Web dev at the end of the world, from Hveragerði, Iceland

What are self-publishing’s biggest pain points?

I’ve found that the more time you spend in a problem area the more you realise how many of your preconceptions were mistaken.

So, instead of just assuming I know what the pain points of self-publishing are based on my own experience, I figure the best thing to do is to simply ask people.

In general, publishers face two separate problem areas:

  1. Making the book as good as possible. This means making the text as good as possible (writing and editing) and making the product as good as possible (typesetting and design).
  1. Finding a paying readership for the book. (Selling, marketing, PR, events, etc..)

I’m pretty sure most problems self-publishers face fall into those same areas but I also suspect that their specifics and details are going to be unique to self-publishing.

And by self-publishing I basically mean any publisher with only one or two employees and who publishes only ebooks.

So, what are self-publishing’s biggest pain points? I’d really appreciate any answers, either in the comments below, twitter or, if you want, in email. (My email is baldur.bjarnason@gmail.com for those who prefer not to contribute in public.)

Just to jumpstart the discussion here are what I think are the major pain points of self-publishing:

  • Making sure the text itself doesn’t suck. This isn’t so much proofreading or line-editing as story quality. I think it’s pretty obvious by now that most readers forgive typos and grammar when the story, plot, and style engages them. Getting the story, plot, and style to that level is the tricky bit.
  • Making a cover that doesn’t suck. Amazon’s automatic cover generator is an example of exactly what doesn’t work.
  • Creating an ebook file that works everywhere. This is, in my opinion, largely a self-induced problem since the ebook output of apps like Scrivener is more than good enough.

What do you think? Am I wrong?

Some replies from twitter

First ones are from Cheryl Morgan.

@fakebaldur Distribution. Need to deal with each store individually (or sign up with someone who takes most of the money and imposes DRM).

– Cheryl Morgan (@CherylMorgan) July 1, 2013

@fakebaldur Also starting to get worried by big stores’ assumption that all small presses are self-published authors.

– Cheryl Morgan (@CherylMorgan) July 1, 2013

And Mike Cane:

@fakebaldur Finding an editor isn’t easy, finding one who is sympatico is even harder.

– Mike Cane (@mikecane) July 1, 2013

The point Mike is making here and in other tweets is that the editor needs to understand and appreciate what you are trying to do with the book. Summarising Mike’s other tweets: The wrong editor can do as much damage to the text as the right one can improve it. And if you clash with an editor who doesn’t get what you’re trying to do you risk developing a reputation among freelance editors that makes it difficult for you to find one who is sympatico with what you’re trying to do.

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