Thursday, July 6, 2017

With Freedom Comes Responsibility

With the birth of the internet and self-publishing, it is a wonderful time to be an author, unless you were hoping for that golden ring of a traditional contract with a publisher and a huge advance. In that case, you have my sympathies. It has never been harder to obtain.

For those who have ventured into the water of self-publishing and found minimal success (a few amazing success) or are just happy to be published, these are heady days. No one can tell you that your plot doesn't fit into a particular marketing niche or there are too many stories like yours in their stable, or worse your book competes with a better known author's idea.

However, the freedom to write and publish anything you want comes with responsibility. You must perform all the duties of a traditional publisher.

1. You must "promise" a specific sort of story and not veer into another lane. There is nothing worse than settling down for a lighthearted romance then finding yourself chained to a BDSM fantasy. Or to curl up with a cozy mystery only to find a violent bloodbath serial killer as protagonist.

2. You must ensure your product is solid and not full of plot holes, thin editing, and lost threads. No one wants shoddy workmanship. It inspires returns and hateful reviews.

3. You must wrap it in an appealing package, aka the cover. You don't necessarily have to shell out megabucks to do so. There are many pre-made cover services and artists willing to design a cover for you for under $100.

4. You should offer your book on as many platforms as possible. Just like books were sold in bookstores, department stores, and grocery check out lines, customers are everywhere and like convenience.

5. You must have an online presence so readers can find out about you if they are curious. At minimum, consider a basic webpage that has your bio, contact info, and book information. Add links to buy your books with a single click over to Amazon, etc. If you have a series, readers often go to your site to determine the correct order. Make it is easy to find.

6. You must market your product. Most writers hate that part, me included. But no one can buy your book if they have never seen or heard of it. This might mean schmoozing, hobnobbing, and leaving your comfy chair, pet, and slippers to go where where book lovers hang out. Networking with  other writers can be fun. They are usually book addicts too. Loyal fans will promote you. Story addicts love to share their latest finds.

Self-publishing is a bit like playing the slots in Vegas. You can't win if you never go. Is it a sure bet? No, of course not. Can it be fun? Definitely. Can you win big? You don't know unless you try.

With the options available today, you don't have to accept "No, thank you" as an answer or leave your manuscript molding in a box in your attic.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. In days gone by, a few fortunate writers had agents and publishers. Now we can be entrepreneurs with the big, wide world of publishing at our fingertips. We wear all (or almost all) the hats. Random House never guaranteed that a book would be a best seller. They had a whole stable of writers, so their support was spread somewhat thin. We, on the other hand, have only to support our own work; needless to add, we have a much greater interest in its success than any other publisher. We don't need Random House; however, we do need to meet or beat their standards. They are, after all, the competition.

  2. Traditional publishers are doing less for fewer authors than ever before as well. If you are lucky you might get a blurb in Time or People magazine. If you want to spend thousands, you could buy your own ads. But I get most of my recommendations from other readers, from Facebook, and special interest groups like Mystery Writers of America, Historical Writers, Fantasy Writers, etc. and Amazon's algorithm.

  3. Terrific post, Diana, and I especially liked: "Self-publishing is a bit like playing the slots in Vegas. You can't win if you never go."

    I would add to that, you can't win big if you don't play big. My hubby used to play at the poker tables and would often win enough to pay for our trip to a local casino or our one and only trip to Vegas. I, on the other hand, always played the nickle slots. Never won big on those.

    Sometimes in the publishing biz we have to pay bigger bucks for some editing and some advertising, but I have found that it pays off in the long run.

  4. For most of my self-publishing career, I've been Amazon exclusive. I did venture off for about a year when I signed with a distributor and my books were on all the platforms. I feel I lost that year as most of my sales were still with Amazon. However, times again have changed. This next go-around I might venture out again, only I will stay in control. There are other venues for publication now, and I'm ready to give them another shot. Really good column, Diana.


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