no longer the case, but I’m a little daunted by how much work it’s likely to be.  I’d still like to have, you know, an agent, an editor, a publisher; all that good stuff, […]

  27. […] 5 Surprises About Self Publishing | Rachelle Gardner. […]

  28. The List List #40 on January 18, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    […] at Rachelle Gardner’s blog, 5 Surprises About Self-Publishing […]

  29. […] 5 Surprises About Self-Publishing  […]

  30. […] Jennie Nash used a traditional publisher for her first six books. She decided to self-publish her seventh book, Perfect Red.  The world of self-publishing differently greatly from traditional publishing. Jennie talks about 5 surprises in self-publishing in this article. […]

  31. […] ebooks, and print books, oh my! Author Jennie Nash reveals 5 surprises about self-publishing; Wise Ink tells us why self-published ebooks will be preferred by readers; and Savvy Bookwriters […]

  32. Dave Knickerbocker on January 16, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    Jennie, first of all, kudos on replying to all of these comments. It’s shows your love for what you do. Secondly, thanks for confirming my thoughts about trying to tough it out getting my first book published traditionally.

    I’ve been to a few Christian Writers conferences and have had many conferences with literary professionals. Les Stobbe, Andy Scheer, and Steve Lawson (among others) have told me that my book idea and content are worthy of being published, but I need to develop a platform first. Jim Watkins, who acquired my book proposal for Wesleyan Publishing House (yep, rejected) feels the same way.

    So, I’m trying to expand my platform through my blog and through articles and devotionals. It’s working, but not as quickly as I’d like.

    But, I’d much rather work to get published by people who know what they are doing, and who will give some cred to my work. I’d rather have thousands of people read my book and only make a little money than have only hundreds of people buy it and make thousands.

    Thanks for the confirmation.

  33. Lin Cochran on January 16, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    Fiona’s comment about being afraid she will lose the passion to write hit me in the pit of my stomach. I am afraid that has happened to me.

    Jennie, I agree with every word you said and many of the comments. Have not read them all yet. I have a deadline.

    Thanks for writing this.

    • Barbara T. Cerny on January 16, 2013 at 11:25 PM

      If you write for you, for the love of writing, for the feeling of putting your stories and dreams on paper, you should never lose the passion. If you do it for others or for fame and money, when they do not come, you will lose your passion. Even if I only sell a dozen of each book, I thrill at the feel of MY books in my hands. I cry every time the print draft arrives at my house. That is why I write. For me, for the internal thrill, for the love of the written work, to fill my own bucket list.

  34. […] 5 Surprises About Self-Publishing by Jennie Nash […]

  35. Rutchie on January 16, 2013 at 1:06 AM

    I’m into self-publishing that’s why I fully understood what hard work is all about.I am not an author but I design books for self-published authors. While reading this article, I admire Jennie for admitting and acknowledging how hard it is to self-publish as well as telling us her own experience on self-publishing her book. At the end of the day, what matters is that you inspire and influence people through your book.

  36. Joanna Shupe on January 15, 2013 at 10:22 PM

    A very enlightening post! This is valuable insight not being shared in many public forums. Good luck with your self-pubbing venture, and update us in a few months!

  37. […] does make a difference to how credible you are perceived as an author, as this excellent guest blog post by Jennie Nash illustrates.  She went from being published by a mainstream publisher to deciding to try her hand […]

  38. Genevieve Graham on January 14, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    Your opening line did it for me – I was hooked on this blog post. I’m a three time published author with Berkley … a midlist author with midlist treatment. I’ve been toying with the self-pubbing idea. Everyone raves about it! Oh, the money to be made! The freedom! But somewhere deep down I keep reminding myself that if it seems too good to be true … Every one of your points strikes home with me. I think I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, which is editing for other people so I can afford to write for myself, then keep on putting out books the big houses will want. Thanks so much for your insight. Exactly what I needed.

  39. […] Rachelle Gardner: 5 Surprises about Self PublishingMy first six books were all published by major New York houses, including Scribner, Simon & […]

  40. Barbara T. Cerny on January 14, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    Thanks for the insight! I have four novels published through a POD, that middle of the road method. I like using a POD as I am NOT a publisher. I like that fact that they demand professional editing (AN ABSOLUTE MUST!), do the copyright, the ISBN, the cover (with my input), three text block versions, and put it out on the .coms for me. I pay for this, yes, but sometimes the $800 to them is worth the time I save hacking through all this myself. Plus, I get a really high quality, hardcover book. I then do the work to put it into eBook format and out on Amazon, B&N, and other sites, side by side to my hardcover copy. It seems to add a legitimacy to the whole thing. Now, about that marketing… it is a good thing I have a “real” job to pay the bills. Jo Murphey talked about the 1-3 versus 10 books under your belt. My goal is to get 7-10 published novels on my shelf by the time I retire so I have a body of work to market. Publishing is NEVER easy, no matter which route you take. Just take it! That manuscript does you no good in your head or in a desk drawer.

    • Barbara Hartzler on January 15, 2013 at 12:17 PM

      I like that you’re making up your own path. But your last bit of advice real hits home with me.

      “Publishing is NEVER easy, no matter which route you take. Just take it! That manuscript does you no good in your head or in a desk drawer.”

      Thanks for that! Sometimes the options just seem overwhelming. But doing nothing isn’t the best option either. 🙂

      • Barbara T. Cerny on January 15, 2013 at 10:17 PM

        I wrote my first one at the ripe old age of 45 and just wish I had started earlier! Never leave your dreams in a drawer (or on a hard drive!)

        • Rutchie on January 16, 2013 at 1:17 AM

          Barbara, how is your book doing?

          • Barbara Hartzler on January 16, 2013 at 11:13 AM

            I assume you meant this Barbara. 🙂 My book is finished, and waiting on agent replies. One in the query stage, one was a full MS request.

            I think it’s just the waiting that’s the hard part. The part where I start to wonder if anyone’s ever going to like my book. And I start thinking about other options. Who doesn’t like a good backup plan?

          • Rutchie on January 22, 2013 at 7:53 AM

            how about self-publish your book?

  41. Mira on January 14, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    @ Jennie,

    You know, I’ve been thinking about this, and I want to offer a few more thoughts.

    I’m not saying that trad. publishing isn’t right for you, but I think I can see how this time was frustrating for you.

    I think indie publishing, at least right now, is very much a digital game. Getting your books into bookstores is very hard, and breaking into the established review system is almost impossible (the systems really support the old way of doing things, and have joined forces to try to keep things that way, is my impression). In addition, printing your books can get really expensive, unless it’s print on demand.

    I think indie publishing is more about focusing on e-books. It’s about reaching out on the net and accessing readers directly. It’s about trying to find ways to work within the Amazon system and their (incredibly boosting) bestseller lists. It’s about book bloggers. It’s about reaching out through backlists and building a library of books that readers can choose from. Some are saying the more books an author has written, the more likely they are to find an audience. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s worth a thought. It’s also about connecting with successful indies and seeing what they did.

    So, you may choose to go traditional with your next books, but this book is still out there. If you’re interested, you might try some of that to see if it boosts sales over time. Just some thoughts, hope they’re helpful.

    Again, good luck!

  42. John Holt on January 14, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    What you say about self publishing is correct. I am (now) self published. Four of my novels were originally published by Raider in New York. I paid for the privilege. Not as expensive as it could have been (I was quoted $10000, £2400, £700, and finally Raider). I was pleased to see them in print, and I actually thought that because Raider had published my works then the works must have been good. (Of course all they were really interested in was the money) Then I had a fifth novel published by Night Publishing. They were mainly interested in ebooks. For reasons I won’t go into Night and I parted. My four books with Raider are now out of contract. I have subsequently re-issued 4 of the books under my own banner PHOENIX, the fifth will be issued in March. I like being self published. It gives me full control over everything – covers, the book contents, the price, when to publish, how to promote and my own publicity. I admit that promoting is hard going, and limited. I cannot afford expensive advertising. I do miss being part of a larger group but so be it. I am a realist and I am resigned to teh fact taht no big mainstream publisher is going to publish my works, so it’s all down to me. My paperbacks do not sell unfortunately, but on the other hand my ebooks are doing OK, especially in the States.

  43. Indiana Jim on January 14, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    Not sure if this was brought up, but I’ll just say: Self-publish one book, you won’t know anything. Self-publish ten and then we’ll see how the sales are going.

  44. EnnisP on January 14, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    I’m a little surprised at number four. Articles all over the net, even ones sponsored by publishing houses, put the onus on the writer to market their books. What you’ve described tells a different story.

    I’m sure the publishers do something to market their books – it’s in their interest – but not having been through the experience makes it hard to know where the line is drawn.

  45. john howell on January 14, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    I finished my book in August and I am still trying the traditional route for all the reasons you have listed. I don’t have an agent or publisher yet, but am trying. Great post. Will keep me going for a few more months

  46. Tom Gold on January 14, 2013 at 5:32 AM


    Your ‘story for another day’, the one where you explain your decision to go it alone, that’s the one I want to read. In the lonely world of self published cat stories and interminable ‘dark fantasies’ many of the pros and cons of self pubbing are endlessly and heatedly debated.

    You have been to the place where most of us are trying to go and yet you’ve come back.

    Would love to know more.


  47. Jane Hale on January 13, 2013 at 10:45 PM

    Let’s call it independent publishing. And what you do with it after it’s published is what sets you apart from the rest. You’re going to have to do it anyway even if the largest of publishers does your book. You can’t sit on your ass-sets and not do a good job of selling your book. You’re the one who wrote it, if you promote it with programs, speeches, any kind of place where you meet the public you’ll sell it. Readers like to meet the author and that’s you. Be proud of it! You’ll have unlimited shelf life for your book, can set the price at special if you want, will never run out of copies if you have enough published, and will have input on the cover, title, and blurbs on the back. It’s your baby, raise it! And, start writing another in your spare time cause if you promote this one well you’ll build a following. That’s my sermon and I’ve been there and done that and still am. In the mean time I’ve been published by other publishers. Good luck!

    a few seconds ago · Like

  48. Stress Free Marketing on January 13, 2013 at 9:26 PM

    I would like to address the e-book topic. Yes, they are an important part of the equation. However, with the new Amazon Prime Program asking authors to make their books available for free, authors are now asked to offer their books for free with the promise that the authors will share a portion of profits.

    All free books set the (price)bar. As a result, many readers only upload free books to their devices. It is believed that free e-books are factored into sales figures. Regardless, ultimately free books hurts the author, especially one trying to make a living selling books.

  49. Amber Argyle, author on January 13, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    I had a very similar experience to you. I traditionally pubbed my first novel, and quickly found out that being midlist wasn’t getting my any closer to my other writer goals.

    So I self pubbed. So far, I prefer it. I like the control I have, and I’m closer to achieving my goals than I would have been otherwise.

  50. Debra Holland on January 13, 2013 at 8:32 PM


    You have an interesting post. Two things struck me. !. That your historical setting is probably unusual enough that you’ll have a slow build of sales. 2. That it sounds like YOU see yourself as less-than because you went indie. If you meet with other Penguin authors, you’re still a Penguin author, even if your current book is self-published. Most of those Penguin authors, except maybe the ones at the very top, are also self-publishing their back lists. More and more will start to do so and also write books they self-publish while they also traditionally publish. If any look down on you, it says more about the type of person they are. (And probably a good reason to stay away from that individual.)

    Hold your head up and consider yourself as a leader and a risk taker. Give yourself TIME for your sales to build. You’re still thinking like a traditional author needing good sales out of the gate. Stop worrying about what to do for promotion and putting so much time and effort there and WRITE THE NEXT BOOK! That is your VERY best promotion.

    All the best!

    • Jennie Nash on January 14, 2013 at 3:03 PM

      Such a sweet note — thanks for the pep talk 😉

  51. […] 5 Surprises About Self Publishing | Rachelle Gardner. […]

  52. Patrice Fitzgerald on January 13, 2013 at 7:45 PM

    Great post. I’m self-published and have had significant success with my first novel (50,000 downloads… not all of those paid for, of course). I also publish others and have some short stories out.

    I’ve read all the comments and want to add a few thoughts:

    1. Book stores are closing. Borders is gone and B&N is shrinking. Online sales will be the major way of getting books soon in most parts of the country.

    2. Ebooks are a whole different kettle of fish than print books. The economics are quite distinct.

    3. The right to return books has been the bane of publishing since it started during the Depression. It’s not a viable system.

    4. Traditional publishers publish a lot by throwing books at the market to see what sticks. Most don’t stick. I don’t know if their success rate is worse, but I bet it’s not much better than most self-published books. But as you correctly point out, they publish 200 to a self-pubbers one book.

    5. I don’t think you’ve discussed the extraordinary difference in profits here. If one does win the self-pubbing lottery, you make far more money per book, even with lower prices.

    6. Most people will never have the option of being published traditionally. Between query letters and partials and fulls and agents and editors and the marketing team… and even if they get an offer it’s bound to involve an advance (against royalties) of $5,000 or so for many years work… and it’s likely not to EVER pay out more than that. I’m sure you realize this, but many readers here won’t.

    I’m thrilled to have the creative control, the excitement, and the success that self-publishing has brought me. But then again, I tried over several manuscripts and some years to get published the old-fashioned way. Luckily for me it’s now NOT the kiss of death to do it yourself.

    In fact, many people I know are impressed that I’m part of the innovative new world of self-publishing. They think it’s cooler!

    • Mary Kennedy Eastham on January 30, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      I am soooo with you. I’ve been an entrepeneur in all
      things I do, so the book biz is no different for me.
      I self-pubbed both my books and have them on
      Amazon. I looked at the best books out there, then
      made mine look as good or better. I was never worried
      about the writing. I’ve won tons of awards and gotten over
      $25,000 in writer’s grants.I also went with a lovely
      couple owned Indie publisher (Robertson Publishing)
      who held my hand througha lot of the first printing.
      I paid a fair amount for the cover of my recently release, Squinting Over Water – Stories and I am so glad I did. Everyone loves the cover and when they read the title story
      of the book, the cover becomes the perfect choice.

      I agree completely with the bookstore thing. Most of
      them won’t even be around in a year or two.

      I never think of myself as ‘second class’. Famed writer
      Anais Nin, after being told her literary stuff wasn’t
      sale worthy, bought herself a printing press and put 300
      copies of her collection Under A Glass Bell out there.
      (See The Story of My Printing Press by Anais Nin)

      I work every day at becoming a great writer. I practice
      my craft. I Guest Blog on writing sites at least two-three times
      a month. I comment as often as I can on blogs related to
      writing. Like I said, I think of myself as ‘as good or better’
      than a lot of the more traditionally publihed books out there.
      And my success is all up to me…

      Mary Kennedy Eastham, Author, The Shadow of a Dog I Can’t
      Forget and Squinting Over Water – Stories
      out there.

  53. Deborah H. Bateman on January 13, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    Thanks for sharing this article. I am a self-published author and can relate so much to what you had to say. Why can’t we all work together and support one another no matter how our book is published. I am glad you explained that self-publishing is not the easy way out. It is a lot of work and a lot to learn and do. I am just as proud of my work as traditionally published authors. I don’t begrudge their decision to publish traditionally and I wish people wouldn’t judge those of us who choose the self-published route. The end result is the same-getting the book out there for the reader to enjoy.
    Deborah H. Bateman-Author

  54. Shel Delisle on January 13, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    Hi Jennie,

    Thanks for your post, I enjoyed reading it and the comments.

    Since it sounds like you’re open to a do-over on your cover, I thought you might like to take a look at this site.

    I haven’t used them, and I’m in no way affiliated with them, but I usually find a lot of nice looking covers at very reasonable prices. If my current book designer is ever unavailable, I’d definitely consider using them.

    Best of luck on your current indie path!

  55. Eleni Papanou on January 13, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    Great article. I’m one of the writing rebels who opted to self-publish because I wanted to be more in control of my work, and you’re right—it is scary. It’s also expensive to hire a good editor. Thankfully, I’m a graphic artist and can design my own book covers. That brings down the cost considerably. I’m glad I chose this route as it gives me a feeling of independence, which was another reason I chose to self-publish.

    Another interesting trend I’m noticing is that self-published authors are starting to get traditional publishing deals. With the way the economy is going, I think this will continue. Agents and publishers will be able to see if a story sells before committing.

  56. […] to the rest at Rachelle Gardner and thanks to Anthea for the […]

  57. William Kendall on January 13, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    Excellent post, Jennie!

    For me, it just confirms my decision to self publish. Creative control is absolutely essential to me.

  58. Industry News – January 13 » RWA-WF on January 13, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    […] Surprises ahead! Writer Jennie Nash describes the good and bad of self- versus traditional publishing. […]

  59. Fleur on January 13, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    Where do I start? No really, where do I start? I have hounded my husband now for 2 years to design and create the children’s book I’ve written and finally it is coming to fruition – but dear God!! What’s next? I know I know – I’ve not thought this through – I think I thought there was a magic button on Amazon that suddenly published your book for you? Tell me there is?
    Naive-beyond-compair-first time children’s writer (with 20 years TV screenwriting, but-no-use-in-publishing experience)

    • Fleur on January 13, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      would have helped if I looked as though I could at least spell!

      • Jan Thompson on January 13, 2013 at 3:48 PM

        Actually, there *is* a magic button on Amazon where it claims you can be a published author in 5 minutes. It’s called Amazon KDP, and you can read their ad on this link. Your royalty is 70%.


        Cautionary Multi-Cliched Disclaimers: Buyer beware. Look before you leap. Better be safe than sorry. And all that jazz. Plus, I don’t work for Amazon or Kindle.


        • Fleur on January 13, 2013 at 7:28 PM

          Thank you Jan – – will have a look at said magic button!!! Here’s to a hopeful future in self publishing.

          • Anthea Lawson on January 14, 2013 at 1:42 AM

            You will probably need to hire a good ebook formatter, if you’ve got illustrations.
            Do a search for ebook formatters, ask for references, and *never* give subcontractors an ongoing piece of your royalties. Paying a one-time flat fee for cover, design, and editing is fine (as long as those fees are reasonable). Then you want to upload to the various distributors yourself – AMazon KDP, B&N PubIt (if you live in the US) Kobo’s Writing Life, Apple’s iTunes/bookstore (but only if you have a Mac) and Smashwords.

            Good luck!

  60. Susan Ann Wall on January 13, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    Point number 5 is the most important. Self-publishing is definitely hard work, but there is no greater pleasure than getting your story out to readers, no matter how many you reach. I recently attended a workshop with a NYT best selling author with Carina Press and she said that she wouldn’t self-publish because she didn’t want to work that hard. You really do have to be your own staff when going this route and you do have to work hard, there is no doubt about that. Totally worth it, though!!

  61. John Moncure Wetterau on January 13, 2013 at 5:42 AM

    Hi, I’ve enjoyed the discussion. Just for fun, I’d like to suggest that if you are writing for money, you should work for an ad agency or do corporate reports or technical writing or produce genre books; traditional or self publishing is a much less likely path.
    If you are writing to answer your own deep need, to explore, to create (remember that word?), you shouldn’t consider money at all! You can produce your own online and POD books for almost nothing and give them away. My ten books have been downloaded to over a hundred countries from my own website and from other free ebook sites. If someone wants a hardcopy, they can link to a source from my website; POD works well for this.
    Don’t “market.” Just learn and do your best to produce good work. The best writing has nothing to do with money, anyway.

  62. Kurt on January 13, 2013 at 1:15 AM

    Ok, great information, opinions and insights. Does anyone have any suggestions on self publishing companies such as Xulon Press? I’m just starting to write and will need to decide on a path.. Thank you.

    • Anthea Lawson on January 14, 2013 at 1:37 AM

      If you’re self-publishing (going truly indie) then you are not working with ‘a press.’ Be careful of some of the scam outfits out there who will ‘help’ you self publish! Keep asking questions and doing your research. Drop me an email if you’d like to chat more about the indie process. 🙂

  63. […] Read full article @ Rachelle Gardner »»» […]

  64. Victoria Noe on January 12, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    Well, I’ve decided to explain myself in a different way now.
    “My first book is coming out this month” rather than “I’m self-publishing my first book this month.” No one’s ever asked me who’s publishing my books, though they have asked if I have an agent.
    With the exception of a Harlequin or Dorling Kindersley, I don’t think most people care about the publisher.
    Having said that, I’m ensuring that I’m in the Ingram catalog, and using Kobo to reach the indies.
    I’ve hired a team for my business: cover designer, editor, lawyer, formatter. If I could find a manager – not an agent – I’d be very happy.
    Self-publishing isn’t for everyone, and everyone who self-publishes isn’t a crazed cat-person. It’s a particular way of doing business: some people are professional about it and some aren’t.
    I just wish people didn’t feel the need to apologize for making that choice.

  65. Jan Thompson on January 12, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    Thank you for the balanced insight, especially: “I overestimated my ability to sell books.”

    I think that is one of the key problems of self-publishing. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come.

    I agree with everyone who mentioned the importance of the business side of publishing. It’s almost like you need to be a go-getter entrepreneur. It can be hard for a creative writer who is not sales-savvy or marketing-savvy to try to self-publish.

    OTOH if the writer’s purpose of writing is primarily non-pecuniary, e.g. she writes just for the joy of accomplishment, then self-publishing fits. IMHO anyway.

    However, for most of us writers — starving Mozarts? — I think it would be nice to get paid for the long hours of writing we put in every year. A worker is worth her wages, and all that.

    I’m open to both options. I want to put my full length novels and trilogies through the publishing wringer just because I’m old school, and need/want the validation (I guess it’s like finishing a doctoral thesis, but you can’t graduate until they say it’s good enough). But I also have novellas, anthologies, and non-fiction MSS I’ve been writing on the side that I think would be better off as ebooks.


  66. joylene on January 12, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    I self-published first, then landed a publisher. I had no idea in reverse would be so difficult. Thank you, for such eye-opening info, Jennie. I hope your books do even better now.

  67. Roxanne Reid on January 12, 2013 at 3:36 AM

    Thanks for lots of thought-provoking comments. The one thing we need to guard against, though, is automatically assuming that all traditional publishers are great. I’ve published traditionally with two different publishers and the experiences were vastly different. For my latest book I decided to go digital and mostly for that reason to self-publish.

    Two months in I haven’t really seen a difference between self-publishing and publishing with my first traditional publisher. Except that now I can take more responsibility for marketing myself instead of getting told off for ‘interfering’!

    At this point it’s too early to tell whether self-publishing is going to work for me; it’s also hard to tell because of the change from print to e-book. But I just thought someone should point out that the experience with traditional publishers can also be vastly variable.

    • Jennie Nash on January 12, 2013 at 11:52 AM

      Oh I agree — and it can vary by year and by book, as well. There are no guarantees to be sure.

  68. Friday Features #39 - YESENIA VARGAS on January 12, 2013 at 1:40 AM

    […] 5 Surprises About Self Publishing | Rachelle Gardner […]

  69. Tracy Slater on January 11, 2013 at 11:30 PM

    Lisa, wanted to thank you for your direct and honest post. And it’s great to know that #5 feels as transcendent, regardless of what route we take to get our words out there. I’m really interested in why being midlist felt so difficult.

    My perspective though is as a writer still in process of writing my first book, but I somehow totally lucked out and got a deal and an advance from Penguin’s Putnam press. (The editor read something I wrote in the NYTimes online and contacted me, inviting me to submit a memoir proposal.) That said, I can only imagine that I, as a first-time author, will be even below midlist! Still, it seems like a dream to me. So I wonder, what was the hardest about being in that place? And do you regret not being back there now, do you think?

    Anyway, thanks for giving me lots to think about. And sending you all my very best and lots of good luck with your newest book. I’m going to tweet your site out now.

    • Tracy Slater on January 11, 2013 at 11:32 PM

      Oops–sorry! Like a dork I wrote Lisa instead of Jennie in my greeting to my previous message. Will definitely get it right when I tweet out the post!

      • Jennie Nash on January 12, 2013 at 1:03 AM

        No worries, and thanks for that.

        You will love your experience with Putnam, I suspect. There’s nothing like being a first time author with a big house. It’s all new and it’s all fun and it’s all good. Perfect Red is my seventh book. After seven, you hope to have moved forward, is all. It was frustrating to feel like I hadn’t. But don’t think of any of that now. Just enjoy the ride!

        • Tracy Slater on January 12, 2013 at 9:44 AM

          Thanks, Jennie, for your kind and generous encouragement! And reaching your seventh finished manuscript — I’m in awe and full of admiration. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with those of us following in your footsteps.

  70. Lisa McKay on January 11, 2013 at 11:09 PM

    Thanks for this post. It was fascinating, as were the comments. What you wrote really resonated with a lot of my experience. My first novel was traditionally published, and that was just all pure fun. I self published my most recent book, a memoir called Love At The Speed Of Email, and I’m so glad for what I learned along the way but Oh My Word it was a lot of work. And it took almost a year. Like Torre, I’m still recovering from the decision overload.

    Another thing that surprised me was how much it cost me to self-publish well.

    I wrote a post setting out what it cost me to get the book to market here, for those who are interested in the financial side of things: http://www.lisamckaywriting.com/lets-talk-money-what-it-cost-me-to-self-publish-my-book/

    All the best,

    • Jennie Nash on January 12, 2013 at 1:00 AM

      This is great, Lisa! Thanks for sharing that.

  71. Richard Watt on January 11, 2013 at 10:46 PM

    Food for thought indeed. I’m at that wonderful point in the creative process where my thoughts are turning from writing the story to selling it, so your words are at once a comfort and a challenge.

    This week I found myself saying out loud “It’s done!” (It’s not done, of course; my beta readers have only just got their Kindles on it, and there’s still some process to go, but it feels done). The momentary joy of feeling that I had, at last, created something was quickly tempered by the realisation that, yes, I do want people to read it and therefore I’d better get parts of my anatomy in gear and do something about that.

    I don’t know if traditional is practical for me, where I am, but I’m old enough to remember when ‘self-publishing’ meant ‘vanity publishing’ and I don’t mind admitting to some trepidation.

    So thank you for the wise words; now for the next step in the adventure

    (and if anyone wants to volunteer to be a beta reader for someone off the internet you’ve never heard of, just let me know. Hey, never hurts to ask!)

  72. Mira on January 11, 2013 at 10:36 PM

    Interesting article, Jennie. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    It seems like a major downside for you was the lack of access to bookstores. But my concern is – I wonder if it’s wise to sell my e-book rights for a low percentage rate given the current landscape. Because I’m not sure print will really matter in a few years.

    All signs point to Barnes and Noble brick and mortar stores not surviving for much longer. Here’s an article about that:


    So, I wonder how much longer it will even matter if we can get books into a bookstore without a Publisher?

    In addition, I think the stigma for self-publishing is continuing to fade very quickly. It will be interesting to see where it is next year by this time.

    I’m really sorry the experience for you was disappointing, though! But it sounds like you learned alot, which is always really valuable. And now, you have a wide viewpoint of experience to help you make future decisions.

    Best of luck to you!

  73. Catherine Rankivic on January 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    None of this matters. If a book is good it will eventually sell. If it is middling, all the platform in the world will not help you.

    • Jennie Nash on January 12, 2013 at 12:57 AM

      Very true!

  74. Norma Beishir on January 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    I also started out as a traditionally published author: 5 mainstream novels through Berkley, 9 romances through Silhouette. My books got advertising and promotion and I was paid well–but even with the struggles that go with self-publishing, I still prefer it.

    • Jennie Nash on January 12, 2013 at 12:57 AM

      So interesting to hear. Why do you prefer it?

      • Norma Beishir on January 13, 2013 at 2:39 PM

        Two words: creative control. Ideas I really wanted to develop were being turned down, either by my agent or my publisher.

        When I started out, I was young, ambitious and all about the money and the list position. Now that I’m older and (hopefully) wiser, it’s more important to me to write the books I really want to write.

  75. Peter DeHaan on January 11, 2013 at 9:26 PM

    Thanks for sharing your self-publishing saga. Your insight gives me much to think about.

  76. florida ann town on January 11, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ve gone both ways &while the creative side is thrilling, the marketing side is what kills you. Bookstores and book clubs don’t want to deal with self-published authors -understandable but frustrating.

  77. […] good post and discussion at Rachelle Gardner’s blog: 5 Surprises About Self-Publishing. This leaps […]

  78. douglas bence on January 11, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    Excellent thoughts. I’m currently going round the same learning curve. It’s great to be in control, but there’s so many decisions to make. Maybe publishers aren’t so bad after all! And whatever the buzzes of production, they don’t amount to a hill of beans if the book doesn’t sell.

  79. Shauna Marie MacDonald on January 11, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    Dear Jennie,
    This post is most timely for me as I’ve recently (48 hours) decided to write my first book, (non-fiction) on my time spent living in Italy. One of the many questions I’ve had in the past days has been that of your topic: self-publishing vs traditional. Your experiences have not surprised me (even though I’m a layman in the writing/publishing realm). I’ve opted to start with the traditional route, and I am currently concentrating on a Book Proposal. I know I have a monumental learning curve ahead of me, and look to advice/posts such as this one to assist in the navigation of this twisty confusing new road I’ve set out on.
    If you or anyone else here have additional guidance, counseling, counsel, help, direction; information, recommendations, guidelines, suggestions, hints, tips, pointers, ideas, opinions, views, input, words of wisdom, please do not hesitate to send them my way…..Shauna

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 6:24 PM

      Well, Shauna, since you ASKED, I am a writing coach. I help writers by giving the practical advice, emotional support and tough love they need to get the book out of their head and onto the page. I am also an instructor at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and am teaching a course on memoir in April, in case you happen to live in LA.

  80. Douglas Pearce on January 11, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    My first book was published by a small South African Indie publisher who did a fantastic job of getting it published, but sales were minimal.
    Mainline bookstores will not punt indies and have a tiny select group of distributors that one HAS to use. Then print runs come into it , cost etc etc.
    I am at my wits end to know what to do with my other novels.
    It seems that irrespective of which way one goes, marketing is key to success.
    Does one go ‘traditional’ and hope and pray or say to hell with it and self publish?

  81. Theresa M. Moore on January 11, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    As a self-published author I made the choice years ago when I read what it took to be traditionally published, and the low royalties left over after the publisher takes the lion’s share of the pie. I have been there and done that. I switched back to Lightning Source after a long hiatus spent trying to wrangle with CreateSpace, and everything most have said about it is true. Now, my books are available to booksellers at the standard wholesale discount but the booksellers are still not picking them up, and of my ebooks, only one is selling extremely well: a nonfiction book. The majority of my books are both fiction and vampire fiction but the only books anyone is reading now is the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy and that is it. I don’t write erotica; I prefer to write for a general audience. My books have gotten good reviews when they were on the Site Which Shall Not Be Named, but I could not sell them there, either. On the whole, all my efforts have been wasted, so all I can do is work on the next book and hope that it will be the one. But here is the thing everyone forgets: trad published books have the same chance of selling well as those published independently, and there have been a lot of flops in the last year. Nothing is certain in life, so keep writing!

  82. Mari Passananti on January 11, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    There is no easy/perfect way to publish books. Many authors with traditional contracts often fail to earn back their (ever shrinking) advances. And most of the ones I know spend their advances and dip into their savings to do marketing and PR.

    Self published authors lack the ability to distribute to maximum effect because printer like CreateSpace won’t take returns. Therefore bookstores won’t order copies. Ebooks are an ever growing piece of the pie, but piles of copies on tables at B&N, the corner book seller, and big box stores like CostCo drive name recognition, brand/title recognition and sales. The person who solves this problem for the indie author will become a gazillionaire, and the patron saint of frustrated authors everywhere.

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 6:21 PM

      I can’t believe there isn’t actually a patron said of frustrated authors! There should be!

  83. Virginia on January 11, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    I’m traditionally published and it’s nice to give (what little) gravitas I can to my book by naming a publishing house.

    On the other hand, I’m fully rooting for the self-publishing business because it eliminates the middle-men.

    Readers will chose which books they enjoy, not editors or agents.

    That can only be good news, when our readers are our focus.

    Unfortunately, in this game, we end up writing for editors and lines, rather than telling the story in our own words.

  84. Vivake Pathak on January 11, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    My first book God and Destiny was published by one of the best publishing houses of my country, and it may not be much difficult for me to find a good publisher again. Still, I often think about self-publishing my next book because the freedom associated with self-publishing is alluring, but the problem of authenticity is too big to be ignored, especially when my next book will also be a nonfiction. A novel is a novel whether a reputable publishing house publishes it or the writer self-publishes it, but a nonfiction book must be published by a genuine publisher to be considered seriously I think. So, I will most probably end up trying to go the traditional way again.

  85. Cherry Odelberg on January 11, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Thank you for summing it up factually and experientially without making a sweeping value judgement.

    The “marketing” is where I get hung up every time, whether self-publishing or with a traditional publisher. I just want to write and let someone else toot my horn, ya know? – until I start feeling I could do it better….

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 6:20 PM

      We all wish we could just write! But, alas, the world doesn’t seem to work that way.

  86. Anthea Lawson on January 11, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    Congratulations on taking the indie plunge, Jennie!

    Your book sounds wonderful – and I’d *really* encourage you to take another look at your cover and consider re-designing it.

    I got similar advice on my first cover, and let me tell you, I resisted changing my cover for months. “It’s fine,” I said. “I worked so hard on the concept – and I am selling some books.” It wasn’t until I released my second title and sales TOOK OFF that I realized the cover of my first indie book wasn’t reaching the readers it needed to. When I redid that cover, sales markedly improved.

    This is one of the great strengths of self-publishing – you can figure out what’s not quite right, and tweak it, and see what happens.

    Your current cover looks like a nonfiction title about editing, at least to my eye. Yes, even with the words ‘a novel’ it still looks like nonfiction. The touch of red is a nice contrast, but it’s all words. Images sell much more strongly.

    You’ve got some wonderful graphic element ideas right in the description: Lipstick, noir, historical thriller. Use those! A retro image of a woman wearing bright red lipstick and a hat with a veil, on a smoky background, perhaps? The stock photo sites are full of images you can license for under $10. Many excellent fonts are free. Great cover designers work for as little as $100-200 to design a selling cover.

    Whatever you do, best of luck to you! 🙂

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 6:19 PM

      Thanks for the advice, Anthea. I appreciate the feedback. The kind of photo you describe is the one I fell in love with and couldn’t afford. Perhaps I should seek a different version and let go of my unrequited love!

      • Anthea Lawson on January 11, 2013 at 6:25 PM

        I know what that’s like, to fall in love with an image that’s out of reach. 🙂

        That said, do take a spin around the sites like istockphoto, dreamstime, and fotolia. There’s some very pro work out there you can pick up a license for quite inexpensively.

        • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 6:31 PM

          I shall! Thanks for the nudge.

  87. Gary Allen VanRiper on January 11, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    wow. excellent post, Jennie.

    We decided some 12 years ago to self-publish, not P.O.D., which is different, but truly self-publish. Two years ago we passed 100,000 copies in our series sold. Our freedom and loyal fan base and bank account has more than offset the persisting stigma you speak of. And interesting, some pretty well established authors have contacted us over the past few years for those lunch dates you mentioned, frustrated with their publishers (work going out of print or moved exclusively to ebooks and/or new, completed manuscripts held at bay) and they have been curious about the self-pub process. It is not for everyone, but is easier now than it was even a dozen years ago, and has been perfect for us.

    gary vanriper

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 6:17 PM

      What a happy story! I love it!

  88. From the Ground Up | i d l e l o r e on January 11, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    […] the upkeep of my site more rigorously, I was perusing some articles this morning and came across an interesting post by Jennie […]

  89. […] Self-Publishing on The Book Designer, and seven-times-published Jennie Nash (@jennienash) lists her 5 Surprises About Self Publishing on Rachelle Gardner’s blog. Not surprisingly, there’s both overlap (it’s hard but worth it) […]

  90. Craig Soffer on January 11, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    How do you decide you’re ready? For some reason, I just never feel ready to dive into these waters. My writing is solid, and while the world won’t love me, I think I can find a tribe. But…I just haven’t done it. What made you decide to jump in the first time? You had real publishing contacts, though, so maybe you are not the best to comment on whether unpublished writers should dive in, or keep trying for that traditional contract. Still…what’s your take?

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 6:16 PM

      I do have an opinion — and I think it’s a great question. With any creative project, there comes a point where you just have to declare it done. Continuing to work on it is a form of procrastination. When is that point? When you have listened as hard as you can to feedback from beta readers, listened as hard as you can to feedback from a professional editor, responded to any changes that resonate in your head, checked your work against the standards outlined in books such as The Essential Guide to Getting Published and had a proofreader go over it with a fine-toothed comb. At that point, the only thing is to “just do it,” as the Nike ads say. Just do it! Just put it out there. If you have good reasons to believe that you might find a widespread commercial audience, try to land an agent — and listen hard to what they say. You can get some very useful feedback in rejections. I always tell my coaching clients to try about 6 agents first, in case there is a similar type of feedback in the rejections. You can then fix whatever the problem is and try again. Do this again with 6 more and so on until you’ve tried about 50. At that point, I think it’s safe to know that it’s not what a traditional publisher is looking for right now. If you don’t believe your book is suitable for widespread commercial distribution and/OR you have a way of reaching an audience yourself (a marketing plan, a following, a platform, a series of speaking gigs), then you have good reason to try self publishing.

      One thing I know for sure: if you do nothing with your work, nothing will happen. And no writer wants that. Don’t be afraid to try, and don’t be afraid to fail. It feels good to take action.

      • Craig Soffer on January 11, 2013 at 8:13 PM

        Thanks. A lot for everyone in my shoes to think about.

      • Jim Gilliam on January 12, 2013 at 10:33 AM

        Gotta love that NIKE slogan! Three great words to live by. The bottom line is commercial appeal. If an agent doesn’t feel that she can sell your work you’re out of luck since there is no way short of being born into or marrying into one of the big six or any of their imprints to get traditionally published without one. Small presses are so inundated with MSs that there is little hope there as well.

        To share my experience. I decided to write my first novel while my ship cruised off the shores of Kuwait in 2008. My first step was to learn everything I could about the craft of writing. I will be a student of the writer’s craft until the day I die. I wrote and I revised and I sought out New York Times best selling authors to critique my work (to me writing is fun not work). In 2010, I thought I was ready and I started my quest for an agent. With the computer everyone who owns one has written a novel. After seven months and enough rejections online and paper I decided to go the POD route. When I finished my second novel I again sought out an agent, and again met with rejection. Dan Poynter is an old friend of mine and probably one of the World’s foremost authorities on self publishing. I talked with him online and read his books. At the end of the day the cost of doing everything myself would be prohibative. So this time I decided to purchase a publishing package from Abbott Press a division of Writers Digest.

        A while back I participated in a webinar featuring New York Times best selling author C. J. Lyons. The subject was traditional vs. indie publishing. C. J. has been successful at both and she preoudly refers to herself as a hybrid.

        Current wisdom seems to be that if your indie book sells over 10,000 copies and is still going strong chances of being picked up by a traditional house like Doubleday increase exponentially.

        My website http://www.pointdeception.com automatically resets the hit counter after 100,000 hits, it’s been reset twice in two years and the current hit count is almost 50,000. After viewing my book’s book trailer I offer readers the opportunity to download a PDF copy of my book if they are undecided or cannot afford to purchase a copy. That’s probably not the best business decision I ever made but I want people to read and enjoy my books. That’s why I donate copies of my books to area libraries and hospitals.

        Happy writing and publishing in 2013 all!

        Jim Gilliam

  91. Lisa Scullard on January 11, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    I think the two will have to learn to co-exist – many readers will never shop online, and therefore will never see your books, your blogs, your Twitter or Facebook pages. And all authors were crazy cat spinsters, or dirty old men hanging out with the Magic Circle and Aleister Crowley, at the turn of the last century 🙂 To be a ‘respected’ author, who wasn’t writing smut or yellowbacks for the train commuters, you had to be academic, and writing for Oxford University. Most published authors found their way into the mainstream by writing actual stories, serialised in newspapers, and gaining a following from the sheer volume of creative work they put out there – not standing on street corners shouting ‘Buy my book!’

    In other words, like others have said about having multiple books – the ‘volume’ of work speaks volumes about potential success, and the reach it has, and the quality. Many writers fell by the wayside while Charles Dickens flourished. If Charles Dickens had written only one book, then spent the rest of his life writing about what it was like to be a published author in every circular instead of continuing to write stories – I imagine the world would have seen him differently.

    Lisa x

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 6:09 PM

      Very well said!

  92. Carol Muzik on January 11, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Jennie, I love that you’ve had the experience of both. You’ve hit it on the head with self-publishing. I self-published a video, coloring book, and children’s picture book and find that when I do any promoting I sell books, and sometimes sales are high for no apparent reason. For me, it is hard to walk into a bookstore/store not knowing what their day is like and sell something you put your heart and soul into. I too wanted to control everything and learn the process – which has served me well in that I teach it now, but promoting yourself is not for everyone.

  93. JLOakley on January 11, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    Jennie, what a good post and wonderful discussion. I decided to self-publish a novel after many years of querying and getting asks for full and partials and finaling in contests. My purpose was to find out what the heck was going on in publishing. I have to say, for this particular novel which has won awards, self publishing it was the best path for this book. It’s a lot of work, but I find very rewarding. It’s in many library systems in my state, read by book clubs around the country (that is growing, word of mouth) and sells out regularly at my local indie book store which I whole-hardheartedly support. It sells in other bookstores as well.

    My take away is that it has to be well -edited (I just found a typo after it was professional edited) and a great cover — designed NOT by me and you have to market. I have a prequel to it and am considering both traditional and self-pub for it. A third novel I hope will some day be picked up traditionally. Interest in this first novel is growing. One thing is that it can be out there for readers long after traditionally done books — on-line and I’m grateful that it is still on the shelf at my local indie.

  94. Ellie Heller on January 11, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    What a great post. Your point that as an already main-streamed published author you thought you already had a platform, only to find out you didn’t, is something both straight to ‘indie’ authors and previously published authors need to hear. Thank you.

  95. John C. Stipa on January 11, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Jennie, I so connected with your post.

    I’ve never been lucky enough to experience the joys of traditional publishing, but it is comforting to know that someone like you is willing to walk in a self pubbers moccasins and appreciate the…plight(?) and that maybe there shouldn’t be such a stigma.

    I choose to self publish for a lot of reasons, some you mentioned, but mostly for the control and intrinsic value.

    I will admit there is a certain amount of subversive pleasure to be had by finding a way to publish without the legitimacy of “tradition”.

    Thanks for raising the awareness.

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 6:07 PM

      Thanks John. Good luck to you!

    • D.J. Gelner on January 14, 2013 at 12:20 AM

      “I will admit there is a certain amount of subversive pleasure to be had by finding a way to publish without the legitimacy of “tradition”.

      I have to admit, I feel exactly the same way. Though ultimately it IS a business decision, going indie is the business decision that makes sense right now for me. Maybe the traditional publishers will change their business model in the coming years to make traditional publishing the way to go again.

      I liken it to the U.S. auto industry. For years, American cars had a reputation of being “unreliable” or simply not built as well as their foreign counterparts. After increasing the quality of their products, U.S. automakers have closed the gap considerably.

      Though it’s not a perfect analogy since automakers sell products and (as far as authors are concerned) publishers sell services, I imagine that traditional publishers are taking a long, hard look at their business model on both the supply and demand sides, and changes WILL be forthcoming.

      • D.J. Gelner on January 14, 2013 at 12:22 AM

        Oops–just meant to italicize the quote. As you can tell, I’m still learning html. If there’s any way an admin can just wipe the formatting from the post, I’d appreciate it. Still stand by every word of the content, though!

  96. James McCann on January 11, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Great blog!

    I’ve recently decided to self-publish (well the agency rejections helped make up my mind) and now I’m really excited.

    I realised that I have NEVER used agents (I’m an singer/entertainer) and have always relied on my own marketing ability; now I just have to learn about a whole new market!

    My novel Spotted is currently with beta-readers and after I find the money for a professional edit then I will release it into the wild.

    Although I’m slightly terrified about reader feedback, it feels great that the book is ‘out there.’

    2013 is going to be a fun year!

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 6:06 PM

      Don’t be terrified of your readers! It hurts for about 30 minutes, then you just get back to work addressing the things that confused them. BTW if you need a good editor, I happen to know one 😉

  97. George Baier IV on January 11, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    I’d be curious to hear more about what people think a cover design costs and/or should cost. I was surprised to read that Jennie thinks they are a luxury she can’t afford and that Stephen thinks they could simply cost $20.

    • Jim Gilliam on January 11, 2013 at 2:28 PM

      You can always buy cover design software and do your own but even the most basic program costs more than $20. Also, doing it yourself involves purchasing the necessary license to use photos and artwork. It’s cheaper in the long run to have it done professionally. The minimum here is usually around $200 and you get to choose pretty much what you want and if you have your own art work and or photos and if they can be used, that is also a saving.

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 4:18 PM

      I fell in love with a photo whose rights would have cost me $2,000. THAT wasn’t happening. I settled on a graphic treatment that ended up costing me more than a cookie cutter approach would have. You can do anything ranging from zero to many thousands.

  98. Roxanne Sherwood Gray on January 11, 2013 at 12:58 PM


    I appreciate your transparency. Your insight will help me choose which direction to take for publication. I hope self-publishing works out for you, and I wish you the best!

  99. Lori Wilde on January 11, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    This is so weird. I’d never heard of you until two days ago when I read Lisa Cron’s book and she mentioned The Threadbare Heart, so I bought it and just started reading it when this blog post showed up in my Twitter Feed. Serendipity!

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 4:17 PM

      I think it must mean something! Wonder what? Let me know how you like The Threadbare Heart.

  100. Nora Gaskin on January 11, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    What a great thread. This time last year, after lots of thought and research, I decided to self-publish and even set up a publishing company to do so. Once the decision was made, I was all in. My book came out in ebook and print of demand in October 2012. I have no regrets as all. I am revising a manuscipt that accumulated a lot of rejections from agents and plan to have it out in 2013. I’m even going to publish 2 other writers this year, both excellent, to help build a brand we can all benefit from.

    I believe that it is incumbent upon all who self-publish to get professional editing and book design. Really! That’s how we can get the recognition we all deserve for our hard work. Jump in, folks!

  101. Robin Tidwell on January 11, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    I don’t know… what you said is very true. And it’s not. SP is such an individualized process. At the same time, it’s so unpredictable, and that’s part of the thrill! Having SP two novels and started a small publishing company – to go along with our year-old bookstore, of course, ’cause I’m crazy like that, I can say it’s… interesting.

    Best of luck to you!

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 4:15 PM

      Wow! That’s quite a hit parade! Where is your bookstore? I’ll send you a copy of Perfect Red!

      • Robin Tidwell on January 11, 2013 at 6:36 PM

        That would be awesome! Here’s our website: http://www.allonthesamepagebookstore.com

        • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 6:54 PM

          Thanks for the info. I’ll send it out asap

          • Robin Tidwell on January 11, 2013 at 7:59 PM

            Forgot to mention that I write book reviews too… Amazon, Goodreads, Patch, and our store site too. I’ll be sure to put you on the list (it’s not that big a list at the moment!).

        • Jim Gilliam on January 13, 2013 at 11:39 AM

          Robin, what an awesome website! I’ve added it to my favorites. As soon as I go downstairs and get my credit card I’m going to order Crimes by Design by Peter Green it caught my eye and it is the type of novel that I read and also write.

          I know you cater to local authors but I was wondering if I could send you a review copy of my award winning novel Point Deception?


          Jim Gilliam

          • Robin Tidwell on January 13, 2013 at 12:43 PM

            Absolutely, Jim, send away! And I apologize, I’m behind on updating our local author books – but it’s on my list for today. We have something like 50-60 local authors in our store.

  102. Bonnie Grove on January 11, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    Humbled. Writing does that, eventually. We each need our dose of verve, our dose of humiliation. I appreciated how difficult this was to write and share with the public. Often we writes desire to share only the mountaintops, but the valley is the long lasting experience. I’m grateful to know there are so many of us walking in valleys, trembling and calling out to peaks, “I’m coming, I think.”

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 4:14 PM

      What a lovely way of putting it.

  103. Wanda St.Hilaire on January 11, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    I have self published 13 books and I thank you for the validation of the work involved. (And I did use professional editors, proofreaders and graphic designers every step of the way).

    There’s one thing I don’t understand through the thread of most of the comments here. It sounds as though, if you decide to choose traditional, it will happen. Period. The process of getting to a traditional contract just is not that simple or certain!

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 4:14 PM

      The process of getting a traditional publishing deal is very difficult indeed! There’s hard work no matter which way you go — and no guarantees, ever. But if it were easy, none of us would probably enjoy it as much.

  104. Jim Gilliam on January 11, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    Hi Jennie and Happy New Year!

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Self publishing is becoming more acceptable these days and many traditionally published authors are going that way. John Grisham self published his first book A Time to Kill and sold it out of the trunk of his car at flea markets and meetings of local garden and book clubs. Of course when his second book The Firm took off his first novel was picked up by a traditional publisher and the rest is history.

    The cold hard facts that we face is that agents are the gate keepers to traditional publishers. And agents are so inundated with queries that hiring one has about the same odds as winning the New York Mega Bucks Lottery. Writing is a business and if an agent can’t sell your book she doesn’t get her 15% and that’s the way it is.

    So after trying for six months to land an agent I published through a POD outfit BookLocker.com. The book has garnered good reviews including a good review from Kirkus and has won several awards including an honorable mention from the New York 2012 Beach Book Festival, but I’m glad I don’t have to rely on royalties to put food on my table. My second novel will be out in about three months through Abbott Press a division of Writers Digest and I’m hoping the exposure and therefore sales will be better. Another cold hard fact in this business is that whether you are indie or traditional you have to work hard to promote your books.

    Good luck and thanks for sharing your experiences on the indie trail.

    Jim Gilliam

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      Good luck to you, too!

    • CathyS on January 11, 2013 at 9:59 PM

      Jim, that’s a good story about John Grisham selling his first book out of his trunk, but I’m fairly certain that in a film interview for Barnes and Noble (or was it Borders? R.I.P.), he said he was contracted by a very small press.
      To Jamie Beck, When you say you wouldn’t mind selling 500, I think Jennie’s point is that most people don’t sell 500. So keep in mind that it can be hard to do. I would add that many books written helps, but if the first one is not well-written or copy edited properly, the next ones won’t sell.
      As someone who is on the committee for a writing conference, I really appreciate your post, Jennie! Any time we offer commentary on self publishing–which attendees almost require that we do, we try to present both sides. But we know we have likely caused some poorly written, typo-riddled manuscripts to go out into cyber space. People tend to hear what they want to hear and you have done a great job of insisting that people take a cold, hard look at their situation. Thanks!

      • Jim Gilliam on January 12, 2013 at 2:25 AM

        Hi Cathy, in the interview that I read John Grisham was very down to earth and went into great detail about when he first decided to become an author. He did say that his first run of printed books numbered about 5,000 copies of A Time to Kill. He also added that he ended up taking a lot of those to the local trash heap. Imagine what they would be worth to a collecter today! Anyway whether you are indie or traditional there is a lot of bad writing out there and my feeling is that being a New York Times best selling author has more to do with marketing than writing ability. In trying to give back to the craft that I’ve become passionate about I do a fair number of reviews and quite frankly some of the stuff I review I would not read were it not for the fact that I received a free review copy. At present I am preparing reviews for two books. One traditionally published and one indie. The traditional one is rather awful while the indie, the third in the series is just great. Again, it’s all about the Benjamins and less about the quality of the writing. I would be honored if you would visit my website http://www.pointdeception.com and pass along any comments you care to make. Nothing I write is carved in stone and it is through critique that I evolve as a writer. Have a wonderful New Year!


      • Jim Gilliam on January 13, 2013 at 11:22 AM

        I stand corrected on the John Grisham interview about his self publishing his A Time to Kill. I rechecked and found a 2012 interview with Newsweek where he said that he published it with a small press in New York that went out of business within a year. He didn’t disclose the name. Because the first interview I read said that he purchased 1,000 copies somehow I understood that to mean that he self published.

        His original idea was to buy 1,000 copies and hold a big library party at the local library where all his friends would come and buy the book and he would have made a little profit. He did that but at the end of the day he still owned 842 books (I think I remember that right) and then he tried to sell the rest and failing that he ended up taking the large portion of them to the dump in order to reclaim floor space in his law office.

        Although, his original order was 1,000 the publisher sent him 1,500 he got that corrected by sending 500 copies back.

        The point of the interview which was titled something like John Grisham talks about his $6M mistake! Was that John was at one point in time in possion of 1,500 first edition copies of his first novel A Time to Kill and that he recently priced one of those first edition copies at $4,000 and according to his math that total figure was Six Million Dollars.

        I guess the lesson here is hold on to those first edition copies folks they may be worth something more than taking up space in your spare bedroom.

  105. Laura Pauling on January 11, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    I guess self publishing truly isn’t for everyone because my experience has been mostly positive. I write more than I used to. I read more than I used to. And I love the freedom.

    Many authors I know sell hundreds and thousands of books. But these authors have been writing for years, they use editors and cover designers. Some books sell with lots of marketing, some without any. The only aspect we can’t control is word of mouth. And if readers don’t care for a book, no matter how well written, then we write another.

    It’s funny because a lot of self published authors I know consider a traditional deal the throw away book, knowing they won’t make near as much money on it. They might still take it but only to expand their fan base.

    Just do your research. But whatever side you want to root for, you’ll find blog posts to back up your opinion. Though, I think in the future there will be more and more hybrid authors, doing both.

    I just love having the choice. 🙂

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      Thank you for your insight. I look forward to being a bit further down the self publishing road to see how the view looks from there. I might like it very much, too!

    • Heather Sunseri on January 11, 2013 at 4:37 PM

      I agree, Laura, that the future will be made up of a lot of hybrid careers combining both traditional publishing with self-publishing. Lots of very interesting choices for writers these days.

  106. Daphnée Kwong Waye on January 11, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    Self-publishing has always sounded much exciting yet scary at the same time. The points you emphasised on in this post are indeed very true. I have never published, but I know I will have to soon and I will have to decide whether I’ll be doing it solely, or with a publishing house. I believe maybe a little of both. I’ll have to get an editor, a proofreader at least.
    But really, I don’t know. To self-publish or not? That is the question…
    I guess I’ll ponder on it when I’m done with my novel-in-progress 🙂
    Great post!

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 4:11 PM

      Keep writing! That’s the key for you right now. Best of luck.

  107. Jennifer Dyer on January 11, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    Thanks for the candid info. It was great to get an honest perspective of pros and cons. I’d like to hear more from you on the self pub topic!

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 4:11 PM

      Ask Rachelle and I’ll come back in a heartbeat 😉 Or visit me on my website, http://www.jennienash.com. I’m about to launch a series of posts called “A Writers’ Guide to Agony and Defeat.”

  108. Torre DeRoche on January 11, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    I can relate. The work involved in self-publishing destroyed me. It was fun and deeply rewarding, but more than 12 months on, I’m still in recovery. Even small decisions like “What colour underwear should I put on today?” have me rocking back and forth in fetal position, banging at my ears. It’s like I was born with 1,987,120 decision-making credits, and I used them all up on my self-published book.

    Luckily, the book quickly sold to publishers, and now those decisions are somebody else’s problem. I’m sipping cocktails while others are fretting over fonts.

    Now—if only I could find someone to pick out my underwear…

    • Lisa at Amalfi Blue on January 11, 2013 at 12:30 PM

      Oh, do I hear ya. Writing was smooth sailing compared to taking on everything else.

    • Wanda St.Hilaire on January 11, 2013 at 12:57 PM

      Torre, l’d like to tell everyone reading through the comments that you won the grand lotto of every author’s wildest dream. If you want to hear a cool and amazing tale of self publishing magic, read Torre’s blog post about how it came together. Absolutely incredible. Can’t wait to read the book AND see the movie.

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 4:10 PM

      Enjoy those cocktails! It sounds like you deserve it! And hire people to make all your decisions — fashion, or otherwise. Why not!

    • Dina Santorelli on January 11, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      My vote is for black, Torre. 🙂 (BTW, for anyone just meeting Torre now, she totally rocks.)

    • Selena Laurence on January 13, 2013 at 8:14 PM

      Just have to say, great story that Torre writes, BUT (it’s big, it’s important), not only is it a typical “one in a million” thing, you also have to note that: her dad is a screenwriter, her sisters are filmmakers and professional editors. This woman has both nature and nurture that make her head and shoulders above 99.9% of the people in the world who try to publish in any fashion! Look at the majority of Olympic athletes and you will discover that they have parents and siblings who are also extraordinary athletes. Torre is like an Olympic caliber athlete in writing. Not someone you can take as a typical example of anything. But it’s a great story and I’ll be excited to read the book, see the movie, etc.

  109. Dina Santorelli on January 11, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    Jennie, an absolutely great post. I agree with just about everything you said. I self-published my debut novel, BABY GRAND, last year, and it’s been an amazing experience — very gratifying, difficult, soul-searching. So far, so good. 🙂 My prediction is that this year more and more outlets will review self-published books. They’ll just have to. Readers will need them to, in order to sort out the quality from the rest. All the best to you!

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 4:09 PM

      Thank you so much — and the same to you. I love your book title. It makes me wonder what it means — which is how you hook a reader 😉

    • Heather on January 11, 2013 at 7:22 PM

      My personal theory is that quality book reviewers will be the new self-publishing gate keepers. If someone really likes your book and they are an expert in that genre that people keep referring to, they will have the klout to propel your book forward. If they don’t like it, you won’t get the jump you want.

  110. Dan Miller on January 11, 2013 at 11:22 AM


    Thanks for the balanced look at this issue. I always evaluate projects in multiple ways – carefully choosing which is best for that project alone. I think it’s rash to have cookie-cutter solutions in this rapidly changing publishing environment. I’m in talks with my publisher about a major revision on one of my books right now and am waiting on them to give me their proposal. But if that doesn’t seem to make sense I have another complete plan already laid out. As authors we need to be involved in the entire spectrum of what publishing requires – regardless of how we get the books “printed.”

  111. Heather on January 11, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    From the standpoint of having several books self-published (and others published through a small publishing company), I completely understand and agree with your thoughts. When my first book was published, it was handled by someone else and I just let it go. I wrote it and that was good enough for me… However, I recently had an author that I looked up to (notice the past tense) tell me that you were only a published author if a publishing house paid you an advance for your book. It was like a slap in the face. Even though I make a pretty decent income off my book royalties, this author considered me worthless. Even though a publishing company published my book for me, because they only pay me royalties and not an advance, I’m considered no better than the aspiring author who hasn’t even finished her first manuscript in his eyes.

    • Jennifer Dyer on January 11, 2013 at 12:14 PM

      I disagree with the derogatory statements that person said to you. :-). It’s sad that he/she has developed an inner seed of pride. I’m sorry you were hurt by those careless words. Having been working at the whole writing thing for several years, I think it’s a sign of talent, God’s timing/will and dedication when people are able to get through the big publishing gauntlet. And self-pubbed authors are wonderful, talented and dedicated people too.
      Hugs. 🙂

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 4:08 PM

      I’m sorry you had that experience. I have to admit (gulp!) that I have had the same thoughts in the past. I liked to think that because I had an agent and an editor and a big New York house that I was somehow ABOVE those who hadn’t been so lucky. I conveniently ignored the fact that there were plenty of writers just like me whose books I thought weren’t up to snuff. (How did THEY get over the high hurdles I had vanquished?) The truth is that some very good writers get traditional publishing deals and some not-so-good writers get them. And the same is true with self publishing, too. You can find awesome books and you can find awful ones. I suppose the lesson here is that all we can do is write the best book we can write, and then market the heck out of it however we can, and then let the readers decide on its fate. Of course it never hurts to be nice to everyone who is walking the same path, whether we think they’re walking ahead of us, behind us, or beside us.

      • Heather on January 11, 2013 at 4:15 PM

        I totally agree with you. I have honestly never even tried to submit something to a major publishing house (I just don’t have the time to learn that aspect when I already have self publishing down pat). My first book was published by a small publishing company ran by a ministry that I was volunteering for and I learned so much from them, that I just continued on on my own. I do, however, still dream of being published by Harvest House someday… there’s prestige with that even if it doesn’t make the book any more or less. 😉

  112. Heather on January 11, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    Thanks for being brave about sharing your experience. I’ve read about authors doing it the other way around. I have an on-going discussion with my friend about the publishing industry. She wants to go traditional because she wants to have someone else invested in her book with something to lose. I wondered if you could share your opinion on that, how it feels that you’re the only one invested?

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      The truth? It’s much better to have a team of pros behind you who are equally invested in your work. It just is. It’s a wonderful, validating feeling. I became good friends with the people who published by work. I adore them. They adored me. I miss them. It’s lonely out here on my own. I am out here, however, trying to prove something. I need to prove that I am worth a big investment. I am out here trying to prove that I can be one of the lucky few a big publisher really supports. I was published, but I wasn’t at the top of the list. I would like to be. There’s really no debate. If I CAN’T be, however? I won’t stop writing. I can’t….

      • Anthea Lawson on January 11, 2013 at 3:23 PM

        Although you might also get a traditional NY publisher (like I did) who doesn’t do much beyond the basics (if that…) and does very little to support or further your career. Which is why I’m happily indie publishing now. 🙂

      • Heather on January 11, 2013 at 7:20 PM

        Thanks for being so honest. And like you, I can’t stop writing.

  113. […] post by Rachelle Gardner about the joys and pitfalls of going it on your own. My favorite was this […]

  114. Dan Erickson on January 11, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    I’m a new writer and have only self published. I published my first book last year and will publish a second this year. I’ve learned a lot and have enjoyed the process. Building a platform is a long, slow process. I won’t be quitting by day job in the near future.

  115. Mieke Zamora-Mackay on January 11, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    I am very thankful for this post. It is a perspective that is not often presented by authors on both sides of the publication fence. In this time when the voices of the self-publishers seem louder than ever, this post gives those that haven’t decided on which path to take a glimpse of what they can expect on that side.

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 4:03 PM

      I’m glad it’s helping.

  116. Jeanne on January 11, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Kudos to you, Jennie! I admire your courage to step out of the comfort zone of traditional publishing. You did so with your eyes pretty wide open. 🙂 It was good to hear your experience, as it gives this unpublished writer a more accurate perspective of the ups and down of self publishing. Thanks for sharing your insights!

  117. Joe Pote on January 11, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    Very good observations, Jennie!

    It’s interesting, to me, to hear some of these from the perspective of one with prior experience publishing throug major New York houses.

    Your first point made me laugh! I know exactly where you’re coming from and often feel the same way when my self-publishing comes up in conversation. I’ve learned to simply embrace that response…to recognize that, yes, I am a little eccentric to be undertaking such an enterprise…and yes, this is just a hobby for me, something I do for enjoyment rather than financial gain.

    I also completely agree with your final point. There is truly nothing like connecting with a reader and learning that my writing made a difference in their life!

    Blessings to you in your self-publishing ventures!

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      Thank you, Joe, and to you, too.

    • Dan Erickson on January 11, 2013 at 4:02 PM

      Hey, Joe. I’m similar in that my writing started as a hobby, but enough people told me I should try to do something with it, that I now would like to see some finacial rewards. However, that is not my emphaisis. My emphasis is to share my work.

      • Joe Pote on January 11, 2013 at 4:20 PM


        For me, at this stage, with a full-time career as an engineer and a family to care for, I haven’t the time needed to turn the writing into a significant income source. Unless I count the technical writing I do as a routine part of my day job…but that’s another topic…

        In some ways, though, I really prefer keeping it as a hobby. That allows me to continue to enjoy it without the pressure of relying on it for profit.

        I know that not all writers have the luxury of treating their art as a hobby…I feel blessed to have that flexibility!

        Blessings to you in your continued writing ventures! I’ve sure enjoyed your writing that I’ve sampled thus far.

  118. Stephen H. King on January 11, 2013 at 9:36 AM

    A very good post; thank you. You hit most of the nail squarely on its metaphorical head, based on my own experiences this past year putting 13K copies of my own work into readers’ hands.

    Bookstores are tough to get into, but that’s only partly because of a bias against us Indies, as I have learned through extensive conversations with a bookstore owning friend of mine. Turns out that the distribution channels available to Indies are typically PODs, which in turn typically don’t carry terms that are favorable to a bookstore owner. Put simply, it’s tough for them to make a profit without the significant discounts, return policies, etc., offered by traditional distribution channels. I’m betting this, too, will change over time, but it’s the least-seen cog in the wheel so it’ll take the longest.

    I will object gently, though, to your description of the cost of cover art. Yes, professional editing is expensive when you’re not making money (but it’s absolutely vital!). But cover art? $20. You already have hundreds of fonts available for free. What the MFAs of the world need to hear from us MBAs is that most people don’t buy most books for the cover. Sure, there are exceptions, but most people buy most books because of the cover. There’s a subtle but important difference. The cover isn’t the art; the story is. The cover? It’s marketing material. Effectively, it’s an ad slick. It’s worth the time spent on effective design, but it’s not worth the money spent for exclusively-created art.

    My opinion, anyway, for the couple of cents that it is worth.

    – TOSK

    • Cynthia J. Omololu (@cjomololu) on January 11, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      Covers count! The best I can do is refer you to this: http://lousybookcovers.tumblr.com/

      • Stephen H. King on January 11, 2013 at 12:46 PM

        I never said covers didn’t count. The site you linked is a fun one to go through; like all advertising, there are some really bad ideas out there.

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 12:24 PM

      Some good things to chew on here. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  119. vrabinec on January 11, 2013 at 9:22 AM

    Hey, my fruity poetry will bring about a potery renaisance! You’ll see.

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 12:23 PM

      Ha ha!! I can’t wait!

  120. Tamara Leigh on January 11, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    A great post, Jennie. Thank you. In March 2012, with 14 traditionally published books under my belt with RandomHouse, HarperCollins, and Bantam, I decided to dip my toes in the waters of self publishing with a medieval time travel romance, followed by the re-release of an out-of-print title, and then a medieval romance series (the medieval titles hadn’t found homes with traditional publishers and were languishing in a desk drawer).

    These past 10 months have been a somewhat long and arduous journey, but I’ve persevered and have begun to see decent results that make me think self-publishing may be my future. The biggest keys for me: well-written, well-edited stories, the release of subsequent books that build on the sales of previous ones, and great cover art. Oh, and lots of patience.

    Wishing you the best as you persevere 🙂

    • Jennifer Dyer on January 11, 2013 at 12:18 PM

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. It’s good to learn from someone who has been on both sides of the issue.

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 12:23 PM

      What happy news! Thanks for sharing your experience. I will be patient, too, and will perhaps come to the same conclusion you have come to. We shall see!

    • Gloria Skurzynski on January 11, 2013 at 8:09 PM

      You’re the first one in this long list to mention self-publishing a previously published book. I’d like to publish one of my books that was successful 20 years ago but has been out of print for a while, so I now have the rights back. I shouldn’t have any trouble with typos because I’ll just copy the published pages from the printed book. And I can post a nice NYT review on the Amazon page. I know the whole process won’t be easy, but I’m in no hurry.

      • Tamara Leigh on January 11, 2013 at 8:50 PM

        Since it’s probably not doing anything for you just sitting in a drawer or on a shelf, Gloria, I agree that you ought to dress it up in a nice new cover and send it out into the world again. 20 years…a new reader base with whom to share your story 🙂

        • Gloria on January 11, 2013 at 10:10 PM

          I’ve already created the cover, thanks to Google Images and Corel Paint. Wish I could show it to you.

      • Anthea Lawson on January 11, 2013 at 10:32 PM

        Just remember, you will need to get a new ISBN, since now you’re the publisher. 🙂

      • Laura Kinsale on January 13, 2013 at 5:24 PM

        Gloria, you’d sure better look at those pages you copy or scan off the printed book, because the scan will INTRODUCE myriad copy errors. It’s maddening and requires a complete, thorough line-edit, and even then you’ll look a year later and see introduced errors you didn’t catch.


        • Gloria on January 13, 2013 at 8:35 PM

          I scan a page into a PDF file and save it as a Rich Text Format file. It’s very accurate, but I can also make changes to the text if I want to improve on the original.

  121. Stress Free Marketing: Practical Advice on January 11, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    This is a much-needed post that should go viral. I have also been both traditionally and self-published. As to the person who said they will “never read traditionally published authors,” I must share that I no longer read self-published authors. I just can’t.

    Very few authors understand the process that happens behind the scene. They can tell you about their work in a way that makes you want to fall into the pages; but without fail the books I have read by the self-pubbed are unedited. The author has given the manuscript to a family member or an English teacher. Neither will edit their work with the same authority as a professional whose job is to create the best work.
    Remember: Every type-o in your book diminishes your credibility; and that is a little discussed fact.

    The difficult-to-swallow truth is that self-published authors cling to the hope spawned by the few who have “made it.” They don’t realize how impossibly difficult it is to sell books. Americans as a whole are not reading as much as they once were. Ebook sales are also declining sharply.

    If you are considering self-publishing you must answer this question: do you know how many books the average author sells?
    According to Publisher Weekly: Two hundred and fifty. (250).
    To qualify as a New York Times bestseller you must sell 40,000 copies. That author receives approximately $1.50 for each copy they sell. Most self-published authors,overprice their book. They feel they deserve $5-9 dollars per book. Using the above numbers, calculate how much you would made selling the “average.”

    I invested two years trying to teach self-published authors how to market their work, how to promote their work,how to PRICE their work, and how NOT to look like a rookie. I even set up a blog for free where authors could promote their work.I did this all because I wanted to help authors understand the process.

    My husband argued that one of the reasons authors self-publish is because they want control. He also said that because they want control they would not listen to me, even thought I was traditionally published and had experienced outstanding book sales.
    He was right.

    Behind the scenes book reviewers contact me saying: “I want to help new authors, I really do, but they won’t listen. They don’t edit their work. Self published authors are pushy. They don’t understand the process.”

    So perhaps the first thing any author should do before self-publishing is spend some time listening to authors who have been there. If you have written one book with no intention of writing another, please self-publish. If you are an author (which is different than being a “writer”) please find a traditional publisher.

    And remember, you will never go wrong when you seek advice from a seasoned author. Their advice is golden and will save you a lot of hardship and money in the long run.

    • Jamie Beck on January 11, 2013 at 10:53 AM

      Both the original post and your response are interesting and informative. I think self-publishing is a good alternative for people provided they have realistic expectations and aren’t in it ‘for the money,’ but rather for the love of telling stories.

      Personally, I’ve recently started pursuing the traditional route (with a contemp. romance). I’ve received some requests for partials and fulls, but already a few of those resulted in rejection. While I appreciated the agents’ feedback, in two cases their advice conflicted. That really highlights the subjectivity of the business and is discouraging. Those are the moments that make one believe self-publishing is better (quicker, control, freedom).

      I’ve already learned this business is exceedingly competitive (like acting/music) and so few will ever enjoy significant financial success.

      I’m still pursuing the traditional route (revising the ms based on some of the professional feedback), but am also educating myself about self-publishing (assuming I ultimately can’t find a publisher). I think, with this first novel, my goal is simply to share it (and hopefully entertain a few people). I’m serious about my writing and am in the middle of writing a series of related romances while I peddle the completed manuscript of my first novel.

      I think my expectations are realistic. At the end of the day, if I only sell 500 copies of any book I write, I will still have the satisfaction of having completed something I’m passionate about, having shared it with others, and having not been too afraid to fail!

      Good luck to everyone out their pursuing their dream. It’s a great way to live!

      • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 12:21 PM

        This thread points up a critical thing: you have to understand your goals. For some people, simple holding a book in their hands is more than enough satisfaction to warrant the effort of writing and self publishing. It’s a thrill to pour your heart into something, to create something, to produce something, and to finish something. Perhaps these people can add to their experience by sharing the book with family and friends. I had a client who wrote a book in tribute to a friend. He gave a copy to everyone at his 50th high school reunion. It was a thrill for him. That goal is VERY DIFFERENT from wanting to have a wide readership and make money from your writing. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s very different. As a writer with 6 books under my belt, I could care less about holding one of my books in my hand. I could care less about seeing my on a bookstore shelf. I don’t need a launch party. I want readers. I want to have influence. What do you want from your book and why are you writing it? Answering that is the very first thing you need to do.

    • Successful Crazy Cat Lady on January 12, 2013 at 6:50 PM

      Thank you for your post. I am writing a column on this same topic, the pros and cons of self publishing.

      For me, I spent 10+ years of writing and submitting and finally started seeing success. When I received my first royalty statement and realized how little I was making per copy sold I was VERY discouraged. I had heard a few friends tell me about their success with Indie Publishing and decided it might be worth a try. What they were making monthly sounded better than what I’d make selling a couple books a year to traditional publishers and to be honest, if I was going to have to do the marketing anyway, why not make a higher percentage!

      I have read about how successful others were and considered ‘why’ they were successful. Marketing is very important and hard work, but without an enticing book cover and good writing, you will struggle. I agree about some Indie Authors not considering everything that producing a quality book entails. You are delivering a product to consumers. Why should they buy your product? Help them choose your book by producing quality work in a nice package.

      I have had better than average success (my best month I sold over 3,4xx copies of my books). I haven’t gone to college for marketing, or for anything other than hearing a couple of my children sing in the choir with their school. Like my husband, we learn from reading, watching and doing. Always be willing to improve and change what you are doing, whether it is in marketing or writing. You can always make it better!

    • Selena Laurence on January 13, 2013 at 7:49 PM

      Sorry, just have to correct something. E-book sales are NOT declining – sharply or otherwise. They are continuing to grow albeit at a slower rate than in the last couple of years. They made up somewhere from 25-30% of the book sales in 2012 and are expected to reach their peak and then relatively stable plateau of about 50% of the market in 2016. It appears that what they are doing for the most part is replacing the trade paperback share of the market, which has been in decline and continues to decline as a percentage of the market.

  122. Amanda J Evans on January 11, 2013 at 7:22 AM

    What a great post. I am really thrilled to see someone come out and say just how difficult self publishing can be. There are so many posts out there telling everyone how great self publishing is and how you get to keep all the money, etc., etc., but you have been honest and open and given everyone thinking of self publishing some real truths. Marketing, editing, proofing, cover design; these are all glossed over when it comes to self publishing and these are the things that are going to get you noticed. It doesn’t matter if your writing is amazing, if your book doesn’t get attention no one will ever know. Thanks so much for sharing the reality of self publishing.

  123. Evie McLaughlin on January 11, 2013 at 5:55 AM

    That was such a great post and certainly confirmed for me the precise reasons that I won’t consider self publishing. Many people do question why I dont try this route. I’m a crazy cat lady/singing teacher/writer, who’s begun to travel down the submission road, soon to be paved with rejections. Your post will make my response more concise!
    I wish us ALL, indie, represented and starting out, the best of luck. 🙂

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      Here, here!

  124. Claude Nougat on January 11, 2013 at 4:25 AM

    Excellent post, Jennie, I love it when someone decides to tell the truth about self-publishing! And the debate here is very interesting, I’m waiting to hear your answer to Mark Williams…

    I would just like to add that self-publishing is indeed a business and that when you’re an indie author with 5 or 6 books to sell (the best model; if you’ve got only one book, you’re going nowhere), you still have to remember that you’re a very small business competing with very big ones (yes, you’re right, big publishers have 200 titles to sell against your 5 or 6).

    Being such a small business you have to outsource some basic functions of publishing, in particular book cover design and editing. I believe with book covers Indies can do a good job, probably close to what publishers do (though I find most Indie book covers remarkably “standard” for the genre they’re in, as if they were afraid to strike out for something new or different).

    But with editing, indies, being a small business, really hurt. I don’t know how many indie authors struggle with this problem: they hire an editor who’s supposed to be good (and probably is)and they think their ms is properly edited until…readers start complaining! Then they’re surprised. I’ve had some tell me they’d paid for excellent editing and yet, here are the typos and all the other errors in structure/writing etc. All there for everyone to see. Because no author, no matter how careful he/she is, can catch all the typos, mistakes etc. It’s just impossible – a fresh pair of eyes is always needed.

    But here’s the big difference with trad publishers: their editors are part of their team. It’s in their editors interest to do a good job of editing, their career is on the line. When as a self-pubbed author you pay for an editor, that editor’s career is not on the line. If a sloppy job is done, you the author won’t notice until it’s too late, the book is published, readers complain. Sure you can tell that person off and swear you’ll never use him/her again. But how do you know that the next editor you hire is going to be good?

    The answer is: you don’t know. And that’s only the half of it. As an indie you don’t have access to the book critics that count in the NYT and elsewhere, you are not allowed to enter any of the really important competitions (say for the Pulitzer, the Man Booker prize etc etc) You’re out of the real game, you’re too small to count and Amazon lately has taken due note!

    No, I don’t think the two roads (i.e. self publishing as against traditional publishing) are equal. The risks are much greater in self-publishing and only authors that have already traditionally published should consider traveling down that road, because they’ve got something newbies haven’t: a following of fans!

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      I wanted to say something about editing, Claude, because it’s a really interesting point: when you are being published by a traditional house, you have AT LEAST 5 or 6 eyes on your manuscript and you go through manuscript checks AT LEAST 3 or 4 times, so there are many times and places to catch mistakes. When you are an indie author and you hire an editor, you have just that one set of eyes. AND manuscript editing is a different beast entirely than proofreading. Proofreading is a separate art and people who are good at it are REALLY good at it. Indie authors must know that having an editor work on their book is only step 1. After that they must hire a proofreader. And guess what? They’re expensive.

      All my traditionally published books had errors in them. There is no such thing as perfection. (In one case, there were several PAGES missing from one print run…) The first print run of my indie book had A LOT of errors, despite my best efforts. The point is, errors happen. And as an indie author you have to try even harder to minimize them because there are fewer people looking out for them.

      • Claude Nougat on January 11, 2013 at 1:49 PM

        You’re totally right! And I’ve worked for a publisher as an editor so I know exactly what you mean. And that’s why I think it’s so hard for indies…They’re just not aware of what they’re up against, and when they are (as I am), they despair of ever achieving a good level of quality in terms of typo control and other formatting isses (I know I do despair!) I think I can handle the structural/content issues, I don’t need an editor for that because of a long experience in writing many many books before I ever got to publishing one!

        Which is why I think that some major websites/bloggers that encourage indies to jump in and publish are …somewhat irresponsible and it doesn’t help the reputation of indies.

        So the stigma of self-publishing? I agree it’s removed. But the problems aren’t! The business model for a newbie just doesn’t work, because a newbie is the one who really needs many pairs of eyes, as you say! A midlist author with experience can do it, the newbie? Much harder!

      • Anthea Lawson on January 11, 2013 at 2:47 PM

        But one of the great things about self-publishing is that you can go in and FIX those errors and re-upload your files, a dozen times if necessary. 🙂

        I agree that authors need a team of people on their books. My titles go through an intensive process that includes: critique partner, multiple beta readers, grammar guru, English professor, professional copy editor, and avid nitpicky reader reading the print proof. THEN I publish, and readers still find occasional typos/formatting issues, which I then go in and fix.

        • Amber Argyle, author on January 13, 2013 at 8:57 PM

          I go through the exact same steps, and my self pubbed book is as clean as my traditionally pubbed book. It’s possible. Just a LOT of work.

  125. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on January 11, 2013 at 4:17 AM

    I’ll add my voice to the chorus – “Great post!” Thank you for writing it.

    I started out self-published, and was picked up by a publisher who saw my book on Amazon, with a nice royalty contract, so I’ve seen a bit of both sides.

    While the control involved in self-publishing is nice, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to write, promote, and fulfill the other duties of life, so going the traditional route will be a first choice for my next novel.

    I may go the self-publishing route again, though, with a couple of niche ideas on which I’ve been working – a “near-death experience memoir”, and a how-to on dealing with an illness that people keep telling me is likely to kill me (basically a literary “upraised middle finger”).

    So, a question – would having a self-published list be a disadvantage when trying to find an agent, and get a contract with a traditional house? Should I use a nom de plume for these?

    Hmm, two questions…can’t count.

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 12:09 PM

      I think we should let Rachelle answer the question about whether it would be a disadvantage or not. Most writers in your position would already have an agent (who would have helped get and/or negotiate the traditional deal), and you would discuss it with your agent (who is in the business of managing your career.) I have an agent with whom I discussed my self publishing choice, and we agreed that it wouldn’t hurt me, but there were a lot of particular things about my situation that went into that decision. Each writer will have their own realities to consider. Sorry not to be of most help.

    • Anthea Lawson on January 11, 2013 at 2:42 PM

      More and more traditional publishers are signing indie authors who hit the ebook bestseller lists. Here’s more: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=8408

  126. Veronica Sicoe on January 11, 2013 at 3:56 AM

    Great post, Jennie. I love it that you share your experience with the downside of self-publishing, because there needs to be more realism and less swooning about it. You make excellent points about its risks, and do it without bitching, which is really great.

    Publishing is a business choice, not a lifestyle or a question of faith, or of honor. It’s a business choice, plain and simple. You wouldn’t get the idea to start an own computer business or a restaurant, unless you understood a hell of a lot about computers or cuisine. So what makes people think they can successfully self-publish if they don’t understand the half of how the publishing industry works?

    I believe writers decide to self-publish should invest some time to learn how this business works, and to launch down that path with realistic expectations. Keeping a cool head will always bring you better results and a better position in your career, than blue-eyed wishful thinking.

    Thanks a lot for your post, Jennie. Keep your head up, each step back is only a crouch for the next leap. 🙂

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 12:06 PM

      Thank you for your kind words, Veronica, and for sharing this wisdom. I always tell my students that a book is a creative undertaking until you’re finished writing it, and then it’s a product no different from toothpaste or a little black dress. Whether you self publish or go the traditional route, you are now in the business of selling. Lots of people balk at this. It makes many of them quite crazy. But it’s the reality whether we like it or not. There’s a wonderful book about this idea of art and commerce called The Gift by Lewis Hyde.

  127. mark williams international on January 11, 2013 at 3:48 AM

    Fascinating insights, Jennie.

    Most indie authors are ebook focused and at best have a print version as POD with very limited distribution, because of the practicalities and economics involved.

    Most indie authors also tend to e-distribute only to a few top retailers.

    There is also mounting anecdotal evidence that Amazon is now favouring trad-published books over indie titles.

    You rightly observe that most readers have no interest in who the publisher is, but for many retailers (both online and bricks and mortar) this seems to be a major factor.

    How does your reach as an indie compare with the distribution you obtained when trad-published?

    The big argument of the indie camp is that the reduced distribution is more than compensated by the higher royalties available to indies. Leaving aside that these aren’t actually royalties at all, but what remains after the sales commission is deducted by the retailer, are you seeing financial returns comparable to past returns from publishers?

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 12:02 PM

      Hi Mark,

      You’re absolutely right: who publishes a book is of little interest to readers but of utmost importance to most bookstores. I count several booksellers as good friends and I have to admit that I’m embarrassed to talk with them about my amazon + kindle published book. I know what the economics of carrying my book is for them (not favorable) and I know that they consider publishers’ reps to be their allies and amazon to be the enemy. I am planning a bookstore outreach campaign in a few months when my book will be available on all e-platforms (including Kobo, which is now catering to indie bookstores), but I’m feeling a little queasy about the whole thing. (One way around the problem is to publish through an Ingram or Baker + Taylor outlet — a slightly more complicated and expensive venture than the easy-entry amazon path, but one I may try…) All in all, I consider this to be one of the major downsides of my self publishing venture. I adore bookstores, especially independent ones. By choosing the path I did, I divorced myself from them. It doesn’t feel great.

      • Selena Laurence on January 11, 2013 at 1:48 PM

        Thanks for being so honest about your experiences, Jennie. One of the things that I notice with successful self pubbers is that they never, ever apologize for self pubbing. They treat it as if it’s a glorious opportunity and they are 110% on board with it. I sense a great deal of ambivalence from you about it. I can completely understand that as I have some of the same ambivalence. But, if I do self pub, a decision that I will need to make in the next few months, I will have to banish that ambivalence for good. Tough to do, but I think necessary.

      • Linda Austin on January 11, 2013 at 2:26 PM

        Hi Jenny, I’m a crazy cat lady and published somebody else’s memoir which I ghosted. Mark is right, you need distribution that’s better than what Amazon has to offer, even through their expanded distribution (haha). Your new book would happily be riding the coattails of your trade published books then. Consider uploading your book to Lightning Source, too, for the Ingram connection. Use the same ISBN and cover. You’re right, self-pub is no piece of cake if you want to do it right, but I did it twice, happily, with never a backward glance at trade pub.

        • Sharon Hopkins on January 11, 2013 at 5:21 PM

          To Linda, I agree with you. The only thing different I would add is that depending upon how you purchased your ISBN on CreateSpace, you may have to purchase another to print through Lightning Source. I started a small publishing company (Deadly Writes Publishing)to initially publish my own books, and will soon publish a select few other authors. Lightning Source may be the best answer to printing and distribution problems because of Lightning Source being a part of Ingram, and that may be worth the higher expense than printing through Create Space and carrying the Amazon stigma.

          • Sarah Collins Honenberger on January 14, 2013 at 8:52 AM

            The Amazon ‘stigma’ is from B & N mostly, though some of the most successful indie bookstores seem to carry their resentment against Amazon into their book orders. It does an incredible disservice to their readers. A lot of very worthwhile books are being published by AmazonEncore or through CreateSpace. Indie bookstores have been very supportive of my novels, mostly based on the reviews, and if they’ve read my other books. BUT the commission on book sales is how bookstores make their money so . . . to not carry books simply because they have the Amazon ‘stamp’ is really cutting off a nose to spite a face. The long and short of it is that people buy books at bookstores for different reasons than why they buy books online, the same way they buy some things at Target and some at Lord & Taylor. If bookstores give better service or have the events to allow readers to connect with authors, their readers will stay with them, the e-book market aside.

            The ebook market cannot be blamed on Amazon or fickle readers, it’s simply another form of delivery. Like baby food in a pouch, or disposable diapers delivered to your front door. The world changes and if you don’t adapt and make your customers recognize your service as worthwhile, they’ll shop elsewhere. But they won’t EVER shop in one place anymore; the connectivity of a global world has positives and negatives. Aside from all that, a traditional publisher is like having a boxing manager. He arranges the fights, he’s in your corner, and to the extent you’re the hot fighter, he spends more time promoting you than the guy who isn’t hot. Bottom line, the story sells the book, BUT no one knows about the story without advertising and the muscle of the distribution network, which includes the muscle to get the big reviewers to take notice. A book is rarely THE BIG BOOK unless there are lots of people at the oars pulling wtih you, including readers writing online reviews, giving it as gifts, recommending it to books clubs and libraries, talking, talking, talking.

      • Anthea Lawson on January 11, 2013 at 2:41 PM

        Hi Jennie,

        If you went with CreateSpace’s expanded distribution (a $25 fee) you ARE in Ingram’s catalog and orderable by bookstores. My local independent bookstore carries all my titles, and so do some specialty fantasy/SF bookstores around the country. Print copies of my book are available internationally through The Book Depository and Amazon’s EU and UK POD outfits.
        Sales will come – give it time. 🙂

        • Virginia on January 11, 2013 at 2:54 PM

          Thanks for saying that. I’m a traditionally published author, but what Jennie said didn’t ring true.

          My local booksores (Hastings and the indies) all carry self-pubbed books on demand. One even has an entire aisle of them.

          When I did a book signing at Christmas, I was the ONLY traditionally pulished author in the month.

          I think perhaps a new marketing plan would help Jennie find her self-pubbing niche.

        • Linda on January 11, 2013 at 5:25 PM

          With CS expanded distribution it’s true you are listed in Ingram, but the discount to retailers is not as good as what bookstores expect, and no returns allowed. So, if a store balks at a booksigning, bring your own stock of CS books and let them do consignment.

          • Marc Cabot on January 14, 2013 at 12:49 PM


            One of the rottennesses of the whole tradpub system, so rarely mentioned in discussing indiepub, rears its pustulant head.

            The returns system.

            Whole essays can (and have) been written about this disgusting relic, but the short answer is, if your customer needs you to finance his business, she is not a customer: she is an employee. I don’t usually allow my employees to set the terms of their employment and I certainly don’t accept that they should receive more of the profits from the sales of my products than *I* do.

            A famed licensing attorney of my acquaintance taught me this valuable phrase for responding to a licensing contract which was too one-sided on the licensee’s side:

            “I didn’t know we were establishing a joint venture.”

            The returns system turns publishers (including indie publishers who are stupid enough to participate in it) into joint venturers with bookstores – only without any joint return. Anyone who argues that lack of return privileges hurts indiepub books is, regrettably, correct. And that factor should be considered. But to do so without explicitly condemning it, to do anything but indicate that it is a legal form of extortion, is to buy into the whole sordid thing. Don’t buy into the whole sordid thing.

    • Mira on January 11, 2013 at 10:41 PM

      Mark, you’ve heard anecdotal evidence that Amazon is favoring traditionally published works?

      I find that surprising. Could you share some of that anecdotal evidence?

      • Marc Cabot on January 14, 2013 at 1:29 PM

        People play all kinds of games by evaluating sales ranks and the available sales numbers from Amazon.

        These are just that – statistical games. They are not to be relied upon. The methodologies are often questionable: the sample size and data *always* are.

        • Mira on January 14, 2013 at 3:51 PM

          Marc Cabot – no, not you. 🙂

          I was talking to Mark Williams International above, who stated:

          “There is also mounting anecdotal evidence that Amazon is now favouring trad-published books over indie titles”

          which struck me as a rather strange thing, given that Amazon is in direct competition with trad-publishing books, and it widely features indies on its bestseller lists.

          So, I was wondering what mounting anecdotal evidence Mark had heard, but he hasn’t answered yet.

          • Marc Cabot on January 14, 2013 at 4:38 PM

            Oh, I knew you didn’t mean me, but thank you. 🙂

            I was just answering in general – I have seen any number of such analyses. They invariably have the problems I mentioned. However, that doesn’t stop them being circulated in the indiepub gossip circuit. I am similar mindset to what appears to be your position.

          • Rolando on January 22, 2013 at 1:05 PM

            “There is also mounting anecdotal evidence that Amazon is now favouring trad-published books over indie titles”

            which struck me as a rather strange thing, given that Amazon is in direct competition with trad-publishing books, and it widely features indies on its bestseller lists.


            Amazon earns more money with higher-priced books. Indie books tend to be cheaper. It is held as a truism in the Indie blogosphere that Amazon has modified the algorithms to favor higher-priced books and to make it harder for Indie books to reach the upper ranks with free promotions.

          • Mira on January 26, 2013 at 4:55 PM

            @Roland – I understand that indies can get worried about all kinds of things. And it’s true that Amazon does not exactly reward free promotions.

            But Amazon has done everything it can to keep prices low, which is different from free. For an example of this, see the DOJ suit against the Big 5 publishers for trying to collude against Amazon to force Amazon to raise their prices.

            In addition, Amazon rewards indie writers with higher royalty rates if they don’t raise their prices too high. It is in direct competition with Trad. Publishers; it makes no sense that it would favor them in their algorythms.

            The bottom line is this: Amazon has not shared their algorythms with anyone. Not publishers, not indies. No one knows what Amazon is doing, but I can tell you one thing it is NOT doing – favoring Trad. Publishers’ books.

  128. Laura Libricz on January 11, 2013 at 3:25 AM

    Hi Jennie,

    I would have liked to hear why you made this decision. And welcome to the club of crazy cat ladies publishing their memoirs!

    I have decided not to read anything tradionally published anymore. There are droves of wonderful indie authors out there whose stories would have gotten axed or never have seen the light of day. I want to decide myself what I want to read, not have my tastes dictated by ‘the’ minority and their markets.

    Lots of luck to you!

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 11:51 AM

      What an interesting choice — to go all indie. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of great books to read.

      As to why I made my decision — that’s a longer story to be sure. Maybe another post one day 😉

    • Frank Eriksen on January 11, 2013 at 4:55 PM

      Best comment yet, IMHO.

  129. Fiona Druce on January 11, 2013 at 2:13 AM

    I’ve hit the fork in the road with my manuscript.

    To the left, I have big traditional publishing, literary agents, and bright lights.

    To the right, I have control, freedom, and a wild new horizon.

    The left path terrifies me because it’s long, arduous, and even if I had the best book in the world, it isn’t guaranteed to make it. It’ll understandably change to suit the market the invested publisher seeks. My books will pay everyone’s salary long before the money reaches me. And I’m afraid I’ll lose the passion to write.

    The right path terrifies me because of EXACTLY what you’ve listed. And I am an amateur graphics artist and know editors and have watched other authors build their platform.

    Each path has an equal amount of hazards and different kinds of returns.

    I’m still deciding which path to take (and it will be soon), and I truly appreciate you posting this; showing the hardship of self publishing to balance out the hopeful dreamers with a taste of much-needed reality.

    I wish you the best 😉

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 2:34 AM

      Fiona, your analysis is extremely wise: “Each path has an equal amount of hazards and different kinds of returns.” That is absolutely true, and you’re so far ahead of the game if you understand that. There are good reasons to take each path, of course, and every writer has to make her own choice. But know this: the terror you feel is a GOOD THING, at least in my mind. It means your eyes are wide open. It means you are alive. At the very root of it, that’s why we write. So pick your path and embrace your fear. One this is guaranteed: you’re going to learn something, and you’re going to feel some satisfaction from the hard work of it.

    • Veronica Sicoe on January 11, 2013 at 3:43 AM

      I think it’s great that you’re aware of both sides with all their advantages and pitfalls. That’s way more than most authors know, the “hopeful dreamers” and “nay-sayers” of all kinds. Whatever decision you make, Fiona, stick to it with an open mind and make the most of its advantages, never looking back. I wish you the best. 🙂

    • Rutchie on January 16, 2013 at 1:15 AM

      Whether you choose left or right, there’s always an advantage and disadvantage. Sometimes it’s the cost that’s really hard to deal with especially if you want to go for traditional.

  130. Becky Povich on January 11, 2013 at 12:53 AM

    Jennie, I really enjoyed this. I’ve completed my book, a memoir. I have a professional editor reading it right now. I plan to self-publish, which delights me, because I guess I’m kind of a control freak! It’s almost scary how fast the publishing industry has changed and continues to change. Just a few short years ago when I heard that someone self-published their book, I immediately thought, Ohhh, it mustn’t be any good. But times have changed, and as Jo said above, “The end result is the reader no matter which way you go.” So True!

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 2:26 AM

      Congratulations, Becky, on finishing your memoir and on being wise enough to hire a professional editor. I love your can-do attitude and the way you are respecting your future readers!

  131. Jo Murphey on January 11, 2013 at 12:39 AM

    What you say about self-publishing is true, Jennie. It is hard work. The end result is the reader no matter which way you go.

    A quick question. Did you have any sales or marketing skills under your belt before you self published? This is a major stumbling point for many indie authors.

    • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 2:22 AM

      To Jo Murphey: Yes, I did have significant sales and marketing experience before I self published. I was very involved in the marketing of my previous six books. I engineered a special sale of 100,000 copies of my breast cancer memoir to Ford Motor Company, did a really cool cross promotion with Benjamin Moore paints when my first novel came out, and have developed several successful book blog tours and marketing campaigns for some of my writing clients. Until very recently, I would have believed that I was very well qualified to market a book — but I know better now. I know that I still have a lot to learn.

      What’s fascinating to me is that no one can really tell why one book becomes a hit while another equally good book languishes with no readers. It’s always been something of a mystery to everyone in the industry, and that mystery is acceptable when a publisher has 200 books on a list. Surely a few of them will find a big readership. But when an author has just one new book and she’s the publisher? She can’t accept mystery. She has to know why that book might sell, and to whom it might sell, and she has to know exactly how to reach them. If she doesn’t have viable answers, she needs to hire someone who does.

      • Jo Murphey on January 11, 2013 at 9:38 AM

        To Jennie,
        That’s great but the publisher had the clout and not you.

        Whether a book becomes a hit depends on the readers, subject matter, the tie-ins… in other words, the buzz. Multiple books is the key. If an author has one to three books to their credit, it’s a take it or leave it proposition or a flash in the pan. If they have ten books, there may be something there. With multiple books, it’s like the proverbial needle in the haystack…more books the easier you have it to find one.

      • TNeal on January 11, 2013 at 11:43 PM

        This comment certainly fits into your 4th observation of overestimating your sales ability. You’re right about the book’s success is paramount when you’re footing the bill. I chose to self-publish last year and the writing and marketing lessons have been worthy of grad school credits. I may end up with a loss in the long run (too early to say) but I’ve learned so much that will help with future writing and publishing efforts.

    • Elizabeth Lynd on January 11, 2013 at 10:41 AM

      Jennie, this is a very balanced view, and I thank you for it. Knowing myself, my strengths and weaknesses, this helps reinforce my belief that traditional publishing is what is best for me, but it’s also nice to see some of the pros of self-publishing that I hadn’t really considered. It’s always good to be well-informed of all aspects of this business, regardless of what route we each choose to take. Thanks!

      • Jennie Nash on January 11, 2013 at 11:49 AM

        You’re welcome!

    • Paul McDermott on January 30, 2013 at 1:34 PM

      Dear Jenny,
      In the hope you’ll glance at your blog site BEFORE the Open Chat on Thewriterschatroom tonight (Wed Jan 30)

      Plenty to think about for those of us just starting to break through as a writer!

      I’ve been fortunate enough to have been ‘picked up’ by a trad publisher recently [Whimsical Publications, FLorida] but my first foray into publishing was a “kind of” self-publishing, a small local press which has since unfortunately ceased trading.

      My experience: I put up a SMALL amount (equiv. of c $100) which the publisher MATCHED. 200 books printed, flew off the shelves … but I sold them ALL myself, no help (despite promises) from the publisher.

      Made a small profit, learnt a lot, and am now looking for a trad. opublisher to take the chance with Sequel[s] in a series of childrens’ books following from the first one …
      Paul McDermott