We’re talking about the counter publishing option to traditional publishing – self-publishing. Now, contrary to popular belief, self-publishing isn’t a new phenomenon and has been around for quite a long time.
Walt Whitman is a famous example of a self-publisher. His poetry collection, Leaves of Grass, was not “publishable” material for the time period – it was very sexually explicit and this wasn’t a good thing in the 1800’s – so he went and published it himself. He thought his collection of poetry was wonderful and he made sure he could sell it to world – even if he had to do it himself.
Louise Hay is another, more modern example. She tried for years to get her, now famous, You Can Heal Your Life, to get picked up by a publishing house. Unfortunately, the publishers at the time did not think this type of book would sell and was a bit too out there. So, she went and started her own publishing house and sold her book that way. We now have Hay House Publishers because of her work and vision.
Self-publishing isn’t going to be easy and it’s going to take a lot of work. So, to give you a heads up about self-publishing, here is the process and those pros and cons.
- Do your research into what is going to work best for you publishing wise!
- Have something complete, edited and ready to go.
- Have somewhere to publish it. This can be a blog, Amazon or a self-publishing publishing house (I know this sounds super contradictory, but bear with me).
- Publish with them.
- Market your work like crazy.
- Reap in the accolades and money.
That sounds simple enough huh? Well in theory it is. It’s going to be quicker then traditional publishing, but you have to do all the work. You’ve got to work your butt off to get any bookstores to pick your work up. You have to do all the editing, marketing, graphic design, formatting, etc. yourself. You don’t have that big team helping you. Honestly, if you want a good idea on what’s involved in self-publishing then reach out to self-published author’s on their websites or here on WordPress.
Your Publishing Options
There are different avenues in which you can publish your work when you self publish.
- Hybrid publishers. The best description for these guys is that they combine elements of traditional publishing with self-publishing. Take a look at Jane Friedman’s article about hybrid publishers. She does a great job explaining what they are and the different types of hybrid publishers are out there.
- Hire a service to do the work for you. Service packages and publishing arrangements tremendously vary, but the best services charge an upfront fee, take absolutely no rights to your work, and pass on 100% net sales to the author. They make money on charging authors for the services provided (editorial, design, marketing, and so on), not on copies sold.
If you want to use author service companies, then please check the following resources:
- Preditors and Editors – a watchdog site for authors with listings of which publishers are recommended and which are scams
- Writer Beware – Lots more about scams against authors and companies to watch out for
- Choosing a self-publishing service – by the Alliance of Independent Authors, available on all online bookstores. Written by authors and for authors so you get unbiased advice. Also check out the Self Publishing Advice blog which includes watchdog articles.
- DIY. This is completely on your own. You hire people to do things when you need them. You work directly with retailers and distributors to get your product out there.
Jane Friedman has another fabulous article on all these different ways of self-publishing and even a downloadable chart for our information. If you need any help at any time with finding editors, or graphic designers, you name it. Check out your writer’s guilds — there’s one in every province here in Canada. Join in writer’s groups or other writing establishments. There are online supports as well, such as A Writer’s Path Writers’ Club.
The Pros and Cons
Here are the pros:
- Total control. You’re in charge of everything. You don’t give up your rights or your message. You get to decide what happens every step of the way to your story being published.
- Faster publishing time. You get to publish when you want and in whatever format that you choose. Don’t forget to do your editing though! This also means that you can start making money quicker as well.
- Higher royalties. You’re going to be making the bulk of money from your sales. There will be a bit cut off the selling price for your distributor and your retailer. However, this is going to make you rich over night. It is going to take time and effort in your marketing to make sure people are buying your book. Without this then your book isn’t going to do very well.
- You can sell world wide because you still have the rights to do so. You don’t have to publish in certain countries where your traditional publisher knows they will do well. English is a universally accepted language and that means you can publish your book in a lot of different areas.
- You can use self-publishing to land a traditional publisher. It gets you a foot in the door. It shows that you can market your book and that you already have a following of readers – which appeals to those publishing houses. Plus it can land you some better deals than it would if you were looking to get published for the first time. E.L. James and Andy Weir did this and they’re now living it up in the spotlight.
Here are the cons:
- You do it all by yourself. You’re in charge of what happens to your story. You have to put in the time or effort or need to hire the right people to help you. You have to do the publishing and you have to define what success looks like for you. Then you get to go and make that happen. So you need to decided if you like the creative and the business side of things.
- There’s no prestige, kudos or acknowledgement from the industry. The stigma of self-publishing is going down, but if what other people think is going to bother you into an ulcer then this might not be for you.
- Most literary prizes don’t accept self-published books. Plus literary critics won’t read these books. This really sucks. There are a lot of great writers out there that aren’t going to be recognized for their brilliance and they’ll most likely be dead when they get that kudos.
- It’s difficult to get print distribution in bookstores. Traditional publishers have this down to a science. It’s a bit harder for you to independently do this – it’s not impossible though. Just politely harass the store until they give you the time to pitch your book. Trust me I know they like to dodge calls from independent authors.
- You’re going to need a budget. If you want help from an editor, graphic designer or your book formatted, then you’re going to need to hire someone to do the work for you. This is obviously going to cost money. Especially if you’re intending to make a living from this, then yes, you need to invest money in creating intellectual property assets.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope this was helpful. Next week on Tuesday we will be talking about Literary Agents, so tune in for that.
Until next week!