The Decision to Self-Publish

Ten years ago I dreamed of being published the traditional way, vanity publishing aside, it was the only option available. With the ink still wet on my contract with a London literary agent, I was full of optimism.

Pen and Ink by Heather s
Pen and Ink by Heather courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

The Flower Seller came close to securing a deal with a couple of publishers but ultimately I lost the slot to other more established authors with proven track records or the money men shook their heads. Other near misses with future novels followed and then the world started to change.

What Now.s
What now? By Kiran Foster courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

Last Christmas I read “Self-Printed The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing” by Catherine Ryan Howard and decided to leap into the unknown. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly. Burning bridges is never pleasant but in my heart of hearts I knew it was the right decision for me. How much longer did I wait for a trad deal? What if it never came? Better to regret the things that I have done than to regret the things I never had the courage to try. And so I began my journey through the dark forest of self-publishing. It was an unfamiliar and scary place full of traps for the unwary.

Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams
Close your Eyes and Surrender to your Darkest Dreams by MartinaK15 courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

I was plunged into a whirlwind of new activity. There were so many new terms to learn, so many new skills to acquire, so much knowledge to soak up and try to retain.

Spinning toy
Spinning Toy by Cinnamon_girl courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Anyone familiar with Grand Designs on TV will know the format where the people building their houses set out their timescale and proposed cost of the project. I am probably not alone in smirking and thinking “Yeah it’ll take twice as long and cost twice as much…”   And yet I made the same mistake with my own project.

What have I discovered on the way? That the self-publishing community is a friendly and encouraging group of people. I have found the Alliance of Independent Authors   phenomenally supportive and informative. The blogs and articles so generously written by Alli’s contributors have been invaluable to a newbie like me. As has the sage advice given by amongst others:

Catherine Ryan Howard

David Gaughran

Joel Friedlander

Kristen Lamb

and Joanna Penn

They have all provided candles to light my journey and I am grateful for their generosity of spirit in sharing their knowledge. I hope in some small way the advice I give below will in turn help someone new who is at the start of their own journey. Paying it forward as the saying goes.

So what advice would I pass on to the next person taking the leap?

  1. Make your book the best version of the book it can be and don’t give in to the temptation to rush to publication too early. Hire an editor and a proof reader.
  2. Take time and trouble over your cover. Never underestimate the power of that thumbnail sized jpeg on the Kindle screen.
  3. Make a note of useful information in an orderly fashion. I became swamped by so much valid advice that it became too hard to take in. Learn from my mistakes – have a system.
Filing pile
Filing Pile by Cas courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

4. You don’t have to learn everything at once and the world won’t end if you make a mistake.

5. Plan, plan and plan some more. Countries have been invaded with less planning than this project will take! Give yourself plenty of time. Everything always takes longer than you think. The book is the lynchpin but there are so many other facets of self-publishing, any publishing really, that need your attention, not least the building of a social media platform.

6. There is never enough time. I recall reading that Joanna Penn gave up watching television – I understand why!

Pocket watches
Pocket Watches by Peter Dracht courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

7. Have patience with yourself. It’s better to do one thing well than ten badly but don’t be so hidebound by perfection that you never complete anything.

8. Believe in yourself and your ability to see the project through to completion. There have been many times when I have likened the business of self-publishing to fighting the Hydra. As soon as I cut off one head two more spring up in its place. It sometimes feels like a battle I cannot win and yet here I am one year on still going, still fighting.

Fighting the Hydra
Fighting the Hydra by Ayustety courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

9. There is never enough time. Did I mention that?!

10. Try to enjoy and celebrate the successes you will have along the way. The first time you see your completed cover is such a thrill. The first time someone tells you your book is on pre-order in Sweden as happened to me this week! You need the little pick-me-ups to keep you going.

My journey through the dark forest of self-publishing continues. My novel, The Flower Seller, will be published in June 2016. It’s gestation period has been long and often arduous. Today’s blog is the first in my Flower Seller Thursday collection leading up to publication on Thursday 2nd June #FlowerSellerThursday

The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes

It would be nice to say that in June I will arrive at my destination but does a writer ever do that? There is always the next project and the next. Write, publish, repeat is a mantra I have become familiar with on my first year’s adventures in self-publishing. Here’s to the second year and many more to come.

If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out on the journey to self-publication, what would it be?











24 thoughts on “The Decision to Self-Publish

  1. geraldhornsby 07/01/2016 / 12:43 pm

    Great piece, Ellie!

    I suppose the one piece of advice is: “be realistic”. Listen to critiques, understand your writing, be aware of your limitations (whether that’s in the writing, the editing, the formatting, the cover design, or the marketing). Be aware of what you want to achieve with your novel, but keep those dreams realistic and grounded.

    And, like you (I know this is two pieces, but I was always greedy): read advice from multiple sources. Don’t take any one person’s advice as gospel. There are some in self-publishing who are more intent on the marketing, and less on the writing. But, as you say in your blog, Ellie – Write, Publish, Repeat. The best way of achieving success (be that measured through fame or your bank balance) is to publish as many pieces as you can. More novels give you legitimacy, and shows that you’re a true writer, and not a ‘here today: gone tomorrow’ writer, so people will invest their time in reading your novel, being confident that there will be others in the pipeline.


    • ellieholmesauthor 07/01/2016 / 3:44 pm

      Thanks Gerald. ‘Be realistic’ is a great piece of advice. Learning what your limitations are is one of the hardest things to do but once you know where your boundaries lie you can concentrate your energies and really start to flourish. And I’ll let you sneak in a second piece of advice because it’s such a good one! Thanks for posting.


  2. kbeezyisviral 07/01/2016 / 4:04 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this article. Self-publishing is like birthing a child, you have to take tender, delicate care of the projects you produce. The business side of promoting and expanding your readers is a totally different realm than writing itself. Ladies Prism is coming soon to romance the world. Scotian Breeze is the movement. Treasure Words, Collect Figures is the company. History in the making; stay tuned.


    • ellieholmesauthor 07/01/2016 / 4:16 pm

      ‘Self-publishing is like birthing a child …’ So true! And you are absolutely right to point out that writers need two different skill sets: one for the writing and one for the business of selling what we write. Thanks for posting.


  3. deborahanndykeman 30/06/2016 / 4:05 pm

    My one piece of advice would be to not give up! Self-publishing has been absolutely fantastic for me! Yes, it has been difficult and a lot of work without much pay. But my books are out there and being read and that is thrilling! Your post was right-on and I have used Kristen Lamb


    • ellieholmesauthor 01/07/2016 / 5:22 pm

      Thanks Deborah. Great advice! I’m now juggling promoting the first book whilst getting stuck into copy edits on the next. You have to be careful not to lose the joy of writing amongst the business side of things, which is my latest challenge – I feel a blog post coming on! It’s all one big learning curve but I am enjoying it hugely and fully intend to stick at it. Ellie x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. deborahanndykeman 30/06/2016 / 4:06 pm

    For some reason, my above comments posted before I said, Beautiful Cover! Very eye-catching! Congratulations!


  5. kjw616 30/06/2016 / 4:07 pm

    I also struggled with how to get my book published and even spent a year sending it out to literary agents. The decision to self-publish it became easy when I analyzed my motivation for writing the book. Mine is a story about my father’s family, who moved from NJ to the USSR during the Great Depression. It was a very long, personal journey to uncover the story and I did not want anyone dictating which chapters should remain and which ones should be cut. So that is my suggestion. Look into your heart and let that help lead you down the correct path for you.


    • ellieholmesauthor 01/07/2016 / 5:15 pm

      Hi Karen. As you will see in my reply to Kathy’s comment now that I have gained in confidence I trust my instincts much more than I did at the beginning of my self publishing journey and fortunately they haven’t let me down yet. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Your book sounds fascinating. Ellie x


  6. K E Garland 30/06/2016 / 4:57 pm

    My advice is there is always a lot of advice lol sometimes it’s good to listen to yourself. It’s your book after all 😉


    • ellieholmesauthor 01/07/2016 / 5:10 pm

      Thanks Kathy. What you say is so true. I have come to realise that what I feel instinctively is the right thing to do often is even if it sometimes goes against what perceived wisdom says so now if my gut says it’s right I stick with it. Ellie x

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Kelee Morris 30/06/2016 / 7:49 pm

    I would say, accept that your dreams of fame and fortune probably aren’t going to come true, despite what you read on the internet. Instead, embrace the process of writing, editing, and publishing for its own sake. Live in the moment and don’t worry about what the future will bring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ellieholmesauthor 01/07/2016 / 5:06 pm

      Fortunately, fame and fortune have never been my motivation. I just love to write and want to spend as much time doing what I love as I can so I wholeheartedly agree with you. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Ellie x

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Leslie 02/07/2016 / 3:35 pm

    Bookmarking this! And congratulations!


  9. pamturnerblog 11/12/2017 / 9:52 am

    Bit late with this Ellie, but a great article which will help me where I am at the beginning of the publishing journey. I liked the comment that it’s like birthing a child. The child who had an exceptionally long pregnancy! I’ve been trawling agents and stinging from rejections which don’t tell you anything really. Then it dawned that my original plan was to e-publish, but I became influenced I think by people who were being traditionally published. So, the new journey begins!


    • ellieholmesauthor 11/12/2017 / 1:23 pm

      Good luck with the next phase of your writing career. It’s all about the confidence to strike out and give it a go. The practicalities of producing a book are time consuming but if it is a road you go down do spend some time planning who you will send review copies to as reviews are crucial to help discoverability and plan a bit of an advertising boost – facebook ads etc., if money allows as it all helps. I am happy to do a review when the time comes if you’d like me to. Ellie x

      Liked by 1 person

      • P.A. Turner author 07/06/2018 / 7:44 am

        Just noticed this Ellie as I’ve just started trying to market and learning about blogging, etc. Yes please if you want to review the book that would be fantastic! Still not clear about release date but will be before the end of the year. x

        Liked by 1 person

      • ellieholmesauthor 24/06/2018 / 11:01 am

        Yes definitely Pam. Let me know when you have the release date. Ellie x


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s