Thursday, January 19, 2012

Self-Publishing: The way to go?

The last few weeks I've been seriously considering self-publishing as the route to go for my work. The idea has always kind of hung around in the background, but the companies people recommended to me always seemed so...sketchy. I had this idea that I would throw out wads of cash to get 40 copies of a book that no one would ever get the chance to read. That view of things seems to have changed in the last few months.

Is it the ebooks that altered things? Because now an author isn't limited to a minimal bundle of copies to give to grandma and Aunt Mae in Calgary - now they're able to offer a wide-spread distribution in some form?

Is it because there are so many talented, capable and business-savvy writers have gone this route, that the stigma seems to have eased, creating a wider berth between self-publishing and vanity press?

I'm not really sure of the reason, but I know that a number of people I respect as authors and whose work I love have chosen the option of self-publishing and they seem more than satisfied with the results. I'm sitting back over the next couple of weeks to weigh the pros and cons, research my options, but considering my greatest reader base here (I'm thinking. Could be wrong. Apologies to those who aren't, if I am!) are the writerly/readerly sort, I'd really love to hear your thoughts. Recommendations? Suggestions? Warnings? I'm open to them all.


  1. I may be out of fashion with this opinion but I would say aim high - midlist trad pubs aren't going to do that well compared to bestsellers and sometimes even self-pubs, but if you really believe in your book, and believe it will do well, start with trad. If nobody wants it then you can do the self-pub thing. I just see it as an admission of mediocrity to start with self-pub i.e. nobody will want this so I'll flog it cheap.

    1. Fran, I couldn't disagree with your opinion more on it being an admission of mediocrity; certainly not for everyone who decides to self publish, perhaps some, but not all. My own work I've chosen to self pub is because I wanted to control it from front to back. It has nothing to do with me not thinking it's not good enough.

    2. There are reasons why people SP and reasons why they don't. I respect your decision, perhaps I'm lazy because all I want to do is write, I don't want to weigh myself down with more hats.

      The idea of acceptance is important, and it's not an egotistical thing, it's an issue of quality. Even a small press is a step above SP because at least one other person has made a decision about what goes out, and has taken charge of ensuring the standards are as high as possible (one would hope). With SP one person is judge, jury and executioner, I don't believe a writer is the best person to be in charge of every stage of their book, that is when egotism can cause trouble.

      And I don't want to cause offence with my comment, it's just I have the impression that the majority of people (you not included Colin) SP when they can't get anyone else to buy it; get all their friends and family to write 5* reviews on amazon and then spam you to buy it for 99p. If a book costs that much then I think that's how much it's worth.

      Hand on heart I can honestly say I have yet to read a SP book that is as good as, let alone better than, a trad pub one.

  2. Hi Krista,

    The main thing to remember, is that it's not an all or nothing proposition. You can self publish something, and pursue traditional publishing with something else.

    If you're curious about self publishing, I'd suggest maybe starting with a novellette or a novella, or maybe even a collection of short stories. Something that is relatively quick and easy to produce, but also something that you could build on, or use as a stepping stone to a novel down the line.

    This way, if you try it, and it's not right for you, then you've not wasted all that time and effort.

    I'm a big fan of self publishing and plan to spend most of this year putting work up. However, I also have projects that I've earmarked for the traditional way. I'm a firm believer that authors should do both. There's no risk in self publishing something these days, and you could build an audience/platform in which to help sway the decision of a publisher for a different project.

    At the end of the day, it comes down to what you want to do. Don't let anyone sway you one way or the other. There is no right way any more, just multiple options.

    Have fun with it and see how you feel :)

  3. Argh! Darn thing ate my original comment. Okay, will try to reconstruct.

    First, excellent topic! It's one I've been tossing around for a while. I've always had this dream of seeing my book in print, from an established publishing house, sitting on a library shelf. So, for the fantasy series I'm working on, that is the route I'm going to try.

    I know many excellent authors who self pub, either have since the beginning, or have done both traditional and self. I have to admit, I have a bias against it that I'm working at getting over. Some part of me still sees it as "less than". Which is wrong, I know. I read excellent self-pubbed works all the time. There is probably just as much crap self-pubbed as there is pushed through tradtional houses. And I probably will try self-pubbing something, control freak that I am. I'm thinking a novella, or getting together an anthology of some sort, and testing the waters.

    In the end, I agree with Colin. You have to do what is right for you, and what fills your needs, and see where it takes you.

  4. Hi Krista, I'm with Colin on this one. With print on demand there's no need to pay anything upfront, and you can buy in editors or illustrators if you need to and funds allow.

    There's also several instances of traditional publishers spotting ebooks and offering traditional deals when the MS's have a proven track record.

  5. I have been published by Simon & Schuster, foreign publishers, small presses, and self-published. I am an advocate for self-publishing.

    I am now working with a top-flight New York literary agent who has stopped even submitting manuscripts to American publishers because she has had so many truly excellent books rejected. Instead she now focuses on finding quality self-published books, selling them to foreign publishers, and negotiating movie rights for them.

    She told me that the traditional American publishing industry is struggling, while the foreign publishing industry is thriving. Could this be because the American publishers are unwilling to think outside the box?

    There are excellent traditionally-published books and there are excellent self-published books. There are dreadful traditionally-published books and there are dreadful self-published books.

    There are superstar traditionally-published authors and there are superstar self-published authors.

    My advice after 20 years in this industry is to write the best book possible and put it out there, build your platform, and keep publishing books and keep marketing them. In the end it's the reader who will decide your success.