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Self-Publishing After a Traditional Publisher Closes

There are many articles in cyberspace about how to do self-publishing right. I should know because I have read hundreds of them since learning that my publisher was going out of business as of the end of last year. It was a small independent publisher that began in 2016, but as 2021 neared a close, the effects of the pandemic, lockdowns, inflation and several other factors meant that the business could not continue to operate. 

This was a disappointment, obviously, for several reasons. For me personally, it meant that my first novel was going to soon disappear from online stores, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. My book has garnered many awards and quite a bit of recognition since its publication in November 2017, including Children’s Literary Classics Gold for Coming-of-Age Upper Middle Grade Fiction, but it hadn’t quite found its target middle grade audience. Like my publishing company, I also had experienced circumstances that made promoting and marketing my book more difficult, including a surprise, higher-than-normal risk pregnancy. Considering all of this, I did not want to see my book “out of print” before it really had a chance to find prospective readers.    

As I saw it, I had three choices: let my book disappear permanently from the marketplace, shop for another publisher, or self-publish myself. I barely considered the first choice. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to my book. I also knew that finding another traditional publisher was going to be difficult as most publishers won’t publish a previously published book unless it can show a history of robust sales. As for the third option, I really had no idea where to begin. Even so, I felt it was my only viable option.

I must admit that I was excited about the prospect of having greater control over my book. I liked the cover that my publisher did for me, but I never felt that it perfectly reflected my middle grade market. I also felt like I didn’t have the ability to make key marketing and advertising decisions, like how and when to run a free promotion. A hard cover book was never an option for me, and neither was setting my book’s price. I didn’t get to choose the producer or the voice talent for my audiobook. I knew that, as a self-publisher, I could make those decisions and that was incredibly appealing.

The least appealing part was the financial investment I was going to have to make to publish a book that had already been out in the market for several years. Was it wise to do so? Would I be any better in generating sales than my publisher and I together were? What if it ended up just being a big flop and waste of money?

These were the possibilities and questions I had when I started out and I set out to find answers. I began with researching self-publishing online. I especially found articles that highlighted dos and don’ts of self-publishing to be helpful. I’ve always found checklists to be useful tools for making progress against a goal.

After months of research, here is my list of five “do’s” when you plan to self-publish:

Do get a new ISBN for a new edition of your book. This was my only option because I opted to make edits to my copy, including making additions to my author’s note at the end, and update my cover.

Do pay for your own ISBN. I did not want Amazon or Lulu or BookBaby to be listed as the publisher of my book.

Do pay for a professional to design your cover. As a book reviewer for Readers’ Favorite and a consumer of books at large, I know how easy it is to be turned off from a good book because of a bad cover. It’s worth the expense.

Do learn book formatting. The prospect of this scared me and it took some time, but book formatting is not difficult. A few practice sessions—and helpful YouTube videos—and I’ve added a valuable skill to my skillset (as well as saved money by eliminating the need to hire someone to do it for me).

Do start your own publishing company. I wasn’t planning to do this until I realized how easy it was. In my state, I was already considered a sole proprietor and just needed to spend $46 to file a “certificate of assumed name” to do business with a name I chose (after a trademark search to ensure the name was available). What an easy way to add the credibility of a publisher to your book!

Do make sure you have a good book to publish and don’t rush. In my case, I already knew my book was well-written because it had been previously published by a traditional publisher, earned several distinctions of honor, and had good reviews. Even so, it was tempting to rush through several steps to get my book back out there—never a formula for success.

Self-publishing after your publisher closes can be a daunting task, but a rewarding one. Just take the time it takes to learn the ins and outs and enjoy the journey.    


Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Stacie Haas