Archive for May 11th, 2015

Learning to self-publish is like learning the bagpipes

Bagpipes – love ‘em or hate ‘em. There seldom seems to be a middle ground when it comes to the famed instrument which, contrary to popular belief, did not originate in Scotland. The oldest-known reference to the bagpipes was found carved on a stone slab in Asia Minor back in 1000 B.C. I happen to fall into the camp who loves them, but I’ve never thought of trying to learn to play the things.


Playing a bagpipe is a complex task with a lot happening at once and a lot to do at the same time. Once you inflate the bag and the four reeds start sounding, you’re committed. You can’t just stop to think about this or that when things get hectic. Get behind the curve and you’re in deep trouble … the wedding guests may run screaming from the church, your dog might bite you, or the neighbors might start shooting.
— Oliver Seeler, hotpipes.com

Most of the people who attend the Meetup group I run – Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion – are at some stage in the process of producing a book. Whether they’re writing the first chapter or have been published for years, the reason most come is that they know they have much to learn about marketing their books. While we seldom focus on writing, we do cover many aspects of self-publishing, from designing a cover to finding the right printer to formatting for ebooks. Many of the group members are quite knowledgeable and willing to share best practices and/or pitfalls to avoid.

Occasionally, we have a visitor who is brand new to the self-publishing process. They come to our group in the hopes of learning what they need to know before they get started. This, in my opinion, is a wise move. However, there’s a lot to learn – and no one can learn it all in one sitting. It’s often a game of trial-and-error. “How long does it take to publish a book?” is a question many ask. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, because it all depends…

  • How close are you to completing your manuscript?
  • Who will edit it and how long will that take?
  • Who will design the cover and how long will that take?
  • Who will do the interior layout for your book and how long will that take?
  • Do you already have your ISBN and bar code? Do you know where to get them?
  • Do you have a publishing company name and a corresponding publisher’s mark?
  • If you plan to print physical copies, who will print them and how long will it take to get a proof copy?
  • What is your budget for accomplishing all of these tasks?

Like the quote at the start of this post notes, learning to self-publish a book is a lot like learning to play the bagpipes. It is a complex task with a lot happening at once and a lot to do at the same time.

Though no one is likely to shoot you if you blow a sour note while self-publishing your book, identifying all of the steps and then accomplishing them in just the right order will have a lot to do with the ultimate success of your book.

sharpen the axe

If you’re just starting out, find a Meetup, hire a book coach, or talk with an author who’s done it right a couple of times. Then, hold onto your hat. The real fun starts when you get serious about marketing your book!




We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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