Starting a Self-publishing Career from Scratch

Every other week or so, a writer contacts me and asks how I do something or where to find information in regard to self-publishing. Often, these are writers who have been writing for a long time but have never entered the publishing world either traditionally or non-traditionally.

Sometimes they ask a question I can answer in one sentence. Other times, I can go to my website – this website – find the post or page on which I discussed that topic and send the link. Still other times, they have many questions. I try to answer the best I can, but my time is limited, and I can’t spend an hour crafting an email with links and details.

An hour to write an email? Yes, because I double check information or I find a reference to it on the web to ensure that information hasn’t changed and to provide a place where they can learn more. Then I read it carefully a few times to ensure I’ve said things properly, didn’t leave out a word and included everything I wanted to say.

It’s Already Online

The truth is, most of the information I provide is already on the web. Many times it’s on my website because, believe it or not, on January 3, 2021 (The First Step in Blogland), I mark ten years in blogland, and I’ve written about every step from writing that first draft to getting that published book in hand.

However, I understand finding that information on the web (not my website, which is searchable and has a collection of posts vital to self-publishing) can be time consuming. I know because I’ve been there, back when only a few sites provided basic information on self-publishing and hardly any directed their advice at Canadians.

But if I can do it, so can you.

I am no one special. I have a grade 12 education from the 80s and parents who both completed grade six before they went to work. I don’t have any special training in art, design, editing, publishing, literature or business. However, I have attended countless night courses and workshops over the decades. They range from photography, freelance writing, hunter’s safety, oil painting, plant science to wilderness survival.

I thirst for knowledge. I’m always learning. I’m curious, so I’m always looking for new or different ways and seeing how things work. I’m adventurous and love to play, whether that’s in a canoe in the middle of nowhere or with new software to create book covers. I’m not really a risk taker, but I don’t fear failing on my way to succeeding.

Have I ever been wrong? Absolutely. Many times in my life. Do I care? No. I keep going.

Beginner’s Advice

Writers starting on the journey of writing a book and self-publishing it need to understand a few things.

  • It’s highly likely you won’t get rich or even make a decent living selling your book. If you’re in it for the money, go work at Tim Hortons. Every day, you’ll get more in tips than royalties from your book.
  • Be prepared for the long haul. Sure, I’ve gone from draft to published book in 30 days, but I had a few years experience before I pulled off that feat for this blog.
  • Commit to three books before giving up. I’ll elaborate on that at another time if you don’t already know why.
  • There will be moments of joy and sadness. Neither last long. Remember the times when you were on cloud nine and in that deep dark pit. You’ll know to savour those good times, and you’ll understand you got out of that pit once, you can do it again.
  • Writing and publishing are a never-ending learning curve. Just when you think you know exactly how to do it, a company upgrades their technology to make it more user friendly and you are lost and frustrated for a week.
  • Self-publishing a book will cost as little as $25 to as much as thousands of dollars.
  • There are many crooks out there ready to take your money to ‘help’ you self-publish. Be aware of them and research everyone and every company before you sign a contract or send money.
  • The more you learn, the more you save. Do I spend money on book covers? No. I make all mine. Do I spend money on interior design for paperback books? No. I do it all. I’ve spent the past decade sharpening these skills and a lifetime of painting, sketching, photographing and crafting.

While this looks grim, I’ve never regretted this journey, and I’m still working at supporting myself fully from book royalties. If I knew what I know now back in 2010, I believe I’d have reached that goal a few years ago, but it is what it is.

Where to Begin

If you are new to my blog and are lost in the maze of self-publishing, check out the following collection of blogs. They are accessible on every page from the drop-down menu above (Self-publishing).

  • Publishing 101: This is the summary of posts for my Draft to Book in 30 Days challenge done in 2014. It includes editing the draft, creating the files for the book and uploading it to the vendor page.
  • Self-publishing Resources: If you read only one post on this page, read the Five Types of Book Publishers to be aware of the vultures out there waiting to harvest your money, energy and pride. It can be very difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys. The other posts discuss Things to Think About, The Business of Publishing, Editing a Manuscript and Book Cover Material and Design.

Take a Deep Breath

This is a lot of information, but it doesn’t have to be learned in one night. It took me years to gather it, and some of it has changed over the years.

The resources aren’t going anywhere. Unless the world implodes, they’ll be here today and ten years from now.

A Short Series: Self-publishing from Scratch

Over the next few months, I’ll do a series of posts under the heading of Self-publishing from Scratch to help those just starting on this journey, those interested in entering the maze of self-publishing. There will be the occasional Mentor to terrorize you, but I’ll provide an escape route.

While this will be the Canadian version, much of this advice applies to everyone who wants to self-publish their book regardless of the country in which they reside.

This advice, unlike that in original posts covering these topics, comes from more than ten years of self-publishing. Things have changed, including my perspective on writing and publishing. This experience should provide a better angle of attack to conquer the feats needed to get that book successfully published.

Do I have a book containing all my experience?

No. While I had planned for one, time and… I don’t know. It just never happened. Perhaps one day.


Be kind to your future self.

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