Self-Publishing: Is It Right For Me?

By Bob McCrillis

You’ve finished your novel. People you trust have read the draft and enjoyed it. Now what? I’m assuming you would like to have readers other than friends and relatives.

Setting aside the options of running down to the local copy shop, you have two possible choices. Traditional publishing or self-publishing – now called indie publishing.

Traditional publishing offers the resources to deliver a best-seller to the market. Its principal drawback — and it’s a big one — is the fine screen your book will have to get through. You have to make two tough sales, the first to an agent, then to the publisher. A secondary obstacle is the slow pace of the industry. You should plan in years.

Oh, and if your book doesn’t sell particularly well in its first month on the market, it’s dead. The publisher will sell what he’s produced, then take it out of print. This is like movies where the film has to have a gazillion-dollar first weekend or it’s routed off to video.

If traditional publishing provides very little control, indie publishing provides total control. You decide when to end the rewriting process, what the book will look like, the cover art, even the price. Using a platform like CreateSpace, a manuscript can be turned into a book in a matter of hours. And that’s assuming you do it yourself. There are also plenty of people who’ll help you through the process or do it for you.

Total control, of course, means you do all the work. You make all the decisions from the cover design to the blurb on the back to the interior paper. When you’re all done and your baby is up on Amazon, you wait, and wait, and wait some more. No one buys it because no one knows it exists. Trust me when I say that the 634,417th best-seller on Amazon’s list doesn’t get found…even by mistake.

On either track, the author must promote the book. The difference is that the traditional publisher already knows what he needs to do and how to do it. If you’ve become your own publisher, promotion is your job. This includes figuring out how to promote it.

Indie publishing can be a trap. It looks like you’re doing something but you’re not. With no publisher to push you, all the pain-in-the-butt promotional events don’t get done. You never quite get around to keeping that blog up. You go on to writing your next book, leaving your first- born to fend for herself.

I’ve been making up and telling stories (my parents called them lies) since I was old enough to talk. Writing them down in a formal structure is fun and I’ll certainly continue. But the desire to make a little money from my work also influenced my decision to go traditional. I doubt that I can get there with self-published work.

This is not because I don’t want to do the promotion, or build a website, or any of the technical stuff.  I based my decision on a casual comment from a friend. “Oh, I’d never buy a self-published book – most of them are worthless. I only have so much time to read, why would I take a chance on an unknown?”

That’s the key. A book published traditionally carries an implied seal of quality. The buyer knows that, while the book may not be very good, it won’t be totally awful. The industry has already weeded out the truly bad material so it’s a safe buy. To sell books, I need that seal of quality.

The internet has many stories about authors who are making six-figure incomes self-publishing. How do they do it? One guy turns out a book every six weeks and employs two full-time editors to rewrite his drafts. Too much like working on the line at Ford for me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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3 thoughts on “Self-Publishing: Is It Right For Me?

  1. There’s now a third option called collaborative or hybrid. Shewrites is a well regarded example. You pay them to design and promote. That said, I too prefer traditional. I want the validation. And you don’t need an agent if you go the small press route.

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  2. Have you had any success with the collaborative model? I realize that 1,000 copies for a publisher is a disaster but for an indie publisher it could be a hit.

    Secondly, talk to me about small presses. They look like a really comfortable place to me but seem awfully resource constrained. Can’t decide if they’re the best of both worlds or the worst.

    Someone out there give me a couple of success stories, please.

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    1. I don’t have any experience with collaborative presses, but I know a few women writers who have gone with SheWrites. No idea how many books they sell, and most writers don’t let that kind of info out to just anyone, in my limited experience. My memoir was published by a VERY small press (one woman), Pearlsong, 10 years ago. She still tweets about my book and puts it up on BookBuzzr and other sites that are free or low cost. If I have an event coming up, all I have to do is ask and she designs me a pdf file of a poster, bookmarks, whatever I want. No cost to me, never paid her a penny and she sends me royalty checks every six months. That said in 10 years I have sold almost 500 books. I understand that’s not too bad. If I hustled more, i would probably sell more but I’m on to other projects now.

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