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Back on February 24, 2019, I made a decision that would be considered a milestone for every aspiring writer. After writing my crime novella for almost three weeks after Christmas, which was about a teenager who discovered a murder in the evening of Christmas, I went on to think about what should I do next. During that time, I had three novel submissions in my name as well, as a short story compilation posted on a writing platform called Sweek that I worked hard to share with my friends. But due to its poor performance, there is a possibility that I would post the anthology on another platform such as Wattpad, or worse withdraw it from Sweek, and make an unsolicited submission to a publisher instead, hoping that it could get accepted. Despite my lack of patience, and frequent frustration with the progress of building my career, and improving my craft, I always understood that success in writing, be it in fiction or non-fiction, never comes easily, and instantly. Success in writing takes years and years of editing, creating story arcs, and of course writing continuously, and refining my work non-stop, until it achieves an optimal condition that would make it appreciated by both readers and publishers alike. This is also one reason why I continually searched for methods to publish my works, as well as publishers where I could send them, and platforms where I could post my other works. Back then I used a website called Submittable to facilitate my fiction submissions to magazines and publishers, and until now I use it to send non-fiction submissions to magazines and publishers. Only this year I knew about another method of publishing, and I decided to try it, just to see if it would be the key to the success I have been waiting for.
When I had started writing and submitting my works to publishers in hopes of having them accepted, and then published, I had been very skeptical of so-called “self-publishing,” due to the fact that many self-publishing websites charged exorbitant fees to facilitate self-publishing either an ebook, or a paperback. My conservative view of writing and publishing also led me on the straight path to traditional publishing, and away from this new form of publishing. However, as I became frustrated with the sluggish pace of my submission’s development, and frequent rejections from publishers, I decided to give self-publishing a try. I discovered also that Sweek offered a self-publishing service wherein I could be able to have my book self-published for free. I thought it was too good to be true, and could even be a scam, but when I understood how it worked, I looked at my short crime novella, and prepared it for the self-publishing process. I managed to design a book cover thanks to a photo that an Israeli friend of mine sent to me via Facebook Messenger, and when I finalised the look of my cover, my exhilarated self decided to proceed on the first parts of the self-publishing process. At first, I had wanted to publish a paperback, but then opted to publish an ebook version of the novella. After all, ebooks had been immensely popular these days, and many ebook writers had found success selling them on websites most especially Amazon, and other websites offering them. I then went on to the usual part of making the ebook, that was, creating the synopsis, putting my author name, and setting the price for it. I even made rush edits for the novella to make sure that it was at its best. One part of the process however, buying an ISBN for my novella, was something I had to skip due to the high price I had to pay for it. Had I the money, I would have bought one. After all, it would be a small investment compared to what other self-publishing platforms had offered. After skipping this part, I finalised everything, and made my ebook public. When this happened, I was joyous and appeased, believing that it would sell despite not having an ISBN, and that I made a great milestone, and achievement in the years I started writing. After this, I decided to work work work, and promote my ebook to all of my friends. I even posted it on my Facebook and Instagram accounts for the public to know. Some of my friends even pledged that they will buy the ebook, and this made me very satisfied, making it seem that my hard work was paying off, despite lacking something in my book. I was optimistic for my ebook, and I had hopes that even if it wouldn’t reach a great amount of success, I hoped that at least it could sell a few copies just to test the waters, and keep the future possibility of me self-publishing again. However, as I keep on tracking data for my ebook sales, I noticed that I hadn’t sold even a single copy yet. Furthermore, my friends told me that they either couldn’t buy the book due to the need for a credit card, as well as age restrictions in the case of my friends living in the European Union, or that they couldn’t be able to help me promote the book, because of the various reasons they gave me. Nonetheless, I tried to be more understanding, and kept my optimism that my ebook would somehow be noticed. But as I got busy looking for full-time jobs, as well as writing and sending non-fiction to magazines and websites, I lost track of my ebook, and I didn’t already know what happened. When I took a look at the metrics again for the final time, they showed the same result they showed me two month ago: Nothing. Rien. Nada. With this, I realised that all my effort had been lost, and decided to withdraw my publication for a while. Two months of waiting to make sales might seem a short amount of time, but somehow it showed me that self-publishing as a primary method of publishing is not yet for me. Perhaps I would have to wait a bit more before I could be able to make a break in my writing career with the help of self-publishing.
My intent here is not to discourage aspiring writers to try self-publishing or to defame, and ruin Sweek’s reputation. In fact I admired Sweek for offering such great service at least for free, and in a systematic manner that is understandable for anyone with half a brain. I am simply here to tell my story, and brief experience in this type of publishing. Sometimes one method works differently, and brings different results for different result. Perhaps luck could also play a part, albeit a small one. If there are things that I would be glad to share for those who want to try this form of publishing, it would be:
- Try publishing your work first on free writing platforms like Wattpad and Sweek. This method could be done in order to determine the marketability, and popularity of your work, before even having it self-published, Also, it could be discovered by agents scouting websites like Wattpad or Sweek in search for the next 1984, or Sherlock Holmes. This is a good way of testing the waters before rushing to the ocean.
- 2Create a great synopsis. If there is one thing about a book that would hook the attention of readers, it would be a good synopsis. It should be concise enough to not include the ending, and enflame the readers’ curiosity with the story, and also comprehensive enough to include the main point of the story. Make it short, and don’t spill unnecessary information about the story. It’s called a synopsis for a reason.
- Buy an ISBN. This would be perhaps the greatest mistake I had made in self-publishing. An International Standard Book Number is not just some random combination of numbers in a book or an ebook. It is helpful in a way that it would allow books to be distributed in bookstores, or ebook selling sites like Kobo and Amazon. This would enhance the popularity, and therefore increase the sales for your book. Not having this would limit the exposure your work should be receiving.
- Have a lot of friends (and followers). One difficult thing about self-publishing is that the popularity and marketability of your book depends not only on your skill and talent, but also your social networks. Having a supportive web of friends could help you market your book far and wide. They might even buy your book if they want to. Be friendly, and make sure to do your homework. You don’t have a publisher who will do the marketing for you. You would have to do it yourself.
- Bring out your inner salesman. Since you would have to work on your own to promote, and market your book, in order to sell it, you would have to lose your shyness, and venture out to sell it, even to groups or individuals you don’t even know. Luckily, the Internet could provide you with enough tools for you to be able to sell your work. Create pitches that are enticing to readers. Practice your sales talk if you can. When this is done, post your pitches to forums and groups on social media sites to promote it. Make sure, however, to follow forum and group rules and guidelines to make sure that either your post doesn’t get deleted, or you don’t get kicked out, or worse–blocked. Post in forums that are only dedicated to publishing and literature. Some forums, and groups exist to help budding writers to promote their self-published work. Reach out to them, and politely sell your book. You might not only get your break, but also respect from other people.
These guidelines should not be followed blindly, and I encourage everyone to explore different ways of writing and publishing, or if possible, modify existing ones, or even create a new one. Self-publishing has its own luck for some people, and not for others. Therefore any aspiring writer should try and try to seek the best method that would fit him/her. As for me, I would have to leave it behind for a while, but not permanently. Perhaps I should stick to literary agents, and unsolicited submissions in the meantime, as well as trying out Wattpad or Sweek again.