Confessions of a Self-Publishing Consultant
By M.A. Demers
When I wrote my novel, Baby Jane, like so many indie authors I rushed to publish. It seemed so simple, the press was good, and the self-publishing gurus were stressing the ease and freedom of going it alone. I got my novel out first as an ebook and then I published in print. Within days I received my first five-star review from a stranger and thought all was going rather well. I felt vindicated in my decision to self-publish.
And then the problems started.
Without going into detail, suffice it to say these problems cost me time, money, and a great deal of stress. Some of the problems were my own fault for not having done my homework, some were the result of listening to well-intentioned but misinformed fellow authors I connected with on the forums, and some were the result of deliberate misinformation provided by the companies I did business with. All of which made me take a step back and dig deeper. As my breadth of knowledge grew, fellow writers suggested I publish a book: my information was too valuable to keep to myself. The first edition of The Global Indie Author was born.
The consulting part was accidental. I had fulfilled my obligation to my peers, and I expected to return immediately to the business of writing my next novel. But then I started receiving messages from authors around the globe. They, too, were running into problems, problems I now knew were avoidable. And many wrote or called with dilemmas or obstacles I had not considered, forcing me to learn even more. That led to a second edition. Once again I thought my duty done, and returned to my neglected manuscript. But the questions kept coming in. My research continued. And then major changes swept through the industry this year, necessitating a third edition. My novel threatened to run away with another writer. I shared its frustration but I enjoy helping others succeed, and I feel an obligation to keep us safe from the hucksters who prey on our inexperience.
I am continually amazed at the volume of advice handed out to indie authors that is frustratingly vague on details. How often have you begun reading an article with great anticipation, expecting to learn what the headline promises, only to feel let down at the end? Or worse, the encouraging tone of the article leaves you feeling inspired at first, but you later realize you didn’t learn anything concrete. And so you struggle, continually trying to meet the expectations these advisers create but without the instructions you need. You are told, for instance, about the importance of writing an engaging book description, but no example is provided. You are told it is essential that you properly format your book, but not how to do so. You are told you need an ISBN, or you do not need an ISBN, but not why or why not. The list is lengthy.
So I decided to take a different approach with my blog and my book: I decided to give authors information instead of pep talks. I don’t just relay the importance of properly formatting your manuscript, I devote a whole chapter to the details (and two more to building your own ebooks). I provide an example of how to write a great book description, including how to work in genre-specific keywords. I explain how ISBNs work and the conditions under which you do or do not need one. I dissect print and digital distribution, providing in-depth information to help you navigate the system. I answer a myriad of legal questions . . . my list, too, is lengthy. And although I’ve never been as popular as those peddling easy and instant results — and I’ve made a few enemies by sharing industry secrets — I take comfort in knowing I am contributing something concrete to my readers’ success.
I have always been a believer that knowledge is power, that knowledge is protection. Knowledge keeps you safe from the shysters who have discovered ways to make more money off you than for you. Knowledge helps you produce a professional product that makes your book stand out from the amateurs. Knowledge helps you succeed where others fail. And knowledge saves you time, money, and grief.
I am often approached by a potential client for assistance, only to have them later email to say they do not need me after all because they bought my book instead. I have to laugh at the irony, if not all the way to the bank.
M. A. Demers is a freelance editor, self-publishing consultant, and the author of Baby Jane and The Global Indie Author: Your Guide to the World of Self-Publishing. She is now writing her second novel. Honestly. They worked things out.