Before You Self-Publish, Consider This…

By on March 3, 2016
Before Your Self Publish, Consider This...

By Athena Dean Holtz −

“What? Me? Write a book? I’m not a writer, I’m a speaker!”

I did not feel at all qualified to write, but I knew I had a story that needed to be told, and it had been confirmed in many ways by many people I knew and did not know. So I sat down and started typing, and told my story in writing as if I’d been sitting across from you over coffee.

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I didn’t know the first thing about using fiction techniques in a non-fiction work (they call that “creative non-fiction”). Fiction mainstays like dialogue, description, “showing not telling.” So, as you can imagine, my finished product was far from ready for publication, but I certainly didn’t know it, so I dove in and published my first edition of “Consumed by Success: Reaching the Top and Finding God Wasn’t There.”

Unbeknownst to me, one of my friends was a gifted editor and writing coach and when she saw what I’d done, she quickly offered to help me rewrite the book to make it the best it could be, giving the message more credibility and a better chance at going beyond my friends and family members.

She coached me through the rewrite and taught me to use all the techniques that would keep the reader turning pages, losing themselves in the story, and connecting with the message. The expanded version ended at 200 pages (instead of the initial 96), sported a new, more professional cover, and shared many stories of others I’d heard from my 50+ radio and TV interviews on the topic.

Today I’m thankful that happened back in the mid-90s, before the boom of social media where the unprofessional version could have gotten a lot more exposure. That would have hurt rather than help my cause!

With all the available options, how can you be sure you’re headed down the right path to publication?

In today’s market, you can upload an unedited word document, create your own cover from a free template, and become a published author overnight for very little cost … or so it seems.

The truth is, you never have a second chance to make a good first impression, so it actually could cost you in lost sales due to a finished product that lacks credibility.

So, what can you do to insure your publishing experience is professional, adding value to your ministry and expanding your platform for greater opportunity to touch lives? Follow these steps to avoid costly mistakes in this exciting journey.

  • Do your homework. Too many aspiring authors take the promises offered on a publishing website at face value. Unfortunately there are many snakes in the publishing jungle, so educate yourself and make sure the sales pitch lines up with the fine print of their contract. Too often it does not. One helpful resource is a webinar I presented entitled The Publishing Jungle.
  • Don’t trust your own eyes. A professional edit is one of the most important steps in the publishing process and should never be skipped. A second or third set of eyes, someone who is trained in the Chicago Manual of Style, is vital. They should be an experienced editor whose heart is set on helping you improve your message without taking away your “voice.” Sometimes the most cost effective way to make your message the best it can be includes an evaluation and coaching to help you (instead of the editor) make the needed revisions. This can help you, as the author, improve your manuscript, and become a much better writer in the process.
  • Make your title sing. Don’t try to say too much in your title or on your cover. Oftentimes authors try to communicate too much or be too symbolic and end up losing the potential reader. Be open to advice on the best title and cover so that you make the most of this important opportunity to put your best foot forward.
  • Develop a strategy. Determine who will benefit the most from your message and create a plan to market directly to that reader. The more books you sell directly to the consumer (without a bookstore involved as a middle man) the more flexibility you have, to either reduce the price or increase your profit margin.
  • Be available everywhere. You should have access to all distribution channels so your book is convenient for anyone to purchase. Make sure your product is returnable, so that you have no barrier to being carried in stores. Whatever you do, set your retail price at a reasonable level and don’t allow your publisher to set it so high that you lose potential customers because of the price point.

Follow these steps, staying teachable and open to wise counsel. As you determine the best way to get your message out the opportunities to touch the lives of others will grow and you’ll experience the satisfaction of making a difference in people’s lives.


Athena Dean Holtz, first and foremost, is a Jesus follower. She is also a blogger, radio host, pastor’s wife, and publisher at Redemption Press. She enjoys coaching authors through the publishing process with excellence and empowering them to share the message they’ve been given.

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Before You Self-Publish, Consider This…