One surprising thing I discovered along my path to self-publishing is that writing isn't the only skill I need. When you set out to write a novel, you expect writing to take the majority of your time and be your sole focus. When you've finished one story you expect to move on to the next one. But if you write a book and decide to self-publish, you also take on the role of editor, designer, and marketing pro!
While some authors may hire an editor for their novel or designer for their cover, you, as the self-published author, still have final say in everything. This is both encouraging and daunting. No one is going to select a cover that you hate or cut out the part of your novel that you love. But no one is going to make final decisions or promote your novel for you either, which leads to the roles you must take on aside from writer:
I've spent 10+ years as a technical writer and editor. Although it's important to have others critique and edit your work, my editing background was extremely useful when I'd finished writing and was ready to take a stab at the editing process.
Formatting the book was another challenge I hadn't considered when I set out to write a novel. A double-spaced Word document looks different than a paperback novel or eBook. When I decided to publish in the Kindle store, I had to play around with Word to get the spacing and layout I desired. Getting First Sight into paperback is yet another process that involves different cover specifications and formatting concerns.
Need to tweak some of the HTML in your blog or the marketing info that you're e-mailing? Need to just, in fact, create a blog? I've used programs such as Dreamweaver for editing Websites, so I have a beginner's knowledge of HTML. I could certainly never create an impressive Website from scratch. (I created a very basic one for a grad school class one time.) I didn't expect this knowledge to help me when writing a novel, but when deciding to publish independently, it's become necessary.
Need to create a cover? I'd love to hire an amazing designer to create a cover for me. But when I'm a first-time novelist who is just navigating the waters and has no idea how my book will sell, I don't want to lose a ton of money by hiring someone to design a cover before I've even published my book. If First Sight does well, then great! I can always hire an awesome artist to make a new cover. I've used programs such as InDesign and Photoshop before, which allowed me to create a basic cover to meet my needs.
I don't have a background in marketing, but now that my novel is out there, I need to promote it. During the past several months I've been focused on Facebook, Twitter, blog tours, researching advertising sites, networking with other authors, and more. Marketing my novel could be a full-time job in and of itself. Ironically, all the time spent promoting my book just takes away from writing another one.
Indie Authors, what challenges have surprised you on our self-publishing journey?