Though they now account for nearly 20% of the overall book market, self-published books are nothing new, really. Homemaker-turned-best-selling-author Irma Romabauer did it in 1931, taking her cookbook to her local printing shop, where she ordered 3,000 copies. The highly impressed president of the Bobbs-Merill company bought rights to the cookbook five years later, and The Joy of Cooking went on to sell more than 18 million copies…we’re guessing either you or your mother has one sitting among her cookbook collection. Imagine that. A self-published book went on to be a household name & staple. But as you may already know, the success of self-published books doesn’t end there. Self-published books are part of a rising, multibillion dollar industry that we’re hoping you, too, will become a part of.
Irma wasn’t actually the first author to go rogue. To escape the confines of the early-1900s-era publishing world, Virginia Woolf (as in THE Virginia Woolf) and her husband Leonard started Hogarth Press, which published over 500 titles during their ownership, including many of Woolf’s own now-famous works like To the Lighthouse. Long before that, Walt Whitman, Beatrix Potter, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne all self-published some of their work too. Are you starting to see the big self-publishing picture yet?
Though self-publishing has hardly ever been uncommon, the internet and sites like Amazon.com have fueled its take-off. Self-publishing is an increasingly popular way for new authors to buck traditional publishing houses, trading the long wait, string of rejection letters, and reduced royalties for creative freedom, immediate publication, and independence. Thanks to widely read self-published authors like E.L. James (Fifty Shades of Grey), James Redfield (The Celestine Prophecy), Amanda Hocking (The Trylle Trilogy), and Lisa Genova (Still Alice), the shroud of shame that once cloaked the world of self-published books is a thing of the past. And the writers who haven’t figured this out will likely continue to toil away at their day jobs for years to come, hoping that an overtaxed editor will take noticed. Yeah…good luck with that.
Because of self-publishing, great books that might not otherwise have ever been published and read are enjoying immense success. Just this past fall, a self-published book joined The Washington Post’s best-of-the-year list—the first self-published book to do so and most likely a catalyst for an ongoing trend. Self-published books give readers far more variety and accessibility to books than has ever been possible. And lucky you..there’s never been a better time to be a writer than now. Self-publishing is not just legit—it’s cool. And think beyond ebooks—they’re just one part of the story. Just ask John and Jennifer Churchman, whose recently self-published their children’s book, The SheepOver, inspired after the Churchman’s rescue lamb “Sweet Pea.” After selling 4,000 copies of their self-published book, one of their bookstore sellers blogged a review, which caught the eye of book agent Brenda Bowen. The couple now has a 3-book deal, where they’ll earn six figures continuing to tell the story of Sweet Pea and her fellow friends who live on the Churchman’s Vermont farm. The sweet conclusion? Self-publishing is in. Never publishing your awesome novel poetry, or nonfiction book because you can’t get a publishing company’s limited and fickle attention? Out.
So what’s the subject of your future 6-figure book deal? If you’re worried about the responsibility that lies ahead, try to take it with a grain of salt. It’s true—you’ll need to market your book. But there’s a strong chance that someone in your circle is or knows a marketing professional; you’ll learn the ropes in no time. Think about it. There’s no one more passionate about your self-published book than you…what better person to drive its sales? Plus, just like self-published author Daniel Miller says, when your book is truly good, it will sell itself. “Remember that you are creating art and not product. Once you have truly amazing images and stories, then the audience will come to you,” he advises.
One of the greatest things you can do to strengthen yourself as a writer is to read, read, read; particularly in the genre you’re considering for your self-published book. Self-published author E.C. Murray read 100 memoirs before working on her own, A Long Way From Paris, which Kirkus Reviews named a best book of 2014. Murray also suggests writing daily and asking even strangers for feedback—two of the several tips she shared with Publisher’s Weekly for good book writing.
As you move along in your writing and self-publishing journey, a little stumbling is inevitable and completely normal. Here’s a tip to keep you on the path to success, which in our humble opinion simply means not giving up: Always keep in mind that while there are tons of aspiring writers, you ultimately have zero competition. After all, one of the many amazing things about being a writer is that books and ideas are not finite commodities… voracious readers hardly limit themselves to one story or author.
So finish up that million (maybe even multi-million) book idea you’ve had rolling around in you head, and when you’ve done so, gives us a call.