50 Gifts for Writers That Are Way Better Than a Boring Old Notebook

It’s time to find the perfect gift for the writer in your life…but the only idea you can come up with is a pretty notebook.

As writers who have spent our whole lives getting notebooks under the tree, we’re here to tell you: you can do better!

The gift ideas for writers below range from the ridiculously silly (“Poe-pourri”, anyone?) to the wonderfully useful (fingerless writing gloves). Use one of these clever gifts to make your favorite writer laugh, or simply to show you understand just how much writing means to them.

Gift ideas for the writer in your life

We created this gift guide with holidays, birthdays and anniversaries in mind. Choose one of the thoughtful gifts below, and that special writer will know just how much you care.

Here are some of the best gifts for writers:

1. Fingerless writing gloves

Green fingerless gloves that feature text from a book

Photo credit: Storiarts

Know a writer who’s always cold in their home office?

Fingerless gloves could help them stay warm, while still allowing them to keep typing away.

Even better, we found pairs that are covered in text from classic novels. Storiarts fingerless gloves come in lots of colors and themes, including Les Miserables, Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, and the Declaration of Independence.

Fashionable and practical, this is one of the best gifts for writers out there.

2. Adult coloring book for writers

Yup, adult coloring is totally a trend.

Studies have shown that coloring reduces anxiety, creates focus and helps people become more mindful. No wonder there’s an adult coloring book specifically for writers!

3. Domain name

Does your writer have their own website? If not, they probably have it on their list to start a blog this year.

Gift your writer with their very own domain name, giving them the boost they need to make their writing public or start blogging.

Bluehost makes it easy to grab the domain name of your choice, and most domains cost around $12/year. If you’re not sure which domain to buy, your writer’s first and last name is a good bet, like this: SusanSmith.com. If that’s not available, try SusanSmithWrites.com.

You can test out a few domain names here to see what’s available:

4. Books about writing

You can never go wrong with giving a writer a book, especially when the book is about writing. After all, most of us are self-proclaimed bookworms, and we’re eager to improve our craft.

Here are four books every writer should read more than once:

  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
  • You Are a Writer by Jeff Goins

Want more to choose from? Here are 26 of the best books on writing.

5. Aqua Notes, the waterproof notepad

Know how you often get your best ideas in the shower?

Aqua Notes helps you capture them. This waterproof notepad, which mounts to the shower wall, allows you to document the greatest of ideas and grocery lists…or leave notes for whoever showers after you.

Aqua Notes allow you to write on a notepad in the shower to save ideas

Photo credit: Amazon

6. Literary socks

Gone are the days when socks were a lame gift your ancient aunt gave you.

You could easily fill a whole dresser with the cool socks available these days. The writer in your life is sure to like:

7. Clever coffee mug

Keep your writer caffeinated and amused with a clever coffee mug.

Coffee mug with joke about writers

Photo credit: Amazon

We especially love this humorous one: “Please do not annoy the writer, she may put you in a book and kill you.”

If you’d like to give your favorite writer a boost of confidence, this one may do the trick: “I write. What’s your superpower?”

Finally, for the writer who is serious about getting down to business on Monday mornings, we recommend this “Write epic shit” mug.

8. Noise-canceling headphones

Shhhhh! Writer at work! While some writers prefer the energetic buzz of a coffee shop while they write, many writers crave peace and quiet.

Noise-canceling headphones can give the writer in your life the silence (and productivity) they need to put pen to paper. Bose has a number of options that range in price. 

9. Literary jewelry

Know a stylish writer? Here are a few pieces they could add to any outfit:

  • A necklace with a Jane Austen quote
  • A bracelet that says “She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain.”
  • Oscar Wilde cuff links

Whether your writer loves Austen, Shakespeare or Poe, the JezebelCharms Etsy shop is filled with literary-inspired jewelry and accessories.

10. Online course for writing well

If your favorite writer is always looking to improve their craft, gift them a course or ebook they can absorb on their own schedule.

A few we recommend:

We’ve rounded up our favorite online courses for writers here.

11. Novel Teas

Is your writer a tea-lover?

Novel Teas could be the perfect present, one they can enjoy while working on their novel or freelance project.

Each bag comes with 25 individually wrapped tea bags containing English breakfast tea and a quote about books from a variety of authors.

12. Literary perfumes

Inspire your writer with the scent of the masters who have gone before. Immortal Perfumes’ Dead Writers Perfume uses scents like black tea, clove and tobacco to evoke memories of first editions in old libraries.

One fun example is Pemberly: A Jane Austen Inspired Perfume. It features hyacinth, honeysuckle and peony — all flowers found in the garden of Chatsworth House, the estate believed to have inspired Austen’s Pemberly.

13. Literary tattoos (temporary)

Woman showcasing a tattoo of a writer quote

Photo credit: Litographs

If you want to give your writer something that lasts a little longer than a spritz of perfume — but not so long that it becomes a permanent life decision — shop from Litographs’ Literary Tattoo Collection.

These temporary tattoos include famous literary quotes such as Jane Eyre’s “I would always rather be happy than dignified” and William Shakespeare’s “This above all; to thine own self be true.”

14. T-shirt that features your (entire) favorite book

From a distance, designs on Litographs t-shirts represent a theme, character or setting from popular classics such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Great Gatsby and Little Women. But if you look closely, you’ll see the designs on each Litograph product are created from teeny tiny words — every word in the novel the design represents, in fact. Each T-shirt contains roughly 40,000 words! 

15. Desk lamp that doubles as an organizer

Desk lamp that keeps you organized and includes a USB charger

Photo credit: Amazon

The Write Life contributor Nicole Dieker called the Useful Tablet Organizer Desk Lamp “the best thing I bought for my office this year.”

It’s a low-cost, colorful lamp that includes outlets (two-prong and USB) so you can charge two devices simultaneously. It also has cubbyholes to store headphones, paperclips or anything else you want to keep organized.

16. Literary action figures

These action figures are a good reminder that writers are superheros, too.

Your writer could use these to add some personality to their home office or stage an elaborate battle when they should be revising.

Accoutrements has a line offering Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe.

17. “Writer” Bookends

What writer doesn’t love books?

Here’s a fun way to display them with “writer” bookends available on Etsy:

Bookends that say "writer" with books in between

Photo credit: KnobCreekMetalArts on Etsy

18. Card catalog notecard set

Give your writer a better way to keep plot lines and story ideas organized with this card catalog notecard set.

It’s way cooler than Post-It notes and packs a nice dose of nostalgia.

19. Writing-themed cookbooks

A good book can suck you into its world, inspiring you to see, hear, feel and taste the things it describes.

Help your writer enjoy the “taste” bit with cookbooks inspired by literary classics. Options range from the A Feast of Ice & Fire (Game of Thrones) to Dinner with Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice) to The Little House Cookbook (Little House on the Prairie).

20. Kindle Unlimited subscription

With Kindle Unlimited, your favorite reader can access over a million books, plus thousands of audiobooks, for a flat monthly fee.

If your writer already has a Kindle, this could be a good option!

21. Comfy pajamas

Every writer has days where showering and changing into “real” clothes takes a backseat to getting that draft finished. (For some of us, that’s most days.)

Why not give them a set of comfy pajamas that explains why they’re greeting the UPS driver disheveled at 3 in the afternoon? CafePress has lots of fun options.

22. Personalized embosser

Create custom stationery, give your party invitations an official flourish or ensure those who borrow your books remember to give them back.

A customized embosser allows you to stamp a raised seal with your name, address and more.

23. Edgar Allen Poe air freshener

Freshen up your car with some “Poe-pourri.” This Edgar Allen Poe air freshener is perfect for a self-proclaimed literary nerd.

Plus, according to reviews, it smells pretty good.

24. After-work glassware

Great Drinkers is a set of six shot glasses featuring well-known writers

Photo credit: Amazon

Write drunk, edit sober? Er…something like that.

This literary-themed shot glass set features the likes of Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, and more.

25. A Starbucks or Amazon gift card 

When you want to support a writer but you’re not sure what to get them, a gift card is a safe bet.

If you don’t know which books your writer has read already, give yourself a break — and make your writer happy at the same time — by giving them a gift-wrapped Amazon Gift Card. This one even says, “Happy reading” so they’ll know it’s for books.

You also can’t go wrong with credit to their favorite locally-owned cafe or a nationally-available shop like Starbucks.

26. Writer’s clock

Give your writer the gift of soft nudges and a bit of direction with this humorous writer’s clock where each hour is labeled with a task. 

Now when your writer aimlessly stares at the clock, they’ll be reminded to either “review” or “edit” something, or know it’s time to “drink heavily” and “cry.”

27. The Writer’s Toolbox 

Writers everywhere are familiar with the frustrations of writer’s block — that’s what makes this gift a perfect choice. 

Help the writer in your life cure theirs with this toolbox designed specifically to nourish creativity. It includes 60 exercises, as well as games, prompts and more that are sure to get stories across the finish line. 

The Writer Emergency Pack is another great gift for writers struggling with writer’s block.

28. A subscription to try different literary journals

Journal of the Month sends different print literary journals to subscribers on a regular basis. It’s an ideal gift for new writers eager to learn about the small magazine scene, emerging writers seeking a home for their writing, or experienced writers in need of fresh inspiration.

The price varies depending on how frequently your writer receives journals, and if they already subscribe to some, you can opt out of those.

29. A poster for keeping track of books they’ve read

Perfect for the voracious reader, the 100 Books Scratch-Off Poster lets your writer track progress as they read a variety of books ranging from classics to contemporary hits.

This is a fun challenge, a cool piece of art to hang in at home, and a #humblebrag, all in one.

30. Editing software

Give your writer a leg up and super clean copy with a grammar checker like Grammarly, ProWritingAid or AutoCrit.

They’ll keep your writer from making embarrassing grammar mistakes before submitting to magazines or literary agents, at a fraction of the price of a real-person editor. 

31. Writing-themed coasters

We love coasters as gifts because they’re both creative and practical.

Fun, colorful coasters based on vintage library book check out cards

Photo credit: Cheltenham Road on Amazon

Add some sparkle to your writer’s desk or living room, while giving them a place to put their coffee or tea mug (or tumbler of whiskey) with any of these cool coaster sets:

    • Typewriter coaster set
    • Jane Austen books coaster set
    • Library card coaster set
    • Pun book coaster set

32. Office supply storage

Help them keep their pens, Post-Its, and other supplies in order with a fun storage solution like this library book desk organizer or this Hemingway typewriter pencil cup.

Old typewriter that functions as a pen-holder, to sit on a desk

Photo credit: Amazon

33. A love book

If you love a writer, tell them how much you care in a language that will make them fall head over heels: a personalized Love Book. You can customize everything from the cover to the number of pages and choose from a wide selection of illustrations and text to make a book that’s unique to your love story.

The Write Life contributor Kelly Gurnett got one of these as a gift from her husband for their anniversary, and she wrote, “It was the best gift I think he’s ever given me.” Talk about a personal touch!

34. “Being a writer is easy” mug

Writing can be tough, stressful work. Make your writer laugh a little with this “Being a Writer Is Easy” mug.

Funny mug for writers that says being a writer is easy

Photo credit: IndigoPineMugs on Etsy

35. Book cover postcards

Sometimes you’ve gotta judge a book by its cover. Postcards from Penguin: One Hundred Book Covers in One Box pays tribute to the iconic Penguin paperback book covers and packs 100 of them into one (easy-to-wrap) box.

This gift also pays tribute to your recipient. Hopefully, they’ll be inspired to write 100 notes to loved ones or 100 very, very short stories.

36. Bananagrams

Writers tend to be word nerds who enjoy word games. But Scrabble feels…boring. So how about Bananagrams?

Bananagrams is an anagram game similar to Scrabble, but requires no pens, notepads or playing board. This makes it extremely easy to transport and play on-the-go.

Players race against each other to build a crossword grid off each others’ words. Perfect for a writer who loves a little competition!

Bananagrams is a game that's kind of like Scrabble, but easier to travel with

Image credit: Amazon

37. Reading is Sexy swag

For a great stocking stuffer that will make your writer smile, grab a Reading is Sexy bottle opener, mug, bumper sticker or button.

This Reading is Sexy bottle opener is yellow with black letters

Photo credit: Buy Olympia

38. Literary poster

Pop Chart is known for their beautifully designed infographic posters, and their literary themed posters are just the gift for a writer with blank wall space to fill.

Check out The Cocktail Chart of Film and Literature Poster, which is available as a framed or unframed print. The company describes it as a “catalog of 49 drinks culled from great works of film and literature, depicting everything from Philip Marlowe’s Gin Gimlet to Fredo Corleone’s Banana Daiquiri.”

We also love Women of Letters: A Literary Fiction Scratch-Off Chart, which showcases the work of more than 50 female fiction writers.

39. Things that smell like books

Any true book lover savors all aspects of the reading experience — the feel of a page between their fingers, watching as a cover slowly becomes dog-eared, and, of course, the smell of books.

(If you don’t know what books smell like, then you’ve been found out, because you are clearly not a book lover.)

Give your beloved book nerd the smell of their favorite thing. If they love reading by candlelight, try these Library Set candles with scents like “antique books” and “ancient scrolls.” If they enjoy a little cologne now and then, consider The Library of Fragrance’s Paperback cologne, which the company describes as “sweet and just a touch musty, a lot like Pym’s world come to think of it.”

40. Book-lover pillow

“Just one more chapter…”

Does your word nerd say this all the time? Especially when they should be sleeping?

Then this book pillow is the perfect way to get comfy in bed.

41. High-tech pen

Why use a regular pen when you can have a cool techy one?

This LED pen is ideal for late-night writing in the dark, like when you wake up at 3 a.m. with a great idea. Or invest in this Livescribe Smartpen, which saves notes and audio recordings directly to your computer.

42. A bathtub book caddy

A bathtub caddy that holds a book

Photo credit: Amazon

Help your favorite writer relax at the end of a long day with a hot, luxurious bubble bath, some candles and a favorite read, thanks to this bathtub book caddy.

It’s even got a spot to hold a glass of wine!

43. Bookish jewelry

Let your writer keep their favorite book close to the heart (or wrist or ears) with these pieces of literary jewelry made from real pages of popular novels like Treasure Island, Pride & Prejudice and Moby Dick.

44. Literary wine

If you’ve got a wine-drinker on your hands, they’ll get a kick out of these Writer’s Block wines. You can choose from Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and more.

45. Cocktails with a literary twist

Tequila Mockingbird is a book of cocktails with a literary twist

Looking for the perfect drink pairing for your writer to take to book club or enjoy during quiet evening hours curled up with the classics? They’ll love Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails With a Literary Twist.

This fun mixology book contains 65 literary-inspired drink recipes like The Pitcher of Dorian Grey Goose and Vermouth the Bell Tolls.

It’s also full of clever illustrations and commentary, bar snack recipes and drinking game ideas.

46. Funny tote bag

Is your writer a grammar geek?

Try this tote bag from CafePress that says, “I’m silently correcting your grammar.”

47. Write like a motherf%#$*er mug

Inspired by a Dear Sugar column written by Cheryl Strayed to a young, aspiring writer, The Rumpus Mug is an anthem for all writers, no matter what their specialty, genre or level of experience.

It’s a good reminder to go along with your morning coffee.

48. Scrabble magnets

Here’s an oldie but goodie: Scrabble magnetic refrigerator tiles. We like the vintage wood look, too.

If that special writer in your life is a huge Scrabble fan, you might also throw in the Scrabble tile mug or Scrabble board dish towel.

49. Out of print t-shirt, sweatshirt or tote bag

Some writer nerd clothing can be downright — well, nerdy. Out of Print tees, hoodies and totes, which feature the covers of iconic and often (you guessed it) out of print books, buck the norm and are actually fashionable.

Plus these gifts do good; for every item they sell, Out of Print donates a book to Books for Africa to help a community that doesn’t have easy access to books.

50. Literary insults chart

We love Uncommon Goods’ description of this product: “Relish the caustic creativity of this collection of zingers from great authors.”

The Literary Insults Chart includes some splashes of color, so it makes great wall art… and shows off your writer’s personality, too.

We updated the post so it’s more useful for our readers. Nicole Dieker, Kelly Gurnett, Jessica Lawlor, Meryl Williams and Betsy Mikel contributed to this article.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

The post 50 Gifts for Writers That Are Way Better Than a Boring Old Notebook appeared first on The Write Life.

How to Self-Publish a Book: A Guide for Aspiring Authors

All my life, I dreamed of being a writer. But when I was a kid, I didn’t think it was a dream I’d ever realize. In my mind, making it as a writer was like winning the lottery — a goal with such out of reach odds that I might as well set my sights on something more realistic.

So, I pursued my degree in psychology and set out to change the world that way.

But when I was 26 years old, I had a health crisis that robbed me of my fertility and left me bankrupted by medical debt. I felt lost and alone, completely broken down by the events that had destroyed the life I’d always wanted. So I started doing the only thing I knew how to do to help me through the pain of all that.

I wrote.

What started as a blog in 2009 eventually became a memoir in 2013. I self-published the day before my 30th birthday, and Single Infertile Female became a success by all self-publishing measures — and it helped me launch a full-time writing career.

Still, none of it came easy. Self-publishing a book is a deeply involved endeavor. At least, if you want to do it right. Anyone can string some words together and hit publish. But doing so won’t earn you money or accolades.

You have to be willing to take the process seriously to find that kind of success. 

How to self-publish a book

Today I work as a writer and developmental editor, guiding as many as 20 clients a year through the self-publishing process. 

I’ve created a list I give to all my clients so that they know up front what this process will require of them:

  • Build your social media presence
  • Prepare your draft
  • Design your book cover
  • Polish your draft
  • Select a platform for self-publishing a book
  • Format
  • Establish copyright
  • Obtain an ISBN
  • Publish
  • Market
  • Write another book

Let’s talk about what each of these items means to a hopeful author wondering how to self-publish a book.

1. Build your social media presence

The truth is, you could write the greatest novel known to man. But without the use of social media, you’ll never be able to get it into anyone’s hands.

As a self-published author, marketing and building an author platform is your responsibility. 

You won’t have a team behind you taking on this task, so you need to be prepared to do that work yourself — which means starting now with your social media presence. You don’t have to be on every platform, but you do need to start connecting and building a public network as soon into your publishing journey as possible.

These people will be your potential readers, and cheering section, one day. Part of marketing a book comes down to first being able to market yourself. And that usually starts online.

2. Prepare your draft

You may think your first draft is flawless, but I promise you…it’s not. 

Self-publishing often gets a bad rap because some authors don’t take the time to truly polish their work. But in the traditional publishing world, a book might go through as many as 10 rounds of revisions before making it to print.

Hold yourself to a similar standard.

Consider hiring a developmental editor to help you work through some of the big picture issues with your book. Then utilize beta readers and critique partners to help you pinpoint any other problems you may have missed. Revise, bring in another set of eyes, and revise again. 

You will never regret taking one more stab at making your manuscript better, but you may very well regret leaping to publish too soon.

3. Design your book cover

If you’ve got some expert-level graphic design skills, fantastic! Get to designing your cover. But most authors lack those skills and will need to hire a professional to create something that will tell the story of their book in image form.

Because remember: Plenty of people do judge a book by its cover.

If you don’t know where to find a good cover designer, start by asking for recommendations in various online writer’s groups. You can also look inside the cover of indie books that have designs you like — most will credit the cover designer in those first few pages that contain other publishing information. 

4. Polish your draft (again)

Once you’re confident your revisions are complete, it’s time to send your book off for line editing and proofreading. 

Please know that no matter how skilled you are at spelling and grammar, you will still need a professional editor to catch your errors. Because everyone makes errors within their own work, even editors themselves. 

The human eye is amazing at glossing over mistakes when you know what you meant to say — so don’t trust yourself to catch those mistakes when the time comes.

5. Select a route to self-publishing a book

There are a lot of different options for self-publishing a book, all of which provide different benefits and drawbacks to consider. 

I personally published with CreateSpace years ago, because it made selling through Amazon simple. CreateSpace has since merged with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), if that’s a route you want to consider. Apple’s iBooks can also be great for e-book only printing, and Barnes & Noble Press and Kobo are other options as well.

As you try to decide which option is right for you, ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you achieve your goals through this platform? (Do you care about Print books vs. ebooks? Because some platforms are e-book only. If you want the option of having a physical book, you’ll need to look for print-on-demand services as well).
  •  What percentage of each sale will the company take?
  • What protections do they offer to their authors?
  • Where will your book be available for sale?
  • Does the platform provide an ISBN?

6. Format

When you finally feel like your book is ready and you’ve selected a platform to publish through, you’ll still need to format your book to that platform’s specifications. 

Most offer in-depth guidelines, but e-book formatting, especially, can sometimes be tricky. I formatted my own print on demand documents, but hired someone to format my e-book, mostly because I didn’t trust myself to set up the coding for things like clickable titles correctly. 

You can find a good e-book formatter in the same way you found your cover designer: by asking groups of self-published authors for their recommendations.

7. Establish copyright

I remember all too well staring at my screen and wondering, “How do I copyright my book?” But the truth is, whether or not to copyright your book is a personal choice. 

Under U.S. copyright law, written works are protected as soon as you create them. But if you want to register your copyright (and there are various reasons to consider taking this step, to include the fact that it may make your case easier to prove if you do have to go to court), you can do so by visiting copyright.gov and selecting “Literary Works.”

The cost for officially copyrighting a book is $85.

8. Obtain an ISBN

How to get an ISBN number for a self-published book is a question that can be answered a few different ways. 

Some self-publishing platforms, like KDP, will automatically provide you with a free ISBN as part of publishing with them. Otherwise, you’ll have to purchase your ISBN, either through Bowker or your local ISBN agency.

9. Publish your book

At this point, you are ready to publish your book! Congratulations.

Make sure you follow the guidelines of your chosen platform so that publishing goes smoothly and your book is available for purchase as soon as possible.  

10. Market your book

But your work isn’t done! In fact, some might argue that now is when the real work begins. Because writing a book is only half the battle — marketing it is your next task.

If you’ve built up a decent social network presence, you can start by marketing there. But you’ll also want to consider other options for getting the word about your book out there. Perhaps you could talk to a local indie bookshop about hosting a reading and signing. Or maybe you want to print up promotional materials to hand out to people on the street. You may even want to consider a giveaway with a copies of your book as the prizes.

There are countless ideas for book marketing that you could potentially utilize, but you need to be willing to commit to this part of the process if you want your book to reach as many eyes as possible.

11. Write another book

One of the best ways to find success as a self-published author is to keep writing. The more books you have to your name, the higher your sales will be — as fans of one book will flock to the others. This is how you build a name for yourself in the indie publishing world, and how you grow and expand as an author. So keep writing!

Self-publishing a book: How much does it cost?

Some people may see self-publishing as the easier route, but all of the tasks and expenses a publisher would typically take on, you are responsible for covering yourself through self-publishing.

Instead of getting an advance, you’ll be paying for various services and working hard to ensure your end product is flawless.

So it’s only natural to wonder how much self-publishing will cost you. In fact, some of the most common questions I get from potential clients are, “How much does it cost to self-publish a book on Amazon?” and “Is it free to publish a book on Amazon?”

The answer is complicated. Because, while, yes, self-publishing to Amazon is free through KDP, preparing your book for that moment is not.

All those editors, designers and formatters we discussed above? They cost money. And a lot of the time, it’s money you won’t see back.

It’s harsh, but true. A large percentage of self-published books will never make back the money that was invested into them.

This is why marketing is so important, and why it has to be a part of your self-publishing plan.

But as far as that initial cost investment, I always tell my developmental editing clients it will ultimately come down to how much work they are willing to do themselves, and how much quality they’re willing to pay for in terms of services.

You can save yourself some money by formatting your own book, for instance. But good editors and cover designers don’t come cheap.

On average, self-publishing a quality book will run you anywhere from $1,000 to $3500, depending on the rates charged by the contractors you hire to help you prepare your book for publication. And you do get what you pay for. So don’t pay $75 for editing and expect to receive back an error-free end product.

How to choose between traditional publishing and self-publishing

When you’re pursuing the path of self-publishing, it’s inevitable that you’ll ask yourself at some point, “Is it better to self-publish or get a publisher?” or “Will self-publishing hurt your chances of signing a traditional publishing deal?”

The answer to both questions is…it depends. 

When I published my first book, I never even considered traditional publishing. It was a memoir written by a woman in her 20s about a chronic health condition impacting the female reproductive organs. In other words: very niche.

I knew finding representation for it would be near impossible, and because the book itself was part of my healing process, I just wanted to get it out into the world.

Self-publishing was absolutely the right choice for that book, and at that point in my life.

But today I’m shopping a fiction novel I’ve been working on for two years to agents. It has commercial appeal and is a concept I’m really proud of. Plus, I see traditional publishing as the next step in my career.

So for this book, and at this point in my life…traditional publishing is the dream.

Every book is different. If you’re trying to decide whether traditional publishing or self-publishing is right for you, you need to do some soul searching and really get honest with yourself about your book (is it something an agent is going to feel confident in selling?), your goals (what do you hope to gain out of this publishing process), and your future aspirations as a writer.

Self-publishing has proven to be a very viable career path for some. And traditional publishing is right for others. There is no single best answer here.

As far as whether self-publishing today will hurt your chances of traditional publishing tomorrow, the answer is yes — for this book. But not for future endeavors.

Once you self-publish a book, it’s usually off the table for agents and publishers to consider. Unless it’s a massive success (selling tens of thousands of copies), most won’t even give it a second look.

But having self-published a book won’t hurt you at all when trying to sell a different book to agents and publishing companies in the future. In fact, if your self-published book did well (sales in the thousands) it could actually help you, because those numbers prove your ability to be part of the marketing process.

Should you choose a small press?

While researching your options, you may have come across authors mentioning having published through small presses. 

This is a version of traditional publishing that doesn’t typically require an agent, as small presses tend to like working directly with authors. Small presses are also often more open to taking niche books and working with an author’s unique vision.

You would pitch your book to a small press in much the same way you would to an agent, with a query letter, synopsis and the first few pages of your manuscript (or whatever their submission guidelines request). If they’re interested, they’ll ask for more.

But there are two important things to keep in mind when publishing with small presses:

  1. The first is that they often only print a few books a year, which means you could be put on a waitlist that is several years out before your book will be published. They also tend to have small marketing departments, which means you need to be prepared to market your own book as aggressively as you would have with self-publishing.
  2. The other thing to be aware of is the fact that there are a lot of vanity presses masquerading as small presses.

“What’s a vanity press?” you may ask? Well, these are publication companies that will offer to publish your book — for a fee. They will usually charge you thousands (more than you ever would have paid for self-publishing) all for the vanity of being able to say you have a publisher.

Avoid them at all costs. Not only will they charge you more for the services you could have gotten cheaper with contractors you found yourself, they will also take a far greater percentage of your royalties than you would have had to give up through self-publishing. And you’ll lose some of the rights you would have maintained through self-publishing.

On top of all that, the marketing services they offer are nothing more than blasting your book to their wide network of authors, who all paid the same thing you did and are simply hoping to see their own books advertised.

This is not how to self-publish a book, it’s how to get ripped-off in the process of self-publishing a book.

Now, there are plenty of small presses that aren’t vanities, and many of them are lovely to work with. But do your research if you decide to pursue this route, and don’t go with any press that is asking you for exorbitant amounts of money to help you with self-publishing a book.

Have you ever self-published a book? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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The post How to Self-Publish a Book: A Guide for Aspiring Authors appeared first on The Write Life.