Is Self-Publishing the Right Choice for You and Your Romance Novel?
Romance and Self-Publishing
Romance plays an interesting role in worlds of both traditional publishing and self-publishing. It’s really one of the genres that powers both worlds. Romance (and other mass market fiction like fantasy) pays for all of the other genres in the traditional publishing world. And romance is what really helped launch the upswing of self-publishing. Now, romance is what dominates the self-publishing world.
I’ve heard some people say that romance is over-saturated, so it’s not a good plan to self-publish in this genre.
But here’s the truth.
Romance readers are voracious. They are the most avid readers, challenged only by fantasy/sci-fi readers. That means as soon as they finish one book, they want another. And another. And another. And not just from their favorite authors either: They want all the content from all the authors they can read.
That means that because of the romance audience, you always have the opportunity to do well by self-publishing your romance novels.
Here’s the catch though: Self-publishing isn’t for everyone, at least not if you want to be successful. If you just want to self-publish so you can say you’ve published a book, then go for it. But, if you want to pursue success as a self-published romance novelist, there is a lot you need to know and be prepared for.
In my opinion, what first needs to be addressed before you approach self-publishing is the mindset surrounding self-publishing. Now, you may already have a pretty good idea of what to expect, but I want to address it anyway because this mindset really is such an essential part of self-publishing.
There are two facts you need to know:
It’s not easy after you write the book.
You’re not just writing a book. You’re running a business.
So let’s talk about the first point. The process after writing the book isn’t easy. Writing a book is hard. I’ve written books, I know it’s hard. I know how much of your heart and your effort you put into your books. But writing the book is just half of the process.
After you finish writing, then comes editing, design, formatting, the book blurb, publishing, and marketing. It’s pretty much a never-ending process, and you will have to commit to creating your books and helping your readership grow.
This is where the second point comes in. You’re not just publishing a book. When you choose to self-publish, you’re starting your own business.
Your name or your pen name becomes your brand the second you publish or start promoting your book. And BAM! You’re running a small business.
There are lots of steps you have to take to help your small business (your books) thrive, and understanding this is really what trips a lot of new indie authors up.
Time & Money Investment
As in any small business, time and money both have to be invested into your book before you even publish your romance novel.
Your time will have to be invested in learning the business, coordinating your publishing project, and marketing your book. I’ll go more into these topics throughout the rest of the article.
You will also have to invest money in your book to work with good people to prepare it for readers. An editor, a cover designer, and likely an interior formatter. Though it can seem like a lot at the beginning, you are setting yourself up for success. If your book looks professional, people won’t hesitate to buy it if they’re interested in your story. Then, after the book is bought, the editing will help you with good reviews and people wanting to buy your next novel. Remember, your readers deserve a real, professional romance novel.
I’m going to bring this up briefly because I think you should ignore everything surrounding the negative stigmas about self-publishing. They’re crap, and they’re unimportant. But… you may encounter them, so I want to discuss them.
Some people still believe that self-publishing means the author wasn’t talented enough for an agent to take them on or to be traditionally published. But there are so many self-published authors who make more money than traditionally published authors, and many self-published authors make bestseller lists.
So, if anyone brings this up, don’t let it be your deciding factor. Ignore them, and realize that you have a better chance of being a full-time author as a career if you put in the work.
But… if you want the perceived prestige of being a professionally published author, then self-publishing likely won’t make you happy.
Personally though, I think self-publishing, especially for romance authors, is the better option.
If you are going to self-publish, there will be so much to learn. To begin, you’ll have to learn all the steps of the self-publishing process and the facets of each one. Then, after your book is published, you’ll continue to learn new marketing trends and tools, different skills to grow your sales, and new policies as they are updated or implemented.
I don’t think learning all this is a deterrent to self-publishing because once you learn something the first time, it will be easier to do the task a second time and a third time. But I do share this information because if you’re not willing to learn how to self-publish properly and market your book after publication, you won’t succeed. At least, not unless you can hire someone to do everything for you, which is totally an option--it will just be expensive.
Because of all this though, I recommend embracing the learning. Enjoy it and find the best methods that work for you. Remember, once you learn the step once, it will be easier to do it the next time and the next and the next.
Becoming a self-published author means you wear many hats. You’ll be a project coordinator, a publisher, maybe a formatter/typesetter, beta and ARC coordinator, marketer, bookkeeper, and more.
Now, there are some people you will work with who will take some of the work off your plate, such as an editor and a cover designer. You may even work with an interior formatter or a virtual assistant. Even with that though, you’re the one making the decisions, organizing the work, and keeping it all moving forward.
It can be a lot to juggle, but as someone who started a business while working a full-time job, it can be completely worth it.
Tips for Success in Self-Publishing
I really do believe in self-publishing. I’ve been working with self-published authors for years, and I always tell people they should go for it. But I want them to go into it with eyes wide open, which is why I wrote this post.
So now that I’ve highlighted the things I think you really need to know and consider before you self-publish, I want to give some tips for how you can be successful in self-publishing.
Save for the Investments
If you don’t have the funds to invest in self-publishing right now, find the freelancers/businesses you want to work with, research their prices or request quotes, then save up. It’s better to delay publishing a little longer to put out the best book possible.
Do It Right the First Time
This relates directly to the tip above. It really isn’t better to go ahead and publish if you haven’t taken the steps you need to--bad reviews could drive down your sales and keep people from buying your next book. This is why I recommend waiting and saving, so you do it right the first time instead of hurting yourself and your publishing career.
Start Your Marketing Early
Put yourself out there on social media, even if you are still writing your novel. You will start finding and connecting with future readers as well as fellow authors. Then, as parts of your book are ready, you can create hype through cover reveals, teasers, blurb reveals, and aesthetic posts. By the time you are ready to post your book to sell, you can potentially have readers who are ready to buy your book already.
Make Author Friends Online
No one wants you to succeed more than the author friends you will make in the online romance novel community. I am in an author group, and everyone is constantly promoting each others’ work, sharing tips and helpful resources, and answering questions when someone asks. These friends can be a great support system and resource as you go through the process.
Play to Your Niche
If you want to find romance readers, focus most of the online content you produce to romance readers and on romance novels. For example, I love cooking and baking, and I’m very interested in true crime. I know a ridiculous amount about allergy-friendly cooking and baking and about serial killers. But I don’t talk about any of that on The Romantic Editorial Services’ blog or social media, except in passing comments about myself, because it's just not related to what I do and it may not appeal to who I want to reach.
And if you write a specific subgenre of romance, such as dark romance, focus the majority of your content on dark romance. You’ll have a smaller pool of followers, but they will be followers who love dark romance and will be ready to jump on every new book you release.
Road blocks may come up. Your sales may occasionally drop. Engagement may decrease. Don’t lose hope or give up in those moments. Keep working and doing things the right way because that is what is going to get things back on track and keep you growing. Consistency is important, so you can do this, and you can keep going even when you're feeling unsure.
Self-publishing is an amazing, lucrative opportunity, especially for romance authors. So come up with a plan and surround yourself with those people who will do your book the most good. You got this.
If you want to learn more about other romance novel or self-publishing topics, explore my blog here.