5 Reasons You’re Not Ready to Self-Publish Your Book

You’re Not Ready to Self-Publish Your Book
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GIVEAWAY: Nina is giving away a copy of her latest writing book, The Author Training Manual, to a random commenter. The book shares the processes successful authors have used to create business plans and proposals for their books and teaches you to view your ideas through the eyes of acquisitions editors and literary agents. 

Comment within one week to enter! (Must live in US or Canada to win a hard copy; if the winner lives elsewhere, we’ll send you the ebook version.) Good luck! (UPDATE: Gargi won!)

In the digital age, it’s easy to say, “I’m going to publish my book,” and just do it. There’s no need to wait. But are you certain now is the right time for you to become an author?

If you plan to traditionally publish, agents and acquisitions editors evaluate whether you’re publication ready. They take specific elements into consideration to determine if you should publish now or later.

If you plan to self-publish, you should consider those same elements and a few additional ones before you decide that it’s the right time to go from aspiring to published author.

Here are five reasons you might want to wait to publish your book.

1. You don’t have a strong platform

A platform, in simple terms, is a built-in audience in a target market for your book. If you have not taken the time to build a platform, you won’t be able to help promote your book.

Lack of platform is one of the primary reasons nonfiction authors get turned down by traditional publishers. You might have a good idea and write well, but without a platform you likely will be sent away to build one — at least by large and mid-sized publishers.

Platform has historically been less important for novelists. Today, novelists set themselves apart from the pack by building a platform like their nonfiction counterparts. The same premise holds true no matter the genre: Platform provides the foundation for promotion. If you want to successfully sell your novel upon release, you need a built-in readership.

Seth Godin, marketing guru, says writers need to start building a platform three years prior to publishing a book. Think about that…

2. You don’t have the time or energy to promote your book or to create a sound promotion plan

Publishers reject many aspiring authors because they don’t include promotion plans in their proposals, or those plan aren’t strong or realistic enough. Authors are expected to help sell their books. Publishers seek good business partners, ones who will produce the product — the book — and help make it successful. This means you must demonstrate that you have some business savvy and can and will promote your book.

If you self-publish, this element is just as important — if not more so. You are on your own as an indie publisher, and you must handle all marketing and promotion. Your plan must be strong, and you must be willing to do what it takes to let your target audience know your book has been released — and that they need and want it.

If you don’t have the time or energy to promote your book, if you don’t know how to create a book promotion plan or haven’t yet created one, or if you don’t want to help promote and sell your book, you might need to take a step back and wait until you do. Only then can you help your book succeed.

3. You don’t have the credentials or expert status necessary to be seen as an authority on your subject

If you write nonfiction, it’s possible that you aren’t an expert in the subject about which you plan to write. You can become one, though. Maybe you need to wait to publish your book while you take a course, get a degree or get certified. Or you could take the time to interview experts; journalists become experts on a topic by doing research and learning from thought leaders.

Your personal or life experience might make you an expert; maybe you just need to take time to find someone with credentials to write a foreword for your book and verify that you have authority.

4. You don’t have the funds to put together a professional-quality book

If you plan to self-publish, you financially back your own project. You will have no venture-capital partner — a traditional publisher — to provide the funding for editing, proofing, indexing, design, ebook conversion, and other tasks. That begs this question: Do you have the funds you need to produce a book that meets the standards of the publishing industry?

If you can’t afford editors, designers, proofreaders and the cost of all the other necessities, such as ISBN numbers, printed books for reviewers, copyright filing, and website design, you might need to wait until you save up the money. You could also wait until you run a crowdfunding campaign. Either way, you need to have the resources to get your new publishing company off the ground and keep it running. (Editor’s note: Using free tools and enlisting your network can help too!)

5. You aren’t ready to play big

In general, becoming an author requires that you show up and play big. You can’t hide behind your computer. You might think a pseudonym will keep you safe, but eventually someone will discover who you are.

If you feel fearful of success, if you don’t want to be social on social networks, if you want to remain private, if you don’t want to become a speaker, you might need to take some time and rethink, regroup or work through these issues. Successful authors get out there and show themselves authentically and publically in many ways. That’s what helps them succeed.

What do you think? Are you ready to become a published author right now or would it be smarter to wait?

Don’t forget to comment to be in the running for Nina’s book giveaway! You could win a copy of her latest writing book, The Author Training Manual(UPDATE: Gargi won!)

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Nina Amir writes four blogs, self-published 12 books and founded National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge. When not writing books such as How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time and .

Nina Amir | @NinaAmir

Nina Amir
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  1. Such important things to consider. Thanks Nina for another great post (just came across your Scrivener post on your own site earlier this morning too). It’s hard to believe some writers ignore these things before rushing to publish, yet I see it all the time — especially those not having a budget or adequate alternatives and not having a marketing plan. As for platforms, I’m glad to see more people talking about them for authors of fiction these days. For far too long platform-building has been seen as a nonfiction-only issue, and that just isn’t the case.

    • Jennifer,

      Thanks for your comment. In fact, I think there has been much discussion about platform for novelists, and, for the most part, they have decided they don’t need it and should focus instead on craft. That’s a huge mistake, I think…and most agents would agree. Platform sets them apart, gives them an advantage. And if they go through the steps of putting together a business plan, which I suggest, they will also produce a marketable book–one targeted to their market and that is unique and necessary in its category. It’s not enough any longer to just have a good idea and writing skill…and least not for most writers. There’s always an exception to the rule, but most books sell well because the author has a pre-existing or built-in readership.

      • Unfortunately that’s the dominant side of the discussion (at least what I’ve come across so far). Are there any books or blogs you’d recommend where platform-building for authors of fiction is covered particularly well? I’m always looking for new resources worth keeping an eye on. 🙂

        And I agree completely on your other points on the importance of platforms and business plans. Preaching to the choir. 😉

  2. You make some excellent points here, Nina! A lot of new writers may not realize all the aspects that go into publishing. When writers ask me if something is ready to be published I always tell them to get feedback from others first. Once that’s good, go back to a good sheet for your novel. Do you have a steadily rising conflict that ends in a satisfying way to the reader? Do you have characters that you know very well? Do you have plot points at different places where the reader is surprised by the turn of events? You can get a list of what a good novel contains, and if you’ve checked them off and you’ve done all of that, then take your chances in publishing.

    • Anita,

      Great points! But do they also know that their story is unique? Is it different enough? I’ve heard so many agents and editors lament that the novels they get are too similar to what is already out there. Novelists should do a competitive analysis! They should make sure they are telling a new and different story.

      • Silent Stranger says:

        “There is nothing new under the sun,” the old saying goes, and that’s unfortunately true in the world of novels as well. Despite being an avid reader, I go for long spells where I put down every book I pick up because none of them just seem inspiring and original enough to be worth the energy of reading them. It’s all been done before. Same with movies… only worse.

  3. Brooke Warner says:

    What I like about you, Nina, is that you challenge writers to play big and to really consider what they’re getting into before they dive in. What do you think about the idea of getting something small on the map—almost like an investor who wants to explore and learn with a small first effort. Valid idea or no way?

  4. Thanks so much, Brooke!

    I think starting small and working up is a great idea. I never tell an aspiring author to self-publish first with the hope of that book getting picked up by a traditional publisher (if they dream of traditional publishing) unless they know they can rack up great sales. Lack of sales kills their chances with traditional publishers.

    But I think starting small, with a short book or a book that establishes credibility or expert status, and building a platform and readership that way–maybe even with several small books can be a great strategy toward both traditional and indie publishing success. It’s a great branding strategy as well.

  5. Allyn Lesley says:

    So many good points, Nina. Numbers one and two are so important – developing a platform, and help in promoting. Too many aspiring authors, whether wanting to be traditionally published or seeking to do themselves, miss these two. If one does not have an audience already, no matter how brilliant the words they’ve penned, it will take divine intervention for said book to skyrocket in reviews, sales, and word of mouth without having an existing platform and a promotion strategy. I am new to this website, but I will not be a stranger with informative and timely articles such as this. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Allyn. And you are right on the money. It’s a rare book that makes it to bestseller status or even sells an average, let alone above average, number of copies today if the author doesn’t have a platform to support the promotion plan–or doesn’t have some amazing promotion plan.

      Please also visit me at my blog, http://www.writenonfictionnow.com.

  6. Some great advice. I will bookmark this post!

  7. Nina,
    This amuses me, since I have just posted a blog regarding a writing course I’m taking which puts a lot of focus on the marketing side of writing. I’m not sure if you just validated my position (that the course is overly optimistic about the potential for easily making a living from writing – not my own intention at this time) or gave me reason to write my next post on “You get out what you put in!”, which is a stance I firmly believe in for all walks of life!

    • Liza,

      I don’t think I’d ever say you can “easily” make a living from writing. LOL. Seriously, it takes a lot of work to do marketing/promotion and you have to know how to do it well and in a targeted manner. But you do get out what you put in.

  8. Norm Brekke says:

    Thanks for the great tips, Nina. For many years I have believed that there is a great book inside me. Like so many budding authors, I simply thought that I needed to WRITE it. As I read features like this, it becomes more apparent that work needs to be done “behind the curtain.” I certainly will take the thoughts of those like yourself that have prepared the way and do what I need to get ready while writing that book. Thanks so much!

    • You are welcome, Norm. Many get frustrated and deterred by this fact. They give up because they don’t have what it takes to do more than just write. They don’t want it badly enough. I hope that isn’t you.

      • Norm Brekke says:

        No, Nina . . I can do pretty much anything I set my mind to. Thanks for the encouragement, and I look forward to more of the same!

  9. Great points!

    I believe it’s important for writers to begin cultivating a platform as soon as possible. For me, the writing and the compulsion to write has always been the driving force. However, it is important that a writer be able to navigate through the many facets of the publishing industry. The more know how a writer has in their arsenal the better equipped they will be. Being an active participant of a project from conception, to publication to promotion will bring a level of professionalism that will help a writer be noticed and more widely read.

    • Kathleen,

      Exactly right! It also makes you a good business partner for a publisher or a savvy self-publisher.

    • Silent Stranger says:

      My feelings exactly. To me the fun of writing is the real thing, and the publication part is just what you do with it afterward, if you feel good enough about it. I guess if you wanted to make a serious freelance business out of it you’d have to be more of a business person than an artsy type.

  10. Janet Askins says:

    These are some very important guidelines to go by in order to get published. I understand the statement that you made about fearing success; It is a great hindrance to anyone wanting to advance to fear success. For one of my College papers, I wrote one an essay of the fear of success. As I did research for that essay, I realized that it was a much greater problem for people than what one would expect. Thank you for a great article.

  11. Great article. In this culture of instant gratification, it is often hard to convince someone to wait until they are ready before doing something as important as publishing a book.

  12. Karen DeVile says:


    Your article is perfect timing for me. I am one of those who is embarking on my first book and doing it myself. I’m at step 1 – building my platform. After reading I thought no I’m not ready and reconsidered moving forward with my book. However, one comment asked your thoughts on starting small and then building. Your answer encouraged me. I plan to start small while building my platform and using the skills I’ve learned from my corporate life to building my business of writing. Thank you for the well-timed and content rich article!

  13. I liked your points a lot. If I had read them a couple of years ago I would say I was absolutely unprepared. Happily, I’m in the process of having success in all your points. Going towards the pole position and almost ready. But what a great work it has been. I love the process. Wish me luck!!! 😉

  14. These five points are specific reasons that so many good ideas for book never make a profit; unless the platform is in place to create the demand, even the best ideas for solid books being discovered are nonexistent. Unless the author’s credentials are established in advance, you have to sell both the book and the author. The successful book authors follow each of your steps to the letter, or wishes they would have. Thanks for solidly making the case for having the plan, first.

    • You are welcome! I seem to be the “rainmaker” most of the time, but the reason is so no one rains on the author’s parade later on…in the form of not reading (buying) the book.

  15. Until I’m established (and therefore don’t need a lot of my old business contacts on social media), I want to keep at least a *few* degrees of separation there. That’s why I’ve considered self-publishing using my first two initials (instead of my first name) so it won’t come up on a potential employer’s search or just building a second identity through social media, etc, since I know that a lot of actors don’t use their real name either.

    While I can understand waiting, I’m also just wondering if I shouldn’t have *something* out there to collect the fruits of my other social media activities. Since I get an okay amount of exposure when writing for blogs I can’t help but imagine that it could translate into some sales if I had an e-book I could link back to.

    • You can build platform with an ebook, of course. And using your initials is one way to go about it without using a pen name, which I don’t recommend.

      Start small…with a short book.

  16. I like that these are very practical, hands-on tips. Now I just need to figure out how to build my platform!


  17. Nina,

    Grand post! Above all else, a writer who is a freelancer and a self-publisher must have strong dedication to his craft. Without dedication, the marketing avenue will fizzle. Thanks for sharing!

  18. This list had me seriously reconsider whether I’m ready to play it big. I think the fact I’m hesitating speaks volumes.

    • I’m most definitely not ready. When you know a little, you realize just how much more you need to prepare.
      I hope one day I can get behind the eight ball…

      • Catherine,

        You could get that book off your bucket list…finally…and possibly use it to build a business. That’s a different goal than selling many books.

    • It may…but maybe you just need to change your attitude or determine your goals. If your goals are not to play big but to publish a book for your family and friends, that’s a totally different story.

  19. Traci Bold says:

    Thank you for writing this article. It gave a good heads up while i peruse the idea of self-publishing my children’s books that I have written.

    I am currently working on building my author platform and social media. I am planning on sending my current manuscript to three children’s publishers and your article gave me a good tip for this endeavor as well.

    I look forward to reading your book for more inside tips for author success.

  20. I have considered self-publishing my novel at some point if I don’t have it traditionally published before then. Thank you for the tips. 🙂

  21. Very informative. As I am self-publishing my 2nd book, all said above is true. Knowing when you are ready and thinking you are ready are two different fields. Thank you for sharing.

  22. Really agree with all the things said in the article. I havn’t written a full blown anything yet but it’s good to know what I should consider if I was going to self publish something.

  23. Nina, this is a great post! I especially appreciate how you’ve brought the learning side of writing and publishing into plain view. Thank you so much! I’ve starting thinking about writing a book, and these ideas about publishing and the amount of work and organization that goes into it have really helped clear up what i’ll be signing up for. Thank you again for enlightening me on my journey, and may it inspire others in the future as well!

    • Corwin,

      Thanks for your comment. It’s good to go into publishing with your eyes wide open. And it sounds like that’s what you are doing. Good luck.

  24. How do you go about building a platform if you’re a recluse who just wants to write?

  25. Thank you for the information. I understand now why it is important to build your own marketing platform. I have an account in twitter, Facebook and google+, and I am moving towards building an audience.
    Since I come originally from Ecuador, South America, and I have a large family there, I have followers over there that speaks Spanish.
    Here I also have a lot of family and friends that are becoming the start of my platform.
    Happy Blogging!

  26. Nina, as always, you bring a great post to us with common sense, logical points to consider. And consider them all we should if we want to be published writers. Lately, you seem to be in many places and very busy. Thanks for taking the time to provide us with these important tips!

    • Thanks so much, Sherrey! Two virtual book tours in a row will give you some major exposure! It was my pleasure to be here…and I appreciate the opportunity. Sorry it took me a bit to get back and respond to some of the comments.

  27. I always wanted to know whether its really as simple to self-publish as its made out to be. This confirms my suspicion that the writer, in addition to having a good book, must be prepared to tackle the other roles that come with self-publishing – marketer, promoter, seller, etc. Thanks for this informative article, Nina!

  28. “You are on your own as an indie publisher, and you must handle all marketing and promotion.”

    This is an excellent point. Promoting a book is almost as much work as writing it. You have to create blog posts, images for your website, investigate PPC, network with others in your industry and study online marketing.

    The job doesn’t end when you reach “The END”

  29. Wow! I never considered that there were reasons not to self-publish. A real eye opener. I really need to consider everything shared and see if I am truly one of those people. Then I need to work to get myself to where I am ready to publish. Thanks Nina!

  30. Thanks for a great post. I’m just now in the beginning phases of all that self-publishing entails. This article was helpful!

  31. I self-published a fiction a few months ago. I felt I had some platform building under my belt and was ready to hit “publish”. I have a few thousand Facebook friends and am building, I have had a Twitter Account going for some time, and I have a website which includes a trailer video. I love reading your post and articles because they are to the point, realistic, and very helpful. I have several plans for promoting my book (which is the first of at least four more in a series) including radio talk shows, multiple press releases, newspaper articles and interview, give away photo ops at hospitals, libraries, schools, and other educational organizations. My book is a, “just for fun” type read so I push the entertainment value. If someone is going to entertain themselves with a book or ebook, I want mine to be considered. The feedback I get from those who have read it shows that I am on target with my audience; most say they can’t wait for the next one (which I am working on.)

    I enjoy reading the post… keep them coming… love the ideas and encouragement.

    • Addendum to my previous comment: I was fortunate to have a sister who has been a book editor for 15 years. Together, we took about 8 months to edit the book. We made a lot of changes and corrections. It took longer to edit than it did to write the original manuscript but well worth the time and effort.

      • Wow, Anthony — sounds like you’re off to a great start! How lucky to have an experienced editor on your side too.

        How are things going with the book? Are you seeing good sales?

        TWL Assistant Editor

        • It is great having my sister’s input and direction. It made all the difference in the world.

          The book sales are going fair at this point. I am still in the “hundreds” of sales but it has only been a little more than three months since published. I am still working on gaining an agent and will continue to look for more innovative ways to market and create reader appeal for this great book. I am very pleased with the reviews from those who have read “Kent Rivers – The Story”. http://www.kentrivers.com Thanks! Tony

  32. I’m so glad I won! Thanks, The Write Life team! I’m looking forward to reading Nina Amir’s book!

  33. I love this post. I’m featuring it in tomorrow’s The Content Letter.

  34. Andrea Leigh Ptak says:

    Excellent tips—especially this part “…editing, proofing, indexing, design, ebook conversion, and other tasks. That begs this question: Do you have the funds you need to produce a book that meets the standards of the publishing industry?”

    I have tried to read many a self-published book only to be put-off by the lack of copyediting—let alone any substantive editing. I’m glad you are encouraging authors to raise funds to get the job done professionally.

  35. The idea of a platform is very frustrating for me. I can see how it makes sense for a nonfiction writer but for a completely unpublished fiction writer without any writing credentials what would your platform even be?

    • Esther, a platform is your message, your foundation, the machine upon which you build your credibility and reputation. Today, it usually means a blog and probably some social media following (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). You reach out to people who share an interest in your genre, get some short stories published, and start attracting an audience for your work. You do this before you publish your novel so that when you do publish it, you have a built in audience.

      • Thanks for the reply. I understand the idea of a platform and I think it’s a great idea. I started my blog recently but since I’m still in the editing phase of my book it’s not so much about my writing but more about books in general and a few other fun things. Not sure if that was the right direction to head in but at least I’m having fun with it.

  36. Iriegirl says:

    Hi Nina very helpful information. i work with a 93 year old gentleman, researcher who has done many things throughout his lifetime. He has compiled 50 of his most memorable stories of his life and has put them together in a book form. However they are all individual stories and I do not think he is ready to publish. He thinks he is. I cannot tell him otherwise. He thinks doing things in 2015 is the same as in the 40s and 50s. I dont even know who his target audience would be.

  37. Great post Nina! My first book was just published with a small independent publisher and so most of the marketing falls on me. What have I learned? Writing the book is only half the job, knowing how to sell it is the other half! Would love to win a copy of your book!


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