We at Lantern like to imagine we have no illusions about how hard it is to squeeze a book past the gatekeepers of mainstream, third-party publishers. It’s a long, arduous, and dispiriting process courting agents, or failing to hear back from editors, or figuring out just where your manuscript is in the slush pile on someone’s desk—or even whether it made it there in the first place. That’s why we understand how self-publishing is a viable option for many folks: it’s technologically never been easier, nobody gets in your way, and you can get virtually instantaneous gratification by developing a product you have full control over. It’s a big thrill when copies of your book arrive at your house. But then comes the next question: Now what?
Let’s assume you mean distribution. If you’ve used CreateSpace, you have Amazon as your fulfillment house—and you can always pay for more and wider services. If you’ve published with IngramSpark, you have Ingram. Xlibris offers its own distribution services as well, and other options exist. You could try to persuade another publisher to distribute the book for you, but nearly all publishers only want to distribute other publishers. It’s too much hassle and costs too much (in accounting, mainly) for us to bother ourselves with single-book authors.
You then confront the issue of publicity. How are you going to let people know about your book? You can buy Google or Facebook ads. You can put up a cheap website. You can let people know through social media. You can do a giveaway on Amazon. But you have to work hard, and you have to be relentless and comfortable with self-promotion. No one is going to pay attention to you unless you make them: that’s just the truth.
Lantern recommends authors think of their book as a big calling card. Use it to get speaking engagements, or bigger speaking engagements. Disaggregate your text into op-eds or articles for magazines. Turn your book into a 20-minute lecture, or an hour-long seminar, or a weekend workshop, or a two-day intensive—and then take it on the road. If you use the knowledge you’ve distilled in the book in a multitude of ways, then the definitions of success become more numerous, and therefore more likely to happen. The book, therefore, is the beginning of the process by which you communicate to your audience, and not the end.
Of course, it’s possible that if your self-published work is a huge hit, an agent or editor will hear about it and propose they take the book off your hands. Indeed, several well-known writers began their literary lives as self-published authors. Or, you can keep control and make a ton of money. As with everything to do with publishing, however, there are no guarantees, and the vast majority of folks will never be able to give up their day jobs. But if you’re shrewd enough, you might just make a go of it.