Map to Self-Publishing – A Report from Seven Weeks Post-Debut

Posted by on Jul 30, 2013 in Leigh Ann Kopans, Map to Self Publishing, Publishing, Writing | 23 comments

Hey, everyone! Self-Published Muse Leigh Ann here. I can’t believe it’s been seven weeks since my YA debut, ONE, released.

I’ve been thinking for a long time about how I want to do this update. Propaganda of any type bugs the heck out of me and any time I read a report, update, or blog post that seems unbalanced or preachy, I’m suspect.

Which is why I’m so worried about writing this one, but I have to be honest about my self-publishing experience, right?

Right. *deep breath*

So here goes. Here’s the whole, real truth about self-publishing my Young Adult debut novel.

I have absolutely, positively, zero regrets. That’s right, none. Self publishing has been a 99% wonderful experience and I wouldn’t change a thing about how I chose to publish this book.

When I made the decision to self-publish, I’ll be honest – I was TERRIFIED. I cried, I angsted, I doubted my decision all the way up to announcement day and beyond. So, here are the things I worried about, and how my experience completely and totally squashed those worries.

Worry: People will think I am a self-indulgent, completely vain fraud and a hack. People will think I only published because I am desperate.
Reality: Almost everyone who said anything about my debut congratulated me. I’m sure a bunch of people still think I’m self-indulgent/vain/(insert horrible thing,) but with just three memorable exceptions, those people have been well-mannered enough to not say anything about it.

Worry: My agent will hate me, think I’m worthless, and we’ll break up.
Reality: My agent and I actually did part ways, in large part due to my decision to seriously pursue self-publishing, but it was definitely for the best. Now I’ve got a new agent who happily works with me on my self-published stuff, and she’s awesome.

Worry: I will lose the respect of the publishing community.
Reality: Only one literary agent and one editor offered public “Congratulations!” during release week.  I don’t know why this was the case, but I’ve realized I don’t really mind.

Worry: I will lose the respect of my fellow authors.
Reality: Many, many, many traditionally published author friends offered congratulations, blurbs, awesome reviews, giveaways, and personal hugs and pats on the back. I was invited to be an affiliate blogger on The League of Extraordinary Writers, where only traditionally published authors have typically been invited. Of course I’m proud of this, but mostly, I’m so happy that so many of my colleagues saw through a book’s publishing method to appreciate the actual book. I love them all.

Worry: Self-publishing has such a huge stigma against it that nobody will take my book seriously.
Reality: In the ten months since I made the decision to self-publish, that stigma has all but disappeared. I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m guessing it’s due to the surprise insurgence of the New Adult category, in which almost every success has been self-published. Now, more and more authors with agents are choosing to self-publish.

Worry: I will spend a bunch of money and not even come close to making it back.
Reality: I made every dollar of my original $2200 investment back within the first six weeks of publication – AND I’m not even listing in the Teen Sci-Fi Top 100 on Amazon on the vast majority of days. What I’m saying is that I’m not even a freak of nature or a list-crushing indie-pubbed beast of an anomaly – I’m a solid mid-listing indie, and still selling at a respectable rate. That is something I never expected.

Worry: I will get horrible reviews and everyone will blame it on the fact that I self-published.
Reality: Most of my reviews are kind, insightful, and awesome, and of the ones that aren’t, only a scant few pointed to the fact that I was self-published.

Worry: I will be completely overwhelmed by all the work that goes into producing and promoting a book.
Reality: Because I was able to hand-pick a production and promotion team that I trusted, I spent time and energy only on the things I absolutely had to do myself. Release month was a whirlwind, but I never once cried or broke down with stress over everything that had to be done.

Worry: I don’t know how to do all this.
Reality: I didn’t know how to do all of it. But I either learned how to do it, or enlisted the help of someone who did know. And everything turned out fine.

HOW did I pull all this off? Well, honestly, I’m kind of surprised I did. Of course, nobody knows exactly why things work out the way they do with books, but if I had to guess, I’d say: I wrote a book people enjoyed, I assembled an amazing team, and I stopped worrying about what other people thought.

If I had known it was that simple – really simple –  I wouldn’t have had a complete and total breakdown on decision day. But, you know what? I’m kind of glad that happened too.  I love that self-publishing lets me write and publish a book without worrying whether it fits into a genre, or stressing over whether Big Publishing will think it’s marketable. I’m writing for the readers, and I’m writing for myself. My book will never go out of print, be remaindered, or appear in the bargain bin.

The book I published is a 100% reflection of my vision of what it should be, from guts to cover and beyond. I’m proud of my debut, I’m proud of how well it’s done, and I’m eternally grateful to everyone who was patient, kind, skilled, and enthusiastic enough to help get it there. Most of all, I want you to know that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks or how little you know – if you want your book to be published, I believe it’s within your reach to see it through, and even do a darn good job. I’m living proof that you can do right by your book through self-publishing, and still think the whole thing was kind of fun.

I’d love to answer any more questions anyone has about my first seven weeks as a self-published author! Comment below and I’ll answer ASAP.

About Leigh Ann Kopans

As a rabbi at The Ohio State University surrounded by college students, Leigh Ann found her niche writing young adult science fiction and romance. Her debut novel, ONE, about a girl with half a superpower and the boy who makes her fly, will be published on June 11, 2013.

23 Comments

  1. Thanks for being so honest about the process. It’s been exciting to watch. I was curious if you have a sense of which marketing efforts yielded results in terms of sales. Which you would do again and which you wouldn’t? Good luck and so amazed by all you have done!

    • Hi Lori! Thank you so much for your comment! I really think my street team and all the ARCs I sent out were the most effective in terms of sales – having those reviews and those hand-sellers was priceless! <3

  2. As a reader, I have to say I don’t think One lacks anything compared to other books published through traditional channels, not on format and surely not on content! Self-published doesn’t mean the book will be bad, and One proved that very clearly for me!

  3. I love this post! I made the decision awhile back to self publish my work mainly because I love the control it gives me. I get final say on covers and content and everything else. I control the thing I’ve worked tirelessly on. I love that.

    As a sort of trial run, I self published a short story last year–just to get the hang of how Amazon and Smashwords work. Best decision ever made<3

    • Congratulations! Isn’t it fun? I think that doing a short story ahead of time is an awesome way to get acclimated! You’re a smart cookie. <3

  4. Thanks so much for sharing. I am also in the process of self-publishing (though my “process” is quite a bit different!) and so far am having a lot of ups and downs both ways. It’s an adventure, for sure!

    • Oh, congratulations! Yes, all the processes are different, I hope – all of us and our books are different! I think there are ups and downs just like any other kind of publishing. Thanks for your comment!

  5. Really great and inspiring read. I have been wrestling with the notion of self-publishing and this report is definitely nudging me to go for it. Thanks for your insight and honesty!!!

  6. It’s so funny. This morning I thought about writing a post about what I’ve learned in the months since I self-published (back in November). And then I read your post and it said so many of the things I thought and experienced. It’s always nice to see other authors with a positive take on their self-pub experience.

  7. LOVE this! I’m so glad it’s been a good experience for you…although, I have yet to hear anyone say SP wasn’t. Which means you’ve all made the right decision for your book!! And that’s all any of us can hope to do…

    • Melodie, I think that’s right – most everyone I hear from is very happy with their SP experience. Thanks for your comment!

  8. I have to say that reading about your self-publishing journey is really inspiring. To be honest I’ve normally written off self-published writers, but thanks to you I have an entirely new view on it. It makes so much sense to get the book straight to the readers without any obstacles like marketability and such. I am super impressed. Hopefully I can get ONE soon!! And congrats.

    • Hi Alyssa! Wow, thanks so much for your comment – that means the world! I really hope you get a chance to read One eventually and that you enjoy reading! <3

  9. Absolutely awesome post Leigh Ann! Thank you so much for sharing all of your thoughts, successes, and being straight foward! <3 You are an amazing woman!

  10. I’m curious: You say you have a new agent now, but what does an agent do for a self-published author? And what’s in it for the agent?

    • Hi Michael! I do, in fact, have an agent. For this series, she works on foreign and subsidiary rights, and we strategize about the best path for other projects on a case-by-case basis. For any foreign and subsidiary right deals she completes, she would receive a standard 15% cut. Although, there are writers out there who are self-publishing with the help of agents, and splitting their profits from self publishing with their agents. That’s not the case with me, though.

  11. I just love following you in this whole adventure in self-publishing. It’s great that you are truthful in your endeavors as an author. Have you ever had some negative thoughts where you almost gave up? I am so glad you didn’t! Any pointers to aspiring writers who don’t know what path to take? You are just awesome and thank you for all you write and all you give for knowledge!

  12. Great post, Leigh Ann!

  13. Love this. I’ve been back & forth on which way to publish. I love the control of self publishing. A key thing here is your stellar covers. They’re breathtaking. How did you figure out how to do that?

  14. I stumbled upon this post a little late, but I’m sure glad I did. I’m knee deep in self publishing my first novel, and your words gave me hope, quelled some of my fears, and rekindled my excitement. Thank you!

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