Self-Publishing—my experience

A few years ago, I decided to try my hand at self-publishing. Starting out, I used Amazon exclusively, but when I didn’t get good results, branched out into Smashwords. Both were a disappointment. The whole experience was a disappointment. As to why, there were several reasons.

First off, I didn’t get the sales I expected. Mind you, I didn’t have any illusions, thinking I would be an overnight sensation; I would have been happy selling an occasional e-book with hopes of modestly growing my readership over time, enough so that I could make a little money doing what I loved. That didn’t happen. Friends and family shelled out to purchase my e-books—I published a total of four—but other than a few exceptions, the only time I sold my work was when I ran deals and hawked them on my website/blog.

And that comes to number two: I hated, absolutely hated, self-promotion. To me, it was akin to begging everyone to please, please, please buy my book. For now, I’m moving on, but will come back to self-promotion later on.

Number three comes from a personal experience that was the tipping point. A blogger friend who had self-published for a number of years asked me to contribute to a science fiction themed anthology she was putting together, and I happily accepted. When the e-book was published on Amazon, I purchased a copy and started reading. And cringed. The stories were not that good, and many needed editing. Only one stood out as being both interesting and well-told. (I’m not referencing my own story here; it’s hard to be impartial regarding one’s own work as we writers can overestimate or underestimate our abilities, so I’m leaving it out of my critique of the anthology.) And I realized I should have read some of my friend’s work before I agreed to participate. My only excuse for not doing so was that she wrote in a genre that didn’t remotely interest me. I didn’t do my homework, and now my name was linked to what I considered a subpar book.

That experience opened my eyes to the world of self-publishing. After extensive research and a lot of reading, I realized that for every self-published gem out there, there were hundreds of duds. Some actually tell a good story, but sink under the combined weight of bad grammar and typos. When reading such a book, I would think, Why didn’t someone tell them they needed to hire an editor? Or in the case when everything was bad, Why didn’t a friend or family member tell them their writing sucks?

And I had an “ah” moment: No one spoke up because they didn’t want to hurt the budding writer’s feelings. I should have known because I had also been guilty of keeping silent.

That awareness caused me to take stock of my own abilities and marketability. And that was when I pulled my books off Amazon and Smashwords, and vowed that if I were to be published, it would be by traditional means: submitting my work to publishers who had no qualms about hurting my feelings.

Now back to my hatred of self-promotion—
Getting traditionally published is now a whole different ballgame than it was in the past. Authors are expected not only to write a good book, but to vigorously market it as well. They are expected to have a website, Twitter account, and Facebook page, all with a healthy following before their book even hits the shelves. And did I mention self-promoting, how one has to get out there like the hucksters of old, waving their book and shouting “Buy my book! Please!”?

All this led me to the realization that I am not cut out to succeed in today’s publishing environment. I don’t have the drive, the utter belief in my talent, to keep banging my head against a brick wall with the hope I’ll somehow, someway, knock it down. And if by some miracle I do, spend as much time branding myself as writing.

So I decided to write not for accolades or money, but for my own enjoyment, my own need. When the mood hits, I send out short stories and poetry, and have placed a few. It’s a sideline, though, nothing serious. But this blog (and previous ones) is metaphorically my garden where I plant what germinates, sprouts, and bears fruit in my mind. Sometimes my garden flourishes and the writing flows, and sometimes it hits a dry spell and the words wither on the vine. I just take it as it grows…er…flows. And when it flows, most of the time I share it here for others to read or not, whichever they choose. And I don’t have to yell, “Buy me, buy me, buy me, please!”

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

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KT Workman

KT Workman grew up in the rural South without the benefit of cell phones or the Internet, a time and place that has heavily influenced her writing. To this day, when she puts pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—nine times out of ten her mind veers south onto that old, familiar road. It goes home. KT resides in Arkansas where she writes a wide variety of gothic and speculative fiction, poetry, and dabbles in watercolor painting and amateur photography.

32 thoughts on “Self-Publishing—my experience”

  1. Very heartfelt and motivating. I’m in the same boat you found yourself in, and I’m a little confused as to what to do next other than to just keep writing for my own enjoyment and hope for the best😏 Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. In a perfect world every creative person would have a family member or friend that enjoyed the behind-the-scenes work of producing, publishing, and publicity as much as the creative person loved to create. In fact, there are some successful examples out there. Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world, and those successful examples are rare.

    Good post, Kathy.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I never tried Amazon, but I paid another online company that promotes books on various platforms…didn’t get a single sale off it. I don’t think I ever recouped the money I spent on self-publishing. Amazon and Smashwords let you publish free of charge, but there are other expenses, such as editing services, e-book cover designs, etc.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Wonderful and very insightful post, KT! I’ve often wondered what the self publishing game was all about. It sounds even tougher than I imagined. Your post would be very helpful for anyone looking to get into it, if they didn’t know anything.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi KT,

    Really like your article. Have been trying to decide between self-publishing and seeking a publisher for my current manuscript. Have yet to decide, but your words really made me stop and think it all through more carefully. It sounds like a headache in the making, either way. Thinking maybe I’ll just try for leaving something behind for my kids and grandchildren. Who knows, maybe some of them might actually read it, lol.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. To each his own, I suppose. Just because it was a bad experience for me doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work out for you. Whatever you decide, I know you’re an excellent writer, Elizabeth, and are a pleasure to read.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks Kathy, for the compliment. Although I’ve had some poems published, and even wrote my own prose column in a local magazine, a book is a much different animal. Although it has been a dream for many years, I fear that I may have waited too long. Too busy living an active life and all those other excuses one can and does create. I continue to write everyday, but find myself wondering off far too easily and willingly caving in to distractions. Feeling the aloneness, and that is somewhat of a surprise to me. Think I might need a ‘coach’ of some sort. Someone to actively check in on me, lol, does that sound silly? Anyway, thanks for the article, it did help in some way, if only to let me stop and think it all through again. Realizing, of course, that the book needs to be finished before that particular question needs to be answered.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I waited too long as well, Elizabeth, let “life” get in the way too many times. When I was in my 40s, I had a literary agent and was actively pursuing publication. Then my 1st husband died, and for many years, the words wouldn’t come. When they returned, I tried again, having quite a few short stories published while self-publishing longer works. But the single-minded drive is no longer there, and to be a successful author, I think that in today’s market one has to put in a lot of time and effort into the business side of writing, which I have no desire to do. But I will always write…


  6. Same here, Kathy. I will continue to write because it is what I do. I’m fairly certain that blogging has definitely been both a good and a bad thing. The immediacy of a response was just too hard to resist. And I’ve been doing it now for over ten years. And often in some sort of leadership role. But, it is also demanding and needs a great deal of attention. Attention I no longer have the energy to maintain, while trying to complete a book length work. However, this particular book is of importance to me, so I will continue the process. Like I said, it may be nothing more than something to leave behind, and that’s not such a bad reason for doing it.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure you could put together a fantastic cookbook! And as far as how to begin, when I don’t know how to do something, I google it. All the info you need is out there.
      And as for myself, it’s for certain I don’t know what’s to come. All I know for sure is never say never, because I have been known to change my mind. 🙄

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Your experience with self-publishing is very common. People should expect that it is a long-shot if they will ever recover the cost they put into self-publishing and promoting their book. With that expectation, and the willingness to spend money on editing (numerous times), cover design and interior design; they may produce something they are proud of, and yet will still not cover their costs. If they can sell over 100 copies, they have done well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For me, the money spent wasn’t the main issue; I just hated the business side of it. And I came to realize that even if I published traditionally, I’d still have to invest time doing what publishers used to do. Just not worth it to me.
      Thanks for the visit and comment. 🙂


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