Five Ways to Succeed in Self-Publishing


At least what worked for me


In a nutshell:

  • Work from your strengths
  • Find all the free, talented help you can muster
  • Get pushy and bossy
  • Keep (or develop) your sense of humor
  • Learn fast or die young


When I was a beginning writer way back in 2007 and thinking I was an accomplished author and genius, I surmised the world would beat its way to the bookstore doors to scoop up multiple volumes of my debut novel. Maybe they would even leave one of those little crosses with the plastic flowers propped up against the brick entrance with a banner proclaiming “This is the place to buy Judith Grout’s triumphant first novel.” But I think you have to be dead (or Stephen King) to merit that type of homage so, glad to still be above ground, I moved on.

When I approached the glorious final step of my “finished” novel, I polished my query letter and started checking the 90 something agencies listed on my “hopeful” spreadsheet. I waited for the battle to begin over who would represent me. This endeavor took all my time (for 6 months) totally focused on proposals, both electronic and SASE species. One has to work hard when one is unknown and doesn’t have an influential relative in the White House, on the New York Times staff, or at least employed by NPR. Nothing much significant happened. I did have a few nibbles but, as they all sputtered out, I resolved to head down that dusty road called DIY.

I started furiously reading self-help how-to-self-publish-your-story tomes (which, if they’re more than five days old, are obsolete.) I took notes and made plans. I whipped my website into shape and began posting regular blogs. I opened a Facebook and Twitter account and puzzled over just what all fuss was on TV about what LeBron just tweeted. I joined a number of writer’s organizations, entered contests, started giveaways. I rejuvenated my “contact” list and just about every other list I could come up with. I enlisted the help of my able-minded, resident computer expert who also just happened to be a retired editor (sort of.)

So here is what I’ve learned:

  • The strength of my story (besides being good) resided in the fact it is about a journey of two naive young women hitchhiking from Minnesota to Washington State. I figured there are a whole lot of folks in those places along the road who would want to read a story placed in their part of that road.
  • My computer expert (indicated above) is one of those crazy people who thrive on trying new electronic stuff by following vague instructions on how to get my MS successfully published and designing and producing my book trailer and dipping our collective toes in the advertising arena.
  • The pushy and bossy part grows on one. I find myself stepping forward, volunteering for speaking engagements, book signings, even elbow-rubbing with other writers.
  • Humor has been something that doesn’t come easily to the practical mind.  Awakening the Broca segment of my brain was an uncomfortable exercise pour moi. I’m learning to see humor all around me. If I run too fast and trip and, oops, go splat, I need to laugh. If I overdo on the exercise treadmill, I’m sore for a day or two – no biggie. As I approach another year older and step into the next decade, I shrug and cope with sagging, drooping, and not remembering what happened five minutes ago. C’est la vie.

Supposedly the “life” of a (traditional) published novel is three months. I don’t plan to let go quite that soon but I will put the current campaign on the back burner to simmer while I start blockbuster number two.

Got any better ideas?

(I hope you noticed the cosmopolitan sophistication I demonstrated by the use of la Français above.)

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