How Self-Publishing Can Increase Visibility for Writers
Updated: Jan 14
Almost every writer I know would like to publish a book. It’s a milestone for a writer that can help with discoverability and credibility beyond blogging, writing for the news media, niche magazines, and literary journals. Look at this, your resume says, I’ve published a book.
What are the options if you can’t get a publishing contract for your book? Many successful authors I follow regularly for KindleBookPromos.com are “indie authors” who don’t have publishing contracts.
Some turned to self-publishing because agents and traditional publishers rejected their book projects in short order. Others just didn’t want the hassle of dealing with gatekeepers at publishing companies where decisions can drag on for months and months and still end with rejection.
Self-publishing can help boost your writing career. I believe the smart move for writers is to make content available to the widest possible audience. Get it out there so people can see what you’re doing. Publishing an eBook is a logical step in the process of becoming more visible and widely known.
Two writers I follow are launching books by blogging on Substack, which is great.
· In September of 2021, Elle Griffin began using Substack to serialize her gothic novel Obscurity with plans to publish the entire novel free on Wattpad in July of 2022. In October, she pivoted to a paid subscription where readers can receive a new chapter every week through June of 2022.
· In January of 2022, Louise Goldsbury began posting FREE installments of her work-in-progress. I’m hooked, really hooked, and look forward to each installment.
I don’t know if either Griffin or Goldsbury will pursue agents and publishing deals at some point. But I urge them to self-publish eBooks so everybody, including agents, can see their potential. That might lead to a successful career in self-publishing or a book deal with a publisher for later books.
After dozens of rejections from agents and publishers, Darcie Chan self-published her first novel as an eBook in 2013, and her eBook sales success led to a multi-book contract with Penguin Random House. Hugh Howey launched his author career by self-publishing Wool as a 60-page eBook novella, and his success led to a mega-deal with Simon & Schuster.
Granted, some writers I follow have managed to get a publishing contract with a traditional publisher for a print version of their first book. One good example is the 2017 memoir published by Edie Littlefield Sundby about walking the 1,600-mile trail of missions from Mexico to California after she survived stage IV gallbladder cancer with four major surgeries and 79 rounds of chemotherapy.
A more recent example is the biography/ memoir by first-time author Maud Newton about ancestors, which is scheduled for release on March 29, 2022.
How much does it cost an indie author to self-publish a book, both an eBook version and a print version? The folks at Reedsy have an article discussing the tasks and costs of self-publishing. The estimated cost ranges from $2,000 to $4,000 and includes hiring professionals for editing, cover design, formatting, and marketing services.
Most of the fiction indie authors I know perform almost all tasks by themselves and their costs are much lower. Amato, Berkom, Scherber, and Schwartz say their costs have never reached the Reedsy range. Scherber says he's never spent more than $600 including professional cover design.
Some nonfiction indie authors I know outsource critical tasks such as line editing, fact-checking, and complex formatting for books with illustrations and footnotes and endnotes and a bibliography and indexing. All of that can boost costs beyond the range cited by Reedsy. A few indie authors pay “hybrid” publishers for a complete package of services that can drive the cost much higher.
Based on personal experience, I believe self-publishing books can increase visibility on the Internet for writers. Here’s an example: When I searched this week for “Mikel Miller writer,” the first page of the results identified me as an author and blogger with links to see more about me on Goodreads, Amazon, and Twitter. The first page of the results also contained images of me and some of my book covers.
Since July of 2016, I’ve published more than 80 blog articles on the website for the Lincoln and Mexico Project, but they didn’t show up in the top search results about me. Further, the top results about me from the Google search didn’t find any of my 10 articles on LinkedIn, where I have more than 700 connections. I’m not complaining; just stating facts about my visibility in search results.
I enjoy blogging. It’s a comfort zone after I stopped writing books and publishing books of my own, editing books for others, and helping them promote their books online. Maybe Google searches will start finding my blog articles now that I’m blogging on Substack where I try to post something every week to help new writers understand options for publishing and promoting Kindle versions.
Note: Don’t count on a lot of royalties from self-publishing your first eBook. Chan and Howey caught lightning in a bottle with their first self-published eBooks. It took longer for Amato and Berkom and Scherber and Schwartz to build a fan base and start earning significant royalties for their series of books.
Personal perspectives: The first book I self-published in 2010 was a paperback, and it didn’t cost me a dime. I did everything myself except the freebie cover design from a friend who is a graphic artist, and I uploaded the print version to Amazon. But online sales were disappointing because I didn’t know how to promote it.
I tweaked the content and published a revised print edition in 2011 without an increase in sales. I published a revised and updated 2015 Kindle version with a new cover, which attracted some great reviews and boosted international sales. Self-publishing those two versions, combined with editing books for other authors, is what boosted my visibility as a writer.
I welcome your comments online or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meanwhile, here’s a link to my January 2022 monthly newsletter from MailerLite.