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Reader Feedback: Sound Off on Self-Publishing

We asked our readers who have self-published for their advice to other writers considering the independent route. Here's what they had to say.
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NOTE: These responses are unedited and uncut. The views expressed in these responses are held strictly by a the author of each response.

I love to write, am my own worst critic, and don't feel ready to take on the publishing world. Still, I work hard at it, spend countless hours editing and, at the end, would like something to hold in my hands or put on a bookshelf. has done all that for me! (See photo.) Their website is user-friendly and the end product beautiful. Order just one or thousands at a cost of $7-10 each, depending on page count. Via, novels can be ordered through or purchased as e-books if the author so desires. I haven't gone that route. But it's all there if a writer wants to personally promote his or her book.
Camille Cira

I would recommend Angela Hoy is constantly trying to find new ways for her authors to promote their books and has a great e-zine: Booklocker's very fair royalties for print and extremely great royalties for e-books make Booklocker simply the best.
Gloria Gay

When you get the author copy and you find typos in it, make sure that you have a puublisher that is willing to go the distance and help you with their correction. I have spent hours pencil editiing typos for my friend's copies of the book. And am loathe to think of what my other readers are going through. Sincerely,
Miles R. Hoffman

I am not a self-published author, But this was told to me by the author of a self published book.
She worked in social services in child placement. The book was titled Factured Bonds. She had shown the book to several agents and they all wanted to publish it if she would make one change. She was strongly against allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children or place them with people like this. If she would remove this from the book, they would gladly publish it. She refused and finally self published it. The publishers felt they did not want to be associated with this material. I asked her why she did find a publisher with the same Christian values she was raised with. Stand up for your work.
Another self published author told me their agent told him our marketing department decides what books we will publish to fit our image. He let his contract with the agent expire at the end of its term.
Sincerely, Dale Barclay

If you self-publish, you have to realize that the time period from the completion of the book to the point where the book is available online is short-cut from what it is with a traditional publisher. While this is exciting to the author, there is a drawback. Publishers use those extra months to get their marketing materials ready, press releases written, and especially to get reviews on the books before they actually release them. I recommend that you mimic their process by delaying your release until after you have sent out preview copies, gotten reviews, created a marketing plan, press kit, and website, and set up some book signings and interviews. It is important to make a big splash with the initial release of any book, but self-published authors often find themselves behind the curve from the get-go because they don't know enough about how to market books.
Elaine Luddy Klonicki

You need to know where to market your book. Just listing it on Amazon or other online markets will not sell your book. It takes a lot of footwork. Know what your market is. I wrote a book about Snowbirds (people who fly south for the winter) who take their nests (RV's) with them. I thought everyone who had ever traveled in an RV would want to read this book. I forgot to factor in people who don't read anything, and people who will wait for their friend to buy the book and share it with them. I sold 5,000 books out of the trunk of my car and maybe 50 through bookstores and online markets. Book signings don't work without expensive advertising, which most people can't afford.
Bernita Brown

I have self-published 4 books. Promoting a self-published book is the hardest and most important part of the process. I have found one little thing that works wonders. Bookmarks. I use my computer and CorelDRAW to design and print bookmarks with a photo of my book's cover and a blurb about the book and where it is available. I give these out at every opportunity. I always leave one with my check at restaurants. I have received invitations from to do book readings and made many book sales with these little bookmarks.
Daniel Burch Fiddler

My name is Lorne Albert McQuillin, Ab, to those who know me. I have self-published twice in my life. The first a Cookbook, “Pasta For One” in 1999 and then a non-fiction biography of a year of my life and the life of my wife while she went through the trials of Cancer, Chemo and Provincial Health problems. This book “The Fight of Her Life” was self-published through Trafford, a print on demand, on line publishing company. Either way proved not as successful as I had hoped. The major stumbling block was Marketing. I would suggest carefully considering a Marketing Company to aid in the selling of a Self Published Book. We can do all the rest, but if the book just sits in the basement we haven’t accomplished a hole lot.
Lorne Albert (Ab) McQuillin

I self-published my first book and plan to self-publish again.

I heard that many (if not most) publishers won’t consider manuscripts that are submitted by “unagented” authors, so I tried to find an agent. I learned that many (if not most) agents won’t work with unpublished authors. It sounded like even if I could develop a list of agents who work with unpublished authors, I’d have to send my manuscript to each of them for their consideration. Some agents and/or publishers won’t consider manuscripts that are simultaneously submitted to other agents or publishers, so I’d have to wait until I got their rejection letter before I could send it to someone else. I’ve heard that the process can take years—with no guarantee of success.

If I self-publish and manage to sell over 2,000 books, I might interest an agent or publisher. However, by then, I’ve done all the marketing, so all they’d have to do is print some copies and take a percentage of “my” profit.

I did quite a bit of research and discovered there are a lot of differences between self-publishers. The services they offer vary. Some offer a full range of services, some don’t. I chose a Print-On-Demand publisher that offered a full range of service. It also gives me the highest percentage of the markup of any of the other publishers I found. They are currently working on establishing offering a service to set my book up as a “Kindle-compatible” book (something I hope happens very soon.)

In other words, the primary reason I chose self-publishing was that “not previously published” author, I thought the possibility of finding an agent or a publisher who would want to work with me would be remote.
Beki Propst

That's an easy one: patience. It's natural to get amped up with the prospect of seeing your book in print. But there's so much to it beyond the writing: the cover, pagination, copyright page, illustrations, TOC, and on and on.
And if you're self-publishing you're probably not yet a professional so there will be learning curve and umpteen drafts. Finally, and unquestionably the most trying, is what happens after the blamed thing is done: marketing.
My YA book, "The Collin Chronicles", won two national awards and I'm still beating the bushes for an agent. Yes, patience, the most critical commodity for any self-publisher.
T.K. Garrison

I independently published three anthropological thrillers: THE RAVEN'S POOL, WHITE RAVEN and RAVENSTONE. The one thing I'd recommend concerning the self-publishing route is to get marketing blurbs from well-known commercially published authors. Getting your book printed is easy enough; it's getting it noticed, that's the hard part.

I recently received two endorsements, the first from Edgar award winning suspense author, T.J. MacGregor and the other from historical novelist Barbara Kyle. Having endorsements from respected, known authors gives the self-published author legitimacy in the marketplace. The way to do this is to find an author whose genre or writing style is like yours--- and ask if they will read your book. Here is the blurb T.J. MacGregor sent to me: "Intrigue, romance, duplicities, an ancient mystery: Ravenstone is captivating." T.J. MacGregor, Running Time, winner of Edgar Allan Poe award, 2003, Out of Sight.

Because this blurb will be printed on my book cover and used in a running ad in Archaeology Magazine, T.J. MacGregor will receive free advertising (even though she didn't ask for anything in return) and that is the incentive for established writers to write blurbs for emerging authors, keeping in mind that there will be many who will --- and have every right to --- say No.

Hope this is useful.
Deborah Cannon

Read at least two books on self-publishing. There are lots of things you need to know.
W. R. (Bill) Klemm, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Hi. I have self-published 8 books, and the best tips I have discovered are these:

Make your book look as professional as possible. This includes getting a barcode and ISBN, doing an imprint page, everything that a book published through traditional methods has. Bookstores won’t take something that looks homemade.

Test your book thoroughly. If it’s a children’s book, read it to children. Read it, or sections of it, at open mic nights. Get feedback, and see if there is a market for the book.

Speaking of markets, they are a great way to sell your books. Craft markets get lots of people through them looking for a unique gift, and your book may just be the thing they want.

Most of all, believe in your book, and never be embarrassed that it is self-published. Self-publishing shows you have initiative, a dream, and confidence in your project even if traditional publishers have rejected it.

Good luck!

If considering self-publishing understand the effort that will be required to get your book in the hands of perspective readers. Book stores are a vital distribution point, and though its not impossible for a self-published title to get in, it's very hard. Have a solid marketing plan with dollars attached. Gaining awareness of your book is neither easy nor cheap. Know there are certain readers who will never buy a book off the internet. Can you be successful if cyperspace is your only distribution channel? Finally, ask yourself why you want to self-publish. Is it because you want to save time? It might save time getting the book to market, it might not save time gaining book sales. If the book has been turned down by agents and editors, are you sure you've done everything to make it the best possible read? There are no short cuts but there are lots of opportunities to wander off track.
Denise Williams

The best advice I can give to anyone choosing the self-publishing route is to understand exactly what is offered. If you are going with Publish America which published my book, Deadly Dreams, know that you will not be edited nor helped in any manner once you decide to go their route. I expected nothing and got nothing. After it was published I discovered a misprint on page one, I wrote and asked them when they would correct it. The answer, "Never." Perhaps they have changed since 2004. The point is to ask questions before you make the deal.

I will say that they did a wonderful job on my cover. I am not an artist so I left it up to them and they came across. Had I not liked what they did, I think they would have worked with me a reasonable amount of time to produce a cover I liked.
Jan Pope

Having self-published an outdoor trail guide (in its 2nd printing), the best advice is be prepared to market your own book aggressively and one else will. Book signings, slide shows, professional-looking book production, and targeted marketing should all help to make your effort worthwhile...and you get to keep all the money!
Gary Buscombe

I have self published two books, a novel and a collection of short stories. Some advice: (Sorry can't do just one!) once you make the decision, don't look back, but do take the time to edit, edit, edit; be prepared to market the book, and most important, be proud of your accomplishment!!
Anne Cook

Brian, My experience was it took me two years to write my book. That was the "easy" part. My work had just begun. After getting my novel self-published, I ran out of money. My advice: SAVE SOME MONEY TO DO THE MARKETING. Without the marketing your voice is not heard. After all, how many relatives and friends will buy your book? After that you need help,lots of it. Obviously if no one has heard of your book they're not going to buy it. I'm still saving up for the big push.
Regards, and keep writing.
Bruce Mitchell

Self-publishing requires money...lot's of it. First, is the cost of the initial publishing packaging, but the author usually knows this in advance. After the book is published then comes the extra expense, especially in the various ways to market the book, for which the publisher will happily charge the author. Many first time authors cannot afford this luxury so must market the book themselves. This is time away from the writing desk, time spent on the road and time spent in convincing book sellers that they should host a book signing, and more. My bottom line is, if an author is short of funds, spend the time in looking for a good agent who can do the running around for you.

The flip side is if you have lots of dough, you are on your death bed and just want to see a book published with your name on it before you pass on to that Great Library in the Sky, then self-publishing is the way to go.
Don Clifford

I am a self-published author of a children's book "The Unsinkable Lucy - We Love Lucy."

I would recommend that folks who may be thinking of going this route to check out ALL the possibilities; in other words, check out ALL of the sites that offer self publishing, not just the one self publisher as I did. A friend self published with Xlibris and she said she was pleased. So I went that route, also. However, my experience was entirely different from hers.

Since then I have discovered other companies that offer this service and at a less expensive way. I have talked with other authors who have used other sources, so I am sorry I went the way that I did. I have learned my lesson, I hope.

I also have discovered that an association that I belong to disapproves of this method of becoming published, so I cannot be a full-fledged member unless I sell more than 1000 copies.

I have learned valuable lessons in marketing my book - it is HARD work! It is a JOB! However, in talking with authors who have had their books published in the more traditional way, I learned that they, also, have to market their book if they want it to continue to sell.
Judy Burnette

My number one tip would be market, market, market. Just because it's on the shelves doesn't mean it sells itself. Talk about it. Press about it. Blog about it. You have to be your biggest fan.
Chris Dinesen Rogers

I self-published "Cageball, Poker, and the Atomic Wedgie: A Tale of Catholic School Mischief" in 2003 (Trafford). The best piece of advice I can give anyone thinking of self-publishing is to make sure you hire a professional editor to proofread your book. Don't ask a friend to do it or assume you can do it yourself. Editing your own writing is just a bad idea.

Val Brkich

"Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one" was my reason for starting my own publishing company, Magnolia Mansions Press ( And as publisher of my own work as well as that of a number of other first time writers, I still consider that my number one reason for self publishing.

Writing is an art and having control of what you are creating is a valuable asset. It is much quicker to produce a book when you are in charge. Remember, all the marketing falls under your responsibility, but this is not very different from a large publisher who may neglect your book until it quickly goes to the out-of- print pile.

I would be quick to point out that a self publisher still needs a good editor. Wannabes who have self published books unedited and without proper proof reading have given self-published and POD a bad name. If your story is worth publishing at all, get a good professional editor and take his or her advice. If you get a large amount of suggested changes, go back to the keyboard and try again. Writing is much easier if you have something to say, and poor or sloppy writing is a waste of trees.

Since Magnolia Mansions has published books other than the five I have written, I have seen manuscripts which are totally unacceptable to any publisher--self or otherwise. If you are sure you have a good book, do it yourself. You will have to work even harder at sales, but you will have a lot of self-satisfaction.
Margaret B. Ellis, Publisher, Magnolia Mansions Press

I self-published a niche cookbook, Eating Clean -- 100 Appetizing Solutions Wheat-free & Dairy free <> , in 2002. The idea was born out of a liver detox I did under the guidance of a naturopathic physician. It is important to know that in 2002, the public's general knowledge of a 'detox' had to do with someone suffering from a substance abuse problem! And this had nothing to do with my doing a 30-day liver detoxification regime.

With the exception of a booth rental at the annual Naturopathic Physician's Conference that year, I was so excited about my project that it wasn't until I was faced with the storage issue of my finished product -- the book -- that I even began to worry about my MARKETING PLAN! So, my first bit of advice would be to "Develop your marketing plan -- even before you write your book!", as strange and uncomfortable as that may be.

The other bit of advice that I strongly recommend when I give my Power Point presentation, "My Online Adventure of Book Promotion", is to PRINT FEWER COPIES for your first run, even if it means a higher cost per book for you. My book has a special 'hidden wire-o' binding, which makes it extremely user friendly in the kitchen when it lays flat on the counter. However, this was an expensive feature and I thought I was making the right financial decision when I opted to print 3500 copies so as to take advantage of a lower cost-per-piece pricing.

That said, I have managed to sell 1500 copies by myself through special events, promotion through my blog and web site, and as an Amazon affiliate.
Lisa Allen

If you use a POD publisher, make sure that they can get you listed on Ingrams. If you are not listed on Ingrams, you won't be able to do book signings at the major book chains. They have to order their books, they can't buy from the author.
Marianne Powers

1. Do your homework.
I read, and re-read, "The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing" by Tom and Marilyn Ross, many, many times before I started the project. I still have my tattered copy which is covered with sticky notes and highlighted pages.

2. Learn from peers.
In Colorado, we have an excellent organization called the "Colorado Independent Publishers Association" ( They offer monthly meetings with guest speakers that offer great information on all aspects of self-publishing; they have offered in the past an intensive two to three day "college" experience that covers all aspects of publishing; they publish a catalog of member's books; and they hold an annual awards event to recognize outstanding self-published books (we won first place in humor for our book, and used that to our advantage in marketing).

3. Don't underestimate how much time and energy you will need to devote to distribution. Plan ahead!I completely underestimated the time, energy and attention to detail it would take to do my own distribution. Finding distributors, responding to book orders, tracking the inventory, tracking invoices related to book orders made by distributors versus credits for books returned -- I did not have a good system in place for keeping track of all this detail. Furthermore, it gets complicated because the lag time is so long: new orders from distributors would overlap with shipments of returned books, and payment on invoices could take months. Although one regular distributor (Baker & Taylor) still carries our book for bookstore orders, I now rely on Amazon Advantage at for 98% of my sales. It makes all the tracking so much easier, and reimbursements for sales are direct deposited into my business account each month.

4. Don't underestimate the time and resources you will need to devote to marketing.
Thousands upon thousands of books are competing for consumer's attention. We had some success with local marketing (local author angle, signing events at local bookstores) and niche marketing (targeting parents of newborns, since it is a humor book about the first few years of fatherhood.) Here's what to remember about marketing: if you stop marketing your book, your book won't sell! And if you do market your book, your book MIGHT sell. You can never put too much time and thought into marketing, and you have to plan to continue marketing into perpetuity unless you want to end up with a closet full of books.

In summary, our self-publishing venture did not turn out to be a pathway to riches and fame! However, self-publishing our book was fun, it was a great way to learn about how the book industry works, and it was a thrill to see a book with my husband's byline on it in the local Borders store.
Tracy Hume

Don’t skimp.

And by that I don’t mean throw wads of cheddar at a project that shouldn’t see the electrical charge of a digital printer. I mean don’t cut corners on the important stuff (e.g. artwork, interior and cover design, website, marketing, editing, etc.). Having said that, a self-published book can be produced amazingly cheap if you do your homework and plan accordingly.

At this point, I’m a one-book publisher spreading the word about Stories from the Asphalt without a fat bankroll. Due to the framework of my book (an interconnected collage of short stories, flash fiction, poetry and artwork), I knew from the get-go I would self-publish. But I also knew that there were key components that would require some extra cash.

I hired a top-notch artist to sketch the interior artwork. After exhausting some photographer/model prospects for a cover shot, I opted to license the real deal from a well-known 50s pin-up artist. The result was well worth the coin. I also spent the bucks and took the time to educate myself on the burgeoning field of self-publishing. Although services exist to make the process easier on a potential author, with a little research you can perform all of these steps yourself at a fraction of the cost.

But remember: garbage in, garbage out. Take the time (and the funds) to deliver a well conceived and produced book. Self-pubbers are behind the eight-ball enough without having a slew of sub-par products added to the mix.
John Sparger

I recently self published my first novel called "EverWing" with Outskirts Press. It has been a fulfilling experience and I am happy I followed through with it. Outskirts was great to work with and did a tremendous job helping me through this first time adventure. My advice
is as follows:

1. At first, create a simple weekly marketing plan. This weekly planner does not need to be filled with a tremendous amount but something you can do every day. A simple item such as: “Join a new Amazon or Google forum/group today.” This is a great way to promote your website / book and takes little time away from writing plus gets your feet wet on marketing your work. Than progress the plan into Book stores, newspaper, radio, etc…(This also helps the psyche of never feeling like you are doing enough to promote your work. Believe me this cloud is always lingering)

2. Become comfortable with the SPA stigma. There is a stigma about Self Published Authors (SPA's) and you must be familiar with it before proceeding on your own. This stigma / perception states: "SPA's are those that cannot get anyone to publish their work so they just did it themselves". Many agents and some publishers will not talk to you the moment they find out you’re self published. It is an unfair perception since in many cases, such as my own, it is not true. But it is reality, so deal with it.

3. Just remember why you did it and have fun.
MJ Grothoff

Well the best thing for me was doing my homework and researching the best options for what I wanted to do I was looking for the best value for my money and the most control over my work without being censored or muffling my style.

So, the advice is take into account the amount of time, work, imaginations, and self input that went into creating your work and do the same when choosing a publisher to self publish your work. Oh, you might also want to know how much money you get to keep in your pocket minus expenses.

I myself did not want to do anything but write. So, I chose a publisher that gave me everything i needed and even did not need for one flat fee (it included marketing, free copies and even mentoring services) I am happy with my choice thus far. Anyway that what writing your own book and publishing is all about. doing something that makes you happy.
Jacqueline Miller-Audeh

Having self-published 3 children's chapter books, my best advice is spend your money on the cover and spine artwork. Additionally, don't use your own name in the publisher's name.
M. Kay Howell

The key to successful self-publishing is to have a platform from which to promote your book. Since you can't access the usual distribution channels, you need a venue for direct sales of your book. I'm not talking about taking orders from your web site or selling out of your home. You need a public presence; albeit a small one will suffice.
John Suddath

Early this year I had my novel, /A Little Bit of Larceny/ published by Outskirts Press. My comments re this experience: I was very happy with the end product; it was an excellent printing project. Got a lot of cooperation from the staff through the printing process. Outskirts followed through with all it promised. My advice, however, for anyone thinking about self-publishing is for them to be an extrovert. In other words, be prepared to get out there and promote your product. Outskirts has a good marketing team that will give you all kinds of good advice on how to "do it yourself." Oh, they send a press notice to thousands of book distributors/publishers (no list of who they are, or what the got, or what they do with what they got), and then it's up to you. And, just about everything beyond the actual printing is a cost to you. Want extra copies of your novel? You pay for them. Want promotional items, such as bookmarks, posters? You pay for them. Want your own PR person? It's $200 and she/he sends a special press release (I guess) to a select group of newspapers, book reviewers, etc. You never see the release but you can get a copy of list. Then, that's it. If there is
follow-up, you are not privy to what the follow-up is, or the results. That's it. Now, I'm an introvert. I can write the book, but I don't have any interest in trotting around to the various book stores in my area, giving them a copy of the novel and asking them to order and display a few copies if they think it will be of interest to their customers.

Yes, my web site is set up; yes, my novel is listed with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and other book distributors. BUT, if people have not actually seen the product, that is, physically picked it up, thumbed through it, to decide if they want to buy it, there is really no way for the public to know about the novel except by word of mouth. (How many times would you "google" Larceny?)

Will I self-publish again? Probably I will since agents and publishers are looking for authors who produce a book a year -- hopefully, a best seller and I'm not an author who is willing to play that game. In the publishing field, it's all about profits, not promoting the art of
writing. It's all about who makes the most noise.

I could be way off base. There may be lots of self-publishers out there who have been very successful in their efforts. Good for them. I'm just not one of them and it's too bad because I (and the people who have read the book) think it's a pretty darn good product.
Darlene Cox

Keep good records of what you've bought and spent; it can be confusing.
Carey Edwards

As the author of, The African-American Writer's Guide to Successful Self-Publishing, (Amber Books, 2004), I am well familiar with the trials, tribulations and joys associated with self-publishing. Prior to landing a book deal with Amber Books, I was the proud self-published author of 2 titles: Tender Headed: Poems for Nappy Thoughts I Left Uncombed and The Goode Sisters: A Novel, both released by

Although I was terribly inexperienced with my first title, I believed my second book, the poetry anthology, would surely catapult me to super-stardom. Yet, the speaking engagements and book signings didn't come. I didn't realize how much time and effort I had to devote to promoting my titles. If there's any advice I would give, it's to promote, promote, promote. Traditional word of mouth is only one way. I'd advise the newly self-published author to review all of their options for spreading the word about their books in a variety of ways. Many creative and inexpensive options exist that I was unaware of when I first self-published, and thus, my sales suffered.
Takesha Powell

If it is not too late, here is my comment for your request for feedback from self-published authors:

I have self published six of my seven books and will continue to do so. If I am working so hard at marketing my books, why shouldn't I receive a greater return on my investment of the time to write each story? I can attest to Infinity Publishing’s professionalism, integrity and helpful staff.
Sharon Miner

As a first time self-published author, I'm ecstatic with my book and with the publisher (Outskirts Press). I never imagined all the other avenues open to me, such as having complete control over all aspects of the publishing, the post publication and the marketing help. I will definitely publish the three upcoming books in my series with this self-publisher. They have been professional and polite all the way.
B. W. Cloud

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