Self-Publishing and Publicity: Chicago Women in Publishing’s April Program

I don’t have a book that I’m looking to get published (not yet, anyway). I’m not a writer in that sense. But as an editor who works with writers every day, it’s definitely my responsibility to keep up with the newest trends that are shaping how writers get their words into print. That’s why I was so excited to attend Chicago Women in Publishing’s (CWIP’s) April program on self-publishing and publicity. The event was sponsored by IBPA Publishing University and brought together a panel of industry experts who shared their experiences and answered questions on e-books, traditional print publishing, marketing, and more.

I love CWIP’s programs. Remember that take-home message from the Freelance Edge in February— the one about filling our lives with the work that will nurture our creative, authentic selves? Yeah. That was some good stuff. You could say that message is still with me. Heck, it’s pretty much what got me out of bed this morning, early, to write.

Last Wednesday’s program on self-publishing and publicity certainly delivered. Before the panel discussion, I did my best and swallowed a lot of my introverted tendencies so I could talk to people I don’t know (also known as networking). I chatted with some fantastic colleagues about the dreadful wet weather, book design, and cats. You know, the usual stuff.

The panel members started the program by talking about their work experience and passion for the industry, and we were lucky enough to hear from self-publishing experts Kim Bookless, Paula Krapf, and Linda Wolf, as well as CWIP member Erica Weisz and Florence Osmund—writers who have actually self-published and could tell us the pitfalls and the triumphs.

Panel members mentioned specific books and websites to help writers who are actually ready to publish and those who are starting from square one. For beginners, Kim described the three options for self-publishing: doing everything yourself, working with freelancers or a company that provides a la carte services, or hiring a self-publishing company that will handle those services and do all the project management work for you.

I know I wasn’t the only person in the room who was thrilled when Kim repeatedly stressed the importance of spending the bulk of your publishing budget on hiring professional editors and designers. You know I always say that everyone needs an editor, but I think Kim made a crucial point: If you’re putting your book out into the world, the end result of your creative toil, it should be the best book it can be, because it is your name on the cover, of course, but also because we all have a responsibility to self-publish quality work. The self-publishing niche has begun to lose the stigma of the so-called vanity presses of yesteryear, but, unfortunately, we’ve still got to convince the naysayers that this is a viable way to produce and deliver top-notch content.

Paula shared how marketing, especially in terms of learning the ins and outs of social media, doesn’t have to an overwhelming endeavor. She said to start slow, maybe focus on just Facebook at first, for instance, and go from there. But everyone on the panel said you need a marketing plan and you need to follow through on it. As I listened, it dawned on me that self-publishing and traditional publishing might not be as different as I thought. If you want to self-publish, you still need to create a business plan and do the market research to find similar books and competitors—you need to pretend that you’re pitching to a traditional publisher. Your work doesn’t end after you’ve typed The End.

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2 Responses to “Self-Publishing and Publicity: Chicago Women in Publishing’s April Program”

  1. Erin Wright says:

    Great summary, Cassandra! And of course, thank you for the link. You make a very good point that self-publishing is shedding the bad reputation it had just a couple of years ago, but it still has some work to do. I totally agree that professionalism is the best way to eliminate the remaining negativity 🙂

    • EditCassandra says:

      Thanks, Erin! It was such a fantastic panel that I probably left out some other great points. Here’s to putting forward the best name for self-publishing that we can!

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