The Importance Of Having A Plan In Self-Publishing

The writing is the easy part.

No, really, it is.

And if it isn’t?

Well, then I guess you’re going to be in a whole load of trouble – unless you’re already some kind of marketing guru, that is.

So, let me tell you all about it.

I wrote my new children’s novel in sixteen weeks: one week per chapter, plus prologue.

I could have written it more quickly.

I only did three to four hours twice a week, on the days when three out of my four children were out at school and nursery, leaving me home alone with the newborn.

After all, I needed something to do whilst bouncing my new baby on my knee. And there it was: bang. My novel. All done and dusted.

Or so I thought. That was the point at which I started making mistakes. Big, blundering rookie errors that I didn’t expect to make; that nobody warned me about: except that, as a matter of fact, they did (of which, more later).

I didn’t try very hard to get an agent.

After four short attempts and before even receiving feedback from three of them, I decided to go down the self-publishing route.


I have to admit, a lot of it was about impatience; a bit about rookie arrogance.

After all, how hard could it be?

Everyone else was doing it.

And I knew a little more than many of them, having published several books before, albeit academic ones.

I knew about editing and typesetting and cover design, at a rudimentary level, at least. And, besides, there was the great god, Amazon, making it really, really simple for me; and more importantly, offering it for free.

That it was free was a very important factor for me. If there had been a substantial or, being honest, even moderate, outlay involved in self-publishing, I would have been deterred immediately and continued down the traditional publishing path.

One of my greatest fears was, and very much still is, investing large amounts of money with a nil outcome; my precious book becoming ‘just another expensive hobby.’ (Believe me, I’ve had a few, over the years – what price entrepreneurialism?!).

So there I was, rushing headlong down the self-publishing path without a care in the world, completely unaware of all the troubles that lay ahead; like Little Red Riding Hood skipping merrily into the forest, except not quite so little.

(Okay, so more like Big Red Mummy Coat blundering into the forest. But I digress…).

Of course, my book still needed editing, but that was just a technicality. I was ready to go. Wasn’t I?

No, of course I wasn’t.

And not because it isn’t as easy as it looks to publish a book through Amazon. It is easy, albeit not without its nuances, and taking some advice on navigating your way through that before you start would be useful, particularly in respect of things like which ISBN to choose, and whether or not to check the expanded distribution channels.

But really, it’s not so difficult to get to grips with, even if you’re new to it.

My real mistake was that I didn’t realize that it isn’t just about the book.

And here is where I started to kick myself: because I should have known.

I’m a lawyer by trade, for goodness’ sake.

What was I thinking of, running helter-skelter into a new business without doing any research…whatsoever? I must have been out of my mind.

And the really spit-making part is that everyone was trying to tell me.

There are simply thousands of authors out there, from jobbing writers, to successful novelists to uber-popular web entrepreneurs (Joanna Penn is a great resource), all clamoring for some space on my browser; all trying to reach out, to tell me the thing that I should have done before even considering clicking ‘Add New Title’ on my createspace member dashboard – I NEEDED TO MAKE A PLAN!

Bestselling author and marketing guru, Mark Dawson, has a great strapline, which is:

He couldn’t be more right. You have to learn the business.

If you don’t, you’ll end up being the victim of the biggest problem for wannabe authors: your book will have no audience.

It doesn’t matter how good it is; whether it’s going to be the next Harry Potter (my own personal goal, along with thousands of other authors).

It isn’t going to sell because nobody knows it’s there.

And getting maximum sales isn’t even about the money, really.

Sure, everyone secretly wants to make millions from their writing. But there’s more to it than that. It’s about ego.

What most writers want more than anything is an audience: a bunch of people to say “Hey, that’s not bad,” or, even better, “Wow! That’s absolutely fantastic!”

Oh yes, I had a vague plan that a publisher would pick me up somewhere between writing my first and second children’s novel because I’d read something somewhere and it seemed like a sensible way to go.

But reading “something, somewhere” isn’t good enough.

You need to read everything, everywhere, and then sit down properly and plan your long-term strategy for success as an author.

This isn’t a flash in the pan; this isn’t about having that expensive hobby for 12 months or so, before you decide to renew your gym membership instead and use up your free time that way. This is a vocation. As such, you have to take it seriously.

But how to make a plan?

And, more to the point, what should that plan be?

The only plan I was intending to write when I started all this was my chapter outline!

I recently read a really lovely article on my host’s own blog, entitled “5 Ways To Keep Up Your NaNoWriMo Momentum All Year,” that made me stand and take stock: to have my own ‘Eureka!’ moment, if you like.

Yes, the internet really is a wonderful thing; it doesn’t have to be your monster in the woods.

Of course, from a marketing perspective, you do have to learn how to use it: how to harness its power, and I, for one, still have a long way to go.

But the Web is also the source of a wealth of knowledge and a hub of camaraderie and unquestioning support, just waiting for us to tap into.

These other authors aren’t just information providers. They are a lifeline; a source of friendship, even. We all have a common bond.

So where have I wound up?

Well, still by no means an expert, but hopefully a little wiser and ready to take the time to consider my next few steps through the woods a little more carefully. After all, I don’t want to get eaten by the wolf!

At the time of writing, I still don’t have a concrete plan.

But I’m going to make one, and in doing so I’m going to take all the advice and support I can get. Because, let’s face it, I’d be foolish not to.


Emma Warner-Reed is a qualified lawyer, academic and author of legal textbooks. Emma lives in the Yorkshire Dales with her husband and four young children, where she has recently gone off grid to home school and enjoy a bit of ‘the good life’. Emma’s first children’s book, DOTTY AND THE CALENDAR HOUSE KEY is the debut novel in the ‘Dotty’ series. Dotty’s second adventure, Dotty and the Chimney Thief, is scheduled for release in April 2017. For further information and updates on the ‘Dotty’ series, visit:

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