Book review – two self publishing how-to guides

Now that I’ve made my decision to indie publish, I figured I’d better do some research. So I jumped onto Amazon and, after reading countless reviews, bought myself two how-two guides on indie/self publishing.

Let’s Get Digital: How to Self Publish, And Why You Should by David Gaughran

I really enjoyed this book. It got me quite excited about the indie publishing scene and fuelled some wow-this-could-really-take me-places fantasies. Throughout the book, Gaughran explains why he decided to self publish and dispels what he believes are common misconceptions about the traditional publishing and digital self publishing industries. He then guides the reader through the process of digital self publishing, encouraging writers to invest in quality editing and cover design.

The third section of the book is dedicated to success stories of self publishers. It steers clear of the well known stars like Amanda Hocking, John Locke and Joe Konrath, and instead lets thirty-three relatively unknown self publishers tell their individual stories in their own words. As you read story after story, the over-arching message of this book is driven home: “Self-publishing takes work, patience and a lot of luck to succeed, but the rewards are tremendous.” 

And another cool quote: “People love discovering new writers and new stories, and they love sharing their discoveries. As long as you tell people your book is there, as long as you promote it beyond your family and friends, you have a chance. Readers will hear about your book, either from a friend, or a review, or one of your promotions on a forum, or on Facebook, or on Goodreads, or on Twitter and they will check it out. 

If they like the cover, they will read the blurb. If they like that, they will read the sample. If they like the sample they may purchase the book. If they enjoy the read, they will tell more people. This is word-of-mouth, and it’s the only thing that has ever really sold books.”

What didn’t I like?

I was disappointed that the book only focused on digital publishing because, unlike Gaughran, I don’t believe that ‘print is doomed’. Perhaps it will be one day (I hope not), but we’re a long way from there at the moment. Also, I was hoping for some more nitty gritty detail on the self publishing process itself. Overall though, this book offered some fantastic insights and I’m definitely glad I read it!

Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard

If Gaughran’s book had me gazing up at the stars, Howard’s brought me back to earth with a crash. According to her, sane self publishers are a rare breed. ‘I ventured into their [self publishers’] forums, where the decorative scheme was five shades of Crazy, the distinct scent of eau de delusional hung in the air and everyone seemed to be complaining, confused, or both.’ 

You can imagine how many people’s hackles might rise when reading that! My hackles, however, remained stable. I loved this book. It gives you the self publishing facts with no holds barred, but softens any potential blows with witty, dry humour.

The nitty gritty that I would’ve liked from Gaughran, I found in Howard’s book. I also found some fantastic information on the in’s and out’s of print-on-demand publishing. Howard takes you through each step of: building an online platform (fairly happy with my ability in that area), publishing your paperback (using Createspace), publishing your e-book (using Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords), selling your book, launching your book and ‘everything else’.

Gaughran’s and Howard’s books probably sound poles apart – and in style and tone, they are. But they actually have a lot in common. They both stress the importance of editing, cover design, blurbs and reviews, and they both agree that with a lot of hard work, success in self publishing is possible.

What didn’t I like? 

Not much, to be honest. Occasionally, Howard’s blunt style was a little off-putting, and sometimes, I wish she’d stop with the witty banter and just get to the point, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to any self-publishing hopeful. If readers take offence, it could be because they’ve breathed in too much of the scent of eau de delusional! 

Some of my favourite quotes

‘Do you have any idea how many people are self publishing books right now? There was probably a couple born in the time it took you to read that sentence and chances are neither of them are very good. Yes, there are a number of very successful self-publishers self-publishing very good books that lots of people like, but they are the exceptions to the rule.’

‘Before we go any further I want you to read these next three sentences aloud: I cannot expect each individual reader to compensate me for the years of blood, sweat and tears that went into writing this book. The price tag on my book is not a reflection of how much work went into it. I have to look at the big picture and acknowledge that if I insist on being a greedy b—–d and overcharging people, then I won’t sell any copies at all.’

‘Covers are important to books, but they are the most important thing about self published books…. even if you’re the next Jonathan Franzen and your book is better than The Corrections and Freedom combined, no one is going to buy it if your cover looks like a pile of (water-coloured?) poo.’

How about you?

Have you read any good books on self publishing? Do either of these books appeal to you? Or is self publishing totally not your thing?



Filed under Book review, Self publishing

10 responses to “Book review – two self publishing how-to guides

  1. Zoe Winters has a good book on self-publishing called Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author.

  2. I haven’t tried self-publishing, yet. But there’s little difference between self-publishing and small press publishing which is what I have tried. I’m happy with Double Dragon thus far. They loaded my ebook up frickin’ everywhere that sells ebooks, and the formatting of it looks good. No weird indents, etc. Plus I got an awesome cover. I’ve had a few people discover my book, got a couple pieces of fan mail. And I’ve had some religious people write me a scathing review (one even said my book is blasphemy). As an atheist, I think that’s funny. I reported the review as offensive and it got taken down (yes reviews can be taken down if they cross a line and the blasphemy one crossed the line).

    • I’m glad to hear you’re happy with your publishing experience so far. I can’t believe you’ve had to have a review removed though – hardcore! Hopefully you don’t get any more of those!

  3. I don’t know much about self-publishing, but I’m interested in learning more. As you know, I write for younger readers, and I’m curious as to whether either of these books addressed the kid lit market – picture books specifically – or whether they were only for adult books?

  4. T.F.Walsh

    Two great books… love the quotes you shared with us.

  5. Ta Rubinstein

    These days, self publishing is a bit easy if you have lots and lots of inspiration. Tools and software for self publishing are widely available. `’;,*

    Take care“>

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