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Self-publishing surprises

Perkins_D_cylinder_printing_press_in_the_British_LibrarySelf-publishing can be rewarding, but also overwhelming. You have to be the author, publisher, and promoter all in one.

Turns out this works pretty well for me. I like the control of hiring my own editor, cover artist, and proofreader, and having complete discretion over my book release timeline—subject to my ability to write the books, of course! That also means I have to take time away from writing to find and work with the aforementioned professionals.

I also have to front the money to pay them.

For me, it’s been worth it so far. Here are a few of the things I learned along the way to releasing my first self-published novel.

1. Every online retailer has their own time delay before your book goes live. Amazon had BLIND FURY up within 24 hours, Nook and Kobo were close behind. CreateSpace took 3-4 days, iBooks almost ten. So plan for that when determining your release schedule.

(According to the iBooks rep I spoke to last weekend at my chapter retreat, someone actually reads through every book to ensure quality of formatting, etc. Their timeline is usually 5-10 days.)

2. It takes time to line up and schedule editors, artists, and proofreaders. My editor—whom I adore—usually needs about three weeks to get me on her calendar for each round, so I have to build that into my plan. The cover artists take 10-14 days. My proofreader about three.

What I’m doing now is working with the cover artist while my editor goes through her second round of suggested edits. This will allow me to have a cover reveal before the book is fully polished.

3. It takes me longer to write than I think it will. (Duh, right?) I recently wrote 25K in a week in order to meet a date I set with my editor for round one. Mistake. Next time, I’ll have the book finished before I scheduler her. That way the manuscript can simmer and I can look it over before turning it in, but I won’t be tearing out my hair and turning in crap that I’m paying her to look at.

On the plus side, I found that I can write 25K bad words in a week.

4. Even though I don’t have to meet a publishing company’s deadlines, my goal is still to publish books. So I’m setting my own long-term publishing goals to keep me on track. But I have the benefit of being able to move the dates up or back as needed to save my sanity (what’s left, anyway).

5. For some reason I didn’t expect to get returns on my ebooks. After talking to a friend, I found that my return rate (which is under 2%) was at or below normal rates for my subgenre. Apparently some genres (like Young Adult) have really high rates, so you might want to check before you hit Publish so you can be prepared.

6. Amazon reports are addictive. Big surprise, right? But they’re beautiful because I get up-to-the-minute sales info. I can immediately see whether something I did had an impact on my sales.

Of course, it can be frustrating to have an increase in sales and not know why too. If I don’t know where they came from, how can I repeat that performance in the future?

7. Keywords are key, at least at Amazon. According to the iBooks rep, when a reader searches, Apple doesn’t use keywords, only title, subgenre, and author. But Amazon uses keywords. So think about how someone might find your book and enter that word or phrase as a keyword.

For example, just to test this out, I added the keyword phrase “best friend’s sister romance” (which only counts as one keyword). Now, if you type that into the Amazon search bar, my book will show up in the list. I’ll also show up under “pararescue romance” and “special ops romance.”

You get seven keyword phrases, and you can change them at any time to experiment. I recommend you use all of them. It takes about 12 hours for Amazon to make an update any time you revise your metadata.

That’s a quick hit of things that I learned. Please share your own!

Image credit: By takomabibelot (CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.