Writer, Dreamer, Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Road to Publication Part III: To Self-Publish or not to Self-Publish?

That's the big question these days, and while five years ago I would have said unequivocally to go the tradtional publishing route, there are some amazing Kindle success stories out there that are changing the game in a big way.

You might be thinking at the moment: why isn't she talking about literary agents yet?

Patience, patience.

Yeah, if you're an aspiring author expect to cultivate a whole darned lot of it.  You will also feel much like this dog when you find out you need even MORE patience for your next round of book related agonies.
Ahem . . .
Anyway, it just makes sense to talk about the all-important self-publication decision next.  Because if you do decide to take that leap, forget getting the literary agent.  (At least until your book goes "viral").

Now, let's begin with the juicy bad stuff.  There are cons to self-publishing.  First and worst of all is that anyone can do it, even people who can't spell.  This automatically means a lot of people won't pay attention to your book because you're simply self-published and, heck, they're guessing you might not be able to spell either. Two, you are responsible for all the promotion and marketing of your book, even if you become pee-poor in this process.  That's right, this can mean practically selling yourself at bookstores, libraries, the local drug store, you name it, for what might be very little reward.  Three, unless your book attracts the reading public's notice in a huge way, most major publishing houses will not give that particular novel a second glance.  Used goods, they say, turning up their nose. And then there is good ol' number four: no editor for your book.

Oh, and that can be very bad.

Also, don't rely on those wild success stories.  Count on it when I say they are one a million.  Translation: you're not getting rich anytime fast.

Now what about the pros?
Well, first of all, I mentioned above that the rise of electronic publishing has changed the game.  True, most authors at least want the prestige that goes with a major publishing house taking their book under their wing.  Also, they would very much like the promotion, marketing, cover artists, and possibility of New York Times bestsellerdom that goes with it.

However, that also means a nice-sized portion of the sales of your book go right back to the publisher in return for all their faith and hard work.

Translation? Well, surprise, you might not get rich. (In fact it would be best for you not to consider yourself in the same league of luck as J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown anytime soon.)

You just can't win, can you?
  Now, in self-publishing all proceeds from the sale of your book go to you and no one else.  This has led to some very wild, recent success stories out there on the web.  Some authors contend they are making more money self-publishing than they ever did with an honest real publishing company.  Often, this is the case when an author has a few books that never sold "collecting dust" and they just say, "Oh, the heck with it.  Let's self-publish this unpublishable piece of fiction.  What can I possibly lose?"

And the answer is, absolutely nothing.  Geez, at least someone's going to read it.

Pro Number Two: You see, the official publishing industry is having a bit of a problem right now (and I talked about it in the last two posts of this series).  Suffice to say, the more they stagnate, the more even official authors must publish the new and the innovative as a cheap e-book on Amazon.

Another pro to self-publishing is that it's effectively an option for the depressed, and those who have lost faith in the book industry in general.

So self-publish, don't self-publish?

Here's my personal take on the matter, and feel free to argue if you don't find it logical:

My advice is to go the traditional publishing route and search for a literary agent.  Can't find an agent for your novel?  No problem--look for a smaller publishing house that doesn't need agented submissions.  Can't interest them either?  Well, NOW feel free to self-publish, and in the meantime write another book that will hopefuly propel you to author stardom. 

Because it always makes sense to work from the top down.  Honest.

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