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Apr 13, 2020

A new era for the publishing industry: online self-publishing

By Irene Perali.

I will never get tired of saying how much technology has improved my life. Without messaging services and social networks, I wouldn't stay in touch with my friends because I feel awkward during phone calls. Without GPS, I wouldn't have seen most of the places I visited during my travels because I was scared of getting lost. Yes, I did avoid exploring remote areas of a city for this reason. 

Without online self-publishing services, I wouldn't have published my book. 
Self-publishing services are like those running races on Sunday morning where everybody can participate. If it's true that one doesn't have to be a professional athlete to compete in a race, it's also true that one doesn't have to be a professional writer to share a story with the rest of the world.
Self-publishing is a relatively easy process and has become more and more mainstream in the last decade. I used Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, which is free and offers several resources to get the job done.
Amazon gives you the possibility to sell your book with very little constrains. However, the more freedom you have, the more mistakes you can make. Here you have some facts I’ve learned in my self-publishing journey.

Is self-publishing for me?
Like many authors working on their first book, this is a frequent question, and the answer is different for every case.
Publishing through a literary agent is always a valid option and has its own advantages, including a higher chance of becoming a best-selling author. Agents know the market trends, and their feedback will very likely improve the quality of your book. Agents have a clear goal: sell as many copies as possible. 
So, if you want to become a best-selling author, you are willing to apply modifications to your story, and you are not in a rush, then you should try the traditional process.
Nevertheless, there are several reasons why I decided to self-publish. 
·      First, I submitted ten queries and they were all rejected—by the way, you shouldn't give up after only ten queries if you want to find an agent.
·      Second, my goal is more to tell the story the way I conceived it than to sell thousands of copies. 
·      Finally, self-publishing gave me the absolute certainty that my book would be eventually published and I was in full control of the timeline.
Do your research about the pros and cons of self-publishing before making a decision.
You can always try to publish through an agent and, if you don’t succeed after a given amount of time, pursue the self-publishing option.

Consider investing some money
Even though you can publish your book without spending a cent, you can get much better results if you pay professionals to help you to polish your work.
If you do everything by yourself—and I don't doubt your superpowers—you will probably miss something. Every product or service we purchase in our everyday life is always the work of a team. If you self-publish on Amazon, nobody will review your book for quality. Amazon will let you publish any content, as long as it meets formatting requirements. 
If you are on a budget, my recommendation is to identify the weakest areas of your book and invest money to fix them.
Even though my beta readers—found on CritiqueMatch—had done an excellent job in reviewing my manuscript, I paid a professional editor to review my final version. It preserved my style but caught mistakes and inconsistencies. You can search "book editing services" on Google and compare results. Most services allow you to submit a free sample to evaluate if the outcome meets your expectations.
I did all the formatting for the paperback and eBook versions by myself. I love this kind of activity! Instructions on Kindle Direct Publishing website are clear and the book previewer highlights any element of incompatibility with the standard.
For the cover, I worked with a friend who is an illustrator. I wanted my cover to be unique and personal. Then, I used the Amazon cover creator to complete the work and I reached semi-professional results.

It doesn't take long, but it does take some time
I previously said that self-publishing is a relatively easy process. This is true. However, don't underestimate the effort and get frustrated if you realize it takes longer than expected.
Those who have never written a book think that writing is the only time-consuming part. However, writing is just a fraction of the entire time it takes to bring a story to the public.
If you are preparing your book for publication for the first time, consider that there is a learning curve. I didn't work on it full-time, but it took me a couple of months from when my final version was ready to when it was available on Amazon bookshelf. Be ready to go through several iterations and to reformat your manuscript multiple times until you obtain the result you were envisioning. 
I didn't expect that it would take a lot of time just to make decisions. Things I wouldn't even notice while reading books became decisions of vital importance. I got stuck for the most trivial things, like whether to include the chapter number before the chapter name or not and what symbol to use as paragraph separator—I eventually chose flowers.
My advice is to look at books you like and bought in the last year to have an idea of the result you should achieve. Other advice: you are an artist, but don't get too creative. Books are formatted in a certain way to make them as clear as possible for readers whose minds are expecting a specific format. It's your responsibility to make their lives easier.

Publishing is not the end of your journey
You've been working on your book for years and, finally, the entire world can read your story. But your work is not complete yet. If you want more people to read your novel, they need to know that your novel exists.
A good story is a necessary condition for success, but it's not sufficient. Marketing is as important as the quality of your book. The topic of how to promote a book deserves its own post, but here you have some ideas to get started.
First, the word-of-mouth is always the most effective way to spread your story. Don't be shy. Tell your friends that you are publishing a book. Maybe they will tell other friends who will tell other friends. Knowing a person who wrote a book, no matter how popular the book is, is an interesting conversation topic.
Then, you can create your website to present yourself as an author. As usual, Google is going to be your best friend. You can find several options to create a website for free. You don't have to be a geek or a digital graphic expert to achieve good-looking results.
Social networks are also powerful tools. Announce the launch of your book on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I was resistant to doing it because I thought people wouldn't appreciate self-promotion. Surprise! The post about my book was the most liked in my entire Facebook history. 
Other things you can do are to register yourself as an author on Goodreads, connect with people who organize events in your area, try to be involved in organizations that care about themes you touch in your book.

Good luck, and be ready for negative reviews
As for everything in our life, luck always plays a key role. But, as my grandfather used to say, the more hooks you bait, the higher the probability of catching a big fish.
However, if you decide to publish your book, be prepared for negative feedback. Every author, even the most famous, receives negative reviews. Think about how many masterpieces or best-selling books you didn't like. 
If you self-publish, in particular on Amazon, everybody becomes a book critic.
There is only one way not to receive negative feedback: sell a tiny number of copies.


About the Author: Irene Perali
Born and raised in a small town in Northern Italy, Irene Perali is an engineer with a passion for writing.
She never took writing seriously until, in 2015, she relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area for work. Before then, during her doctoral studies, she had experience in writing and peer-reviewing scientific papers, an experience that she decided to extend to fiction.
In California, she studied creative writing at different writing schools around the Bay Area and started to work at her first draft. Irene’s favorite genre is women’s fiction, with immigration as the central theme. Writing is still a hobby for her and she recently self-published her first book, Followives, on Amazon. You can find more details on her website: