Three Things to Consider Before Self-Publishing

Let’s face it. Self-publishing can seem like a lucrative path — you have control over every aspect of your book, marketing, and you don’t have to share profits with anyone, or there’s no advance to pay back. There are no barriers to getting your book out there, such as agents or acquisitions editors in publishing houses. You’ve dreamed of all those book sales and the money and prestige you’ll earn with self-publishing, or simply of just putting your work out there. What’s not to love?

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Honestly? There’s a lot not to love. To really succeed as a self-published author, it takes a lot of hard work, effort, time, and money. It’s a long, hard slog to get anywhere in self-publishing. You need marketing know-how, connections, and knowledge of what really makes a good, quality book that people will want to read.

Here are three things to consider before you take the self-publishing route:

  1. Money/Investing in Your Book
    To make a quality book, one that meets the standards of the publishing industry, it takes money. You’ll need to hire a proofreader at the very least, not to mention a cover designer. (Trust me, I’ve tried designing my own covers. It doesn’t work unless you’re a Photoshop guru with an eye for book design.) You’ll also need to invest in the interior design. Plus, you’ll want to order copies of your physical book, which you’ll at least order at cost typically. Oh, and don’t forget e-book formatting when you get so fed up with the programs not cooperating when trying to do it yourself. You may also want to pay for advertisements of your book. Overall, it can costs hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to create a quality product.
  2. Time
    Overnight success doesn’t happen in self-publishing. It just doesn’t. It takes time to build an audience, time to market your book. Not to mention all the time it takes to get your book edited, proofed, designed, and printed. You’re not suddenly going to get fifty interviews in just a couple of weeks. No, it takes time to build up to it.
  3. Effort and Know-How
    Okay, yes, so I’ve listed considerations number three and four, but they go hand-in-hand. Not only does it take a lot of time to produce a quality product, but it takes effort. Writing that novel was just the first step. Let’s be honest: Marketing is hard, and it’s a pain in the ass. Trying to network with other authors, creating endless social media posts, building a quality website, trying to get your book featured on various websites to get it seen. It’s a lot of work if you want to make even a dime off of your book. And let’s not forget the know-how! When I first looked into self-publishing, I had no clue what I was doing, especially when it came to ISBNs, barcodes, and distribution. Sure, you can research it all on the internet, but it can be quite confusing if you don’t know what you’re doing.

That’s not to mention the “stigma” that comes with self-published books. Some people believe self-publishing just means you weren’t good enough for traditional publishing. (Which, I know, is not the case at all. I’ve seen some fabulous self-published books.) There are a lot of people who are reluctant to invest in self-published books.

If you’re still up for the challenges that come with self-publishing, more power to you (and I wish you the best of luck). It requires you to put a lot of your time and effort into it, with very few results. I’m certainly no marketing guru; hell, I can barely keep up with my own personal social media accounts. But if you’re into it, go for it!

What are your thoughts on the self-publishing path?

The Reality of Psychosis

You see, my official diagnosis is severe Type I Bipolar Disorder with Psychosis. That, however, is not the point. The point is that I experience hallucinations and delusions from time to time. Not all the time. Stress can induce them, such as when I’m in a big, crowded, noisy store. (I’m looking at you, Costco.) Work was a huge trigger, back when I was working.

But what exactly is psychosis? Psychosis is defined as “when people lose some contact with reality” according to the NHS. As many as 3 in 100 people will experience psychosis at some point. There are typically warning signs leading up to psychosis, such as trouble thinking clearly, suspiciousness or uneasiness with others, a decline in self-care or personal hygiene, spending more time alone (according to NAMI). Psychosis can include hallucinations (experiencing things that are unreal, such as auditory, visual or tactile experiences) and/or delusions (beliefs in the unreal).

I’ve heard of other people having pleasant psychosis, being one with nature and such. Not me. If I wasn’t seeing shadow people or thinking the neighbors were secretly spying on me, there were bugs crawling all over my skin and in my hair, whispering awful things to me.

When many people think of psychosis (those who have never experienced it, at least), probably think of “crazy people” or people who talk incoherently to themselves. The truth is that it’s not always like that. Yes, those people may have mental illness, but we’re not all like that. We’re not all violent psychopaths out to maim and kill people. We’re not people to be scared of. We’re just humans, plagued by our own minds, trying to get by in this life. The real truth? Those with mental illness are no more violent than their non-mentally ill counterparts. In fact, studies have shown that those with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence.

I’ve seen the look upon people’s faces when I tell them I experience psychosis. It’s usually one of masked horror and disgust, one that says, “What do I say to her?” I try not to hide my psychosis. If I’m having a hard time, I want people to know why I’m having a hard time. I don’t want to have to hide the fact that I’m having hallucinations.

Fortunately, however, thanks to the fact that I am no longer working, I haven’t experienced psychosis since November. (It’s January as I write this.) I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. It’s such a relief, not being scared shitless because I’m hearing a voice telling me to injure myself. I can only hope that the stability continues.

Have you ever experienced psychosis? Yes or no, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The Crutch of Show, Don’t Tell

We hear it all the time: show, don’t tell. It’s repeated over and over and drilled into us as writers. But, I don’t believe in “showing” instead of “telling” in every single instance in your writing. Plenty of blogs give advice on how to show instead of tell, so I’m not going to do that here. Instead, I believe in the importance of both showing and telling in your writing, because if you show all the time, in every sentence of your story, your manuscript will end up ten million words long, and who wants to read a book that’s ten million words long? (Okay, maybe there are some people…)

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Some of the greats included telling/exposition in their work. As I’m currently rereading the Harry Potter series, I’ve been enjoying the explicit amount of exposition in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. But it’s placed so well, so artfully, that you barely notice it. Rowling had three books-worth of information to catch you up on, but she leaves the exposition and telling to the important stuff, like explaining why Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, isn’t in his life.

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not saying you shouldn’t show at all. I’m all for showing. Showing emotionally charged moments can help draw your reader in. There’s a big difference between “Her eyes stung with tears, but she blinked them away and swallowed the lump rising in her throat.” and “She was sad but tried to hide it.”

Description is important… in the right amount.

For example, there’s no need to give every little detail of a character turning on a light switch, unless, of course, that light switch has significant meaning to your story. No need to describe in detail a character getting changed out of their day clothes. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with description.

Save your highly detailed descriptions for the story-significant parts. Save showing for the emotional moments, the moments that will draw your reader in and leave them feeling raw. If you’re writing in first person POV, really think about the details your character notices as they move about your story and setting. Think about your own POV, in your own life—you wouldn’t notice details about every little motion you make or about every little thing in your setting. If we tried to describe on paper every single thing in a room, we’d have twenty pages of paper filled with insignificant minutiae that nobody cares about.

So, where exactly does “telling” fall in all of this? Think of it as a continuum. On one end is showing, on the other end is telling. Exposition would fall towards the telling end, while a particular moment that is significant to the plot and emotionally charged (and, therefore, full of detail) would fall towards the showing end.

Ultimately, the amount of description you put into your work is your choice. But finding the right balance between showing and exposition—that’s the real challenge.

How Long Has It Been?

It’s been since August 12th that I posted my last blog post. I’ve read that it’s “bad business” on a blog to point out how much time has passed if you’ve taken some sort of hiatus, which is exactly what I’ve done. Let me be honest with you: I lost my job back in July. I was devastated. It was quite abrupt. I went in to work on a Friday and was told at approximately 11:30 a.m. to pack up my stuff, go home, and to not return; they were making “budget cuts.” Not going to lie — I cried. I’ve been working since I was 16 (ah, the good old days, when I had my first job at Pac Sun), and in the last 18 years, I’ve never been let go from a job before, especially one that I put nearly three years into.

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That’s when I posted Grammar vs. Syntax, just a couple of weeks after being let go, thinking I would continue blogging. The truth was that I was navigating the emotional woes of being unemployed. But I made it. I decided not to return to work, due to my mental illness. Honestly? Being let go from that job was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. I was having near-constant hallucinations due to the stress of working; I was constantly sick with my bipolar. I was having tactile and auditory hallucinations, thinking bugs were crawling all over me and in my hair, whispering horrible, evil things to me.

All throughout August, I was attempting to pick up the pieces of my life and recover from being so damn unhealthy. I’m healthier than ever now and have had my longest period of stability in quite some time. I haven’t had ECT (shock therapy) since March. I’m managing better sleep, choosing healthier habits such as eating better, and enjoying time with my husband, my parents, my sister, my nephews. I never could have managed that while working.

I also want to mention that my dog (who is an old man at 13, has had diabetes since he was 3, has cataracts from his diabetes, and has arthritis) began having seizures just before Thanksgiving. I rushed him to an emergency veterinarian, who said he mostly likely either had a stroke or has a brain tumor. Wilson, my dog, gets anti-seizure meds four times a day now, and I never would have been able to manage that if I had been working.

Which brings me back to this blog. I’m finally ready to return to managing The Lithium Writer. I’ve got some blog posts planned already and some ideas I’d like to try out. I’m pretty excited, in case you couldn’t tell!

So, in a way, I’m apologizing for my absence if you follow this blog. I know it’s been some time, but I had my reasons (mainly my health), and I hope you enjoy the upcoming posts in the next few weeks!