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Self-Publishing Non-Fiction by Alana Kirk

Writing.ie | Resources | Getting Published | More Publishing Options
Alana Kirk

Alana Kirk

Self-publishing is not for the faint hearted. But then writers are rarely faint of heart, or else a book would never be written.

Self-publishing was originally seen as a last resort if you couldn’t get a publishing deal. Today, it’s not only an extremely viable option, it can even make better sense than traditional routes. For example, if it compliments your business offering.

In short, the pros are you retain control in terms of design and marketing. Also, once you’ve earned back your investment, more profit is yours. You can sell ebooks and Print on Demand (POD) books through Amazon and other platforms, and directly through your own website to your audiences (100% profit). That’s a lot of pro if you’ve a great product and aren’t afraid to sell. Ten years ago if you self-published, you’d be tripping over boxes of books to get into bed every night. Today, POD means books are printed as they are ordered, which has been a game changer in terms of costs and marketing.

The cons are you have to invest with no guarantee you’ll get your money back, you have to do all of the marketing, and the book won’t be available in traditional bookshops. Brexit also means selling through the UK can be challenging.

I’ve published through the traditional route too. The deal came from a publisher who saw a blog I wrote about being sandwiched between caring for my mum after a stroke, and my young children. Always wanting to be a writer, I’d just assumed that meant fiction. The Sandwich Years became a bestselling memoir and it turns out that non-fiction is where my voice shines.

As a blurred bluster of ideas for a new book took form, my career was changing. I’d gone on to study psychology and coaching, and what had begun as a sort of feminist plea slowly sashayed into a merging manuscript of my own midlife re-definition, learnings from coaching, and a call to action for the women of my generation to grasp this chance we’ve been given. Midlife, redefined: better, bolder, brighter is the result and the first in a series of non-fiction I’m planning to publish. On the whole, my experience of self-publishing has been really positive.

To prepare

Obviously write a brilliant book. Research, find and perfect your voice, and then write the book you want to read. Get it as good as you can. Then cut, slice, reform. Get it as good as you can. Then get an objective opinion. Not a relative, friend or even another writer: an expert, objective opinion.

I paid €1500 for a structural edit (www.elaineoneill.ie) and it was a great investment.  I would strongly recommend you don’t skip the structural edit step as it allows you to really clean and evolve the manuscript to a new level. You’re likely almost there, but you need someone to put their hands on your bum and push you up the last couple of steps.  That’s the structural edit.

Control and support

I researched self-publishing because I wanted control over book title and cover. My book is also part of a range of business offerings which include coaching programmes, workshops and retreats; it’s just one egg in the basket, which is where self-publishing can make real sense. Even best-selling fiction writers often need to supplement their income with teaching, talking and touring.

I initially researched how to self-publish myself and after looking at the sheer workload of doing it all myself – the structural edit (challenging – you are too involved), the cover design (challenging unless you are a designer), the copy edits (challenging unless you are a copyeditor), the printing (challenging unless you know people who know people), the typesetting and formatting (challenging unless you are a total nerd), the e-book setup (challenging unless you are an ebook setter-upper), and the Amazon selling process (challenging unless you know the system) –  I went for plan B; paying a company to hold my hand on the self-publishing journey (and do all the challenging stuff).  Do your homework. If you think it’s worth learning all the elements, do that. If you feel comfortable paying for the experts while you get on with worrying about Chapter 4, do that. My advice would be to know where your skill lies, then let go when someone can do a skill better than you. Know your vision for the book. Fight your corner. But also listen to advice.

I went with Kazoo, and on the whole, it’s been a wonderfully positive experience. I got on with making my writing as good as it could be, supported by a great team of experts who guided me through the publishing elements. Self-publishing can be daunting at times, so having that support, encouragement and expertise has made the whole process not only enjoyable, but exciting.

Costs and prices

I paid around €4000 which included copyediting, cover design, typesetting (lots of decisions from bullet points and chapter headings to subheadings and spacing), ebook formatting, Amazon POD set up and 300 hard copies.

In terms of earning money back I have a lot of selling to do. For example:

Of those hard copies, if I initially sell 150 directly from my website say, that’s more than half of my investment back (€2,400).

I have a deal with the Irish chain of stationery / books stores, Papermint to stock in their stores at 40% commission. So if I sell 100 copies via that route, that’s another quarter off my investment (€1,020).

I’m confident between these elements, plus the Amazon sales I can make the investment back in a decent timeframe. I can get reprints at any time and sell directly through my website, at events, webinars, and talks and online for years to come. That relies on the other elements of my business to help sell, and having a good email list / social media following as as result of that business.


Even if you publish via traditional publishers, you’ll be expected to do your fair share of marketing. In fact, some authors aren’t accepted unless they have decent social media followings.  But with self-publishing you are The Marketing Team.  Of course you can outsource this too, and while this is a good option if you think you would struggle, it will of course, add to your outlay. I’ve a background in PR and journalism so have managed to secure a broad range of newspaper and magazine features and reviews, and radio and podcast interviews.  This is hard work, even when you know how, so you really need to think about this element.

Self-publishing isn’t an easy option. But it can be an incredibly effective way of getting your work into the hands of those who will benefit. The key is knowing who your audience is and having a really strong strategic plan for selling.

(c) Alana Kirk

The MidLife Coach

About Midlife, Redefined:

Do you ever wonder why you haven’t ‘arrived’ yet, welcome cocktail in hand, Insta read, with all your boxes ticked? Surely with all the effort you’re putting in, life should be easier?

There is no better time to be a woman in midlife. Because (apart from the fact that calorie-free wine hasn’t been invented yet) this is the most unique time in history to be a woman in terms of freedoms and opportunities.

Younger for longer, you have a whole new landscape to explore before old age.

But it can also be exhausting. ‘Having it all’ can feel a lot like just doing it all. Your to-do list has subsections and appendixes, and it’s easy to forget to put yourself in it.

Midlife is being redefined, but form your mid-thirties to late sixties, there are so many choices, changes and challenges, it can often feel overwhelming to also grapple with the opportunities and possibilities this extended midlife can offer.

In Midlife, Redefined, you’ll learn how to get a grip on where you are and plot the course you want to take, because midlife isn’t a destination, it’s an exploration. You’ll draw your map of this new landscape, and with coloured markers at the ready, you’ll write the signposts to take you on a midlife mission of your choosing, a midlife, redefined – better, bolder, brighter.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Hi, I’m Alana, the MidLife Coach! I help wonderful (but possibly slightly frazzled) women find themselves in the mire of midlife – be that overwhelm, stress, feeling lost, or facing challenging change – and in doing so, find the magic in their mid-lives.

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