I want to take a little time to discuss self-publishing. It is an important topic to me because that’s what I’m doing right now. It is also something that I want to help support others in doing. Self-publishing is extremely time consuming. It is stressful. It can be expensive. It is full of all kinds of challenges and pit-falls. It is a place that is full of some of the worst financial predators.
It is also a wonderful opportunity. Self-publishing gives an author total control over their work. You decide how you want your work distributed. You decide how much you want to sell it for. You retain all of your rights to your work, meaning that you control what can be done with the idea. You don’t hand over those rights to anyone else. Does someone like the idea and want to create a new medium for it? You have the final decision. There is no one to tell you the kind of content that needs to be in the book. No one to tell you that such-and-such character should be stronger or have more time in the book. It is just you deciding the fate of your stories.
All of this assumes you choose a reputable site to publish, of course. Like I said, there are a lot of predators out there. You have to do research. You have to learn what is acceptable to demand of an author and what is not. You have to decide what is a reasonable price to pay for services. You have to decide what services you need someone else to do and what services you can do yourself. Hiring an editor is expensive. Sure, you can get a general overview edit for around $200 or so. And that kind of edit is good if you need a high-level review of the book, one that looks for big problems and evaluates the work as a whole. If you need the nitty-gritty, the kind of edit that actually takes the work piece by piece to work out those problems and fix them…well depending on the size of your book that can cost a couple of thousand. For most of us self-publishing, we’ll be lucky if we make that back on the book.
Once you make the commitment to self-publish (and make no mistake…it is a commitment), you have to know what you’re in for. There is no publishing house to handle your promotion. There is no agent to coordinate interviews or help you get reviews. Your book will not instantly show up in bookstores. You are the voice of your book. You have to hit the social networks and get the word out. You have to hit your local bookstore to tell them about the new book by the local author. You have to go over distribution options to decide if you want to pay to have the book listed (for even mom and pop bookstores usually a requirement for them to order your book if they decide to stock it) with distributors. Do you have enough titles under your belt to create a vanity press and work directly with a distributor or do you work with a company like Createspace and pay them to have your book listed with distributors?
If it seems like I’m all over the place here, welcome to my world. I try to keep it organized and I still feel like I’m spinning in my head. But I love it. I love that my work is out there. I don’t just say anymore “Oh, I’m a writer. One day, my book will be written and maybe it’ll be published.” I say “Hey! My book is out. You should buy it!” And other people, people I don’t know and will probably never meet, will get to read it. Not just family and friends. Complete strangers get to see the work that my mind, heart, and soul helped put together. It is exciting and intimidating and what I’ve dreamed about since I was in middle school.
But I digress.
Back to the topic at hand: self-publishing. There is one more decision you’ll have to make, after you decide what company to publish through, what price, what kind of editing you’ll do yourself and what you’ll pay for, how you’ll get cover art, how to handle distribution options, what format to publish, etc. You see, if your book is successful, if a lot of people read it and a lot of people like it, it will get attention. And that means you’ll get attention. And that attention may be something you most likely don’t have yet: an Agent and perhaps a publishing house. And you’ll have to decide what to do next. Do you hand everything over? Do you try to blend the formal and self-publishing? And that, I have nothing to say on because I’m still hoping that happens.
You see to me, it isn’t either or. I’m not self-publishing because I got rejections. I decided I was going to self-publish before I sent out my first query. There are ways to combine formal and self-publishing. Even the major publishers are looking at the ways to do that.
Welcome to the evolution of publishing. Maybe this is part of the singularity.
I’ll talk more about self-publishing soon, so join me again. Next time I’ll be talking about the stigma of self-publishing and a new paradigm to view it through.