Thursday, January 2, 2014

To self publish, or not to self publish.

I don't know much about self publishing. It looks great on paper, for two main reasons: 

1. Control. 

2. Royalties. 

And yet, it's not something that I would be confident doing. Not yet, at least. Because there are advantages to traditional publication that I'm not ready to let go of yet. 

1. Editing. Rather than chasing down my own editor and worrying about paying him/her, this is something that the publisher takes care of for me. 

2. Cover art. It might not seem like a lot to those people out there who know how to make covers, but let's just say I've played around with this and... just no. You know that cover you see on Amazon that looks like it was made in thirty seconds in Word? Yeah, that one looks professional next to my efforts. 

3. Marketing. Marketing is weird and I hate it. Some authors complain that publishers don't put much effort into marketing. And they probably don't. But they put more effort into it than me. Look, I could go tweeting and blogging until I'm blue in the face, but you know what actually sells most books? That email from the publisher announcing this week's releases. 

I may self publish in the future. Most writers I speak to are considering a combination of both self publishing and traditional publishing. And that's cool. We're talking romance, where there's a massive market, but also a fast turnover in books. Got a bestseller on Amazon? Blink and you'll miss it. You're new at this game until you've got at least ten books behind you.

Yes, if you self publish you are in control. This means in control of everything, including all that pesky damn formatting that has to be exactly right. This means that you get to pick your own cover, or, rather, you get to track down a cover artist yourself, and sign your own contract with them. The same goes for your editor. And of course you have to pay these people before your book is even earning you any money at all. 

Which brings me to the royalties. Yes, it looks great when you realise that there's no publisher taking most of the money for this book. But from the people I've spoken to who have self-published, you earn every extra damn cent with blood, sweat and tears. And guess what? There are hundreds of self published books put on Amazon every day. Is yours going to stand out? It may be brilliant. It may be the best book ever written in the history of the universe. But will anyone find it? You need to make sure they will, because remember you've already spent money on an editor and a cover artist and that person who did the formatting. 

For every Overnight Millionaire story about a self published author, there are hundreds of others that don't make the headlines. They probably worked just as hard. Their stories are probably just as good. But somehow, things didn't turn out the same. 

I don't want to rain on any parade's here. Self publishing might be perfect for you. Just don't mistake it as an easier option to traditional publishing. 


  1. I self-pubbed a few short stories,not because I thought they'd sell well but because I wanted to go through the process to see how difficult it was (but I didn't want to use up one of my longer projects in the process). Learned some interesting things. Worth doing to see for yourself the pros and cons.

    Moody Writing

    1. I agree that it's worth doing, and a huge learning curve. I've been looking into it myself.

  2. No, I certainly don't think it's the easier option, although it probably isn't more difficult than traditional publishing. It really depends on what you want for you and your book, and in both cases you have to work hard to get there.

    1. I think some people treat self publishing as the easy option, like all you need to do it hit "publish" on Kindle Direct. Of course, if you want to do it properly it takes a lot more work than that! :)

  3. Lawrence Block just self-published, but he's got fifty books behind him, and a loyal following.

    And glad you know not to make your own cover. You definitely want a pro for that. But I'd be glad to pose for whoever you hire to make it. :-)

    1. With a loyal following, I'd say go for self publishing! Also, you might regret offering to by my cover model. Guys, it's here in the internet now. Steve offered. You all saw.

    2. I'm totally willing to be a model for your novels. I mean, I just have to stand there and flex my Photoshopped abs, right?

      And for a great resource on self-publishing, check out Susan Kay Quinn's site, where she posts all the chapters from her Indie Author Guide.

  4. 100% with you, Jen. Self-pub might be the optimal path for many people, but I'm still after the security (not financial, mind you; I do know that much) of traditional publishing. Even when people warn you that nowadays even the big publishing houses demand that authors do their bit in terms of marketing, I still think for a newbie like me it's worth it to pay the price of seeing how the big guns do things.



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