Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

I was asked recently if I would write a blog about self-publishing and if I would ever use it.  Truth be told, I think this topic is covered to death in writing magazines and I can't really blame some people for self-publishing, but it's just not my style.

Traditional Publishing is my style because I feel as though rejections from traditional publishers means either "this manuscript needs work," or "this will not sell."  If I were to take 20 rejections on a manuscript and then turn around and self-publish it, it is likely not going to sell well.  I give a lot of credit to both publishing houses and agents.  The reason being is that this is their market.  They know what's going around and they see the trends.  By self-publishing you're putting a few things on the line.  \

First, you are risking that your book be lost in the large masses of ambiguous writers.  Second, there's a lot of marketing that you have to do as a traditionally published author...even more so as a self-published author.  If you don't have a publishing house or agent, trying to get any large book retailer to carry your book is a pain!  Also, you may maintain rights to your book, but if it's been published before by yourself it's going to be very hard to republish even if a publishing house likes it.  There are very few self-published books that were ever picked up by larger publishers, so if that's why you want to do it--don't.  It's not a good enough reason.

There are some good reasons to publish your own books, but none of them apply to me. 
1. If you want to establish yourself as an expert in some sort of business venture, the best way is to write, self publish and sell in tandem with your business.  A lot of self-help gurus do it this way as well as professional public speakers.
2. If you are more interested in having copies to send to family members or to finally have a copy of your manuscript that is published for yourself.
3. If you are certain you can devote the time and energy to promote your book ruthlessly both locally and abroad, and are capable of acquiring reviews by media, bookslots on retiail shelves and can sell outside your local community.
4. Finally, self publishing is great if you already have a following because you keep a higher percentage of your sales and you already have a readership.  Those readers will be looking out for further books and works from you and you would have no problem getting your readership in the know.

In my own opinion, rejection letters mean that self publishing your manuscript would either label you a poor writer or forecast poor sales.  If you don't have the patience to wait out the one publisher or agent that will see value in your book, then you wouldn't have the patience to sell your book and deal with all of the run-arounds the other route will deliver to you.  If however, you're a first time author and you just want to see your name published, then feel free.  There are many self-publishing presses that will print on demand, which may keep costs down. 

Hope this helped anyone considering vanity presses.  Truth be told, I've met a handful of people who self-published and their books were not as enjoyable as they could have been because they hadn't been professionally edited to industry standards and, while the story, hook or idea was great the writing sometimes left a little to be desired...

Be careful with self-publishing.


Murray Lundberg said...

Self publishing doesn't work for everyone, but I've done it twice and will be doing it again when I get a few months of clear time. My first one was a local mining history that I wrote, "Fractured Veins & Broken Dreams". I sold the 1,000 copies that I had printed, and copies on the collector market now commonly go for over $100. The other, "Mackenzie Breakup", was written by a woman I met who worked on the Canol Project, and although it's perhaps not very good writing, it's a wonderful story that needed to be told. I only printed 100 copies of it, and they sold quite quickly. There are as many reasons for self publishing as there are writers - it definitely does put some "poor writing" on the market, but there are also some fine stories being told as a result.

yukondude said...

Yes, I agree about so-called vanity presses. The self-published books I've skimmed certainly live up to that epithet. Most are travelogues of some form or another that could have been retitled "Places I've Been That You Haven't."

But you missed a single letter in my question when I asked about self-published Ebooks. In particular, I'm thinking of the much ballyhooed success of Amanda Hocking (http://goo.gl/Z2FJ8). Admitedly, she's the JK Rowling of self-publishing, but I've been wondering if she's opened a new door for Nth-tier writers (where N > 1). She seems to have finally settled on a publisher's offer, mainly to cut down on her own marketing overhead (a point you make in your post).

I think the publishing industry can withstand an assault of 99-cent ebooks, but I'm not sure it's doing too well against the overall growth of the ebook market.

I do think there will long continue to be a market for editors and deadline whip-lashers. Not much of value is ever published in any format without a push from those two maligned characters.