Reasons to Self-Publish – Part IV

get writing

This is the last installment of my Reasons to Self-Publish series.This series is based on a comment left on our blog that laid out all the reasons to self-publish, with which I heartily disagreed. There are good reasons to consider self-publishing one’s book, but the points brought up in this series aren’t a part of that discussion, and I want to explain why.

Self-publishing offers me control of all my content, cover, rights, and better royalties. In addition, I can offer it sooner than the several years many books take to get into print.

This is true. But do you really want that responsibility? There are gazillions of poorly done self-pubbed books because the authors didn’t know what they were doing. If you’re going to compete against publishers who do this for a living, then you won’t get away with inferior cover art, writing, editing, or no promotion/marketing plan.

Any author who has visions of sales MUST first realize they are a business person, and that means that you want it right – not fast. You may get the book out to market sooner, but if it’s an inferior product, your better royalties aren’t going to amount to the price of a Big Mac.

And cover art? Yes, you do have control over this, but oh dearie me, this is slicey dicey stuff that shouldn’t be left in the fingers of the neophyte. I don’t care what anyone tries to tell you, but everyone – and I mean everyone – judges a book by its cover. Sure, liking or disliking a cover is subjective, but I think everyone agrees that poorly done clip art is like bug spray. Do yourself a favor and hire a good cover artist who can capture the essence of your book.

The days are mostly gone for the writer who wants to sit on a desert island, writing their tomes while sucking down pineapple drinks laced with rum. Writing is a business, which means that you have to be conversant in the entire process – from writing, to production, to distribution, to market and promotion, to sales. If you don’t know, then how will you know when someone is doing a good or crappy job?

Yes, a book can get out to market sooner if you self-publish, but the reason it takes time for a commercial press to put out a book is because of the time they spend on production and promotion. Review copies need to go out to reviewers and media four months before the book comes out. Catalogs need to be in sales people’s hands six months before a book comes out. This is done to make the movers and shakers aware of your book before it ever comes out. Building a ground swell takes time.

Getting it out fast doesn’t equal sales. Working smart equals sales.

The Cinderella Story

I’d be remiss if I failed to talk about the newest Big Deal self publisher, Hugh Howey and his his book Wool. The Wall Street Journal has a wonderful article covering this new millionaire self-publisher. I’m thrilled for him because he did it on his terms and hit the big time. When stories like this come out, I know this will cement the resolve of many, many writers out there to self-pub their works.

After all, where else can you put out a book and sit back to watch the $$ roll in? But like everything else in life, this is the exception, not the rule. It has to do with being the right story at the right time, in the right circumstances. And since it’s the exception, I recommend keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground, nose to the grindstone, and taking control of your destiny – which begins by understanding the industry, knowing how to write, knowing your competition, and treating your writing like a business. And never, never, never blame anyone else for your lack of success.

As I’ve said before, there are lots of reasons to self-publish, but it’s a decision based on reality, and the author does a huge amount of planning in order to capitalize on their hard work and research. If you’re in it to win it, then assume the position and go get ’em.

11 Responses to Reasons to Self-Publish – Part IV

  1. Dan Holloway says:

    Remembering who is the exception and who is the rule is vital.
    I think I’d qualify what you say about getting to market quickly in one area, for the “event-dependent” book, where the effect of having a book come out to coincide with an anniversay or event will override any other considerations (last year was a great example with the Titanic anniversary, 2019 will see the Moon Landing anniversary and so on). Now, of course, most authors writing a good book on such subjects will have their plan in mind and their research in the bag in time to get the proposal to a publisher in time for the publisher to get it out, but for an author only interested in sales then the ability to bandwagon-ride that self-publishing gives you is a big plus (I’m not sure such autyhors come out of this looking particularly fine, and I’m fairly certain most books produced like this won’t exactly benefit the writer’s long-term chances of a career, but I guess that doesn’t matter for many).

    Yes, Hugh Howey’s success is lovely for us other self-publishers, but what I yearn for is the day when we’re not seeing financial successes splash the headlines but when a self-published book that sold pretty much no copies and was self-published because its initial sales would be next to nothing is plucked from the pile and lauded for its quality and bravery and innovation – for me, that’s the true prize of self-publishing, and every headline made by an exception with a big paycheque makes it seem more distant.

  2. I yearn for is the day when … a self-published book that sold pretty much no copies and was self-published because its initial sales would be next to nothing is plucked from the pile and lauded for its quality and bravery and innovation

    Dan, I appreciate what you’re saying, but this is illogical. A book that has few sales is a book that hasn’t gathered any interest, so how could it be plucked from its own anonymity and lauded as the Next Big Book? Only time I’ve seen that happen is when some Big Personality happened to read it and began a verbal campaign on its behalf.

    That is a huge Cinderella story, and I don’t see how this could ever become the norm.

  3. Dan Holloway says:

    Oh, absolutely not saying lauded as the Next Big Book, but lauded in terms of critical reception and/or prize recognition. A situation where a reviewer says “this is a book no publisher would touch, and our culture is the better for it having been put out there.” Obviously, that would never be a norm, but I like to hold to the Pollyannaish dream that self-publishing is where the books that will push artistic boundaries are most likely to be found. As I said, I think that is less and less true. Self-publishing is becoming more homogenous and conservative than the mainstream in many ways, and the truly exciting works are coming through tiny presses who are finding ways to make eke out a living by connecting very fully with often small niche audiences – as well as genuinely expanding audiences previously perceived to be small (as Melville House are doing with novellas, and several presses with “in translation” books). I’ve even reached the stage where I’ll be submitting my next book to small presses in the UK.

  4. Interesting series. Thanks. The publishing industry has certainly taken a crooked path. My memories of pubs as added-value partners are nothing more than artifacts these days. But, as you mentioned throughout, there are options, although difficult. Anyway, nice series.

  5. ericjbaker says:

    I always appreciate your insights on this subject and others publishing-related. If I ever self-publish it will be because I worked my butt off on something and don’t want it to be for nothing. I wouldn’t expect to make money or become an overnight sensation, but I’d like to give people the option to read something I wrote. At least it won’t feel like a total waste of time, since I’m probably going to write anyway.

  6. tbrosz says:

    For every Cinderella carried off in the arms of the Prince, there are one heck of a lot of stepsisters left behind.

  7. Tom, you’re a goof. But you knew that, didn’t you?

    Eric, you’re signing my song. All I hope for is that authors go into this nutty business with their eyes wide open so they’re happy with their choices, instead of looking for a nice big truck in which to fling themselves under.

  8. Susan Torbitt says:

    After reading your blog posts on self publishing I’m left wondering, who IS the best companies to work with to get help with self-publishing? I was leaning towards using Abbott Press via WD, but now I’m wondering. Any advice?

  9. Susan, if you’re self-publishing, then you are the company. If you’re talking about paying someone to publish your book, that’s vanity publishing, which carries its own set of troubles. The main problem is that you pay a lot of money up front to someone who will do all the production of your book…cover art, editing, printing. The quality is normally pretty horrible because it’s a game of numbers, which means they will put the least amount of quality into production because it costs money, which will take away from their bottom line.

    After you have a product, you’re on your own in terms of distribution, promotion, and marketing. Your book will never be seen as anything other than a vanity published book. I would NEVER recommend vanity publishing. Ever.

    Conversely, authors who learn the ropes about DIY can, and have, turned out some amazing books. They have total control over every aspect of their book, which means that they have a full time endeavor – if they want to do it right. Publishing is not for the weak of heart.

  10. Patti Hall says:

    I’ve enjoyed your blog so far. I have to ask about the self pub question that is left hanging after this series: what are the good reasons to self publish?
    Thank you,

  11. Patti, the reasons for self publishing is if you feel you can do a better job of selling than a mainstream publisher. That means you’ve done the research and have a solid marketing plan that will expand your platform. You understand and have identified your core readership, and you know how to market to them. Lastly, you have the time to dedicate to being a one-person sales person. I’ve seen some success stories, but in every case, those authors treated their journey as a business.

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