Self-Publishing — Making Your Bones


Dana Sitar self publishing

I guess analogy sort of makes publishing like the mafia. I don’t know if I would draw that connection too broadly, but there is this one similarity: If you sit on the sidelines and call yourself a writer for too long, eventually you’re going to be called upon to prove yourself worthy of the title.

Eventually, you have to make your move.

I set out to self-publish my first book knowing I would likely fail. A lot. But I was eager to do it, because I wanted to get the experience. I learn best from hands-on experience, and I am not great at relinquishing control of my creations, so self-publishing seemed like a good fit. I didn’t study English or writing in school, and I didn’t finish any of the six majors I started throughout my college career. Instead, I have always pieced together my education in life based on my passions of the moment, so when I got into the writing business, I was naturally anxious to dive into publishing.

Not surprisingly, my greatest lessons came from my greatest mistakes. For example, I quickly learned the hardest part of publishing is marketing. Writing a book, finding editors, formatting, cover design – creating the product was easy. (It was work, but it was easy.) Marketing, on the other hand, is full of nuances, tricks, methods, and surprises that I have only learned through trial-and-error.

On Becoming a Rich and Famous Author

I haven’t become famous – or even known – from that book, and it has not made me rich – or even “comfortable”. But, I have learned a lot, and that sort of overshadows those first two things at this point in my career. My goal is to be a successful writer, so I have to take leaps into this industry. Even though my first project is small potatoes, I broke the seal and made my first sale – and then my second, third, etc. – I tried something new, moved forward.

I’ll release my second book, The Hart Compound, on April 1, 2012. It’s better than the first. Isn’t that the point? I can’t do much more at this point than learn a bit with each step I take. Certainly the journey of producing and promoting The Hart Compound has been better than it was with the first book. I have a better understanding of my audience and my goals; I had more time to plan for this book’s promotion; I have more connections and more readers going into this one (mostly because now, I have some). That’s the best I can hope for, as I prepare for the next leap.

About Dana Sitar

Self publishing Dana Sitar


Dana Sitar is a freelance journalist and author of the ongoing memoir series This Artists’ Life. Her latest release, The Hart Compound, follows the writer to her journalistic roots as Senior Campaign Writer to a Mayoral campaign headed by two Madison, Wisconsin comedians. Dana shares writing tips and anecdotes at her blog by.dana.sitar. Follow her @danasitar on Twitter.

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7 Responses to “Self-Publishing — Making Your Bones”

  1. Hi Dana,

    Writing is a journey, not a destination, and if you want to become successful you’ve got to keep doing it.

    I haven’t got any qualifications in English, either, but that does not stop me. I, too, only have one book out at the moment but I have another shortly on the way. Like you, I viewed my first book as just trial and error, something that I could learn from but I still thought it was good enough to sell so I’ve put it on Amazon. People have bought it and I have received several 5 star reviews from people mostly in America (I live in England) so my writing must have something to it otherwise I wouldn’t get that response.

    As you progress with each book, you can only get better.
    I wish you well

  2. Laura, thanks for coming by, please post the name of your book so our readers can check it out!

  3. I enjoyed reading your piece, Dana. I think I’m about your age, and it’s good to see younger writers making inroads to success. As I read your post, I wondered what your biggest mistake, and most brilliant success were.

  4. emknavy: Those are great questions!

    My biggest mistake was not knowing my audience before writing the book. While it feels good to write based on artistic inspiration and whatnot, when it comes to selling a book, you have to know exactly who your audience is and what they’re looking for. My first book didn’t have such a clearly-defined audience.

    My most brilliant success…is harder to nail down 🙂 I’ll say my blog — Sharing the journey of my publishing experience has attracted lots of great blog readers, and I’ve been able to help other writers by sharing the steps I take and the mistakes I’ve made. The blog has allowed me to put to use the entire journey, so that I can get the most out of self-publishing, even if sales are modest.


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