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Friday, January 21, 2011

Guest Blogger - Sarra Cannon

Is Self-Publishing Really An Option?

It's a question on a lot of writers' minds these days. Last summer, it was a question that kept me up at night. I'd been writing seriously for three years, and I wanted what most writers want - to find an agent and get a publishing contract. No easy task, to say the least.

The industry is in a state of change, like it or not. Many publishers are slimming down. Marketing departments are afraid to take risks. Advances are dwindling. Being a writer these days is far from easy.

On the other hand, self-publishing has never been easier. Or cheaper.

I started to look around at some of the Top 100 lists on Amazon's Kindle store. What I noticed was that several of the writers on these lists were self-published. Writers like Amanda Hocking and Karen McQuestion, who had no previous experience with publishing. These writers were taking their careers in their own hands and they were finding success. No gate-keepers. No rules. Just passion and determination.

Could I self-publish? Was it really an option for me? The more I researched, the more I realized just how easy it is these days. Years ago, self-publishing meant a huge investment in both time and money. It meant ordering boxes of books that couldn't be returned and finding your own distribution. But today, everything has changed. With the growing popularity of eReaders and eBooks, there are several online stores that allow writers to upload their books for sale. And the best part? It doesn't cost a dime.

In late October, I finally took a leap of faith. Along with my husband's help, I formatted my latest book, BEAUTIFUL DEMONS, and uploaded it to Smashwords, Amazon's Kindle store, and Barnes & Noble's newly launched PubIt! store. Other than the small fee I paid a friend for my book cover design, the entire process was free. Within forty-eight hours, my first book was available at the two largest online retail stores for eBooks. Compared to the years it sometimes takes to find an agent, sign a publishing contract, and go through the process of taking that book to print, self-publishing was amazingly fast and easy.

In my first full month, I sold 139 copies. A small start, but it was so exciting! My books were finding their way into the hands of real readers! I was in control of my career, and it was exhilarating. In December, I released a new book, INNER DEMONS, and combined with my first book, sold a total of 989 copies. I was floored. Over a thousand copies in two months? I could hardly believe it.

My sales continue to grow and each day when I look at the numbers rolling in, I know that I made the right decision by self-publishing. My writing is more free and more fun now that I no longer have to worry about whether a publishing house will find my ideas marketable. I get to choose my own titles and make all of the final decisions on book covers, promotion, and content. I get instant feedback in the form of reviews, ratings and sales rank. And I know exactly how many sales I've made on any given day without having to wait for a royalty statement. These are just some of the things I love about self-publishing.

Of course, it isn't all sunshine and roses. Self-publishing is hard work. I knew I couldn't just list a single book and expect to sell thousands of copies without any marketing or promotion. Being an Indie author is a huge time commitment. When I'm not writing, I spend my days building up my twitter account, making friends on goodreads, blogging and finding other bloggers to review my books. I'm constantly looking for ways to connect with readers. The internet is a powerful tool, but it takes time to establish a presence and help get word of mouth going. Plus, online, content is key. The more quality content an Indie author has, the better. My personal goal is to self-publish five more books in 2011, starting with the third book in my Peachville High Demons series, SHADOW DEMONS, this February. It won't be easy, but I know in my heart it will be worth every moment of hard work.

If you've been wondering whether self-publishing is really an option for you, I say there's never been a better time to take that next step.

Sarra Cannon writes young adult fiction about zombies, witches, and the occasional demon cheerleader. Her first two books, BEAUTIFUL DEMONS and INNER DEMONS, are available in digital format on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Look for Book 3, SHADOW DEMONS, out February 23rd! Connect with Sarra online at www.sarracannon.com or on Twitter (sarramaria).


  1. Thanks for stopping by Lady Scribes, Sarra. What was your biggest fear when you decided to go the self publishing route? And what has been the greatest reward?

  2. Sarra,
    I LOVE that you had the courage to take your career into your own hands. That's pretty daunting since all of your success or failure rests with you. There used to be a stigma to publishing your own work, but I think the more the industry changes, especially with so many people going digital, the less that is. Readers don't care how you get the book into their hands, just that you do and it's a good story.
    Congrats on your sales, Sarra! May you find the success you're clearly working so hard for!

  3. Thank you so much for having me today! Lydia, my biggest fear was that I would get bad reviews saying that my book wasn't good enough. I was so nervous to see what the readers had to say! Without the traditional gate-keepers like an agent or editor, I knew I was putting myself out there on faith alone. It was such a relief when positive reviews started rolling in! WHEW!!

    The greatest reward so far has been the freedom I've found in my writing. Before, I was second guessing myself and asking, 'What is an agent going to think of this plot twist?', 'Is the market too saturated for another story like this?'. I was full of self-doubt. Now, I have learned to trust myself and just write the story that comes to me. I don't have to change anything to please anyone else, and for me, this is the best part of self-publishing!

  4. Thanks Andris! I agree. The stigma that used to surround self-publishing is quickly fading. I think we'll see it mostly disappear within the next few years as more and more self-published authors find success!

  5. Good Luck Sarra! You have such an amazing attitude about the whole process.

    And I love your covers. Did you design those or?

  6. Thanks Marquita! I wish I could design my own covers, but I'm awful at visual arts!! My friend, Ken Vahn, did them for me, and I couldn't be happier with them. He's working on the cover for Book 3 right now and I can't wait to see it.

  7. I'm considering self-publishing as well. It was encouraging to come across this interview. thank you

  8. Congrats on the releases. Those covers are gorgeous and really quite striking. That helps a lot to stand out on the hot new releases list. (I tagged your book too)

    Do you have a strong support group behind you for critiquing or maybe beta readers?

  9. Thanks Sweigs and Heather!

    And thanks so much for tagging my book! I have an awesome critique group with three of my best writer friends. My husband is always my first reader, and then I hand the books over to my crit group for a thorough talk. I haven't used any other beta readers yet simply because of trying to stick to a strict release schedule, but it's a good idea for the future!

  10. I've heard that Amazon sales skyrocketed after Christmas because of all the new Kindles sold. I think the trend toward self-publishing is fascinating. And I would certainly consider it, especially for books of my heart I don't think would interest a traditional publisher. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  11. Congrats, Sarah!! I'm so glad you're doing well with it! Many more happy sales!
    I think publishing has really changed and self-publishing is only going to grow.

  12. Reading Sarra's first book now, and I'm truly liking it!