Self-publishing - Another Round of Debate

Before the Internet (remember those years?) self-publishing was a murky, expensive exercise. You sent the MS of your beloved book to a company by mail, they bound and printed it and you paid for every copy then turned around and tried to sell it or push it on family and friends.

At least, that's how I think it used to be.

I never paid much attention to it before; the few books I've read that were self-published back in the day were very badly edited and had plots and story lines that went nowhere. Let's not even get into historical fallacies...

Post-internet, self-publishing is a different dimension altogether. Writers now have not only many more options for the formats of their books, but since information on the publishing process itself, not to mention editing and marketing, is so widely available, there is no longer the easy excuse of "I didn't know about that!" for putting out a badly written, unedited book. As Kait Nolan explains, formatting and editing are NOT hard and must be done.

Many authors who market their own work want to be sure they're putting out the best possible story they can, and work hard to build online platforms and polish their work prior to publication.

They might even hire an outside editor, such as India Drummond (shameless plug).

The issue still stands though: Are readers likely to choose self-published books by authors they don't know? And does traditional publishing give you more of a platform for attracting readers?

I find genre and format are very important considerations. To put it bluntly, I write MG and YA; I doubt I could market such books entirely on my own. If my latest wip turns into straight romance and loses most of the YA elements when I reach the editing stage, I might consider an online publisher that also offers print options; marketing romance would be vastly different. To put it bluntly, I think I could handle an RWA conference much more easily than addressing a group of kids at a school. But those are my shortcomings, and only relate to self-publishing on my terms.

For others, self-publishing - or indie - is the best choice available, for many reasons. And many more.

And reading all those reasons why others have chosen the indie route, I'm thinking I don't have many excuses left for not looking into self-publishing.

Except that the current wip isn't finished and the completed novel needs more beta reads :-)

***

By the way, I owe a recipe for Karen G's wonderful Labour Day Weekend BBQ Blog Party - look for it Friday. And I'm still doing the rounds of blogs, got at least 25 more to visit!

Comments

Lynda Young said…
Self publishing certainly doesn't have the stigma it used to have. However, I'd still be wary buying one and my husband won't let me self publish lol. And yet often a successful self published book will get picked up by a publisher.
Deniz Bevan said…
The other trouble is that I just don't know if I could turn around and devote all my energies to that - between full time work and hobbies, never mind DH and family :-) I'd have to take an extended vacation or go without sleep to devote my energies to marketing...
Jen said…
I jumped over from Karen's BBQ it was huge!! So major!! I have met so many amazing people! Like yourself :)

Self-publishing takes a special kind of person, and team! For myself I would never be able to self publish, not because there is a stigma attached (which I agree with Lynda, it's not as bad as it used to be) but all the marketing that goes into it is crazy! You want to be successful, but you also want to make sure you can take it on.

I'm choosing the agented route, and that's a ways away!

Nice to meet you!!! *waves* Talk to you later I hope!
Deniz Bevan said…
Nice to meet you too Jen!
If it wasn't for the marketing I think I might have done it ages ago... but cold calling bookstores? touting my book to schools? having a professional teen-oriented website?
I'm not ready to devote time to creating all that all on my lonesome, when writing isn't my full time job (not yet!). We'll see...
KarenG said…
I love the changes that are going on now in the publishing world. Your description of how it "used" to be is right on! Not to mention the horrible stigma of being published by one of those vanity presses, of which there were only 2 or 3. Now there's a zillion, because they can make more money that way than publishing traditionally. Best way imho is to start one's own company, hire out the editing & design, and then market your head off. Many writers are doing it quite well.
Clarissa Draper said…
I'm still unsure what I will do with the novel I'm currently working on. If I have to do all the marketing myself anyways, why deal with all the rejection.
Talli Roland said…
Great post, Deniz.

I have read some excellent self-pubbed books. And some not-so-excellent ones, too! I would usually go by endorsements by friends who I trust, or authors I trust.

Have you heard of Catherine Ryan Howard (Catherine, Caffeinated - check out the side bar on my blog for her link). She's written a great series of posts in amazing details chronicling her self-pubbed journey. I read her book and was really impressed.
India Drummond said…
Thank you for the plug, shameless or otherwise. :)

I'm planning to do a combination with my work. I have a book coming out next year from a traditional publisher, but another one that I'm going to self-publish. I think it all depends on what the author wants. As long as we know what we're getting ourselves into by doing our research, I think self-publishing is a fantastic option these days.

India Drummond
Zan Marie said…
Deniz,
Let me chime in here as a person with two self-pubbed books. I did all the formatting by myself. I'm also very blessed to have a mother, sister, husband, and good friend (who is a writer) to edit. All of them bring different aspects of expertise to the editing. That allowed me to put out quality books. That said, I will say that the genre--devotional--lended itself to the self-pub route. I don't ever plan to self-pub a novel. I also didn't print many copies. I've nearly sold out of my first book and will weigh whether to print more after some hands-on marketing at two fall festivals. I'll let you know.
Deniz Bevan said…
I think the consensus seems to be that it definitely depends on the genre - and how much marketing we're willing to put in.

Karen, thanks! I couldn't remember the phrase vanity press when I wrote the post :-)

That's what I'm wondering Clarissa; would marketing be at least marginally easier if you could tell people "so and so have published my book" rather than "well, I published it myself on Smashwords..."
I've got lots of friends and family who would ask "what's Smashwords?"

I didn't know about Catherine Ryan Howard, Talli! I'll go check her out...

Always happy to plug an editor, India :-) I definitely like all the self-publishing options that are available. At least we don't have to snail mail letters to agents or MSs to magazines and wait for weeks and weeks anymore...

Good luck with the festivals ZanMarie! I'm not surprised the first book is nearly sold out :-)
kaitnolan.com said…
Yeah that whole finishing things helps whether you're going indie or traditional :D Necessary evil.
MT said…
I could have sworn I already clicked the follow button for your blog. Oh well. I came from KarenG's BBQ last weekend, and you followed me back, but I couldn't find you in the list of followers for my contest. I found you now. For some reason, blogger put you in the middle of the list - with people who have been following for a while now. Freeky blogger!
Have a great day. :)
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks Michelle!
Glad I made it in :-)
Chris Campbell said…
I self published my YA novel in 2007 solely to give to family and friends. When the media specalist at the middle school where I teach found out, she ordered ten copies. I have to say, it was a kick to see kids walking around school with my book. I received some cool comments from the students as well.

I wound up meeting an agent at a SCBWI conference, who didn't mind in the least that I self-published. While that book was eventually turned down by publishers, I'm hopeful to return to it some day.

I'm glad I self published. If I had designs of earning any money from the venture, however, I would have jumped off a bridge long ago.
Deniz Bevan said…
Hey Chris, oddly enough the monetary aspect is the only one I haven't considered - as long as I'm writing while still having a full time job, there's really no reason to. The best case scenario at this point would be if I got an agent and eventually put out a book or three :-) and cut back to part time work...

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