Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thinking of Self-Publishing? What Doesn't Matter - Guest Post from Catherine Ryan Howard

The blogosphere's self-publishing guru Catherine Ryan Howard is on a blog tour at the moment to celebrate the launch of her kick-ass new novel, Results Not Typical. She has popped by today to talk about the issues that every author considering self-publishing should . . . not worry about. This is why Catherine is great :) - Ellen

About a year and a half ago, I self-published for the first time. Eighteen months is a long time in a revolution, and it’s difficult to really remember how radically different the attitude towards self-publishing e-books was, not to mention the technology available to those of us who decided to take the plunge.

But it was different.

I’ll give you a for instance: when I self-published Mousetrapped, Amazon Digital Text Platform had just started accepting Microsoft Word documents; before that, you had to have at least some technology savvy to use the service (or more than I had). Flash forward to today and you not only have a name change – Kindle Direct Publishing – but one of the easiest to use self-publishing services in existence, and the promise of your book in four Kindle stores and counting.

Another thing that’s changed is that the internet is now rich pickings for anyone looking for information on self-publishing – my own blog included. But some of it is less practical help and more ill-informed conjecture. I pity some times the writer thinking of or beginning the process of self-publishing, trudging through all the hot air, BS and (occasionally) downright ridiculousness looking for instructions on how to upload to CreateSpace, or what’s the best price for their book. In the best cases, the person speculating on the future of publishing is in another league to you and me, and we don’t need to listen to them because we cannot yet relate. In the worst, the person has as much experience in publishing as I do in marathon training. (None, in case you were wondering!)

So if you’re out there combing blogs, forums and Twitter feeds for the data you hope will help you decide whether or not to self-publish or, if you’ve already decided, how you should proceed, remember that these things do NOT matter:


The book is dead apparently, and by the end of next week there won’t be a single bookshop left in the world. But just like those science-fiction movies of the Sixties that had us all whizzing around in flying cars by now, believers in the end of publishing might have jumped the gun.

This doesn’t matter because you are not spending all your life savings in order to open an independent bookshop. You are self-publishing, in all likelihood, an e-book (which we know the market is growing for) and a POD paperback (that, even if it never sells a single copy, will not cost you money). Whether or not we’ll be reading print books ten or twenty years from now has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re doing.


This is another topic popular with the self-publishing evangelists: should you forget about submitting to agents and publishers (remembering that all print books will be gone by the end of next week...) and go straight to self-publishing instead? Won’t you make more money that way anyway? And won’t you likely waste months if not years of your life trying to get your book published?

This doesn’t matter unless you have a time machine that has enabled you to see into the future where you’ve, apparently, made a million selling your own books, and you also have a six-figure book deal on the table from a publishing house. Tip: money that doesn’t exist yet doesn’t actually exist at all. You can’t assume that by uploading your novel to Kindle and setting the price at 99c, you’ll be the next Amanda Hocking. You won’t. When you hear of authors turning down publishing deals so they can self-publish instead, read beyond the headlines. They frequently have successful publishing pasts and so already have established readerships that can support such a decision. Furthermore, submitting your book to the experts – and yes, agents and editors ARE the experts – will at the very least get you some feedback on whether or not your book should see the light of a published day, whatever way you decide to go.


There are some self-publishers who think there’s a magic formula to this thing, and that they can copy or emulate the success of the likes of Konrath, Leather, Edwards and Voss, etc. by doing exactly what they did: writing a good book, price it at 99c, get a good cover, write a good description, repeat as required. Recently a very famous e-book success story wrote a book about exactly how he did it – which was a bit different to everybody else – and there was such a spate of wannabes writing blog posts like him and tweeting like him that it was practically embarrassing.

This doesn’t matter because self-publishing isn’t black and white. It has many shades and you have to decide what’s right for you. It might sense for one writer to self-publish their backlist and their next book; it might make sense for you to continue to submit your novel but self-publish some short stories on the side. Similarly, you can’t repeat the success of other self-publishers by doing what they do, because luck and timing are such huge factors. Get tips and ideas from them, yes, but don’t copy them. You need to follow your own path. You may not be as successful as them, but being somewhat original is the only way you’re going to find any success at all.


Results Not Typical on

Results Not Typical on

Goodreads Giveaway:

If your readers visit they can enter a giveaway to win one of five paperback copies of Results Not Typical. Open for entries from September 30th-October 31st. Open to all countries.

About Catherine:

Catherine Ryan Howard is a 29-year-old writer, blogger and enthusiastic coffee-drinker. She currently lives in Cork, Ireland, where she divides her time between her desk and the sofa. She blogs at

About Results Not Typical:

The Devil Wears Prada meets Weightwatchers and chick-lit meets corporate satire in the debut novel from Catherine Ryan Howard, author of the bestselling memoir Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida. Through their Ultimate Weight Loss Diet Solution Zone System, Slimmit International Global Incorporated claim they’re making the world a more attractive place one fatty at a time. Their slogans “Where You’re Fat and We Know It!” and “Where the Fat IS Your Fault!” are recognised around the globe, the counter in the lobby says five million slimmed and their share price is as high as their energy levels. But today the theft of their latest revolutionary product, Lipid Loser, will threaten to expose the real secret behind Slimmit’s success...The race is on to retrieve Lipid Loser and save Slimmit from total disaster. If their secrets get out, their competitors will put them out of business. If the government finds out, they’ll all go to jail. And if their clients find out… Well, as Slimmit’s Slimming Specialists know all too well, there’s only one thing worse than a hungry, sugar-crazed, carb addict – and that’s an angry one. Will the secret behind Slimmit’s success survive the day, or will their long-suffering slimmers finally discover the truth? Available now in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. I already knew I wanted to read the book, but Catherine has impressed me with her sensible approach too, now. Thanks to the two of you for the interview :-)

  2. What a fabulous post. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (And the book sounds excellent!)

  3. This is so right on, I loved it. And the ebook author who wrote the book and people copying him so that it's embarrassing? LOL. I've seen some of those posts and tweets. Wonderful interview, Catherine and Ellen.

  4. I can't take any credit for this - I didn't submit questions! Every bit of the above is pure Catherine wisdom :D

    Glad you guys enjoyed the read. I found it really enlightening and am delighted to be hosting it!

  5. Very, very well said! Thank you for posting this!

  6. I've been on both sides of the publishing fence, and timing is a major factor on both sides.

  7. Great interview, Catherine and Ellen. I sometimes think the demise of Border's knighted self-pubs. I was amazed at how much had changed in such a brief period. Thank you for this most informative post.

  8. Reading Catherine's articles around the web and her blog has helped me become a self-publishing success, or at least it's pointed me in the right direction :)

  9. I just self-published my first 2 e-books and after reading everything I could find on the subject, I've come to the conclusion that the only thing guaranteed to bring success is to write well and keep doing it. Patience is key.
    Thanks for posting such a common sense approach about the industry.

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