I work with many self-published authors. Over the past decade of being in business, I've seen my client base flip, from around 80 percent traditional publishers and 20 percent self-publishers, to around 80 percent self-publishers and 20 percent traditional publishers today. (And if you are looking for publishing advice or editing, feel free to drop me a line!)
More and more authors are going the self-pub route. It's more accessible than ever, and when done right, you really can't tell a self-published title from a traditionally published one. There are many advantages (and challenges) to self-publishing your work. I wanted to ask self-published authors about their journeys--what was hardest? Most surprising? What are some secrets to success?
To start this series, I talked with Shira Shiloah, MD. Her debut novel, EMERGENCE, is "a romantic thriller that explores what happens when a sociopath holds a scalpel to anesthetized patients." I met Shira last year at the Writer's Digest Annual Conference. We hit it off immediately! When she described her novel to me, I definitely wanted to read it. I was fortunate enough to do just that this summer as her copyeditor for it. It is truly a breathless thrill-ride of a read. I asked Shira about what the process from writing to publishing was like. Here are her thoughts.
When did you decide you wanted to write a novel? How long did it take you to complete your manuscript?
Like many writers, my novel evolved from a short story. Entitled “Liquid Courage,” it touched on patient vulnerability and fear, and a doctor’s desire to protect. When it received third place in SEAK’s Annual Medical Fiction Writing for Physicians, it propelled me to continue. I attended writing conferences, webinars, and retreats and found myself with the first draft of Emergence eight years later. Writing is truly re-writing! It took me another five years of edits to complete the novel. We joke that my “book baby” is having his Bar-Mitzvah, thirteen years from inception.
When and why did you decide to self-publish?
As I was editing the final drafts, I also sent over sixty query letters to traditional publishing agents, some of whom I met at conferences and pitched to in person. The numerous rejection letters were consistently kind; one dream agent wrote that I was “clearly a writer of talent” however, they were “not taking on new clients” in my genre. I clung to the encouraging words and worked on the critiques several had offered.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, and I found myself at home, I decided I had ample time to put my book baby out to the universe, without an agent. I felt this book was worthy of being on bookshelves, and I couldn’t begin another novel until this one was put to bed. I am loyal to my characters, I suppose.
What is a personality trait you think anyone who wants to self-publish dearly needs?
Bravery. It takes courage to take on a project of this magnitude. But you do not have to do this alone. There are so many people in the writing community there to help.
What was something that surprised you about the self-publishing process?
I did not know you can get third party book reviews without an agent. Also, you can buy a PCIP, an ISBN, and a bar code! Traditional houses have no monopoly over these; they are available to independent authors as well.
What do you think is vitally important that all self-publishers do for their books?
Hire professional experts to help. You must have a copy editor, and you must have a proofreader. It is also best to hire a designer and, if you have the means, a marketing team.
What would you say to someone who was self-publishing but feeling stalled or stuck--how did you get around barriers in the process?
The writing community is truly like no other; every person is part of a tribe of readers. Many podcasts, websites, writing journals, and magazines, easily accessed for free, can guide you in the process. I recommend “Go Publish Yourself: An IngramSpark Podcast” and “Free Advice Fridays” on NewShelves.com to inspire and motivate you. Read books on the craft of writing. I recommend Stephen King’s On Writing and Steven James' Story Trumps Structure.
Also, be kind to yourself. This is a journey.
Shira's book has already hit a paperback top 100 list before it even officially launches--it's on Amazon's Medical Romance bestseller list. I am so happy for her success, after all her hard work.
Are you considering self-publishing? Have you already self-published? I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. Leave a comment below!
As ever, happy reading and KEEP WRITING!
About Dr. Shira Shiloah: She received her medical degree from the University of Tennessee and completed her Anesthesiology residency at Northwestern University. Shira lived in Brooklyn, Jerusalem, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., before choosing Memphis as her hometown. She enjoys traveling the world with her husband and long walks with her rescue pup. You can learn more about Shira at www.shirashiloahmd.com/.
About her book: Paperback, $15.99 ISBN: 978-1735193007; eBook, $7.99 ISBN: 978-1735193014; Hardcover, $26.99 ISBN: 978-1735193021; Salty Air Publishing; release date: September 15, 2020.