Success in Self-Publishing

“In order to succeed in Self-Publishing you must have thick skin and ultimately patience. It can be hard at times but it is also very rewarding.”-Donneil D. Jackson, Self-Published Author of Chante’s Song & Foolish

When a writer types THE END upon completion of their manuscript there are a lot of emotions that go through that writer’s mind. Do they dare and attempt to self-publish? Can they afford to? Can they even really do it? Do they seek out a literary agent and hope that agent can shop their manuscript around to potential publishers? Will their manuscript be worth someone even taking a look at?

These are all of the questions that cross a writer’s mind and then some and it is a scary moment since the writer does not know which route they should travel. Many have always wanted to write a book but do not know what it takes to successfully publish a book. With any decision that is needed to be made the first rule of thumb is research so, you can make a choice that will be beneficial to you and your ultimate literary goals.

I recently talked with authors, Brian Smith, Shaun Sinclair, Marie Antionette and Blacc Topp who have found success in self-publishing as well as signing with a major publisher. These authors were very generous with their experiences and their honesty as they have given me an up close and personal look into their literary journey. I appreciate them for being so open with me and hope upon reading this if you were serious about publishing, you now have a better insight because they shared their experiences so that any writers and aspiring authors know what it all entails.

briansmithBrian Smith

KG: What year did you decide to self-publish?

BS: I first self-published in 2005.

KG: Why did you decide to self-publish and not seek representation from a literary agent and have you book shopped to the majors?

BS: I chose to self-publish because I did my research and learned the percentages of advances and royalties that are given to Literary Agents. I also learned how much control the author is forced to relinquish when a book deal is signed (i.e., cover design, release date, etc.). I didn’t seek a Literary Agent until 2010 (after my 7th novel) because I felt that I’d maxed out my distribution capabilities. I also felt that my “Literary Resume” was at a point where publishers would consider me a safer risk. My approach was proven correct because in 2011, I signed with an agent and she was able to negotiate a deal with a Simon and Schuster subsidiary for a novel that I’d written in 2008. That novel was re-released in 2012 by Simon and Schuster and became an Amazon and Black Expressions best seller.

KG: What was your initial investment?

BS: When I took the literary plunge in 2005, I opened a small publishing house. To get things started I invested three thousand dollars of my own money and borrowed six thousand dollars from a few family members and friends. I used the money to set up my company and publish five books (2 for myself and 3 for authors I signed). Within twelve months, I was able to repay the loans…the rest is history.

KG: What was the best advice you received being self-published and why?

BS: I didn’t receive much advice – at least any that I can recall. I came in the industry when most authors were still lobbying for book deals. I had NO desire to sign a book deal when I started and I didn’t find the authors who were running small publishing companies to be that accommodating – many of them treated newbies like nuisances. Even though I didn’t have a mentor, I had something many authors I encountered didn’t have…a business background. I have three degrees (to include an MBA); therefore, I used my education, street smarts, business books I got from the library and store and followed business models used by many Hip-Hop moguls. Eleven years and 16 novels later, I now teach Creative Writing at the college level and often give self-published authors the following advice:

– Learn how to write! There are FAR TOO MANY people calling themselves writers, but don’t have an understanding of the most basic writing principles and their ignorance shows in their work. Improve your skills by investing in Creative Writing classes. Just because you read a few novels a year that doesn’t mean you have the skills to write a novel.

– Invest in a good editor. If you can’t afford to pay for a Copy Editor then your novel is not ready for publishing. If you are reading this and you don’t know the difference between Copy, Line, and Developmental Editing, then you’re proving the point that I made in bullet #1…you need to take Creative Writing classes.

– Get thick skin. If you only want people to stroke ego and you have a problem handling criticism – constructive and mean spirited – then this is the wrong business for you.

– It takes ten years to become an overnight success. Those authors who are fortunate to write debut novels that land on the NY Times Bestsellers list and are optioned for motion picture are few and far between. They are “outliers”. Your patience will be tested. If you have a history of quitting before you accomplish your goals then you’ll probably “tap out” as an author. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s my experience that eighty percent of the authors who start this journey are on to something new before their third year because they got into this thinking that they were going to be overnight successes.



Shaun Sinclair

KG: What year did you decide to self-publish?

SS: 2012

KG: Why did you decide to self-publish and not seek representation from a literary agent and have you book shopped to the majors?

SS: I decided to self-publish because I want to receive the maximum benefit for my talent. With today’s resources, there was no reason why I couldn’t learn the things I needed to learn to effectively launch a literary career. Ultimately, I felt as if no one could have had more faith in pushing my product than me.

KG: What was your initial investment? Have you made that back?

SS: There were two investments. Lol. When I put the first book out I threw away approximately $2,000 on design and inventory. When I relaunched the book in 2014, I spent about $3,000. (However, I edit my own books – which reduces a substantial amount of the budget. I wouldn’t recommend that.) Yes, I have definitely made that back.

KG: What was the best advice you received being self-published and why?

SS: Concentrate on building my brand one book at a time. Focus on that and everything else will fall into place. The reason why that was important is because it put things in perspective, and helped to focus on being patient. It reiterated the importance of strategy.







marieantionetteMarie Antionette

KG: What year did you decide to self-publish?

MA: I believe it was in 2007. Shortly after my first release with a vanity press publisher blew up in my face in 2006. I wasn’t happy with the results, royalties or process. I used 2008 to do my homework after I pulled the book from that publisher and realized I could do exactly what they had and more with greater long-term benefits to myself and my brand. It was March 2009 when I re-published my first title A Girl Named Job under my own imprint and I haven’t had a single regret since.

KG: Why did you decide to self-publish and not seek representation from a literary agent and have you book shopped to the majors?

MA: Can I be honest? (Of course, I can) I have never been one to want to deal with a middle man, have anyone represent me or felt anyone could represent me and my talent better than me. It all sounds good. Having an agent and being with a big name publisher where people get to notice you more because you are associated with old or long money. Though that would have become old to me real quick because I don’t like to answer to anyone and I like to do what I want to do, the way I want to do it when I want to do it. That was the initial reason. Secondly, R.O.I., Return on Investment. The rapper, Jadakiss said it best, “If you spend three your guaranteed to make back six.” When you are the boss, that’s exactly how it goes. You can ensure you will gain your maximum return on your investment when you run the show. When you let someone else be the boss, you take a cut. I don’t like taking cuts. Plus, although I did research many different agents who were free of charge, they all come with their set of standards and each may cater to a specific or particular groups of readers or audiences. I didn’t want to brand myself as a fiction, non-fiction, memoir, poet, street lit or any other type of author and I didn’t want to have to sign with different publishers to show my multiple creative sides. I just wanted to write and let my writing speak for itself. So basically, it was because I wanted to do things my way and again, I have no regrets about it yet. I feel it just takes that one person to read your work for you to the next level. I believe if you believe in your work and promote it the way you want others to receive it, you will make it there, learn valuable lessons that only experience can teach you, maximize your profits and meet some great people along the way. When you work for someone else, everything is limited…

KG: What was your initial investment? Have you made that back?

MA: Ah, initial investment. Ummm, say about $4500 roughly. I mean there was the LLC License, the reference material, the PO Box for 6 months or maybe it was a year I am not sure. A $35 fee here, $35 fee there, software, promo material, the launching of a website. In about the first 6 months it all added up pretty quickly and I hadn’t really looked at everything I had invested into the launching of my imprint until it was tax time. It was then I was informed that due to my business, I could file a section-c and itemize everything I invested. So roughly, it was $4500 and yes I’ve made that back but I’ve also invested it back into my business. Some quarters are better than others but I set the pace so that I don’t feel a loss.

KG: What was the best advice you received being self-published and why?

MA: The best advice I’ve received being self-published is the same advice I myself and you (Kisha Green) have and continue to give to others. GET AN EDITOR! If you are not good at separating yourself from your work and reading it as THE READER and not the author, you will do yourself an injustice by thinking you can catch all of your mistakes or even make your workflow properly. In your head, you already know how the story should read and automatically, no matter what you see, you will insert in your mind or read in your mind how the work SHOULD read instead of how it’s actually reading to a reader. It takes time, dedication and typically, an avid reader to be able to do so. In the event you are not an avid reader, are poor in English and grammar then do yourself a favor and get an editor. Spend the money to create a work people are willing to pay for. If not, you will be disappointed when you begin to sell you work beyond your circle of family and friends. My second piece of advice I have received (and give to others as well) is to always promote your work and do so in a proper setting. Never allow your work to grow old. There are thousands of books people pick up and read every day which was written by people before their time but those books are brand new to them. You should always be able to create a fresh buzz for your book no matter how dated it is. If you don’t promote you can’t rely on others to do so for you and if you don’t believe in your work then why should others?


Blacc Topp

KG: What year did you decide to self-publish?

BT: Initially I published my first novel entitled Portrait of a Hustla in 2009, but there were so many editing errors that I scrapped the first 300 copies that I’d purchased and started from scratch. My next release didn’t come until 3 years later.

KG: Why did you decide to self-publish and not seek representation from a literary agent and have you book shopped to the majors?

BT: My mother was a writer and her dream was to become a published author. Rejection letter after rejection letter led her to self-publish with a vanity press and she got royally screwed over and then she passed. When I decided to publish, I joined a Facebook group called All4One, where the objective was to help up and coming, hungry authors find their way in the publishing industry. While in the group the key theme that was continually hammered into us was research, research, research, so I began to research and what I discovered was that not only was it incredibly difficult to get representation, but majors didn’t want to deal with a non-agented author. Self-Publishing has been somewhat lucrative for me so I have yet to submit to any majors.

KG: What was your initial investment? Have you made that back?

BT: As I said before, my initial invest in Portrait of a Hustla was $1100 for 300 copies. All of which I lost because I jumped the gun. Fast forward 3 years later to The Hustle Chronicles, my initial investment was $2500 for 1000 copies and I’ve made that back, 10 times over. Remember the mantra, research? Better printing options with a solid plan for distribution and things took off better.

KG: What was the best advice you received being self-published and why?

BT: The best advice that I’ve ever received was from my brother and I quote “Let the people that are good at what they do, do what they do!” That really resonated with me because at the beginning, I wanted to create my own covers, do my own graphics, write the books, do the editing, the marketing, promotions, and etc. What I found was that at the end of the day, I was spreading myself thin and I couldn’t concentrate on perfecting the art of storytelling.

So regardless of what road you seek on self publishing you must first research and ask questions. Even if you decide to publish the traditional route make sure you research the agent you are considering using along with the publisher. Knowledge is power!

For more on these talented authors, please visit their websites.

Brian Smith-

Shaun Sinclair-

Marie Antionette-

Blacc Topp-

If you still have questions please contact me for a literary consultation to discuss your options at