Once the decision to publish has been made, the next step opens with a bunch of questions. Who will publish my book? Should I query agents, or go directly to publishers? Which ones would be best for my book?
Or, there is the question that branches to a whole new set of questions: Should I self-publish? Could I self-publish?
My answer to those questions, finally, was yes. I decided to self-publish the entire This Artists’ Life series for a number of reasons:
I can. In addition to being a writer, I’m also an editor with a very particular eye, so I am armed with the skills needed to produce a great product. With access to the internet, I have been able to research the process on my own and to find the tools I need to publish the book I want.
I get total control. When it comes down to it, I’m a control-freak about my own work. Although I value input from others, no one has ever picked apart my work more meticulously than I, and self-publishing allows me to have final say on any changes.
It allows me to get my foot in the publishing door. As I mentioned in the first article of this series, I don’t think that this an appropriate project for traditional publishing. Self-publishing and self-marketing will allow me to use this debut series to grow a platform to present to agents or publishers with future queries.
It’s cheaper. Depending on the methods you use, self-publishing can allow you to keep a greater portion of sales than traditional publishing. By publishing myself, I don’t have to sacrifice a cut of sales to an agent or a publisher or a marketing team.
It’s faster. Author Torre DeRoche points out that even once an agent accepts a project, there still may be a “long, uncertain road” to landing a publisher and making a deal. I have been working on the stories that make up the TAL series for a year and a half now, and I am eager to take the next step with them. The process of querying an agent and waiting for her to land a publishing deal could take months or years more. For this project, I am not willing to wait.
Of course, there are drawbacks to self-publishing that I will need to address throughout this process:
I have to find my own market. A traditional publisher will usually invest money, time, and effort into marketing a book for the author. My publisher would have access to readers and retailers that I do not have. However, social media and other online outlets offer me a great opportunity to reach a wide audience myself with little or no monetary cost.
I am responsible for everything. Aside from marketing, a publisher could help with a number of the details of producing and selling a book: price, cover design, editing and revision, layout, launch date, copyright, permissions… all things that are daunting as I gather them into one list. Instead, the entire project rests on my shoulders. It’s a scary idea, but it also gives me fantastic experience in my field.
Self-published books can still carry a stigma. Many readers believe that a writer chooses self-publication because her book is rejected by publishers. While this may be the case for some, it isn’t for all. Technology and the market simply make self-publication the best option for some authors or projects. I know that I will be fighting this stigma, but I also know that I am producing a great piece of art. As DeRoche points out:
“…for too many writers, [self-publishing is] the Florida of publishing: the last resort before death. If you adopt that defeated attitude and you begin to believe your book isn’t worthy, you’ll create an unworthy book”
Of all of the concerns with self-publishing, this one scares me the most. I worry that TAL will be rejected by readers who believe it’s not worthy of “real” publication. I have stopped to question myself time and again, “Am I creating a quality product, or am I just pumping this out because it’s possible?”
I know that I am dedicated to producing a great series, and I will not let my readers down by treating this project as anything less than that.
What do you think of self-publishing? Are there any pros or cons that you would add to the lists?