Self-Publishing: Challenges and Rewards

Compiled by Maribel Steel

Have you wondered about publishing your own book to share your life’s experience and expertise? You may think there are a lot of books out there about living with low vision and indeed, there are quite a few—except there is always room in the world of self-publishing to include your creative work too. In this post, two VisionAware peers, Sue Wiygul Martin and Max Ivey answer some questions to give their perspectives on the challenges and rewards they found on the journey to creating a published book as "Indie Authors."

Two Perspectives: Why Did You Decide to Self-Publish Your Book?

Sue Martin kneeling at Seeing Eye Path to Independence  

Sue: “It was my first book, so I felt that I had no track record to attract a traditional publisher. If I had pursued a publisher, it might have taken many attempts to entice them to take a serious look at the manuscript and possibly years for the book to get published. I really didn’t want to wait that long.”

“The main challenge for me, however, was trying to keep up with my full-time job and finding the time to manage the whole process with a full home life too.”


Max: “My first book came about a little by accident. I’d like to say that I had a good reason for self-publishing, but in fact, the book was born out of a challenge I was given by a producer who knew of my work from my blog. She prompted me to think about writing a book or some other offering for the public with the added incentive of promoting it for me. This got me thinking. I jotted down many ideas and had intended to produce a simple PDF file of information.”

“The offer of promotion fell through, but I kept on writing, and the PDF grew in length until I realized I had created a book! I felt such a sense of accomplishment in having finished the project that I didn’t even try to find a traditional publisher. I decided to see if it could be published straight away. A good friend from walked me through the entire process of submitting the manuscript to Amazon. By using Amazon’s CreateSpace service, in no time at all, my book, Leading You Out of the Darkness was born.”

How Did Publishing a Book Help You in Your Career or Personal Life?

Sue: “Publishing my book was a huge personal milestone. Because of my book, Out of the Whirlpool, I’ve met the most amazing people, and I’ve also become friends with new colleagues who have introduced me to others in the field of mental health and suicide prevention. This was a whole new world of information that I knew nothing of before publishing my own personal story. My life has become far richer from the experience.”

Maxwell wearing a purple shirt and smiling at the camera

Max: “By self-publishing a book, it has given me credibility as a life-goals coach, which has allowed me to help others reach their goals too. Having a book to promote, led to the natural progression of becoming a public speaker, and at present, I am also working as an online media publicist. I firmly believe that by taking that leap into self-publishing and promoting my work, I gained the confidence (and incentive) to produce many podcasts, which in turn has brought me recognition all over the Internet as the blind blogger. Career wise, the book continues to open up other opportunities in doing radio interviews too.”

Would You Recommend This Pathway to Others?

Sue: “Yes, I would. When you publish your own book, the print-on-demand option is quick, economical, and flexible to suit anyone’s budget and time schedule. I know that I couldn’t have afforded to do it any other way, either financially or time-wise. Self-publishing is also a great way to help promote a person’s "brand" through social media platforms for those who want to tell their story to a wider audience.”

Max: “Be aware that the process of self-publishing is not for the faint-hearted. It takes a huge amount of work to build a name or an author’s platform (this means to create a place where people can find you on the web). But, if you are excited about taking control of your creative work, then by all means, self-publish. You get to maintain the rights to your work as well as control over your schedule. In my opinion, the low commissions paid by traditional publishers to unknown authors are rarely worth giving someone else title to your hard work.”

Final Words of Advice

Sue: “Self-publishing is not the easiest way to make a living, but I still feel it is a better option for most of us who want to get our story of overcoming out there and not have to wait to take the traditional route. Interestingly, many publishers these days are signing up previously self-published authors (known as an Indie-author). The book market has expanded so much that these major companies are discovering new authors who took the challenge to self-publish and offer a contract to republish their work. So you never know who is out there reading your book!”

Max: “My main tip to others considering this pathway is to start promoting yourself and getting your name out there long before you finish the book. It’s all about getting onto the radar of others who can help take your story to the next phase on the publishing journey. I am almost finished my third manuscript, having used several chapters of the first book to win me a place as one of the Amtrak Writers in Residence 2016. The story is about my trip to New York City. I know I wouldn’t have received such a great opportunity without having written my first book. So, try not to be discouraged if you receive rejections from a publisher. The most important thing is to weigh the challenges versus the rewards and go with what works best for you.”

Maribel: Thanks, Sue and Max. For more titles on living with blindness or low vision, VisionAware has a list of over 70 titles on our book shelf.

Out of the Whirlpool book cover book cover of it's not the cookie it's the bag with picture of cookies in jar Sue squatting next to guide dog book cover of Leading you out of the darkness into the light with image of man in doorway

Sue Wiygul Martin’s Books

Out of the Whirlpool: The Story of a Suicide Survivor and the Rebuilding of a Life

In Dog We Trust

Max Ivey’s Books

The two books: Leading You Out of the Darkness Into the Light: A Blind Man’s Inspirational Guide to Success (2015) and It’s Not the Cookie, It’s the Bag: An Easy-to-Follow Guide for Weight Loss Success (2016) can both be found on on Amazon.

Please Comment

Do you have an experience of self-publishing versus the traditional path with a mainstream publisher? Please let us know how the process was for you.