Opinion: Why I’m Paying It Forward in Self-publishing

Ellie Holmes headshot

Ellie Holmes, glad to be a new indie author

Yesterday on our blog, bestselling indie author Marie Force, already with a successful career as a trade-published author, said that deciding to self-publish a book for the first time  in 2010 (which makes her an early adopter) was the best thing she ever did. ]

Today, ALLi author member Ellie Holmes describes how it feels to be at the start of that cycle, even now, when self-publishing is so much more mainstream.

Ten years ago I dreamed of being published the traditional way. Vanity publishing aside, it was the only option available. With the ink still wet on my contract with a London literary agent, I was full of optimism.

cover of The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes

Ellie Holmes’ debut novel is proudly self-published

The Flower Seller came close to securing a deal, but ultimately I lost the slot to other more established authors or the money men shook their heads.

Then I read Self-Printed The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard and decided to leap into the unknown.

Why I Went Indie

It wasn’t a decision I took lightly.  Burning bridges is never pleasant. But I knew it was the right decision. How much longer did I wait for a trad deal? What if it never came? Better to regret the things that I have done than to regret the things I never had the courage to try. And so I began my journey through the dark forest of self-publishing.  It was an unfamiliar and scary place full of traps for the unwary.

I plunged into a whirlwind of new activity. There were so many new terms to learn, new skills to acquire, so much knowledge to soak up and retain.

What have I discovered on the way? That the self-publishing community is a friendly and encouraging group of people.  I have found the Alliance of Independent Authors phenomenally supportive and informative. The blogs and articles so generously written by ALLi’s contributors have been invaluable to a newbie like me. As has the sage advice given by, amongst others, Catherine Ryan Howard,  David GaughranJoel FriedlanderKristen Lamb and Joanna Penn (all good friends and advocates of ALLi).

Paying It Forward

They have all provided candles to light my journey and I am grateful for their generosity of spirit in sharing their knowledge. I hope the advice given below will, in turn, help someone about to start their own journey. I’d like to paying it forward as the saying goes.

  1. Make your book the best version it can be. Don’t give in to the temptation to rush to publication too early. Hire an editor and a proofreader.
  2. Take time and trouble over your cover. Never underestimate the power of that thumbnail-sized jpeg on the Kindle screen.
  3. Make a note of useful information in an orderly fashion. I became swamped by so much valid advice that it became too hard to take in.
  4. You don’t have to learn everything at once, and the world won’t end if you make a mistake.
  5. Plan, plan and plan some more. Countries have been invaded with less planning than this project will take! There are so many facets of self-publishing that need your attention, not least the building of a social media platform.
  6. There is never enough time.
  7. Be patient with yourself. It’s better to do one thing well than ten badly but don’t be so hidebound by perfection that you never complete anything.
  8. Believe in yourself and your ability to see the project through to completion. There have been times when I have likened self-publishing to fighting the Hydra. As soon as I cut off one head two more spring up in its place!
  9. There is never enough time. Did I mention that?!
  10. Try to celebrate the successes you have along the way like the first time you see your finished cover. Little pick-me-ups like that keep you going.

Does it get easier? Yes, which is just as well because with the mantra of ‘Write, publish, repeat’ ringing in my ears it will soon be time to do it all again.


Interview with bestseller Marie Force, who says self-publishing was the best thing she ever did

Another way to pay it forward – a post about Samantha Warren’s Writers’ Question Cave

Jane Steen’s call for indie and trade published authors to work together for mutual benefit

Why I'm glad I #selfpublished by @EllieHWriter who pays it forward on our blog today Click To Tweet


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27 Responses to Opinion: Why I’m Paying It Forward in Self-publishing

  1. Cheryl Sterling May 7, 2017 at 7:17 pm #

    “How much longer did I wait for a trad deal?” How true your words. I have many writer friends who still seek traditional contracts, despite the narrowing odds. I wish them all the best, but wonder if the glamor they imagine is worth the wait. I’ve been traditionally published twice, once from a NY publisher. I much prefer the freedom and flexibility of self-publishing. I can write what I want, as often as I want, and still find an appreciative audience.
    Thanks for putting this subject in perspective.

  2. Kristen Steele March 28, 2016 at 6:51 pm #

    You’re absolutely right. I love that self-published authors promote a sense of community and are so happy to help each other out. It’s why self-publishing has come so far!

    • Ellie Holmes April 1, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

      Hi Kristen It’s funny isn’t it we may all be indie authors but when we club together we can be such a strong unit full of support and guidance. Long may it continue. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Karen Judge March 23, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

    Question — once someone is self-punished, does that mean there’s no going back to traditional punishing? I’d like to get some opinions. What I’m guessing is that publishers don’t like the competition but on the other hand, if they can make money off you that’ll work with you regardless.

    • Karen Judge March 23, 2016 at 7:31 pm #

      Sorry, published not punished. iPhone autocorrect!

      • Ellie Holmes March 24, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

        Hey don’t apologise I quite like self punished. It certainly feels like that sometimes when there aren’t enough hours in the day!

        To answer your question, I don’t think it means any door is automatically closed. I traditionally published a novella when I was already underway to self publish The Flower Seller. I think it depends on the markets you are aiming for. There have been instances where agents and publishers have taken on authors who have successfully self published. I’m not sure they would want to reissue any work previously self published but they are willing to take on new work from that author. It happens for a small majority of self publishers and equally there are self publishers who have been offered trad deals and turned them down because they don’t want to relinquish control. I think the line between the two camps will continue to become blurred as self publishing continues to grow leading to hybrid authors like myself and Mel Menzies above who have or had a foot in both camps.

        If you want to keep in touch I’d love to hear from you. I’m on Facebook and Twitter. My contact details are on my website

  4. Mel Menzies March 22, 2016 at 2:55 pm #

    Good for you Ellie! I admire anyone with the grit and stamina to go it alone. However, I did it the other way around.

    Having been traditionally published for years, then dropped out of the market for personal reasons, I found it hard to get back in. After two years of touring my past publishers and agents, and with a family crisis on hand that threatened to expel my own grit and determination, I decided to self-publish. The process was good; the company staff were very approachable. Six months later, however, sales left much to be desired.

    The problem is that ‘listing’ your book with major retailers, is not the same as having a distributor taking a copy in and persuading them to buy. I was lucky in that I was subsequently offered a traditional contract by Malcolm Down Publishing. He published a second edition of my novel, Time to Shine, and I’m more than happy.

    Would I self-publish again? Probably, if the alternative was never to be published again. At least the option is now there.

    • Ellie Holmes March 24, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

      Thanks for commenting Mel. You have certainly had some interesting experiences in publishing during your career. I’m glad you’ve found a new home that you’re happy with.

      It is wonderful to have the option to self publish but of course you are right the publishing part is only part of the process. Marketing and sales are an uphill battle for many authors whether self published or trad published and that nut does not get any easier to crack!

  5. Vivienne Tuffnell March 22, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

    A very similar story to my own: always close but no cigar.

    • Ellie Holmes March 24, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

      Hi Vivienne – thanks for your comment. I checked out your blog about why you chose to self publish. It made me laugh out loud in places and sigh with sadness at others. I’m pleased you took the decision to be in charge of your own destiny. To go through the cycle of submission and rejection too many times can crush even the strongest of spirits.

  6. Victoria Honeywood March 22, 2016 at 9:43 am #

    What a beautiful cover, Ellie! That alone makes me want to read your book. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. I second that there’s never enough time to do all the things we have to do.

    Like you I’m just starting along the self publishing path. I chose it over traditional because I got tired of trying to mould my work to fit various publishers guidelines. I want to retain control over what and when I write. I’ve seen so many published authors more or less told what to write, by their publishers, which for me, would take the fun away.

    I’m overwhelmed by the generous support offered by other indie writers. It’s a great community!

    • Ellie Holmes March 24, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words. I wanted a striking but beautiful cover and the lovely Berni Stevens obliged Collaborating with her clearly worked judging by your comments. I’ll be blogging in the next few weeks about the process of how that particular cover was chosen.

      I agree about the constraints placed on trad published authors. It must be like writing with a strait jacket on but I guess if you’ve never known the freedom of self publishing you don’t know what you are missing out on. Self published authors are definitely free range! Thanks for taking the time to post. Do keep in touch I’m on Facebook and Twitter and all my contact details are available on my website

    • Ellie Holmes March 24, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words. I wanted a cover that was both striking and beautiful. The wonderful Berni Stevens created it. In the coming weeks I’ll be blogging about the collaborative process we went through to reach the final cover.

      Control and flexibility are where self publishers have the advantage over the trad published. In some cases it must be like writing with a strait jacket on for them. Self publishers are definitely free range! Do keep in touch via Facebook and Twitter. All my contact details are on my website

    • Ellie Holmes March 24, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words Victoria. I wanted a cover that was both beautiful and striking. The wonderful Berni Stevens made my wish come true. In the next few weeks I will be blogging about the collaborative process we went through to reach the final result.

      Control and flexibility are the advantages self publishers have over the trad published. Sometimes for the trad published it must be like writing with a strait jacket on. Self publishers are definitely free range! Do keep in touch via Facebook or Twitter if you’d like to. All my contact details are available on my website at

      • Ellie Holmes March 24, 2016 at 5:33 pm #

        Ha! Sorry you got your answer three times Victoria. Better three times than none, I guess! For some reason my reply to you refused to come up so I kept reposting and now you have all three versions. Still at least I was consistent 🙂

  7. Angela Buckley March 21, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

    Thanks, Ellie – that was just the encouragement I needed as I wait for the proof of my first indie book to arrive before I press the button! I’m trying not to think about any typos that escaped the beady eyes of my editor, or about what my first readers will think. Like you, I’ve been enormously grateful to ALLi members whose advice I’ve soaked up and whose posts I’ve been stalking as I find my way through everything. It’s wonderful to be able to share this very exciting adventure!

    • Ellie Holmes March 24, 2016 at 2:35 pm #

      An exciting adventure is a lovely way to describe self publishing. Fingers crossed you will be over the moon with the proof of your book when it arrives. Do keep in touch and let me know when your planned release date is. I believe we’re already friends on Facebook 🙂

  8. Peter thompson March 21, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

    Hi Ellie, I took the plunge in 2013 and sold a few books, but I did not advertise them much. I have nine books out on Amazon as paperbacks and e;books. I do not know what to do to increase my sales. have tried paying advertises, but get very little back.. any idea’s on who to trust. anything would be an advantage.

    I leave my e’mail address here and I hope you have the time to help. yours thankfully for your articule.
    [email protected]

    • Ellie Holmes March 24, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

      Hi Peter – Thanks for getting in touch. I’ll have a look at your books and then email you.

  9. Denise Barnes March 21, 2016 at 2:01 pm #

    Like you, Ellie, I came so close, so many times, with trad agents and publishers. In the end my critique writing partner (already self-published) persuaded me not to wait any longer. I’m so glad I took her advice. Two novels in my trilogy already published and a third in the pipeline, I’m more than happy I took the decision. And being a control freak I love making all those decisions every step of the way.

    Mind you, if I had a 6-figure offer I might think twice!

    • Ellie Holmes March 24, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

      I feel your pain from those earlier rejections – I know just how that feels. It is a hard thing to take that leap in the dark into self publishing. I am so glad things have worked out well for you. Self publishing is ideal for control freaks and whilst the idea of a six figure offer might be appealing, the reality is you’d then be faced with other people’s choice of covers and editors, release dates and marketing strategies and I bet you’d find it incredibly difficult to have that foisted upon you even if you were on a beach in the Bahamas 🙂

  10. Brigitte Nioche March 21, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

    Thank you Ellie – this was a reassuring article for a just self-published author
    (Getting Over Growing Older) who is embarking on the next step – getting it out there – getting it out there in a way that it will bring sales –

    It’s nice to know one is not alone


    • Ellie Holmes March 24, 2016 at 2:16 pm #

      You are definitely not alone Brigitte! Getting to grips with the marketing side of the business is sometimes a difficult concept for writers to grasp because we prefer to dwell in our imaginary worlds being creative but it is essential nowadays. Good luck. Keep experimenting with different approaches and I am sure you will hit your stride and find things that work well for you and your book. If you want to keep in touch I am on Twitter and Facebook all my contact details are available via my website


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