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How NOT to Self-Publish

by Marian Schembari on March 14, 2011

Guys, I have a super special treat for you today. Remember that author I worked with, Kimberly Kinrade, who I did a whole Twitter case study on? Well, Kim has graciously written a guest post for this site. Yes, it’s about publishing and may not seem to be super-relevant to you non-book folk, HOWEVER, the lessons Kimberly talks about are universal and I hope you take what she has to say to heart. I definitely have!

Here we go…

In an enthusiastic zeal to get my first book out into the world, I stumbled my way through the self-publishing process.

My launch was so soft a toothless baby could have eaten it. I had no press-release, no easily accessible e-book ready for Kindle or Nook (though I do have a lovely PDF for sale through my site), and not much of a marketing strategy.

But the thing is, I wasn’t planning on writing Bits of You & Pieces of Me. Quite frankly, I’m surprised it turned out to be such a beautiful, well-written book. (Ok, I know I sound self-deprecating and cocky as hell all at once here, but stay with me, I DO have a point!)

It started as a thought from my designer, Desirai Labrada, that maybe I should take all of my short stories and poems and publish them. It flew from there.

Next thing I knew, I had a book.

So, I’m published. WOOHOO! It’s up on Amazon and B&N and I’ve gotten a few really incredible reviews. I’m making a few sales here and there, tweeting myself out and all that. But it’s been slow.

I’ve learned a lot in this process, lessons I will take with me into my next publishing endeavor. And here are a few tips for you on…

What NOT To Do:

  • DO NOT dive head first into the world of self-publishing without doing major research. I could have drowned, it not for some great friends who tossed me life-preservers. Read books, join groups, talk to others who have gone through it. Build your blog, your platform, your whole marketing campaign BEFORE you publish your book!
  • DO NOT put out a book in one very hard to market genre after advertising yourself in a WHOLE OTHER not-very-similar genre. I’m a YA fantasy author. Every book I’m writing and promoting is YA fantasy of one kind or another. Bits of You & Pieces of Me is a collection of short stories, poems, and essays that are dark and painful at times. And definitely adult material. Things like depression and domestic violence. So it’s been trickier to market to a crowd who thinks I’m a YA author.
  • DO NOT flounder around in an unorganized mess. It’s been hit and miss for me. Sometimes I’m on, sometimes I’m not. Partly because I feel lost, not knowing where my book fits in to the greater scheme of things. I had no marketing plan, no road map to follow to get me the sales I want. My book is largely unknown because I decided to take a trip across the country without a map or ANY navigational skills! (This is actually true, I could get lost going to the bathroom!)
  • DO NOT get sucked in to social networking and FORGET TO WRITE! I love Twitter and, well, tolerate Facebook, but you can become consumed by these forums without producing any real results. Work smarter, not harder. Make your numbers work for you. Get advice and consulting from experts who know what they are doing.

I’m proud of my book, and happy to have my name on it. I want it to sell. I think it’s a powerful work of literature and can greatly impact the right people.

It deals with real issues of domestic violence, love, loss, pain and how I grew through it as a woman, mother and a writer. Not all the stories are about me, but they all reflect some part of my inner journey. I think there are people who NEED to read this. So, how do I get it to them?

To Self-Publish or Not To Self-Publish

As I move into my true passion as a YA author, I have to decide if I will go this route again. Will I self-publish The Reluctant Familiar? A book I feel certain has great potential as the first of a very cool series.

The answer, after much consideration and debate, is YES! I’m going to self-publish this series, and I’m going to do it right.

Even as I write, I am planning my marketing campaign. I’m reading the right books. Talking to people in the know, and getting consulting done by those who KNOW HOW TO ROCK THE CYBER WORLD.

I’m making connections with local schools and book clubs in order to best promote my book when it is ready.

And I’m learning everything I can about this industry so I can give my book the launch it deserves, and the sales I deserve after working so hard on it! (Because yes, we authors do deserve to get paid for our work!)

I still hope to be picked up by a bigger publisher at some future date. I’d like to have the muscle behind me to negotiate bigger contracts, see my books in more stores and get movie deals and such! Who doesn’t? But this feels like the best path for me now, and it’s one I’m proud to walk as I make my name as an author.

In the meantime, Bits of You & Pieces of Me is still for sale. And it’s still a great book.

Kimberly Kinrade is a Young Adult Fantasy author whose first book, Bits of You & Pieces of Me, was not YA. She started selling her work when she was 10 and ran out of teeth to sell to the Tooth Fairy. Now she writes, plays with her kids and puppies, runs a love blog with the love of her life, and tweets. All the while writing her next masterpiece The Reluctant Familiar.

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  • Phil Simon

    Excellent advice. I was able to do some things differently with @thenewsmall because I had used traditional publishers twice. I wouldn’t recommend what I did for newbies.

  • Kimberly Kinrade

    Thanks, Marian, for the opportunity to post on your site. AND for being that most awesome of social media guru goddess who saved my ass on this journey! Love to you BIG TIME!

    • Marian Schembari

      Of course! You did a great job :)

  • Amy Rose Davis

    Great advice, Kimberly! I keep watching other authors and how they navigate these indie waters, and I love that we are all learning from each other. My struggle is definitely with the platform vs. content issue… As much as I enjoy the blogosphere and the twitterverse, hanging out in those places doesn’t write the words I need to write. And if I only write and publish, will anyone know I’m there? Urgh… It’s a balancing act, but it’s one I’d have if I were traditional, too. The advantages of being indie far outweigh the disadvantages, in my opinion!

    • Kimberly Kinrade

      Yeah it’s def a balancing act. I’ve learned a TON from Marian here about how to do that well. Especially how to juggle all the social media stuff in a timely, yet intimate way. She’s got this down to a SCIENCE! You should work with her on your next launch. I’m using her to help me plan better for THE RELUCTANT FAMILIAR!

  • Troy Blackford

    Awesome piece! But I do want to stress that publishers are wary of picking up and republishing books that have already been self-published… not a cut and dried rule, but one to consider.

    • Kimberly Kinrade

      Yes. It’s something I’ve considered. I’ve talked to some agents about this and the rule of thumb seems to be that a book that flops won’t be touched. If it sells well, then it has potential for being picked up for a second edition. Case in point: the Eragon series. Christopher Paolini was self-published and picked up by Alfred A. Knopf. It’s a gamble for sure, but it seems that everything in publishing these days is a gamble. That’s why, for me, being prepared with a solid launch and marketing plan BEFORE my next book is published is so critical!

      Publishers want to make money. If a book is doing extremely well on its own, with a built-in platform by the author, then it has a stronger (not guaranteed, but stronger) chance of being picked up by the big boys!

      And, I’ll be blogging my way through this journey, so hopefully others can learn from my mistakes AND my successes and we can all reshape the publishing world together. :)

    • Marian Schembari

      Yeah, I’m with Kimberly on this one. Always good to be aware, but with eBooks and blog platforms, more and more publishers are on the lookout for PROOF that a book will do well. And if it’s done well online, it’s great evidence for them to take a chance. Kimberly hit the nail on the head with her answer, so maybe I’ll stop while we’re ahead ;-)

    • Joanna Penn

      Hi Troy and all, just pointing you to some articles from publishing industry guys that self-publishing will not harm your chances at a book deal – if you’re successfully selling!

      I hope that helps others take the plunge!
      Thanks, Joanna

  • Patti Larsen

    Great post, Kimberly!

    • Kimberly Kinrade

      Thank you ;)

  • Jessica Swift

    Wow, Kimberly–I appreciate your candid, heartfelt, and enthusiastic post. I’m an indie-publishing consultant and freelance editor who strongly believes in and supports the indie author community–a place where people can communicate about their experiences so everyone can learn from one another. Thank you for writing about your publishing adventures and sharing what NOT to do. It is through posts like these–and authors like you–that the face of publishing will continue to change. Onward!

    • Kimberly Kinrade

      Thanks Jessica!
      I’ll be checking out your site. I’m currently writing another guest post for another site on Self-Publishing, and even as I write it my perceptions are changing. I’m not a die-hard indie, or a die-hard traditional. I think there’s room for it all and I’m trying to figure out where I belong on that spectrum and how to best market myself and my books! :)

  • Random Chick

    Hi Kimberley! Great post with some real good advice for us authors. I especially like the one about not getting sucked into social networking…one of my big problems. Ummm, writing is what I’m supposed to be doing not RTing quotes about how to be a successful author!! Keep up the good work!!!

    • Kimberly Kinrade

      Yeah, it’s a true balancing act. You can’t JUST write and NOT build a platform. And your platform is useless if you don’t WRITE SOMETHING! Marian,btw, is a genius at this and gives GREAT advice for making the most of social networking while still having time to write. You should talk to her :)

    • Marian Schembari

      Oh God, this part spoke to me BUCKETS. I often get caught up clicking links and following new people. Sometimes you just gotta shut down Twitter and log out of Facebook before you get so lost on the interwebs! It’s when I take these much needed breaks that I get the most done :)

  • Lisette Brodey

    How NOT to Self-Publish via @MarianSchembari –> Great post by @KimberlyKinrade

  • L.M. Stull

    Great post Kimberly! Always nice for authors to share their personal experience, especially the parts that DIDN’T work for them. Twitter can suck you in? OH GEEZE I had no idea ;) Kidding. Yes it is all about balancing, you are absolutely right.

    • Kimberly Kinrade

      I am always right! Except when I’m not ;)

    • Marian Schembari

      That’s why I love this post so much! Kimberly not only gives concrete advice, but also wasn’t afraid to show her mistakes too. This is where I think we can learn the most. It’s easy to tell us what to do, but it teaches us more to learn from experience!

  • Jake Beckman

    RT @MarianSchembari How NOT to Self-Publish

  • Rachel Thompson

    RT @KimberlyKinrade: What NOT to do in self-publishing! Check it out :) plzRT

  • Patrick Craig

    Good post. I too have arrived at the place where I don’t just want my friends on FaceBook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to bob their heads and say “That’s nice,” when I put a book up on Amazon for sale – I want people to actually buy the book. So I’ve stopped swapping “likes”, rummaging through Twitter lists and joining groups on LinkedIn and I’m looking to take the next step – how to promote and sell the book. I’ve been looking for people who review my genre (Christian Kid’s Mystery Stories), and researching promotional companies. I’ll be attending some writing conferences and talking to agents and publishers. And the key part of your post is where you remind us that social networks are not our business, writing is! Thanks

    • Kimberly Kinrade

      Good luck with everything. That’s very exciting. I think social media has a strong role to play, but you’re exactly right, it’s not our business. We need to write. Social media is a tool. And can be a really fun one! I’ve met some of my closest friends on Twitter, including the man I’m marrying!!! And like with everything, we have to set boundaries so we don’t get sucked in.

      Having a strong platform is important, and social media is one spoke on the wheel of creating that.

      Thanks for your comment. Your books sound intriguing!

  • Nicole Humphrey Cook

    RT @MarianSchembari: How NOT to Self-Publish

  • Laura Atkins

    RT @simplywriting: RT @MarianSchembari: How NOT to Self-Publish

  • vp chandler

    RT @simplywriting: RT @MarianSchembari: How NOT to Self-Publish

  • Laura Matthews

    RT @elizabethscraig: How *not* to Self-Publish: #amwriting #indiepub

  • Sena Quaren

    RT @thinkStory: RT @elizabethscraig: How *not* to Self-Publish: #amwriting #indiepub

  • S.L. Westendorf

    RT @simplywriting: RT @MarianSchembari: How NOT to Self-Publish

  • Tim Underwood

    How NOT to Self-Publish

  • Elaine Bloom

    This is a terrific piece. I’ve spent part of my life in publishing and I keep telling people who want to self-publish that book publishing is a business and they should learn something about the book business. This usually annoys/angers them. I wish you a lot of good luck. Have you joined the Independent Book Publishers Association They have a wealth of information.

    • Kimberly Kinrade

      Thank you Elaine. It is indeed a business. Even if you’re not publishing your own books, but “just” freelance writing. It’s all business and without a business mind towards it, you won’t succeed no matter how brilliant your work might be.

      I don’t understand why this would annoy so many people! That is strange to me. Honestly, I knew fumbling into this that it was a business. And I was playing with crayons at an international art convention, so to speak. But this was my crash course and I went into it knowing that.

      I haven’t joined IBPA but I’m checking it out now, thanks for the recommendation!

  • Kimberly Kinrade

    #MondayMention in case you missed it before, check out my guest post on How NOT to Publish! From one who made them all!

  • Pingback: Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #6 — The Book Designer()

  • Sara Reine

    Fantastic list. I always get the first one wrong. ;) Heheh. I’ve included this post in my blog roundup:

    • Kimberly Kinrade

      That’s AWESOME! I’m checking it out now! thanks.

  • Securityfiles

    very great blog! i wish i knew other authors who like to network and talk about getting things done and helping out. I run into people who keep it to themselves and not share any info. It’s like everyones competing with each other. I’m aobut to release my book on Amazon either this week or next.

  • Kimberly Kinrade

    @Securityfiles Any thoughts on what you want? Here r some samples of mine.

  • Kimberly Kinrade

    @TheBlankSpaces Here r a few blogs I wrote on publishing & & hope these help

  • Kimberly Kinrade

    @LongWritingRoad Here r a few articles I wrote #selfpub. How NOT to self-pub. & A Map to Self-Pub

  • The Literary Analyst

    RT @MarianSchembari: How NOT to Self-Publish

  • Cathy Larkin PR

    RT @MarianSchembari: How NOT to Self-Publish via @kimberlykinrade

  • Sara Marzougui

    Thanks for the great article. Just self-published my first book and a little lost in the process of marketing and all that   great stuff …

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