How to make self-publishing a job

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An author’s options for publishing include self-publishing, a choice that can represent differing things. For some, self-publishing is a reason to stop sooner. More devoted self-publishing authors recognize the choice to publish themselves as a career move.

It’s okay to be either kind of self-publisher. You just don’t want to be the one who stands in the middle of those options, committing to only the writing—and expecting to be discovered without publishing work.

The first option, stopping sooner, meets the goals of some writers. “I just want to get my book out there,” they might say. “I skip over the gatekeepers, and give birth to my book sooner.” You will get into print quicker, indeed. I’ve even heard authors say, “I plan to self-publish because I don’t want this book to turn into a job.” Remember, though, that skipping rounds of editing is something to keep a lookout for. Even if your goal is only to skip the line and just make books, self-publishing means going well beyond self-editing.

Commit to love

The second option, choosing publishing as a career move, is a deeper commitment to a relationship. If you expect to be discovered, self-publishing isn’t a blind date. It’s a romance that leads to a marriage. You’re marrying the responsibility and becoming a provider to your lover of a book. Writing a great book is the one thing you have control over. Learning and practicing the publishing marries you to your books.

Anything else is just dating. Fun, but it might not lead to something deeper. Try not to be the author who self-publishes, even to the point of an edit or two on the work, then expects to be discovered without the publishing commitment. Sales are tough to estimate. Nobody has a firm grip on how much a book will sell; nobody gets a guarantee, even the famous. Celebrities who sign book deals, like Billie Eilish, get hundreds of thousands in advances—then the book fails to sell very well, as hers did.

Getting discovered, though, is within your grasp when you commit to practicing the publishing. People want to quit their day job and write all day long. They are just taking up a new day job, unless a retirement account keeps them afloat. Their new day job is professional author, writing for someone else—their editor, publisher, or their readers’ tastes. Making books becomes your job. Making them discovery-ready is the job of a self-publisher.

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