My Year in Self-Publishing – The Story So Far
A little over a year ago, I embarked on my self-publishing adventure. I now have two books published – Broken Falls and The Dead Girls – and, as it’s the end of the year, I figured I’d jot down some of my thoughts on the experience so far.
I suppose the main thing is that most of the preconceptions I had going in were largely borne out. Yes, it is a hard slog pushing your self-published book; no, you won’t get the kind of exposure and shelf space that traditionally published books get, and no, you won’t make your millions in the first year. But there were also surprises that I didn’t expect when I embarked on my self-publishing journey, the main one of those – and the one that outweighs all the minuses – being the amazing response from readers.
So, just to deal with the downside first. There’s no doubt that trying to market a self-published book is infinitely more challenging than marketing a traditionally published one. For starters, self-published authors rely on Amazon. While my local bookstore (the fabulous Book Centre in Waterford!) has been amazing to me, getting my book into the larger stores like Easons is a much bigger ask. For this reason, Amazon is hugely important. But there are a lot of people who don’t like buying from Amazon. (And self-published authors understand this. We love our local indie bookstores too!) For this reason, I try to sell directly to readers whenever I can. This year, I’ve posted signed copies of my books all over Ireland (as well as to England, France, America, and Australia). But that doesn’t always work out, and sometimes you just have to accept that you lost a reader because your book wasn’t available in their local bookshop.
Then there is the issue of exposure. Again, while the local press have been fantastic, getting coverage in the national press is infinitely harder. Having said that, social media – particularly Facebook – has been great for me. And word of mouth is just as important as any review in the Irish Times. I’ve been lucky that a number of readers in The Rick O’ Shea Book Club picked up my first novel, liked it, and spread the word. They did the same with my second novel, and now I have a growing group of readers who tell me they’re looking forward to my next book. I can’t tell you how exciting that is! Because at the end of the day – that’s why I started writing. Not for the Irish Times review, or the Amazon bestseller ranking (although they would be lovely!)
And, I think, this is the crux of the issue. Getting a message from a reader or seeing someone post something on social media about your book, makes every bit of it worthwhile. I’ve had readers recommend my books in the same breath as other authors whom I love; complete strangers posting lovely reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. And all I can think to myself is: if I hadn’t self-published – if I hadn’t taken that plunge – I would never have gotten that response. I would never have known that people actually enjoy what I write. And for that reason alone, my self-publishing journey this past year has been worth every minute.
2018 was a year of some great writing moments. I was asked to read at my first literary festival – The Wexford Literary Festival, and I facilitated my first workshop on the topic of “Getting Published” at the Waterford Writer’s Weekend. Towards the end of the year, The Dead Girls got a mention in a few of the “Best Books of 2018” posts, and also came in at Number 11 in The Rick O’ Shea Book Club “Best Irish Books of 2018”. All of this goes to show that – while getting the word out about your self-published book can be hard – it’s not impossible. And also, that word-of-mouth is worth its weight in gold.
The year ahead is going to be an exciting one. As well as releasing my first album of original music in about five years, and staging my first play, I’ll also be publishing two books. The first is a standalone thriller titled Black Wood; the second will be the third instalment in the John Ryan series. I’ve no idea where my self-publishing adventure will lead me next, but if it’s anything like the previous year, it won’t be half bad!
Derek Flynn runs Writing.ie's SongBook blog, and is an Irish writer and musician. He has a Masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. He’s been published in a number of publications, including The Irish Times, and his fiction was featured in 'Surge', an anthology of new Irish writing published by O’ Brien Press with the aim of showcasing “the very best of the next generation of Irish authors”. Online he can be found at his writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – and on Twitter as @derekf03