Self-Publishing—Is It a Career?

I will publish my second novel at the end of this month. I plan to publish a third by the end of October and more next year. Have I established a self-publishing career?

A few authors call their self-publishing endeavors a career by diversifying their creativity and making a livable income. Along with publishing books, they provide writing classes, consult, produce podcasts, and sell merchandise. But what about self-publishers who only publish books and do not make enough money to support themselves financially?

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) might classify their work as a hobby. Maybe if an author publishes one book it is a hobby. And there is nothing wrong with one book. Yet writing and publishing consistently is too much work for someone to call it a hobby. And does money make a career?

I never considered my writing as a hobby, despite what the IRS or other people think. I always pursued writing with the desire to be published, which I have done. I also do not plan to stop writing and I hope to continue publishing.

Does it matter whether I call my writing a career? It matters because it helps with motivation. It helps me to continue the path of writing and publication, always searching for more creative paths. It helps build confidence.

I think a career is a lifelong ambition toward consistent accomplishments. Income should be a minor consideration. With this definition, more people have a career than a hobby.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a career as “a field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional, or business life.” I have made consecutive, progressive publishing achievements and will continue to do so.

Opening the Self-Publishing Door

I’m about to self-publish another book. They are short stories about commuting on a train, which I did going to the Pentagon for over 25 years. After my first book last year, I learned some things.

Last time, I designed my cover and it was not good. So, I had someone else design the cover, which I will do from now on. The designer provided more details than I could and gave a different perspective I did not have. I found it better hiring someone starting their career. This designer was more imaginative and willing to take risks to be different. More experienced designers tend to copy what worked before.

In my first book, I uploaded an MS Word document on websites using the available software to publish. Each software was different. The book looked okay, but not great. Plus, I had to learn each software.

The websites had an option to upload an already formatted book, which bypassed several steps. There was no need to get frustrated with learning more software.

There is software to format a book, but it requires a Macintosh computer. The software and Mac are expensive. (Other people are working on a PC version.) I hired a formatter. I could publish twelve books for the cost of buying a Mac and the software. I am a long way from publishing twelve books. (I’ve already invested in the PC version.)

In the end, I employed two people, which I will do this time, too. A cover designer and formatter. It was much easier and more professional to do this. I can upload a book quicker and it looks the same each time.

Self-publishing is not easy and authors should pursue whatever path will make it easier. Because, after publishing there is marketing and an author needs all their energy for that.

Publish What You Write

Many people write stories, memoirs, essays, poems, or other work that could be published. Yet, for various reasons they never publish their work. I think every writer should consider publishing what they wrote and making it available for someone to read.

Today, self-publishing a print book* can be done online or through a local printer with varying degrees of cost (they may be free to upload, but will cost to print).

For online printing, there are many companies providing a wide range of support from the writer doing everything to the company doing everything. The main benefit to online is that a reader, such as a family member, can purchase the book and have it delivered wherever they want.

The other way is through a local printer. Most everywhere has a graphic store producing signs and banners or a chain office-supply store, both of whom usually provide print services. This method is good if the writer wants a limited number of books and is concerned about their work being online.

What if the writing is not very good? I think that if the writer can understand it, they have told a story and a reader can be found. The two just need to meet.

With so many services, more writers should print their work in some form. Even a pamphlet will do. It will cost, but the value to the writer of holding something with their thoughts inside is worth it.

* This blog post is mostly about people who write for a specific audience, such as their family, who want something to hold. These writers are not interested in making a profit or even selling their work.

2021 Creative Writing Goals

I’m setting writing goals this year. Something I haven’t done before. Usually, I fumble along until I surprise myself with some accomplishment. Now I have my first book published and I formed a limited liability company (LLC) for my writing. So, I thought I should be more organized.

My first goal is to put more time into my writing. This means freeing up time from other projects such as grant writing. I’ll still write grants, but for fewer nonprofits.

I will also not send short stories to magazines. This is time consuming and competition has increased over the past year, although I may try again later. It is a great confidence builder to be published by someone besides myself.

With more time, my second goal is to publish more books. I’m in the final editing stages of my second book and I am editing a third book. I have a fourth book written, but it may need a lot of editing.

I plan to publish these books through my LLC, which needs to be better organized. Right now, my LLC is little more than a legal name. I need to create a more defined business structure. Maybe have meetings with myself.

My fourth goal is to leverage my LLC and put more effort into my so far futile attempt at marketing. This is the biggest unknown to me. For example, I’m supposed to have a marketing plan, but what do I put in the plan?

There is plenty of guidance and suggestions to help self-publishers market their book. However, I found that the details are unique to each book and author. I’ll probably do a blog post on marketing in the near future.

Now that I’ve written my goals, I just need to remember them.