An Indie Author on What Works and What Doesn’t in Self Publishing

an indie author on self publishing mistakesAuthor Alyssa Cooper’s Experience Taught Her She Must Take Control

Self published author Alyssa Cooper has been through the ringer when it comes to self-publishing. In the first in our author guest post series, she shares her mistakes and mishaps, and what she has learned to do differently this time. Alyssa has become something of a self publishing expert, and hopes that the intensive research she has done about what works in self publishing and what doesn’t will help other authors.

Author Guest Post – How a Misprinted Cover Led to a Whole New World


In my second year of college, I dusted off a novel that I had originally written in high school, and I started the grueling process of preparing it for submission. I had had a handful of poems and short stories published in anthologies at that point, and I was convinced that my time had come.

Surprisingly, it had. I sent Salvation, my first novel, to a dozen publishers or so – and one of them actually responded. salvation self published by alyssa cooper

Salvation was published in October of 2012, and I was ecstatic. Even abysmal sales my first quarter weren’t enough to dampen the excitement, especially when my editor assured me that they would improve.

When my second quarter sales were just as bad as the first, I began taking my advertising into my own hands, spending hours every week submitting Salvation for reviews and for book tours. When my sales began to pick up, I wasn’t just happy – I was proud. I knew I was the one that had made that happen. My hard work was paying off. With my confidence restored, I began preparing my next manuscript for submission.

In 2013, the same company that published Salvation accepted my second novel, Benjamin. A few months later, my first poetry collection was also picked up by a Canadian publisher. Little did I know, it was this collection that would change everything.

Cold Breath of Life was released October of 2013. I was invited to a release party and reading in Kingston, and showed up with my family in tow. I picked up the first printed copy I had ever held of my brand new book. And when I turned it over…

cold breath of life poetry by alyssa cooperWell, when I turned it over, someone else’s blurb was on the back cover.

My publisher had mixed up the print files, and the first run of my book had someone else’s name on the back cover. There were dozens of people waiting to buy copies, and all I had to offer them was a huge box of misprinted books. I was horrified. I sat there, numbly listening to the other readers, thinking to myself, “I would never have allowed this to happen.”

That moment was life changing for me. I had already been doing all of my own advertising for a year. As a trained graphic designer, I knew I was capable of designing my own books, and I knew I wouldn’t make such careless mistakes. And, thanks to a little bit of research for curiosity’s sake, I also knew that I could distribute my books to every major e-retailer using only two websites. And I wondered, why am I sharing my profits with publishers who do nothing for me? Why are they being paid, when I’m the one doing the work? And to be honest, there was no good answer. It was time for things to change. 

In 2014, I dedicated myself to my work, and to learning everything I could about independent publishing. I started small, first publishing two short stories through Amazon’s KDP program and the Smashwords Extended Distribution program, and then working myself up to a book-length collection, available as both and e-book and as a paperback. I created all of the art and design myself, using royalty free stock images and typefaces. I swapped editing services with a few fellow authors and a couple of kind friends. I distributed the titles through KDP and Smashwords and have since dedicated countless hours to seeking out free marketing and advertising opportunities from fellow writers, bloggers, and booksellers. And it’s been wonderful.

Following the advice of self-publishing guru Hugh Howey, my first self published titles were produced with literally a budget of zero. The only investment I made was the time (and what an investment it was). These books have sold well – much better than my traditionally published titles, at the very least. But sales growth has been slow. I’m not quite a star yet, and I certainly can’t afford to quit my day job, but I’m finally ready to dive even deeper into the publishing world.

This Summer, I’m Hoping to Publish Another Book – but This Time, I Plan to Do it With Upfront Capital

The Witches of Armour Hill

Alyssa’s new book will be funded with a Kickstarter campaign

 In March, I started my very first crowdfunding campaign, looking to raise the money for professional editing, design, marketing, and distribution. I’ll still be self-publishing, I’ll still be in control of the entire process – but the ability to crowdfund will put me on a much more level playing field with professional publishers. The story will be more polished, the art and design more refined, and I will no longer need to rely on free advertising opportunities. And, even better, I’ll have a built-in fan base when the novel is released.

This is going to be my biggest publishing undertaking yet, and I’m just so excited to get started. This could be the moment that changes my career forever.

The technologies of the modern world have been changing every industry, and in the literary world, it’s the writers who are reaping the benefits. I have opportunities now that my mother’s generation of writers never even dreamed of – and I plan to take advantage of them all.

About Alyssa Cooper

alyssa cooper self published authoMy name is Alyssa Cooper. I’m a part time writer, part time designer, and a full time crazy cat lady. I’m also the author of two novels, two collections, and a handful of short stories. I’m currently living in Kingston, Ontario with my cats and a personal library.
Please visit my websiteI’m also found all over social media: Twitter  Facebook  Goodreads  Tumblr

AUTHOR GUEST POSTIf you’re an author and would like to submit a guest post to Readers+Writers Journal, please see our Guest Post page.


7 thoughts on “An Indie Author on What Works and What Doesn’t in Self Publishing

  1. Great article! Thanks for sharing. I’ve recently published independently, and at times, wonder if it was the right decision, but hearing how trad published authors have been treated makes me realize that it doesn’t get better with a publisher and if you’re going to fail or succeed you might as well do it yourself.

    Thanks for sharing your story! Sharing with my peeps on Twitter!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. LOL I just read TSRA’s post with the cartoon about getting more comments by making grammar and spelling mistakes and then saw YOUR post.
    You do mean “wringer,” not “ringer.” Please fix that. Or, not.


  3. Congratulations! I’m glad you had that realization early on and have been met with success–even modest success is a cause for celebration seeing how difficult it can be to get recognized as a writer!


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