9 Ways for Self-Publishers to Get Unstuck

by | Jun 2, 2010

Publishing a book can take quite a bit of time. Sometimes you finish a manuscript after months or years of work, and you feel like you’re ready to go.

But then you realize you need to hire an editor, and it’s back to “hurry up and wait” while another editorial process takes place.

Or your book might be done, but you’re not sure what to do next, so you spend all your time researching. You’ve got 120 blogs on your feed reader, you know the names of all the print on demand companies, but you have no book.

And then sometimes you’ve already finished the manuscript, printed your book, and now you realize you need a plan—or something—to know what to do next.

Never fear, there are always a few ways to get off the dime and back on track.

So no matter where you are in the process, here are some ideas to help out.

9 Things You Can Do Right Now to Get Unstuck

  • If you haven’t finished your book
    1. Get some other opinions, circulate parts of the manuscript to friends or sympathetic readers. Whether you agree with their assessment or not, you’ll have a new perspective on your material.
    2. Think about hiring an editor to help put your manuscript in order. Editors can be incredibly skillful at helping authors shape their manuscripts. More experienced authors know this and use editors to help their process.
    3. Visit writer forums for referrals, advice, community of others in the same situation. Hey, you’re online anyway, join a couple of active writer’s forums and you’ll find a sympathetic community of other writers.

  • If your manuscript’s done, but you’re not sure what to do next
    1. Sit down and decide how to self-publish to meet your goals. Will it be private, just circulated to friends and family, or for a fundraiser? On sale? Or will you try to compete actively in the marketplace? Each path has its own requirements that will help orient you.
    2. Look into hiring a publishing consultant, a book shepherd or a book designer to help you establish schedules, budgets and priorities. Use their experience to move you to the next step.
    3. Go back and make sure you have the infrastructure in place to establish your publishing enterprise. Have you acquired your ISBNs? Filled out directory listings for your publishing company? These details can be overlooked in the beginning.

  • If your book’s been published, now what?
    1. If you haven’t done so, register the domain of your book’s name. Get a blog attached to the domain and start writing about the topic of your book. Don’t try to sell the book, just work on finding an audience with common interests.
    2. Go over and set up a Facebook Fan page for your book. It only takes a few minutes, and you can let all your friends and followers know about it right away.
    3. If you know other people with websites or blogs in your field, offer to write free articles for them. It will introduce you to groups of new readers every time.

There’s No Substitute for a Plan

All of these suggestions will get you moving again, and that’s a good thing. But what self-publishers really need in order to stay on track is a realistic and orderly plan. Your plan should include all three of these phases of publication, finishing your manuscript, planning for publication, and long-term marketing.

With a plan in hand, you know where you are, and you know where you have to go. Without a plan it’s just too easy to get bogged down in detail and lose sight of the larger picture.

Book publishing can require lots of decisions and lots of different actions over a period of months. Be a smart publisher: get your plan together first.

And did you notice what all these actions have in common?

Takeaway: When self-publishers plan their book, their publication and their marketing, they rarely get stuck. But when they do, here are some suggestions on how to get unstuck and back on track.


tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Joel Friedlander

    Ok, Mayowa, that whole hamster thing has me worried now. I wonder what you are cooking up?

    • Mayowa

      Oh you should be worried Joel…

      Picture this…The back cover of my book is a grainy cell phone picture (in the great tradition of sexting). Hamsters and the diapered baby from those videos are dancing to Justin Beiber while kittens learn to use twitter in the background… a bestseller is born.

  2. Mayowa

    I am working on one of these plans right now and I’m continually amazed at how detailed the bloody thing can get.

    The biggest hurdle so far is of course the marketing section of the plan. The the usual blog tour, press release, guest post etc. strategies are all fine and dandy but they seem to fall way way short of national or even regional exposure.

    It might take some sort of stunt or a stroke of genius to achieve the same level of exposure as with a traditional publisher without the same marketing expense. It hasn’t come to me yet…

    • Joel Friedlander

      Mayowa, there’s no substitute for “event” marketing, where you can drive a lot of attention and traffic by doing something unusual, controversial, outrageous, or unique. But yes, compared to selling books, the rest is pretty easy.

      • Mayowa

        I heard of a British author who took an ad out in the papers as a wealthy man seeking a woman very much like the main character in his novel. Curious men and women everywhere bought the novel to find out about the character.

        That was of course a long time ago when newspapers were the thing. In this age of youtube and sexting, a stunt like that would probably be trumped by news of dancing hamsters.

        I have thought of issuing a challenge though. Every reader who buys a copy and feels that the work suffers as a result of self publishing gets the profit I make of the copy. It’s very dangerous financially but it might get some attention.

        I think I forgot to thank you for such a great post in my original comment. Thank you very much.

        Now i’m off to dream up some more outrageous schemes.

        • Joel Friedlander

          That’s pretty funny Mayowa, but in our culture publicity is a slippery thing. You already know you have to take risks to gain anything, perhaps this is just another step in that direction. Whichever, it’s taking action that will clarify your direction, don’t you think?

          • Mayowa

            I agree a hundred percent. Figuring out the plan has helped tremendously, execution begins in a few days with copyediting.

            Money is not my main motivation with this book (i’d like not to lose any though), so I’m definitely up for some risk. We’ll see how it goes…this dancing hamsters thing has just given me an idea for my author picture hehe.

  3. Michael N. Marcus

    If I get stuck (i.e., usually bored) while writing, editing, or experimenting with a cover design, I switch to another book. I always have at least two in the oven, and sometimes the work on one book will provide inspiration needed to get unstuck on another.

    • Joel Friedlander

      That’s a great idea Michael, thanks. Nice gravatar you’ve got there.



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