How Do You Successfully Self-Publish?

I found this piece from Mike most illuminating. We all know I write, yes? But while I once attempted to merge this blog with my publishing aspirations, I rather swiftly backed down. I have a massive block against mingling my personal creative forum with a profit-oriented commercial goal. However, it’s become manifest that I need to create a forum in which I can comfortably achieve both goals. I’m a writer, yes. But I do need to shift perspective if I wish to publish and market the produce of my brain in a successful way.


Last week, a friend of mine took a look at my non-fiction and said, “I couldn’t find much on your blog about indie publishing… I’ve traditionally published before but always on the look-out for interesting posts on how to successfully self-publish.”

Her point was well-taken, I do lean heavily toward the author side of the publishing equation, and maybe my site navigation could use some work. But her observation also points up a distinction that isn’t always clear: What is the difference between “indie publishing,” “traditional publishing,” and “self-publishing”?

Possibly the easiest of these to define is “traditional publishing.” No one disputes that Hachette and Penguin Random House are traditional publishers. There was no such thing as “the internet” or “the ebook” when these publishers first sprang into existence, and their overall business strategy is not digital-dependent. If the internet crashed tomorrow, these publishers would have the infrastructure in place…

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4 thoughts on “How Do You Successfully Self-Publish?

  1. Thanks for the reblog, Erin. Always proud to be included in such fine company here. 🙂

    Aside from hearing this from other artists, I also have friends of my own who lament that an artist’s job (my job) shouldn’t be to mingle the angelic star-dust of our creativity with the filthy lucre of commerce.

    I also know plenty of artists (myself among them) with egos at least as big as Cleveland who would like nothing better than to be massively famous for their work.

    So how to marry those two deeply divided senses of self: the creative, the visionary, the “special little child” on the one hand, and the material sack of meat that needs to rub coin together for a living.

    I’d like to say there’s an easy answer. But if it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing… 😉

    1. I think, if I want to use a blog forum to market myself, I need another blog. It feels wrong to push my product in a place that is sacred to the beauty of my internal cosmos. I did try…but felt horrid about it. Like I’d dressed a child in women’s clothing and put her on a street corner.

      I’m not opposed to marketing. I think it’s something worthy of learning–things like mailing lists and business networking. But it is a separate world, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be convinced of the efficacy of homogenizing my many selves. It feels inauthentic. My work is centered around a commitment to authenticity.

      I suppose this is one learning curve I’m going to have to take slowly. I’ve only just mastered the skill of not denigrating my own work out of hand.

      1. Authenticity is an important theme in my own work as well, so I completely understand that impulse to remain true to yourself. If your blog is the space in which you are exercising your creative impulse, then it’s probably wise that you keep it at a distance from the hoi-polloi of the market. Creativity (particularly of literature) is, by its nature, a solitary endeavor. To put your creativity out into the world with an expectation of “pay-back” rather than “pay-forward” is, in many ways, to undermine the purpose of the creative act. Perhaps a separate forum for your “authentic marketing self” as distinct from your “authentic creative self” would be just the thing you need to help you come to terms with these two disparate but no less authentic parts of your self. 🙂

  2. Erin,

    I have a slightly different take on this– I think; I’ll just write this and then we’ll find out by the end.

    I know where you’re coming from, and I interpret your motives as being a mix of a very serious commitment to the quality of the creative, but also to the commercial. You just want to do either one, or both, well, I suspect. I respect that.

    I traveled a different path, of course. I worked for a few years in the daily-deadline, high-standards atmosphere of a good newspaper newsroom (before stupid chain owners and the Internet killed so many). The pressure was enormous and relentless for 10-12 hours at a stretch. It was common for people who worked the copy desks to not have time to go to the bathroom in a particularly busy shift. One needed strong bladders.

    One thing I learned after surviving long enough, was that it is possible to connect an urgent, mission of a pursuit of elusive, but important knowledge, with an obsessive concern for real craft, real quality. For commercial purposes, of course. We all knew it was a business. It’s hard. Really hard. It can crush you. I’ve seen people have nervous breakdowns at the copy desk. (That person was walked out and talked to, but we never saw her again; the newsroom barely paused; the clock didn’t stop for a personal crisis.).

    But when it all just works…. oh, man. That feeling of doing something so difficult, but doing it well… and walking away from the smoke afterwards. No feeling like it (well, maybe one other might be first) 🙂

    There was friction between the business and news sides, but both realized they needed the other, and worked out rules to protect the raison d’être– the news, the best truths available by deadline. Advertisers would pull accounts if we did something they didn’t like. People got threats. But there was a bright white line, and the smart publisher stayed on his side of it, because he knew that what we were doing was the reason people paid money for his paper. Or at least, that’s what we told ourselves. We were a bunch of self-righteous prigs, probably. 🙂

    I think where I see this differently is I’ve seen “authentic creativity” in a demanding professional setting– often. So, I know it’s possible. Hard? Yes. But possible. (I’ve owned a couple of small businesses, too, and found that pretty challenging, calling on all sorts of creativity, and I don’t mean with the accounting.)

    My experience is that these things don’t *have* to be mutually exclusive, unless it is just too damaging to one or the other. And then, sure. You’ve got to keep the realms separate.

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