By Brooke Warner
With thirteen years of traditional book experience under my belt, I left my job as Executive Editor of Seal Press last year to launch She Writes Press (SWP) and become its publisher. I partnered with Kamy Wicoff, founder of SheWrites.com, to create something that would serve women writers, offering a hybrid publishing model—the wave of the future.
We are just seven months old, and we’ve already surpassed our own goals in both the number of submissions (almost 100) and authors we’ve signed (25) to date. Lots of publishing companies have been employing hybrid models for years, but it’s also controversial. There’s no true acknowledgment for hybrid presses among reviewers, or freelance publicists for that matter. And while self-publishing is more popular now than it’s ever been, it’s still often an uphill battle for authors to get recognized for their work. If, as an author, each individual sale feels like a victory, you know you’re working too hard.
My own book, What’s Your Book?, was the first book published by SWP in September 2012. There were a lot of reasons to publish with SWP, not the least of which had to do with standing in solidarity with future SWP authors. I also wanted to walk through our process on my own and experience what our authors would experience. Even with those thirteen years of traditional publishing experience, I discovered exactly what I didn’t know. This was humbling, on the one hand, but also prompted me to make a few new hires and to create an author handbook that lays out, step-by-step, everything I wanted and needed SWP authors to know.
Because I’d shepherded countless books through the self-publishing process before launching SWP, I was fond of reminding aspiring authors, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” In some ways this was self-congratulatory—I thought I did know. As it turns out, I knew a lot—more than the average independently published author—but there was also a lot I didn’t know.
So while I’m able to celebrate a lot of successes on this journey, I’ve also learned quite a few things that thirteen years in traditional publishing couldn’t have taught me about being an independently published author.
1. Hire a consultant. You want to find an overseer of your project. Even though this is what I do for others, I didn’t hire someone for my own book. Duh. You need a third-party who is not your designer and who is not a friend to weigh in on your interior design, back cover copy, and title and subtitle.
2. Consider pre-selling your book. You must have an existing fan base to sell to, and you can test-drive this market by pre-selling your book. If you discover that your pre-sales are abysmal, you know that you will either (a) need to hire a publicist; or (b) keep working on your platform before you publish your book.
3. Own your indie status. There are a lot of authors who self-publish who are embarrassed of having self-published, causing them to dismiss their work or to qualify their experience. Don’t do it! Self-publishing is increasingly being referred to as independent publishing for a reason. If you invest your time and money for a product that measures up to its competition, you’re an independently published author—and the only barrier to your success is you.
4. Work with a publicist. If you don’t work with a publicist, it’s likely that little will happen to move your book forward. It can be costly, and campaigns vary a lot, but a publicist will get exposure for you that you cannot get for yourself. My publicist was able to secure reviews, interviews, blog features, a TV appearance, and a radio interview. Beyond not having these connections on my own, it felt great to have someone else pitching me and following up on my behalf.
5. Honor your accomplishment. Anyone who’s written a book knows what it requires—time, effort, perseverance. Honor what you’ve done by publishing it right. Don’t cut corners. Don’t put every cent into production and then none into marketing and publicity. When you do it right, you earn a few bragging rights, too—which can help you market your work from a place of true pride and authenticity, which would-be readers really respond to.
Former Seal Press Executive Editor Brooke Warner is the founder of Warner Coaching Inc. and publisher of She Writes Press. Her book is What’s Your Book? A Step-by-Step Guide to Get You from Inspiration to Published Author.