Self-Publishing: Yay or Nay? -- Guest Post by Rebekah DeVall

Ah, self-publishing. The wild child of the book world.

Ten years ago (or maybe even less), self-publishing was seriously frowned upon. “Anyone can self-publish,” they said. “Only people who can’t get accepted by real publishers self-publish.”

*dings bell* I call that rubbish.



Hi, guys. I’m Rebekah DeVall, fantasy/action/adventure/fairytale retelling author. 


Rebekah DeVall prides herself on being the girl who wrote 200,000 words in 21 days. She’s a Christian author with a penchant for killing characters and a love for writing real female protagonists described as “the example of a Christian hero that young readers need to see”. 

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About three years ago, when I first began my serious writing journey, this question came up a lot. Should I self-publish? Should I query? What is involved? I spent many hours on the internet following industry blogs and agent websites, down to the original data and everything. It was actually rather fun.

In my senior year of high school, I wrote a career paper on different writers, and one of the authors I contacted for an interview was also an editor for a small Christian press. I asked her my burning question: Is it possible for an international writer to be traditionally published in the U.S.? (For the record, I live in Bolivia, South America, which makes everything more interesting in the publishing world.)

Her answer was a solid Yes! Traditional publishing was a definite option.

So here I was, stuck right between two options. Both were possible for me. Which would I do?



From that point on, I started looking up self-publishing, mostly because I like the idea of being my own boss.

Would it be easier? Would it cost me more? Could I learn the process all by myself, or would I need to possibly sell my soul, just to get this book formatted, a cover designed, and the entire book published? 

That’s a very real concern, especially for those of us who are still young, not CEOs of huge companies or making thousands of dollars a month. Some of us are still in high school. Who has hundreds of dollars to spend on a book cover? Not me!

I’m proud to announce that today, almost exactly a year since I self-published my first book, I have had no vital upfront costs. I spent $0 in order to get my books published.

Is this recommended? Absolutely not. Can it be done? Yes.

A lot of people point out cost as one big pitfall of self-publishing. Traditionally published authors don’t pay any upfront costs. Their agent charges them nothing until the book is sold. They don’t even pay postage these days, thanks to internet queries.

“If you self-publish, you have to shell out all of the money yourself.”

True or False? Well, both.

There are a lot of steps, but you can very feasibly learn to do them yourself.



“Every book is rubbish unless at least one professional editor has looked at it.” – some random professional, somewhere. I’ve read variations of that phrase all over the web. Does a professional editor help your work? Yes! Do you need to pay $1k and above to have your book edited? No!

I wrote and published Iron Core without a single professional editor looking at it. If you read the book, you may find a typo here or a missing closing quotation mark there (I will point out that I’ve seen similar mistakes in traditionally published books too). 

You can write and self-publish a good book without selling your soul to an editor.



But WAIT. Hold on. Don’t go run out and hit “publish” on that 355k-word manuscript that you quit writing this week because it was just too much work.
If you’re not going to go through a professional editor, I recommend you take these steps instead:

Beta Readers. These amazing people read the story after you do and tell you how terrible it is.
Revisions. Once you get feedback from beta readers, fix that baby up. Put your manuscript on the surgery table and SAW, SAW, SAW! (Wow, I’m getting creepy now.)
Gamma Readers. Everyone has a different name for these people. Some people call them a second round of beta readers. I’m a geek and call my readers by the Greek alphabet (Alpha, Beta, Gama, Delta… readers). Send that baby out to more people. Let them criticize it and send it back to you.
That One Friend. If you’re like me, you have that one friend. She (or he) may be a very nice person, but wow are they picky about what they read. In my case, it’s a good friend who’s an English major. If she sees the same word used twice in the same paragraph, she yells at me. We work very well together.

In short, revise your story until you think it’s absolutely perfect (or absolutely horrible and you want to throw it out the window), and then send it to other people. When they tell you all the ways that it’s horrible, revise it again. Keep revising. Forever and ever and ever… *echoes*

Caveat: there’s also such a thing as over-editing. If you think you’re stuck in that situation, take a step back. Talk to a trusted (more advanced) writer friend. Don’t despair.

Does this sound like a lot of work? Well, no one ever said writing would be easy.



This is another skill you’ll have to learn if you’re interested in self-publishing. Traditionally publishing – yes, they do that for you, from everything I can find on the subject.

A lot of self-publishers I know pay to get their formatting done. I’ve heard all good things about Rachel Greene over at Penoaks Publishing. She’s formatted so many of my friends’ books, and I’ve heard absolutely nothing negative, so I can thoroughly recommend her.

You can also do it yourself. Amazon has this SUPER-HELPFUL book out, giving a detailed, step-by-step process on formatting for ebooks, which you can find here. The best part is that it’s free, so… like I said, no upfront cost.

Paperbacks are a little more difficult… but not much. You can actually write your book in one of CreateSpace’s interior templates and have it already formatted when it comes time to upload the story. (This was a thing I only recently discovered, and wow it makes formatting so much easier!)



Don’t even look up the prices for professional book cover designs… unless you want your credit card to die of a heart attack. It’s ridiculous. Who has hundreds of dollars to spend on a cover for a book that may or may not actually earn you a hundred dollars?

Enter Canva, an online graphic design website. With an account, you can access their templates and make all kinds of graphics – book covers, Facebook party headers, YouTube thingies, take your pick. I have friends who enjoy PicMonkey and/or Photoshop, so definitely search around until you find something you like.



When it comes to images for said book cover, you can definitely take your own and upload them. Just make sure they’re good quality, so the cover doesn’t come out all pixelated and nasty-looking. After all, you’re putting your name on this thing, so you want to make it look as professional as possible. I personally use pictures from royalty-free image websites such as Pixabay, Pexels, and Unsplash.

Don’t just steal images off Google. A, that’s illegal, and B, you’ll get in trouble for it. Also, don’t just slap images together on a Canva template and call it a book cover. Google “book cover design”. Spend a couple of hours at your bookshelf, looking at what book covers in your genre have in common and what they don’t. 

Get feedback. Share the design with your writing friends (and non-writing friends! You need readers too!). See what they think works and what doesn’t.



Now we’ve come down to the core of this post. You’ve probably realized by now that I’m very pro-self-publishing, and also very much a DIY girl. I have decided that, personally, self-publishing is the best road for me. It’s taken a lot of practice, a lot of mistakes, and many, many, many, many, many, many, many hours of research, but I’m doing it.

Self-publishing isn’t looked down on as much as it was years ago.

So in the end, it’s up to you. How much do you want to do yourself? Are you willing to spend hours of research and practice (not that you wouldn’t do the same with traditional publishing)?

Tell me about yourself. Where are you in your writing journey? Which publishing route do you imagine you’ll take?



Melissa here, everyone! Thanks for all your tips and insight, Rebekah!
For all of you who don't know, she's just recently released a fantastic book called Iron Core! Here's the blurb:

Everything will be okay. 
Deep in Brancaleone, a prison carved from the mountainside, eighteen-year-old Lunetta plans her escape. Raised behind iron bars, all she wants is freedom -- and to take her mother with her.

Check it out on Amazon here!

As Rebekah said, tell us about where you imagine your writing future to go! I personally am leaning towards traditional, but I have so much respect for indies, and think it's a great option for the right writer! What are your thoughts on self-publishing; yay or nay?

Comments

  1. This is just what I needed, thank you!

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    1. I'm glad you found it helpful; Rebekah wrote a wonderful article! :)

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  2. Thanks for having me, Melissa?

    Also, apparently the link for Amazon's formatting book didn't translate into the blog post. Here we are: https://www.amazon.com/Building-Your-Kindle-Direct-Publishing-ebook/dp/B007URVZJ6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1525480487&sr=8-2&keywords=building+your+book+for+kindle

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    1. You're very welcome, thanks for the great post! <3

      Ah sorry about that! I've added it in now!

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  3. This is a super helpful post, Rebekah. I'm planning to start thinking more about publishing later this year, so I'll be sure to keep this post in mind.

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    1. Best of luck with your publishing journey, Rachel! <3

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  4. I go back and forth between the two. Great post!

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  5. I've been debating back and forth between indie and traditional, so this post is very appropriate. Excellent job!

    Catherine
    catherinesrebellingmuse.blogspot.com

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    1. I've similarly been warring the two in my head. :) Best of luck with your decision! <3

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  6. This is super helpful--I'm planning to self-publish one of my series for sure, but the others I'm hoping to query traditionally. Amazing post!

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    1. It sounds like you know your audience for every work you have, which is wonderful! Best of luck! <3

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  7. I unfortunately disagree with this post almost entirely. ^ ^' Yes, you can do all of these things for free, but quality is what makes your book stand out among the thousands of other self-published books. A low quality cover can put off a reader. I know several cover designers who do amazing work (Dog-Eared Designs is amazing) and they charge because they do such amazing work and their covers have even won awards. I know lots of editors too (Quill Pen Editorial, Ben Wolf, Nadine Brandes) and the reason why they charge is because that's their way of making money to support themselves and their families and because, again, they do quality work. A typo here and there isn't very excusable in my opinion. Would you see a typo here and there in a traditionally published book? Very rarely. The reason why traditional publishers stay in business is because they put out very high quality work. I know several self-published authors (Kara Swanson, Bryan Davis, Jill Williamson, Ben Wolf) and the reason why their books are successful (several have won or been nominated for awards and sold thousands of copies) is because they put in that extra effort. Yes, it's pricey, but don't you want your book to be available as the best it can be and not rushed because you just want your book out there? That's the biggest pitfall of a self-published author. Also if you want to traditionally publish later and you have a low quality self-published book on the market a publisher will often be put off by that.

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    1. I understand what you're saying Victoria. I myself am very pro-traditional publishing, but I still encourage self-publishing. Yes, traditionally published books are often more polished than those self-pubbed --- usually it depends on how much money is being spent on the book, and if other eyes have seen it. I would encourage all writers who would like to self-pub to consider spending money on design, editing, etc. I think editors and cover designers are extremely wonderful, and all those with funds should seek their help! However, I know several writers who are unable to work, with little to no funds, and would like to be self-pubbed, and so design and edit their books themselves. I think what I'm trying to get at is what Rebekah said early on in her post: "I spent $0 in order to get my books published. Is this recommended? Absolutely not. Can it be done? Yes." The more money spent, like everything, the higher quality things in general will become. But I'm of the opinion it's not impossible to reach this high quality if a LOT of hard work and unique skill is put in by the author. :) Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! ^_^

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