Five years of training for the self-publishing triathlon

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the first time I “pushed the button” on self-publishing. At the time, I didn’t realize I was competing in a triathlon, but over the years, I’ve come to see the process of self-publishing as a multi-skill endurance race that is not for the faint of heart.

Let’s roll back the clock to 2016 to see what I mean.

It was the 4th of July in 2016, and I mentioned to a good friend that I had a kids’ book all written up, but I couldn’t afford an editor. She offered to copy-edit my book, and within a couple of months, it was ready, or so I thought to drop it on I got halfway through the process there and realized,

"Oh wait! I need a cover… and marketing copy…and reviewers…and advertising!”

I soon understood that putting a book out there was a lot more involved than I thought. But I muddled through it, got my listing online, printed some books, and waited for the royalties to roll in … and waited … and waited.

You see, I was treating the whole thing like a software sprint. So I thought, “Well, if I just get it out there, I’ll just iterate, and an ebook is just software, right?”

After a few months of no actual results, I started to look into what went wrong. The issues were many. I got advice from the host of intelligent people now listed in the acknowledgment sections of my books and started what turned into a two-year effort to get a book worth buying. After all that work, the results were better but still weren’t what I wanted or expected.

I joined a couple of different associations, made many contacts, and have now come to realize as I prepare for my 6th book launch that self-publishing success is a triathlon of writing, marketing, and sales.

Swimming to shore – writing the book

When I think about writing a book, that’s some deep water. When I start, I only have a vague notion of where I’ll hit dry land. This event is grueling in the real world because the ocean is working against you. Whether it’s saltwater in your eyes, rolling waves, or the possibility of sharks nipping at your toes, the environment is doing its very best to distract you from reaching the shore. My writing is totally like that. Phone notifications, family interruptions, or just a squirrel in the backyard can pull me out of the flow.

Once I’ve lost my point of reference, I can barely find the next word, and it takes every ounce of willpower to type that next character. Even if the pleasant click of keys on the keyboard continues, the story has likely taken an unexpected turn.

Suddenly, there are sharks..