Saying Goodbye to My Corporate Career and Hello to My Calling: To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish

Saying Goodbye to My Corporate Career and Hello to My Calling: To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish
This is part 5 of a series by author Paul Attaway
Words by Paul Attaway

I finished the book! 

Then I hired an editor and then a consultant, then a second editor, then a book designer, then a proofreader... and then the book was actually finished.

Then I had to publish the book, and then I had to sell it.

So how do you start? The same way you learn to swim.

From start—staring at a blank sheet—to finish—seeing my book available on Amazon—I divide the process into two buckets. Bucket one is writing the book. Bucket two is everything else, but for the sake of clarity I’ll refer to it as “selling the book.”

Writing the book is a solitary process—at least it was for me. Selling the book was and continues to be a collaborative process, for I have relied and drawn upon the assistance of others.

I think operationally. I see a goal and chart how I hope to get from here to there. Consequently, both writing and selling the book presented challenges since I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I was bound to run down a lot of rabbit holes, and I did—but that’s how we learn. So, as much as I would have appreciated a start-to-finish how-to manual, I don’t regret the process I undertook.

But even as I write this about the next steps to seeing one’s book available for sale, I’m struggling to find a starting point—so, I will pick one and circle back as necessary.

Getting published

I do not intend to thoroughly discuss this topic, and there are two reasons why. First, it would take too long. Second, I know enough to be dangerous and only possibly helpful. (There is no shortage of online resources on the subject. That being the case, if anyone reading this post would like to talk with me, please visit and reach out through the contact page.) I provide the following discussion as a backdrop to the story of how my book became available for sale.

To publish a book means to make it available for the public to view, and it involves the process of producing and distributing the book:

  • To produce a book, one prints it on paper or electronically.
  • To distribute a book, one makes it available for purchase (or use in the case of a library) through an online portal (such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Biblio, and the growing number of Amazon-alternatives) or through a bookstore, be it an independent bookstore or chain.

There are basically two ways to get published—a publisher decides to publish your book, or you self-publish. If a publisher picks up your book, they are responsible for the cover design, the interior design, pricing, and to varying degrees depending upon the publisher, the distribution and marketing. If you self-publish... you guessed it—you do everything.

I self-published, but I first sought a publisher. There are two ways I oversimplify the world of book publishers—first, by size and second, by how it impacts me as a writer. When broken down by size, there are two types: the Big Five (Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, Macmillan) and everyone else. When broken down in accordance with how it affects me, again there are two types—those that accept manuscripts directly from an author and those that only accept manuscripts from agents. 

These two categories overlap to a great extent. The Big Five only look at manuscripts brought to them by an agent. As far as the rest of the publishers go, I do them a disservice by lumping them altogether, and you will find a world of mid-sized and smaller publishers with niches and specialties after only a few minutes researching online. Many of these publishers accept manuscripts directly from authors. 

Therefore, to land a large publisher, you need an agent. To land an agent, you need to find them and send them a Query Letter. I researched how to do both, sent query letters to some two-dozen agents, and then waited to hear back. This is where it gets tough—especially if you are impatient as I am. The agents tell you on their websites that it could take six to eight weeks for them to reply, if they reply at all. I waited and received three rejections, and I heard exactly nothing from the rest.  

I didn’t wait to not hear from all the agents before executing plan B—submitting my manuscript to twenty smaller publishers that accepted manuscripts directly. They also told me to be patient. Argh!!!

I received five yesses. One publisher wanted to make significant changes to the book. One said they would take about twelve months to get it to market. The third wanted me to bear all the expenses. The other two got back to me after my book was already available for sale on Amazon.

While I was waiting to hear, or not hear, from agents and publishers, I researched self-publishing and spoke to a few authors. Two had self-published, and two had been picked up by small, niche publishers. They all said the same thing:

Even if you go with a smaller publisher, you will largely be responsible for the book’s promotion and success.

I decided to self-publish. Learn about my experience in my next article!


Paul was born and raised in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Paul and his wife, Lyn, met in college at Georgetown University and were married after Paul graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law. They moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1988 where Paul embarked on a thirty-year business career before retiring so he could write fiction. Paul and Lyn raised three children together in Phoenix and now split their time between Phoenix and Charleston, South Carolina. 

Blood in the Low Country  is Paul Attaway’s debut novel. Writing this book, along with the move to Charleston, is a coming home of sorts, a return to the South. The history and culture of America’s South is rich, complicated, at times comical, sad, tragic, uplifting, and inspiring. Paul hopes that his novels can capture even a small bit of this tapestry. Learn more about Paul Attaway, and purchase his book, here: Find the audiobook on Audible, Amazon, or Apple Books!