Oh my gosh, y’all….sincerest apologies. This post is 3 weeks late. Shameful! Shameful! If you don’t already know, I’m an elementary school teacher and it’s the beginning of school. Need I say more? In the span of a week my daily schedule went from gleefully typing out pages of my novel while nursing a steaming cup of coffee and bearing a relaxed, carefree smile on my face, to waking up before the butt-crack of dawn to copy, cut, laminate, plan, print, staple, staple, staple, copy, print again because I ran out of ink the first time, laminate, cut, ettttc. My summer vacay was amazing while it lasted, but it is definitely over! I envy all of you writers out there that get to write all day!
So in my last post I brought up the issue of self-publishing and explored the viewpoint of being labeled as a ‘sellout’ if an author choses to walk down that twisty, unpaved road. This post is devoted to the other side:
Self Publishing = Prudent
Times are-a-changing, people. To the dismay of all book-loving people, Borders will officially close all of its doors by the end of this month. Barnes and Noble is treading water, but barely, and I have a big inkling that the Nook is the only reason they are staying afloat. Frankly, it’s a sad time for paperbacks and hardbacks everywhere. Having a four year old I often find myself wondering what the world will resemble when he is my age. Can I imagine a world without dog-eared pages, worn out spines, and shelves upon shelves of colorful covers? Honestly, I don’t really want to. But regardless of my own opinion, things are changing, which makes it the best time to self-publish your book.
Before I get into the specifics, I must make this disclaimer: If you are even remotely thinking about self-publishing, please, for the love of Pete and his friend Paul, do your research. Understand that you will be entering dangerous territory with a lot of fine print, and if you don’t know what you are doing it could be absolutely detrimental to your career, your book, or your reputation as an author. Be prepared to spend a lot of money. Self publishing the right way is hella expensive. Even if you do every aspect of it yourself, you need to set aside at the very least a thousand smackeroos to get the job done in a manner that is up to par with its traditional publishing peers. We’re talking copyeditors, cover designers, formatting for different ereaders…and that doesn’t even include publicity after your book is finally complete. Self-pub takes a ridiculous amount of dedication, so if you aren’t in it for the long haul, forget it.
Did I scare you? WAIT! Keep reading!
So why am I personally considering self-publishing as an option?
*Last year Amazon sold more electronic book copies than paperbacks. Over the past three years alone ebooks of all kinds have skyrocketed in sales, while traditional books have been on the gradual slope to extinction. This shift is happening so fast, in fact, that many literary agents are desperately trying to keep up by attempting to format for ebooks on the side, even though they don’t know enough about the process themselves. So there has truly never been a better time to self-publish since the bulk of self-published authors produce ebooks.
*You get to keep the rights to your book. When your book gets sold through an agent to a publishing house, they buy the rights to your book which means they ultimately make the decisions regarding your book’s future. It also means you receive royalties, whereas with self-publishing you keep 100% of all revenues from your book. However, because it took so much money to publish in the first place, you may not even break even, depending on how well it sells. You also get to set the price for your book.
*The fact is literary agents are hurting at the moment, and when they hurt, they don’t accept many books. They don’t accept many to begin with, so when someone says “if your book is truly a great book, it will be discovered,” that almost resonates the same with me as “You can do anything you put your mind to.” Sorry, but I really put my mind to physics, but you don’t see me working for NASA. Don’t mean to sound all Debbie-Downer, but let’s be realistic. You might be able to do it, but the point is, can you do it well.
How many great books out there were rejected by multiple agents? Lots. Why is this? If it’s a “great book” shouldn’t it be looked at as such by most agents? Nope. That’s because there are tons of factors that go into the decision to make an offer on a book, and most of them have to do with money. This is what annoys me: I went to a writer’s conference in NYC at the beginning of the year and sat through many sessions with editors and agents. In every single one they explained what they thought would be the upcoming trends in YA. “I see lots of dystopian!” said one. “More realistic fiction!” said another. “Vamps are phasing out, but steampunk is totally in!” But then you turn around and read blogs where they practically shout out “Don’t write to trends!!!” So why the heck tell a bunch of writers what you think the trends will be?? Because it’s what is selling to the publishing houses, and ultimately, they control the market. Of course you shouldn’t write to the trends…you should write what you want to write. Always. Just know that it might mean your book is not very marketable at the moment. But with self-pub, it doesn’t matter what they think.
What’s the worst that could happen? (Again, if done the right way)
You spend a lot of your own money to actually get a finished copy of the book you created. People loathe it. They all hate it. They forget about it the next day and you move on.
What’s the best that could happen?
You get a copy of the book you created. People love it. People ask you for more. Things take off from there.
What’s probably going to happen?
You spend lots of time and money. You get a copy of the book you created. Some people read it. Some love it, some don’t like it, some don’t give a rat’s rear end and will forget your book by morning.
Did you see those common denominators there? Aren’t these the same things that will probably happen if you publish traditionally? The main difference is how many people actually read your book; you’ll get the same reactions regardless.
The truth is there are books out there that I have closed after reading and thought, How in the heck did this even published? This stigma of traditionally published books being the only publishABLE books, is ridiculous. Now, do I believe some self-published books could’ve been better and more polished if they had had a professional editor and agent there to help them? Absolutely. I’ve read a popular self-published author’s work and was honestly flabbergasted how popular it was because I thought it wasn’t well written at all. It all comes down to the fact that we never know what readers are going to find interesting and intriguing. We write stories and hope they resonate with someone.
I encourage anyone trying to publish a book–through traditional publishing or self-pub–to have plenty of feedback through two avenues: a crit group made up of other writers; and readers of the genre you are writing that are not writers (not just your mom, either). It is so helpful to have views from both sides, and before you make a jump into this kind of decision you must examine if your story is living up to its full potential.
You can find more great info on Self-Pub here.