Laura Howard: Five Tips from a Self-Publishing Newb with Becca Puglisi


Five Tips from a Self-Publishing Newb with Becca Puglisi

Ever since I first started visiting writing blogs I've been following The Bookshelf Muse for help with brainstorming ideas for writing with all the senses.

This past May, Becca Puglisi (along with co-author Angela Ackerman) self-published The Emotion Thesaurus with a bang and I asked them to guest post on some of the things they learned!

To start off my tips on self-publishing, I’ll open with a direct quote from an old email message I sent to Angela: Holy crap. Are we actually going to self-publish??

I think it’s safe to say that we were reluctant self-publishers. We wanted the dream: the phone call from the editor, our book on a brick-and-mortar shelf, the chance to tell our loved ones that we had been accepted. But after a lot of discussion, for a number of reasons, we realized that self-publishing was a good idea for us. And now we’re believers.

That being said, I’m still pretty new to the indie-publishing scene. There’s A TON of stuff I don’t know. But I’ve learned a few things over the past year, and when Laura asked me to share some self-publishing tips, these nuggets immediately came to mind:

  1. When in Doubt, Wait. The easy access to self-publishing causes many authors to launch before they’re ready. You can be incredibly prolific and a marketing genius with a huge platform, but if your books are sub-quality, people aren’t going to keep buying them. So if you’re unsure about whether or not you’re ready, you’re probably not. Give it time. Hone your craft. Get feedback from knowledgeable writers. Make sure your work is ready before you publish it.

  1. Don’t Chintz on the Important Stuff. If you’ve heard this advice before, it’s because it’s so true. You’re a writer, not an editor or cover artist. Traditional publishers have professionals to help in these areas, and if you’re considering the indie route, so should you. Hire a professional editor who can give you feedback not just on grammar and sentence structure, but on the scope of your book: plot lines, character arc, theme. The big picture items. When it comes to cover design, hire a pro and do not settle for sub-quality work. The same goes for formatters, if you choose to contract that out. Yes, all of this costs money, but these aren’t expenses so much as investments. Invest in your product and you’ll reap the reward later.

  1. Don’t be Afraid to Ask. There are a million decisions with self-publishing: cover art, formatting, where to distribute, price points, what formats to use, ISBNs, how to promote, how to respond to reviews. You have to research everything to find what’s best for you, and it really can be overwhelming to figure it all out. But independent publishing is full of knowledgeable and generous people who’ve already been where you’re at. I pestered the life out of Susan Kaye Quinn and Laura Pauling with questions along the way. Ironically, independent publishing is really hard to do all by yourself. So don’t try. When you get stuck, don’t be afraid to ask other indies for advice.

  1. Expect and Embrace Mistakes. With so many details to consider, mistakes are inevitable. Know from the get-go that you’re going to make some wrong decisions; this way, when they pop up, they’re easier to take. Keep track of those mistakes so you won’t make them with your next book.
  1. Be Confident and Take charge. In those areas where we’re not totally comfortable (cover design, for instance), it’s easy to be hesitant and let the professionals we’ve hired take the lead. But remember that in the end you’re the one responsible for the finished product. After all, isn’t this one of the reasons you chose self-publishing, to have creative control in all areas? Do your homework. When you enter each area of decision-making, have a game plan and communicate it clearly. Be confident in your research and your gut instinct for your book, and in the end, you’ll minimize your opportunities for regret.

Being the fabulous guest that she is, Becca has offered to give away a copy of The Emotion Thesaurus to one lucky winner. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Becca Puglisi is one half of The Bookshelf Muse blogging duo, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression. Listing the body language, visceral reactions and thoughts associated with 75 different emotions, this brainstorming guide is a valuable tool for showing, not telling, emotion. The Emotion Thesaurus is available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords, and the PDF can be purchased directly from her blog.


  1. Good advice! I could not agree more. As for the emotion I have a tendency to overuse when writing, I'd say that lines like "I froze" are ones I have to be careful with or they lose their impact.

    Even after self-publishing, I continue to work on the craft in an effort to become a better writer. :)


  2. Hi, Cyndi! I agree that even after achieving the publication dream, whether independently or traditionally, every author still has room to grow.

  3. I recently acquired the rights to my first book and now I'm in the process of re-editing, re-writing it. When I'm done I plan to self-publish. Thanks for the tips and the websites of the two people you "pestered the life out of." I've already hired a cover artist, lined up an editor, and I hope to find someone to do the formatting (for a reasonable price) soon.

    1. Glenda, check out Heather Adkins at Cyberwitchpress: She did the formatting for The ET, which was kind of a bear, and I honestly cannot recommend her highly enough. Very professional, and she helped us with so many questions along the way. Best of luck with your new book!

  4. I need to show, rather than tell; especially anger. Your book would definitely improve my writing.

    Janet B
    jkbsfsd @

    1. It's so hard to do consistently. I still have "cut every bit of telling" on my revision checklist for each scene. But it's getting easier the more I do it.

  5. I'm getting to the point where I want to make a decision on how I want to get my work out into the world. These are great bits of advice! Thanks so much :)

  6. I'm self publishing in a couple of months so these tips will be extremely useful! In terms of the emotion I overuse, I think I have too many people storming out of conversations, slamming doors etc. Have to make sure I'm creative with showing frustration!

    I would love a copy of the Emotion Thesaurus. I've been planning to buy one for ages now!

  7. I'm just too scared to self-publish, but I am definitely going to purchase the thesaurus! Thanks for this post!

  8. It is easy to be overwhelmed because you don't know how to start or who to talk to. You may need to find a company that will help you self publish your book or study it yourself. You have to familiarize yourself with their process. This is very vital so that things will run smoothly in publishing your book.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.