6 Reasons Authors Self-Publish
On the heels of our lively debate the other day on my post “6 Reasons Authors Still Want Publishers,” today let’s look at the other side of the coin. Many of you are still trying to decide which path is right for you — or if maybe some combination of both might work. So hopefully these posts and the discussions in the comments will be helpful.
So here are six reasons writers choose self publishing:
1. To supplement an established writing career.
As we talked about a couple of weeks ago in our series on making a living as a writer, it’s a lot of work to be a full-time writer and be able to make a good income. These days many full time writers with traditional publishing contracts are self-publishing both new books and their backlist as a way to supplement their income and keep their work out there in front of readers, growing and expanding their platform and audience.
2. To revive a flagging traditional-publishing career.
Some writers get the bad news that their publisher doesn’t want to do a new contract with them. But they’re still writers and they already have experience with the whole process, from writing to editing to marketing. While this situation used to mean a writer was basically finished, nowadays self-publishing opens up whole new horizons.
3. They’d like a bigger piece of the pie.
Most self-publishing deals will pay anywhere from 30% to 70% royalties, which is much higher than traditional publishers pay. Of course, they don’t have nearly the investment or do nearly the work of the traditional publishers; nevertheless, many writers prefer to do the work themselves in exchange for a higher royalty.
4. They have the time, skills, and the money to do it well.
Some people have an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to be a good business person and a great marketer. Not everyone has these skills, but they’re pretty much a necessity for self-publishing. Some people are writing to a niche audience and they have the ability to reach this audience on their own without the help of a publisher — another good reason to choose self-pub. The ability to cover the upfront cost is also a big plus if you’re considering self-pub.
Some people can’t get the attention of agents and publishers; or if they are, they’re getting rejections. This is a very frustrating place to be — and even very good books get passed over simply because of the huge numbers of books that are being pitched. Many writers get fed up with the “system” and decide to go it alone.
In self-publishing, you don’t have to listen to anyone’s vision for your book but your own. You get to choose your cover, your title, and everything about your book. You don’t have to wait years to be noticed; you do not have to wait a year or two for your book release after the decision is made to publish it. You set your own pace, answer to yourself, and take responsibility for your own success or failure.
What other reasons might lead you to pursue self publishing?
[…] I subscribe to many writing blogs: blogs by and about agents, publishers, and editors. Blogs about self-publishing, instruction, etc. One of the most thorough is Cynsations by Cynthia Leitich Smith, which offers a weekly roundup of the industry. Also http://rachellegardner.flywheelsites.com/2012/04/6-reasons-authors-self-publish. […]
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I’m getting older. Seeking an agent, getting one, rewriting, getting a book deal, getting the book actually published sometimes feel as if they will take too darned long.
[…] I subscribe to many writing blogs: blogs by and about agents, publishers, and editors. Blogs about self-publishing, instruction, etc. One of the most thorough is Cynsations by Cynthia Leitich Smith, which offers a weekly roundup of the industry. Also http://rachellegardner.flywheelsites.com/2012/04/6-reasons-authors-self-publish. […]
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In case there’s other Canadians reading this, I just want to say that I found we can get those ISBN code thingamajigs for FREE. Somebody wrote up a whole post on how to do that, but I don’t know where I found it. I guess you just have to contact the government and fill out some form or whatnot, and they’ll send you one.(or however many you want)
It has been briefly touched on but longevity of an independent book on the market is a key reason to self publish. With traditional publishing, you publish and then it goes out of print and you’re done. Unless a movie is made, there is no more income.
Self published books are available forever. I have published one so far. I paid for professional cover art, editing and formatting. In the first six weeks the book has paid those investments back and is now making a modest profit. If that modest profit continues for a few years I will make far more than I would have been able to in a traditional house. Far more, just spread over time.
That modest profit “could” continue and be distributed amongst my grandchildren some day. If I die before my wife, she will have whatever income this book, and the future books I publish, earn. That’s at least a little comforting.
I emphasize “could” because there is no certainty. I’m sorry, there is one certainty; with traditional publishing once the sales tail off it’s lights out the party’s over for that book. Mine might live on for generations.
I like that a lot.
Lloyd, good thoughts but not exactly accurate. You’re forgetting that traditional publishers do e-versions of virtually all their books. So whether a book is traditionally published or self-published, the digital version has a much longer shelf life than the PRINT version.
It’s about print vs. digital, NOT about self vs. regular publishing.
In addition, if your book is trad. published, and then it goes out of print and the rights revert to you, now YOU can self-publish the e-version. So your book still has an indefinite shelf life.
As you can see, the argument that a self-published book has a longer life is patently false. Traditionally published books have exactly the same potential lifespan.
Those are good points. One additional thought, my POD paperback will never go out of print, I’ll never have to hope rights revert back to me after a book went out of print.
I have been reading a ton about the publishing business. I can’t believe how much it mirrors the music business. Musicians hate other musicians, especially if they are local and become successful. Its a “Why not me mentality?” I am disheartened to learn that its the same with writers. Its no different then a chef hating Emeril because he’s on TV and has successful restaurants. I really hoped it was different. Literary agents to me are the entertainment lawyers in the music business. I am bummed out by this…but just like the music industry executives who controlled so much, they too could be out of a job if self publishing takes over. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry, will be getting into the ring and thats not good for anyone.
The big one’s been left out — the monthly paycheck. Royalties every six months (and those are on books sold the previous six months) is enough to break any budget. There is nothing so sweet as seeing payments show up every month from Amazon and BN (Smashwords pays quarterly). It’s the biggest incentive to self-publish — you actually end up being able to be working writer.
Thanx for this informative piece. A self-published author, myself, I chose this route for five out of the six reasons. LOL! Good stuff!
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I’m curious about the status of YA e-books (specifically e-books as a medium, not the YA genre itself) in terms of economics and demographics. How successful are YA e-books really, because how many teenagers are themselves owners of an expensive e-reader? I doubt the average fifteen-year-old can afford a e-reader on his/her own; perhaps I’m just a bit old-fashioned in thinking it would take quite a bit of household chores to afford a $400 iPad. 🙂
Are their parents buying them as gifts, or are YA e-books more popular among college students who use their e-readers for textbooks, and print books among teenagers who would probably be better able to afford individual titles minus the cost of the device? Which would imply that Hocking’s books are not themselves top sellers among her target demographic, but for independent spenders closer in age to herself, and that it’s still the trad-pubbed YA that makes it into the hands of the target demographic and becomes the next “Twilight”…
In terms of e-readers themselves, who holds the primary purchasing power in terms of demographics (age, gender, etc.) and financial/socioeconomic status? Are e-books really that popular among teenagers who don’t have their own money to spend on a device, even if they can afford the titles online? And since Amazon requires a credit card (for everything, including e-books), how are teens (who don’t meet the age requirements to have one) able to purchase them, if they even are, or in terms of this demographic is it exclusively the parents’ domain?
[…] 6 reasons authors self-publish « On the heels of our lively debate the other day on my post “6 Reasons Authors Still Want Publishers,” today let’s look at the other side of the coin. Many of you are still trying to decide which path is right for you — or if maybe some combination of both might work. So hopefully these posts and the discussions in the comments will be helpful. So here are six reasons writers choose self publishing.… » Via Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent […]
Just about every reason on this blog applies to me! I actually had contracts with two separate established agents (one from 2003 to 2006; the other from 2008 to 2010). Neither of them could seal the deal, which is common for new authors. Just because you get a good agent, it doesn’t guarantee a book deal.
I’ve been indie-publishing for two years with my LLC The Pantheon Collective, and lovin’ it! And e-books added a whole new dimension! You definitely have to hustle for attention, but that’s fine with me!
C = CHRIST JESUS GAVE THEE A BRAVEHEART
O = O, LIKE A SCOTTISH LASS, SENSATIVE AND PASSIONATE
L = LOVE THY BLOG
O = O, THOU DECLARES FOR WRITERS BETTER THAN ANY
R = RACHELLE; THY GIVINGS ARE BLESSINGS
A = ABLE TO BREATHE WITH NO HUMIDITY; THOU ART BLESSED
D = DO THINK OF THEE SAVIOUR WHEN DEALING WITH CRITICS
O = O, DOES THEE WORD HAVE MANY OF THOSE
E = EACH OF THY POSTINGS IS THINKING ABOUT OTHERS
T = THEY ARRIVE TO SOULS
T = THEY BRING ABOUT BOLD WORDINGS TO PAGES
E = ERIC THANKS THEE FROM DEPTH OF SOUL TO THINE
Rachelle, Thou Art Scottish, Indeed!!!
This blogging of bloggings of yours will be the most important you will have at your blog!!!
You are standing with Wallace and Bruce defending that most important of countries (“WRITERS”) — FREEDOM!!!
You, Rachelle, have officially turned the publishing world upside down. Authors throughout the solar system thank you (Saturnites like yah…).
Nope; not that you took sides but you have boldly defended those who write!!!
You, Rachelle, would have been fired if you were still working at a publishing house. Publishers should understand that your amazing declaring has given them liberty to survive!!!
Thou Art Simply Thee Best………
Heather For Thee Lady………
[…] 6 reasons authors self-publish On the heels of our lively debate the other day on my post “6 Reasons Authors Still Want Publishers,” today let’s look at the other side of the coin. Many of you are still trying to decide which path is right for you — or if maybe some combination of both might work. So hopefully these posts and the discussions in the comments will be helpful. So here are six reasons writers choose self publishing: Rachelle Gardner […]
Thanks, Mira and Trish:)
You’re welcome. 🙂 Good luck!
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I self-published my young adult novel because I felt so strongly about reaching out to young people with the written word. I’ve found that there are people who support self-published books and there are people who have nothing good to say about self-published books. Some of the thinking is: If the author had to self-publish, the story must not be good. I did write a good story and Amazon sales are okay (could be better) but self-publishing is hardly wide-reaching unless an author has the right connections.” CHOICES is paperback. Maybe I’ll publish an e-book and see how that goes. And thanks for all of the helpful comments:)
Oh goodness, Katrina. Yes, publish in e-book format. Your reach to audiences will extend astronomically. Getting a book into a bookstore without a publisher is almost impossible. But you can reach almost anyone on the planet through e-books, especially through Amazon.
Lord yes. Publish it electronically. Everyone I know who has published both print and paper, sells next to nothing of their print books. Like less than a quarter of a percent are in print sales compared to digital.
Until Christmas time, anyway- when print sales go way up for some authors.
[…] 6 Reasons Authors Self-Publish – “On the heels of our lively debate the other day on my post “6 Reasons Authors […]
I have a memoir about my life with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after my stint in Vietnam. After thirty five years of suffering with PTSD and all the medication from the Veterans Administration I found a program my two adult daughters attended in Dallas. After several months they convinced me to attend the program. I went through the four month program one week end at a time and I overcame all of the PTSD symptoms. I only want to let other veterans know about my discovery.
I help veterans with claims and I help homeless veterans find housing but that is only locally. I have an agent but she wants me to write a proposal and I have some problem with concentration. What would you suggest?
[…] 6 Reasons Authors Self-Publish | Rachelle Gardner […]
I’m going indie, and the reasons were actually none of the above up there:
1. I’m a panster. I can’t outline. At all. If I tried, I’d promptly ignore it when I started writing and end up with a story so different the publisher would probably be unhappy. That means I would have to forever write on spec, so the publisher could reject manuscripts, and I’d be forced to scramble to produce another one — and meanwhile, not be able to use the original one. That’s not fair to me.
2. Publishers tend to want different but the same. I’m just different. I’m off just enough that it’s even hard researching agents to figure out where I fit.
3. I tend to run too short, and it is a horrible nightmare trying to increase word count. It often takes massive amount of time to fix. I’d hate to be in the position of laboring over a novel to get it to the right word count, then having the publisher reject it because I was writing in on spec, and now I have to produce another under an even tighter deadline, and I may yet run short again!
#6 is definitely a huge draw. I also think that self-publishing offers more peace of mind at a time when the traditional publishing industry is struggling to cope with a radically changed market. It seems to me that there’s a lot of uncertainty; where will agents be in five years’ time? Will only the top earners be assigned editors? How many publishing companies will fail, and what will happen to the authors who are caught in the middle? How are the turf wars being fought between Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and the major publishers going to work out?
Like most writers, I just want to build a readership slowly and put out quality books. Self-publishing is a finite risk: you stand to lose some money if (as you should) you pay for an editor, designers, marketing efforts and so on, but that’s all you’re risking. You’re not left wondering if your publisher will disappear overnight. Yes, you’re at a huge disadvantage as far as distribution and media exposure are concerned, but that will change. If one book tanks, you just write another and there’s no fear that no publisher will touch you because of your sales record. If a stupid marketing decision is made, it’s no fault but your own and you do what all small businesses do: you swallow the mistake and learn from it. You can even withdraw your book from the market and re-write it completely if you want!
This doesn’t look like a great time to be a midlist author on the traditional side from the point of view of a writer trying to break in. It’s getting to the point where there doesn’t seem to be much to lose.
[…] Rachelle Gardner on 6 Reasons Authors Self-Publish. […]
I think one reason why anyone — maybe everyone — should consider the self-pub option is to make available his or her own personal stories for those who would most want to read them (e.g. family or friends, or groups allied to the author by affiliation, interest, geography, etc.).
There are after all many reasons why people choose to write that are not directly tied to one’s income or career, and really, anything as consuming and intense as writing a book should really begin with the author’s love for the project, with the economics to follow.
That said, I’m sure there are some commercial projects — generally, those with limited, easily identified audiences — that could be successfully self-published. Some projects with limited appeal would probably just be too small for a traditional publisher to expend its resources to acquire and publish them, and in those cases, self-publishing would make sense.
I would certainly be open to the idea of participating in such work, if it aligned with my overall career arc and the values that enable me to be a writer in the first place.
Best of luck to all those who pursue either option!
Hey, I had just been looking into self-publishing, reading about Amazon and their Kindle program, when I realised I hadn’t checked your site in a while. Ta-da! There this was, it’s like you’re a mind reader!
Anyway, I know you’re really busy, but I was wondering if you could answer me this: Being that I can’t find an agent or publisher that accepts fantasy, and my religion(which I mentioned a while before), do you think it would be a good route to self-publish? I hear that scares off publishers and makes agents frown, but do you think it would be acceptable in this case?
I value your opinion highly, so if you could answer me sometime, I’d really appreciate it. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
I like being able to give away my e-book for free (if and when I feel like it) at no cost to me.
For a lot of authors self publishing is a choice because it’s fast and easy. You don’t have to wait for months to hear back from publishing companies or agents to see whether or not they will choose your book, you simply do it yourself and start seeing a return on your work. – Very much like Kimberly mentioned in previous comment. If you’ve got it written and want to get it out there quick, self publishing is the only way to go.
I love the fact that this is a topic on this blog. Frustration and freedom would be my top reasons. When I first started writing, I thought self-publishing was a last resort. But as I moved forward, I started thinking that it could very well be a great way of getting my name out there. Especially with e-books. The only problem with publishing with Amazon is the word count. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but they limit the word count to 50,000 words. For Kindle singles anyway. That’s not feasible for my first book and possibly the sequel.
I have been looking at a company called BookBaby. Has anyone heard about that one?
I suppose I look at writing differently than most. I do it because I enjoy it. I might not necessarily become a millionaire or even make enough to constitute a full time salary, but knowing my book is out there and other people read it (and hopefully enjoy it) would definitely make my year & life time.
You had a lot of great points as well. I’d sure like to speak with you about your experience.
Erin, I’m not sure where you got the word count info. But there is no limit on word count. You can publish anything from a short story to an epic novel. My book was 103K. But I’ve heard of authors publishing short stores at 1500 words to fantasy epics at 200K words.
The longer books cost more in editing, of course.
You’re welcome to email me through my website if you have any questions.
Really love following your blog…I have learned so much. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
I self-published my first book. I have never queried an agent or publisher, because I have read so many times you need a platform. I am a speaker at women’s small events and needed a book to offer so I wrote it and published it (hired read editor of trad pub’d author to edit it). I would love to be traditionally published, but really would love more to have an agent/expert to help me learn how to book more speaking engagements alongside the writing/publishing. Once I finish my second book, I will start working on the agent part. But with four children, speaking, and writing a book, time is elusive. All a girl needs are more hours in the day!
It’s an easy way to disseminate the 2700+ haiku’s I’ve written now as a direct result of the St. Patrick’s Day blog!
I’m thinking of self-publishing my dissertation. I doubt an agent or publisher would bother with it, but I do know people who want to read it.
Royalties aside, this is a major point for me as well.
Stephen reminded me of several more excellent reason for self-publishing.
Receiving monthly royalty reports and monthly royalty checks. Knowing two months in advance exactly how much money you have coming in. Being able to track your sales in real time, so you can tell what promo is working and what promo isn’t.
I self published because I wanted to get my books “out there.” I’ve also done the small publisher route and didn’t have a problem with them, in fact both want a sequel of a current book. Would I like an agent and a traditional publisher? You bet! I like that an author has choices. I’ve made a passable income from my writing and my dream would be to make a living writing full time and to be able to quit my day job. Meanwhile, I am building a platform and my books are young adult fantasy and up until recently, it has been a hard sell to publishers/agents.
For me, self-pub was simply a very practical decision, based on my goals.
I have a message that I believe a lot of people could benefit from, God’s heart of love and redemption toward His children who have experienced divorce.
I wrote a book for the purpose of sharing the message.
I didn’t really view myself as a writer, and had no plans of trying to make a living as a writer (still don’t).
However, I did have a book I wanted to publish, and it didn’t take much research to learn that for a non-fiction book to be even considered by a publisher requires a substantial platform and/or official credentials…of which I have neither.
So, I educated myself on book design, self-pub’d…started a blog…and am trying to figure out marketing.
Yep…I got it all backwards…but that’s okay, too. I’m learning and I’m enjoying the experience!
Speaking for myself, I self-published because I wanted to see tangible results for my years of hard work. I needed to hold the book my hands and be able to say “I did this”. Self serving? Yes.
I know how competitive the publishing industry is. I also knew that despite the fact that I had produced a very good piece of fiction, my chances of scoring a publishing deal right out of the starting gate was near to impossible.
Though I didn’t and still don’t have the funds to go about it the way I would have liked, at least my novel is out there for others to discover. I have accomplished what I set out to do and further entrenched the idea in my mind that I am an “Author”.
I have a question for those of you who have self-published. I am just finishing up my 3rd book, which I wrote with the intention of self-publishing on Amazon under a pen name. Did any of you hire editors to go over your books before you self-published?
My sister and I usually help edit each others writing and then have several people read it, but neither of us have actually sent our books to agents, publishers, or anyone of that nature. Any advice would be appreciated!
I used a professional proofing and copy editor. It’s a big mistake to publish a book that hasn’t been professionally edited. If the book isn’t clean, reviewers will crucify you.
Thank you Trish and Heidi!
I’ll definitely look into hiring a professional. My sister may actually know someone who can do it since she majored in Journalism and grades ACT essays now. Hopefully, some of them moonlight in those fields and she has some connections! lol
But if not, I’ll keep looking.
Please feel free to email me through the contact page on my website (www.trishmccallan)and I’ll send you a list of very good and reasonably priced industry professionals who can provide quality covers,editing and formatting.
While I am headed in the direction of traditional publishing, I thought I had a good manuscript until I hired an editor. Worth every penny and the book would be ready for self-publishing if I were to decide that way. I’d strongly recommend finding a professional 🙂
Self publishing is easier and faster than waiting for a publishing house to choose your work. As a person degreed in English with excellent editorial skills and a knack for writing a good story line with lots of symbolism and drama, I know I am a good writer. I know people will enjoy what I write. I choose popular subjects that are already being marketed. This way when people see ads for popular books, they will browse for them and by default, come across my work. They may buy the advertised book first, but once they are finished reading it, they will continue to search for books in the same genre and I have a good chance that they will read my book too. So freedom, not just in what I write, but that I can get published is a big motivator for me. Instead of being frustrated with rejection, I anticipate when my book will come out and look forward. It is rewarding. And while self-publishing may be considered ‘expensive’ by some, you can find less expensive vanity press publishers who do an excellent job for the money; I don’t think self-publishing is any more expensive than any other hobby; Just think of how much people spend on favorite hobbies such as attending sporting events, craft supplies, travel, and so on. When compared to that, self-publishing is actually fairly inexpensive as well. I wish publishing houses could afford to market us all, but they can’t. So instead of wishing to be published, I feel taking the bull by the horns and getting my work self-published is a pro-active way for me to fulfill my dream instead of hoping someone else thinks I have value as a writer when I already believe in myself as a writer whole heartedly.
I love authors that self-publish their backlists, since it enables me to find older works that have gone out of print. I get so dismayed when I find out an older book hasn’t been made available for my Kindle!
These are all great reasons to pursue this newer way of publishing (though, like I said yesterday, I’m still hoping for traditional publication). I imagine the freedom would be nice, especially if one knows how to market and promote oneself well.
I clearly do NOT want to use a vanity publishing outfit. These are those that are there to take your money and once it’s published (with all kinds of errors, typos, etc.) you’re on your on! I would much prefer the traditional route but realistically, even if you had a workable story, what are the odds of anyone ever seeing it?
I realize that there is plenty of junk out there in e-pub, but I have been working on my novel for over a year b/c I want it to be error free and the best I can make it. But if no one reads it (except me) b/c the traditional route doesn’t pan out, what choice does a person have? Yes, I want to earn a good living but I am doing this as much for my own enjoyment and the pleasure of watching others enjoy it!
Hi Dennis I have had very good experience with a vanity press. They place your work for sale on Amazon.com so people will see it and wish to read it. They offer different marketing packages if you want to choose them. They also offer editors if you don’t think you have good editorial skills. I work on one book for two years. I begin with a “frame” for my book that I devised for myself that includes the cover of the book (wording) and all the other preliminary pages that come before the introduction – all of which I wrote myself by looking at other books to see what it is that is included…including the back book cover. Then, I spend 6 months just writing my initial story line. I take a 3-4 month break from my book and do not look at it at all, and then I go back and read it as a stranger would read it, sifting out type-o’s, grammer problems and story line problems. Then I let the manuscript sit for 3 months again. and then go back and read it yet again, this time working to expand my story in places where I need alot more details. While I let my story ‘sit’, I listen and look at everything in my world to see how different things can be worked into my story line. I keep note cards on all of the things I want to include in my story. For example I watched a television show a few weeks back where one character was introduced several months ago, and then the characters father was introduced separately; finally the two characters were introduced together, giving the viewer a surprise ‘connection’ between the two characters and how they actually went together from two angels. I used this ‘connection’ idea in my piece, even though my characters were all different from the show’s characters – it was a great idea. Finally after expanding my story line, I go back through again (5th time) and add in one or two symbols that show up repeatedly throughout my work. I call this “sprinkling”. For example, remember how in the movie “Forest Gump” that feather kept floating through the background of the movie and was featured prominantly at the beginning and end of it? That’s a symbol that had an unspoken presence in the movie but meant something – it was a symbol of how people float through life circumstances.I may work in 2 different symbols that somehow cross paths during the story. To do this, I start at the beginning of my story and scroll through and where ever I ‘land’ i work the symbol/s into the story. At the end the characters and reader realize the significance of the symbols. I let the work sit for a couple of months and then go back and re-read it as a consumer would read it. If needed, I print out the manuscript and cart it around town with me just the way many people take a good book with them. I read it, and then I mark on it in red ink, detecting any further grammer, punctuation or other editing problems I have. By this time, the manuscript should be very perfect. If I feel comfortable, I let a close friend read it, ask questions, amke comments and suggestions, or even express wishes about what they want my characters to do. If I feel it’s workable, I may add some of these good ideas in (or not). When I submit my manuscript, it is perfect. I do not ever, ever let my manuscript leave my hands/computer with even one spelling or grammer error on it. With my degree that would be shameful for me to do. My work must be absolutely perfect as far as grammer, spelling, punctuation and basic editing goes. My story line must be clear, with no mix-ups in it. My story must have a good amount of drama and end well. Only then can i part with it to the Vanity Press. It costs me little money and it’s on amazon.com just as the work that gets publushed by the publishing houses. I would like to know how it goes to submit to a publishing house however. I’d like to try that but I do not know how to go about it. Anyway, don’t be afraid of using a Vanity Press, it is very convenient and works well. Please share how to publish with a publishing house, as I would like to learn from you as well. Thanks 🙂
All great reasons Rachelle! I know SP is challenging in a unique way but at the end of the day, if it yields readers, it is well worth the endeavor. Readers are what writers long for and to know your work provided respite and entertainment for someone is priceless.
Thank you for sharing such open thoughts on both sides of the fence. That’s why I love you!
I have also known writers to self-publish because either they were going to die soon, or a person to whom it was important to them to see the book in print was going to die soon.
Seemed like a good reason.
Reason #6 pretty much nails it for me.
I’m self-published (SP) and I like being in charge of the project,not because I’m a control freak, but to make sure it is all done to my liking, and at this point of my writing career I need the success behind me before I try Traditional publishing. I now have 3 successful books out (purchases made on my web site and books signings). So the time for me to try traditional publishing is something I am seriously considering for the future. Where some are fearful of SP, I’m fearful of Traditional publishing.
Unfortunately there is a negative side to SP, and for me it is the marketing.
For those who still shun SP or are fearful of it here is an old saying you may get a smile out of.
‘Don’t knock it, ’til you tried it.’
Rachelle, if I weren’t already in the process of having my novel shopped, I probably would have resorted to self-publishing out of a combination of frustration and the desire for freedom. I do my research on Amazon.com. I search the best sellers in my genre, and I’m always surprised to see that a large percentage of these books are indeed self-published. I’ve downloaded a few, and while they’re not what I’d expect from a traditional publishing house, they’re still pretty good. The writers can tell a good story. I feel it’s very important for writers to take a look at what self-published books are taking off. This gives us a good idea of what readers want — and sometimes it’s not what one would expect! 😀
This is me, too. My agent has been subbing my book for months with…crickets, so we’ve decided to go the e-pub route to start my platform. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to read it since I don’t have an e-reading device 🙂
Stephanie, everyone has an e-reader. :). You can read e- books on your computer.
I guess this could fall into the freedom section, but although I have been traditionally published and have had agents, I just can’t leave home. My husband is terminally ill so I self-publish to be able to publish, and promote online without me physically leaving home or be away from home for the weeks it took for my traditionally published books promotions.
It not necessarily me not wanting to traditionally publish or get a bigger piece of the pie. My decision to self publish was a way of breaking my hiatus from the traditional.
I sat at home just being care giver for many years and played at writing without publishing. If you do not traditionally publish every couple of years it’s “who are you?” I fall into that category after my husband’s seven-year fight with cancer.
With self-publishing, I can have my cake and eat it too. Will I ever go back to traditional, probably one day but nothing is set in stone. In the meantime, I’ll self-publish so I can escape into my writing when time allows.
I find numbers 3, 4, and 6 attractive. Haven’t done this yet, but enjoyed the piece. Food for thought…
I chose self-publishing for the control. From watching what was happening in the industry, and watching what was happening in the Kindle store, and listening to readers on boards and loops complaining about traditional publishers ebook pricing, I felt I had a much better shot of building a readership if I self-published.
By self-publishing I could control the cover, the price, and the genre. The three biggest draws to readers. As more and more readers moved to ereaders, rather than print books–I felt price was going to become the deciding factor in purchases. You can already see this on the best sellers lists in the kindle store. These are the top selling books in their genre and most of them are cheaper self-published backlist or original titles.
I can control the quality, and price of of my book as a self-publisher. I can control neither if I went with one of the traditional houses. So I self-published and it was the best decision I could have made. FYI- at the time I made the leap, I had never been traditionally published, I had no fan base, no platform. But readers found my book, and they told other readers about it and the book took off.
There are ALOT of authors who have never traditionally published who are making a good living by self-publishing their work.
This is a list of what just some self-publishing authors sold for the month of March. http://ireaderreview.com/2012/04/05/top-50-indie-authors-for-april-2012-60-authors-to-watch/
Considering most self-publishers didn’t know about this survey, so didn’t send their sales info in- this list is way under way unreported. I’m aware of five people who weren’t on this list, but who sold between 5000-20,000 books last month (making between $10,000 and $40,000 for the month of March alone.)
This is another list of successful self-publishers, some of the names are the same- some aren’t. But it will give everyone a good idea of just how strong the self-publishing industry is.
Last month I signed with Montlake/Amazon Publishing. They will be republishing the title I self-published last fall, along with the rest of the titles in the series. Montlake understands the value of “smart pricing.” Their marketing muscle and pricing strategy more than makes up for the loss of control. But I’ll still continue self-publishing other titles.
This is awesome, Trish! Congratulations!
[…] Rachelle Gardner posted 6 Reasons Authors Self-Publish, which is not a bashing post, which I was happy to see. Kudos to her for that! The comments are […]
Great post and many thought-provoking comments. I read them all–a rare event!
Thanks to you, and to all who shared.
And don’t forget, there is a place in between the ultra-traditional publisher & self-publishing. There are many somewhat & brand new publishers out there who are ebook centric & while they also offer their authors trade paper hard copies, they realize, understand, & embrace the electronic age of publishing & are much more nimble than the Big 6 in doing so. And they also do not require that authors have agents in order to submit. So while the gates are still in place & have not been flung wide, there’s no gargoyle standind guard, scaring folks away.
It’s a brand new world!
I have only self-pubbed short, 4-lesson Bible studies availabe online through my ministry. Even in that process, I had them reviewed editorially and theologically to provide the best possible content. Because in the end, when writing Bible studies, it’s not my opinion or story that matters most, it’s the story of the ages they’re based on. Currently, as I publish my first Bible study under contract through a publishing house, I’ve learned so much from the professionals involved. Self-publishing serves its purpose, but there are so many advantages in traditional publishing, too. At least, from my novice, non-fiction perspective. 🙂
So many good comments. I am in the throes of deciding whether to go trad or self. I have had two books published by what was Arco, now Simon and Schuster. That was a very long time ago–mid 1980’s. Things were simpler then. All of my books are non-fiction and I now self publish every one.
I am about halfway finished with my first fiction and am undecided about which way to go. On one hand, I am capable of doing it all. I had a career as graphic artist/designer, editor, marketing specialist. I also worked in traditional offset printing. I am comfortable and accomplished in the digital world. I edit an ezine, etc. I am on all the social media, have an extensive personal email list from my years as a lecturer and workshop leader.
As for the writing itself, I am in critique groups that include published authors, editors, and a publisher. The have been like water in the desert for me.
My pluses for self pub are freedom, higher royalty, speed, personal control.
So why even consider trad pub? Laziness on my part and the prestige/credibility that still comes with being chosen. Being in a brick and mortar store is becoming less relevant for me. I am not sure where the wind will blow on that one. Will bookstores change with the times, or become dust on that wind, like the typesetters who refused to see that computers were here to stay?
It sounds like self pub is the way to go. Still, I cling to the idea of traditional without a clear idea of why.
Rachelle – thank you so much for posting this! It exteremey fair minded of you, and I’m really impressed! 🙂
This is also great role modeling for staying away from an “us vs. them” mentality.
You don’t claim your list is conclusive, of course, but I did want to mention the reason I won’t seek traditional publishing is not on your list. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind publishing with someone else, I like the team approach. But my reason is that I won’t participate in a system that I believe treats the author badly.
I’m not published, but I’ve been on the blogs for quite awhile, and it’s become clear to me that traditional publishing had taken advantage of its previous market monopoly to set terms and conditions with authors that are bordering on exploitive.
I deeply appreciate those agents who are fighting to change this system. For example, an agent, John Geller at the Bookseller, recently published this Agent’s Manifesto: http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/agents-manifesto.html
So, I think the reasons I would add to your list is #7 – Respect. And #8 – Fair working conditions.
Wonderful addition, Mira! I honestly believe agents and publishers tend to be snotty. Why wouldn’t they considering the enormous power they wield. This self-publishing ‘invention’ is a blessing to restore RESPECT!
I really hope so, Ike! Although some are very nice, like Rachelle, many are not. And the author just isn’t treated well in contracts and the business, imho.
I wanted to add a related reason: protecting my rights. With the publishing industry in upheaval, and too many nightmare stories out there of authors losing out because of deceptive contracts, I want to hold on to my rights, at least for the time being. In the future, I may re-evaluate, but for now, I’m self-publishing.
I agree. Not only deceptive contracts, but contracts that lock the author in at a terribly low royalty rate for e-books (and also for print, but since I see e-books as the exploding market, that would be more of my concern.)
Im in the process of taking some of my best blog devotionals and creating a small devo book to sell after speaking events. This is a great way to capitalize on my speaking exposure and give those who want more an opportunity to take home some of my “wisdom.” I’m printing 100 books and taking them with me to a conference in November. I don’t plan on getting rich, this is natural progression of my speaking. We’ll see what happens.
For a couple thousand dollars you can get “Published”. I am not interested in vanity publishing. There are so many outfits out there that are completely willing to take your money. Sifting through the information is difficult.
I could click the “publish” button on Amazon as we speak, but that would lead me into obscurity with all the rest of us obscure writers. I really want to seek out an agent first.
You have given me food for thought, Rachelle! Thanks…I haven’t published yet, but I’m considering the e-book for a picture book I’ve created, but, I would need to finds an illustrator that was willing to work with me.
I think it’s extremely exciting to see how many people are downloading my ebook in real time. Plus, I have total control over the creative process. It’s a wonderful time for indie authors.
1) Freedom is key. The experience I’ve had in publishing – they wanted to take it in a completely different direction, at which point, it wasn’t even the book I wanted to write anymore.
2) Hell to the yes on the slowness. I just see my envelope (really? do we still have to rely on Pony Express submissions?) sitting on a desk for 6 months, being opened and then being put directly in the recycle bin. Oh yeah, and we don’t want you being considered by anyone else while your envelope sits on a desk.
I self-published in Feb. after only pitching to three people at one conference. (I know some of you are shaking your head!) One requested a full proposal, which I sent, but they turned it down. Primarily, because of platform size. The non-fiction book is titled “Seriously God? I’m Doing Everything I Know To Do And It’s NOT Working”.
So far, I have been happy with how it has been doing. Three local Christian bookstores are carrying it, as well as the normal online retailers.
I have three articles being published in the summer by different magazines that tie into the book, and I’m hoping that helps even more.
My goal, is to have enough sales, that when I submit next time my platform has grown and I can show I’m willing to do the hard work of selling it. 🙂
Thanks for the valuable post Rachelle. I am still deciding which path to pursue. At the moment, I am leaning toward self publishing for some of the reasons listed in this post but I also have two additional reasons.
1: Industry in turmoil. There will always be a need for publishers, but with the industry in such turmoil it only makes sense that some of them are going to fail to adjust and will disappear. I can easily see a time in the future where a publisher’s bread and butter is producing books just like Indie presses now. I’m uneasy about tying my writing career to a publisher who may or may not be around in 5-10 years.
2: The other reason was alluded to by Christopher Buecheler in an earlier comment. If you are treating writing as a business, then time to market matters. This is particularly true if you have satirical references to current politics. The business realities of waiting a year or more to be published in the traditional model may be unrealistic. I saw a post yesterday, in which an author rejoiced because he had a release date … in August of 2013. For some businesses (writers) the improved distribution channel is worth the delay, for other businesses (writers)the delay could be a killer.
I would love to have a top 6 publisher that absolutely loved my work, promoted it, and squeezed it into the production schedule so we could strike at the opportune moments. As an unpublished author I know that is not a reasonable expectation for my business, so, based on market intelligence I am doing everything I can to position my business for success.
Good, non bashing post. Thank you!
#6 is the biggest reason. 3 & 4 coming in behind. I have no interest in going traditional. I enjoy having full control over almost every aspect of my writing career. It’s just not something that appeals to me.
I love doing covers, I love writing what I want when I want. If I want to write science fiction today and tomorrow do a fantasy romance or if I want to write a series of short stories (which is what I have up at the moment) instead of larger projects, well I can. And they will be available for however long I want them up.
I totally understand it isn’t for everyone and there is stuff up and out there that really should never have seen the light of day. But it also gives hope to writers who are struggling to put their work out there in a tight market.
I’m not sure if #5 should be called Frustration or Desperation. I think there’s an element of both. Related to that is the time/age factor. While agents love to bring up the 88 year old debut novelist, we all know that is the extreme exception. Other exceptions certainly exist, but look at the client list of any agent and most of them are young, probably younger than 40 and for sure younger than 50. I know some of you will disagree with this. Just look at the photos of an agent’s authors on an author’s web page, and you’ll see what I mean. So when you hit 60, the time to act has come. Some of us just start writing too late in life.
It’s an extreme buyer’s market for books to be published through the agent>acquisistions>committee route. There’s only so many times you can hear, “I love your writing; I don’t want it,” or “Your writing is strong, I can’t sell it,” or “What great writing; we won’t be taking it,” without ceasing to believe you can ever break in this side of the grave. There’s only so many tacit 60 day rejections you can take before the sadness takes over. Yes, that’s it. For me it was sadness, not frustration or desperation. I reckon sadness isn’t a good reason to self-publish, but it was mine.
Having a good story that doesn’t fit squarely into established genres. Having a good story, period, that is getting rejected because of publishers’ limits and budgets. Of course, the key is to have a *good* story and make sure it’s properly edited first.
That’s pretty funny 😉
Oh no. I attached this to the wrong comment. So sorry. I can’t even handle commenting – much less self-publishing. 😉
I’m self- and indie-friendly, and will probably go that route myself. But I’m frustrated by the poorly edited books out there. I have found some awesome ones among the mediocre and the really bad. We need more awesome. ; )
It serves as a litmus test, too. A chance to develop a platform with a product, rather than trying to do so w/o one.
I keep being told that my stories and drawings are both “not for children” but too whimsical for adults. So, I make what I make.
Hi mm, It has been a great while since last we met. I’m so glad to see that you continue your unique and entertaining art and writings.
Brent, what are you doing these days. At IPSOS. Me, I am full time art guy now and much happier for it.
A nice overview, Rachelle. I came up with 10 reasons that mostly correspond. One thing I mentioned in my post bears repeating: self-publishing can accopmlish what publishers keep telling authors to do, build a platform. That’s always been a challenge for new writers, especially of fiction.
So done well, self-publishing can create new readers for a new writer and a trad pubbed writer, too (as long as he is working in conjunction with his agent and not “competing” with his trad books). It’s rather backward thinking to say DON’T self-publish at all when it may be the best way possible to build future readers.
And your #4 is essential, but a nice thing is that entrepreneurial skills can be learned, just like one can learn the craft of writing. It takes time and desire, but it’s worth it to get to your #6.
I have had two books traditionally published and I must say, with the series I am currently working on, I am taking the self-published route.
As a new author, it’s almost impossible to get your book on the shelves of a book store. They simply don’t have the space. So most sales come from online.
Also, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to get feedback and responses from my publisher. I have no freedom in my book (hated the cover to my second book) and the royalties just aren’t what they could be.
I do my part in marketing. In fact, I do ALL of the marketing so any sales are from my own hard work.
I know the process. I’m confident in my work and this time, I’m making the choices I want for each step in my publishing process.
Just one PUBLISHED author’s opinion.
Rachelle, this is yet another valuable post. However, in reading your 6 Reasons to Self-Publish, the following thoughts flooded in:
–Some of these reasons actually tell us why we DON’T want to self-publish. One reason is that you’re getting no feedback. For example, long ago I had a friend who labored at novels for 4 years with no luck at publication; when I finally consented to read his material,it stunk! I know how unkind that sounds, but it did. He didn’t even have the rudiments down. For all I know, if I self-publish I’m putting out the same kind of dreck.
–I hear writers say a version of this all the time: “If I just wasn’t saddled by my day job, I’d be writing up a storm.” Look, I retired 6 weeks ago to write, and I haven’t written a word. My fault, yes, but examine your motivation. Writers write, and will find every opportunity to write, but some of us just spend a lifetime talking about it and reading about it. Obviously, publishing’s crazier than ever, so maybe the fantasy of reaching bestseller status should be put away with our Golden Books. Or maybe we should just write our tales off and see what happens! But only if we WANT IT!
I self-published because the traditional publishing industry is very slow by comparison to the internet world (in which I’ve made my living for the past 14 years), and it became frustrating having to operate within the system. Waiting 4-plus months for a single rejection is just not a very efficient process.
I totally understand why the print publishing industry is like this — agents, editors and publishers are slammed with an unreal amount of manuscripts, and one can only read so many items in a given week or month. But the prohibition on simultaneous submissions in most quarters means one sends one’s work out, waits a third of a year (or more), and then gets back a brief “sorry, we don’t want any more vampires” (the most common rejection I got) … I didn’t mind the rejections or even the reasoning, but the lack of speed eventually became too much for me.
I’d still like to work with an agent and a traditional publisher someday, on some project, because I feel they could give me additional reach and marketing assistance … but I’m very happy with how self-publishing has worked out. 350,000 downloads of my free eBook and more than 16,000 sales of the $2.99 sequel, based entirely on my efforts, makes me feel pretty good! The third book’s coming out this November and I’m not even emailing agents about it (who would want to represent only the third book in a trilogy?) but I also have an unrelated novel, the second draft of which will be finished at the end of April, which I am thinking of shopping around for a while before pulling the self-pub trigger.
I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rule as to whether one should or shouldn’t pursue self vs. traditional publishing. It seems to me the best choice for most authors is to investigate all avenues and pursue the one that seems to work the best for them. As a person used to working at fast-paced internet startups, with the requisite design and markup skills necessary to format my own e-and-print books, it made sense to go the self-pub route. For other authors, it might not be the right choice.
Christopher, you’re right about the slowness of the traditional model. I get the feeling that most og the authors I see self-pubbing via Smashwords are doing so because they want to monetize their content now, and not 18 months from now.
Sensible writers don’t do this thinking they’re going to get rich. They know Amanda Hocking is an outlier. But they figure, “Hey, I can put this thing on Smashwords for $2.99 and have a little extra money coming in.”
My concern is that many going this route are not taking full advantage of No. 4 — doing it right. I see a lot of poor cover design on Smashwords, which makes me wonder whether the content is polished to a professional level. That’s why I only buy Smashwords books that come with a trusted recommendation.
Kristen – that is very true. A lot of people seem to think that self publishing means “I don’t have to put in the work!” which couldn’t be further from the truth. I like to think that part of the reason I’ve found some amount of success is because I do put in the effort. All of my books go through multiple drafts and rounds of feedback over the course of several months, and I spend several thousand dollars per book out of my own pocket on editors and cover illustrators (I am *very* lucky to have a good job and be in a position to spend that kind of cash on my writing — but it’s nice to have reached a point where the books earn more than they cost!).
I’m just not interested in pumping out something lousy to try and make a quick buck — much more interested in delivering a quality work. I do wish Smashwords, Amazon, B&N and similar were a bit more discriminating with what they publish only because it’s hard to get your work noticed amidst the constant stream of stuff, even if you’ve put in the effort to deliver a professional product.
Interesting points, Rachelle. It seems like it would be a definite advantage to already have a good understanding of “the ropes” before attempting self publishing. Having watched a family member go through this opened my eyes to all that is involved in this process. There are definite pro’s and cons. For this family member, one of the bigger draw backs has been a very small platform. Thanks for also showing pros for self publishing.
This is one of the few posts I’ve seen on this subject which describes what it takes to self-publish without bashing the process.
For me as a self-publisher (aka indie), the most important thing was kinda sorta hit on with #6. “Freedom” is indeed a wonderful thing, and as a self-pubbed author I have the freedom to take the craptastic essays right off my hard disk and toss them out into the world. Rest assured that I won’t, but I’m free to do so.
“Control” is more what I’m thinking. When I was going with a small publisher I sent him three works at a time and suggested a release order for them. He released them backward. Instead of asking me what I wanted for a cover, he gave me three choices to select the cover from. He gave me a release date for my Novel #2–and then missed it.
My current publisher, of course, doesn’t do any of those things; were he to miss a release date or release my work out of appropriate order, I’d take him out back and really give him a whomping.
I decide what the cover will look like. I decide what price to set. I decide when to release the work. Most important to me, I can see the actual sales numbers, watch the (currently upward) trend, and make decisions based on that. I. Me, me, me. Yes, I’m a narcissistic jerk sometimes, but I’m a narcissistic jerk with an MBA and a ton of business experience who knows how to sell things. I know that I’ve given up a lot in terms of standard availability and distribution channels, but for now I’m enjoying the heck out of going it on my own despite my books not gracing the shelves at Bankrupt & Noble.
Oh, and on #4, you left out the interest. At first, I thought that was what I would be lacking. I have the time (albeit after midnight and on weekends), and the skills, and some amount of disposable income. But as I’ve gotten into it, I’ve found that I really get a thrill out of watching the sales numbers climb.
Bottom line: I LOVE my jobs–both of them.
Once again, Rachelle, you inspired my own blog post for today. “Being an authorpreneur” – Reason #7: it’s fun.
Thank you, in a very general sense, Rachelle. Your blog posts always inspire me in one way or another.
I need the name of your publisher because the one I am currently using needs the “whomping!” Seriously!
“Stephen H. King” is my publisher. 🙂 No, seriously, I’m self-published. And I don’t do house calls. But I tried the small publisher thing and hated it. You have every bit of the lack of control that I hear authors deal with in the Big 6, but for the lack of control, a touch of hit-or-miss editing, and a low-resolution book cover, you agree to give up 30% of your revenue. It, um, didn’t work for me.
The things you mentioned are not a problem. There seems to be no sense of urgency, concern, accountability, and the list goes on. I have a marketing background so editing, cover design, type setting, illustrations, etc. I really enjoyed. It’s the over all lack of professionalism. Any suggestions on a good self-publisher?
Did you mean small publisher? I’d prefer not to give recommendations when I haven’t worked with a company directly. That said, I’m in a couple of Facebook groups with the folks from Inknbeans press (www.inknbeans.com) and they always seem positive and intelligent in their contributions. NOT recommending them by any means, but they’re who I would investigate next if I had any desire to ever go back to small pubbing it.
Good self publishers? Sure, I’m the greatest! 🙂 But if you’re looking for tips/validation/opinions type of stuff, there’s a group called Indie Author Group on Facebook that consists of a lot of intelligent (and some pretty successful) indie authors. I know, I know, an indie author can’t possibly be successful, as the story goes, but if you want to see for yourself, drop by IAG.
Renee, Amazon is probably the best place to start, since they have an enormous customer base, they heavily promote and support the Kindle and they offer 70% royalties.
But you might prefer other places.
I think the first step for you might be to do some research. There are tons of people talking about this all over. You might start with the Kindle boards and read what folks are saying.
Oh sorry, posted this before I saw what Stephen recommended.
Those are good suggestions.
I also hear alot of folks like Smashwords, if you’re looking for a small publisher.
sorta piggybacking on Stephen’s thoughts…With a Self-pubbed book, you don’t worry when it’s going to be pulled off the market. It’s ever new, ever shiny. A friend who won a significant award for a traditionally published novel STILL worried her way through that magic few-month window when the publisher paid her some attention…eventually to see that attention fade. Self-pubbing her next book, she said, was “a huge relief.”
Stephen, Mira and Helen – Thank you so much for the info! And, yes, Stephen I was laughing when you said the Indie Author Group (IAG) (She smiles…) BUT, it’s only because I have never heard of it and the whole “Indie” thing! 🙂
I will definitely check out Smashwords and Inknbeans as well (for the next book). The problem is…I am approving my author copy as soon as they call and have already purchased production for all formats of my book, i.e., iPad, ebook, hardcover, softcover, etc…So I’m pretty much stuck with these guys for a while.
You guys are great and thank you for the advice! 🙂
Renee – you’re welcome, and good luck! 🙂
yes, yes, YES!! To everything you said. Control and having good hard sales data–those are everything. Knowing by sales spikes when a promo is working. Watching your sales climb because of price change or guest blog.
But mostly knowing how much your book is earning every single month. I know three months in advance how much money I have coming in. I get a pay check every month instead of every six months. You can’t beat that. And its a big reason why so many self-published authors are able to quit their day jobs and live their dream of writing full time.
I went to vote for your marvelous blog here:
But didn’t find you!
Anyway, you get my vote!
I don’t usually enjoy self-published books because I don’t think authors always spend the necessary tiime/money on them. But I think I would choose to self-pub if I ever wrote a book because I love all the aspects of publishing and would want to do it all.
So nice to see you addressing things I think about on this writing journey. I’d say if I do pursue that avenue it would be for reasons 3, 5, and 6. Still, would love to hear an agent or publisher tell me they liked my work enough to pick it up. I may try both routes.
You’ve covered the reasons quite well. I don’t have any other reason to self-publish. In all honesty, the only reason I would self-publish would be number 5, but as I know that # 4 is not my strength, I would still prefer to go the traditional route.
Thank you for addressing “the other side of the coin.”
I know there are things I’ve mastered (cheesecake), things I’m very good at(Pavlova), things I’m mastering and things I want to try (pulled pork).
And THEN there is the free climb up El Capitan!! To me, in terms of my career in writing, I am at the base of El Capitan, begging my guide for the ropes! Oh wait? No guide, you say? But I can try on my own and see how things go? This ain’t theater, I refuse to hear “break a leg”.
I’m just going to wait patiently in the parking lot for Rachelle to arrive with my ropes. Then I’ll climb. All the way to the top.
Another thought occurred to me about self-publishing. I have a project in mind that would lay out nicely as a full-length novel followed by novella length sequels. The idea would be to have the novel traditionally or independently published with the sequels appearing as self-published ebooks once a following is established for the characters in the first book.
I’ve been considering self-publishing Normal Is So Overrated just to get that project moving so I can concentrate on my fiction writing. Having a larger slice of the pie is appealing, too – especially on a project that may appeal to a smaller audience than commercial fiction does.
Another avenue I’m exploring is working with a small independent publisher who offers a nice 50/50 royalties split and does not charge authors for book design and editing services.
Right now I’m frustrated because my day job and my other “real life” commitments are standing in the way of my devoting a lot of time to my writing. I don’t want to make any hasty decisions about self-publishing or going with an indie while I’m in this mindset.
My writing is so bad even self-publishers turn me down.
I’ve thought about it, but I know that I have three good stories(one of which is with an agent)that will sell one day. For the first time in my life I’m going to show a little bit of patience.
I made the decision to self-publish my debut novel, BABY GRAND, and I truly believe it’s the right path for me, based on several of the reasons you list above. I sort of have the best of both worlds, though, since my agent is supporting me in this decision. Overall, I think it’s important for writers not to jump into anything, but weigh their options very carefully and then make the decision that feels best.
I’ve heard No. 1 and 2 cited by a number of let’s call them mid-list authors, who are losing patience with their publisher (or else their publisher is losing patience with them). They also see it as an opportunity to publish their quirky stuff, such as novellas, genre fiction, something that doesn’t fit in well with their established authorial voice. And in most cases, they have enough experience of the publishing/ marketing process to do a very good job of it themselves.
The biggest reason I self publish (mostly children’s books) is that my five year old daughter is my biggest fan and seeing her run down the hall with one of my books for me to read to her is all the validation/compensation I need.
Rachelle: Is going the e-publish route (through a reputable service) a plausible route for most first time authors? I have finished my 1st draft and am now doing rewrites (and I don’t have agent–yet). I know the odds of actually getting an agent is hard enough, much less finding a publisher willing to take a chance on a first time novelist. I have read success stories of writers making pretty decent money e-publishing and some have even landed deals with publishers, once they’ve seen their success. After all, it could years to get a publisher to even look at your work…
Dennis – self-pubbed ebooks are one way to get published. But there’s a reason you read about those authors who self-pub first and then get a publisher – it’s because it doesn’t happen that often. Ditto with self-publishers who make good money. They make news because it’s rare. Just something to bear in mind.
Janelle, actually, alot of folks are making money self-publishing. They may not be making millions, like Amanda Hocking, which are the ones that make the news, but the indie threads are full of people who are delighted to find they are making a living wage at self-publishing. Many are giving up their day jobs.
It seems to me this really relates to the quality of the book. If someone writes a good book, it tends to rise to the top of Amazon listings through word of mouth, reviews and possibly pricing experimentation.
Sorry, but most trade published writers cannot earn a living via their writing alone, so the idea that “many” SPs are doing it – considering the huge slush pile readers have to hunt through to find their work, the lack of reliable reviewers, only local (if any) availability in b&m bookstores, and then add to that the problems with self-reporting (which any statistician will confirm) – sounds more like wishful thinking than logic or probability.
You’re 100% right. Very, VERY few people earn a living through traditional publishing. I have three award winning, multi-published Crit partners. None of them are earning a living writing. In fact, none of the traditional authors I am personal friends with, have been able to earn a living through their writing.
Yet I was able to quit my day job four months after self-publishing my first book. It’s been earning $4,000-$13,000 a month since October. Yet I haven’t made any of the successful self-publisher lists because I’m not earning enough for those lists. I have three self-publishing friends who have quit their jobs and are earning as much as me- if not more. This isn’t wishful thinking. This is fact. And it is really easy to verify. All you have to do is check a book’s Amazon ranking to find out how well its selling. There is this myth that successful self-publishing authors are few and far between. This simply isn’t true. There are hundreds out there making a very good living. Check the Kindle stores best sellers list. Look at the books at the top of the lists. You’ll find they are almost all self-published. These are the top selling books–the ones making the most money. And there are alot more self-published titles than traditionally published ones on the best sellers list in almost every genre.
Well, Trish said it more convincingly than I can, but if you’re really interested, Janelle, do some research.
Check out the Kindle Boards, websites like Dgaughran or Joe Konrath (some find his tone off-putting, but he and commentors have concrete stats.)
The reality is that EVERYONE is making money off e-books – publishers are showing definite increase in profits – with one exception. Writers who have signed with traditional publishers are the only ones not really making money right now. That’s because their royalty rate is 17.5%. Compare that to 70% that Amazon offers, the opportunity to set pricing in a way that attracts customers, and Amazon’s almost constant promotion of their lists, and you can understand how it can happen.
Add: to be fair, though, some self-publishers aren’t making money either – but I suspect that has more to do with pre-maturely publishing their books. If you are going the self-publishing route, it’s really important to spring for an editor – not just typos, but for content and flow as well.
Thank you, Trish, for that encouraging news!
Congrats on your success! I am still in the midst of deciding which route is for me. I am going to submit the traditional way first and go self-pub if no one wants me.
God bless, Anne Marie 🙂
The key, IMHO, when it comes to successful self-publishing is a quality product and the right genre.
Some genres just don’t do well in self-publishing, so anyone considering self-publishing needs to do their research and find out if their genre is one that does well or not. My goal was to mimic NY standards of production as closely as possible, which meant professional copy editing, proofing, cover artist and formatting. I didn’t hire a developmental editor on the first book. But I am working with one on subsequent books. My total production costs for my first book was 866.00. I made that back in six weeks. It does not cost a ton of money to put out a quality product.
Yes, there are alot of poorly written and poorly edited books out there. So of course they aren’t going to sell, just as they wouldn’t have sold to NY, just as they wouldn’t have interested an agent. But if you’re a good writer, a writer good enough to have sold to NY, and you produce a quality product, your work will rise to the top and readers will find you. Every single successful self-publisher is selling by word of mouth. Readers are hungry for our work. They talk self-published books up on every loop and board. The Amazon romance forum has a thread thousands of comments long where readers are recommending self-published work. They are constantly shouting out to loops and boards when they find a good, cheap, self-published book. They can buy 3-5 self-published books for the same price as 1 traditionally published work, so they are looking for good self-published books.
People who insist you can’t sell, or you won’t get noticed, haven’t done ANY research into the self-publishing industry.
Trish, we are in complete agreement.
I think some self-publishers don’t sell as well because their genre just isn’t as popular. But I also think some self-publishers are disappointed because they rushed the process and their book wasn’t ready yet.
I always like to mention that when I discuss the gold in the hills, because I think some debut authors hear the words “living wage” and rush to self publish too quickly. This is sad, because they may doubt their ability to write and stop, rather than understanding they just went too fast.
But once you do have a high quality product, even in the less popular genres, I think it is completely possible to make a living wage at writing. I see reports of it all over the web.
One of the keys to this that hasn’t been mentioned on this thread is volume. I know self-publishers who are putting out several books very quickly (something that is impossible to do in traditional publishing) and they swear this is really the key to making money. Readers respect an author with a list, and if the writer makes money on every title, it adds up. This is especially true since e-books don’t expire. They stay there forever (unlike a bookstore, where books are removed after awhile.) So, if my genre wasn’t as popular – say horror, as opposed to YA – I’d just write alot of it.
Amazon rankings are so convoluted – and what do they really tell you? That someone sold something and because of when it sold versus somebody else, it popped up in rank. It tells you nothing as far as income.
As far as trade published money versus self-pub – let’s not forget that little thing called an advance.
There’s this habit among SPs of pointing at the exceptions and acting as if they’re probabilities instead of possibilities. And the gurus of SP are great at pie-in-the-sky prophecies. Particularly those who already had a following based on their trade publications.
Anyway, if someone wants to spend money and time and hopes in order to self-pub, expecting to quit their day job and live happily ever after – well, I’ve got this bridge for sale…
Janelle, may I where you’re getting your information about self-publishers? I ask because you seem very sure that self publishers can’t make a living wage, yet your dismissal of Amazon rankings makes me think that you don’t have much experience with self-publishing. My own experience has been that getting a rough estimate of sales off of rankings is fairly straightforward.
Some links to numbers and sales of self publishers here:
I’m personally pursuing traditional publishing, but I do have indie friends who are making more money in one or two years off one book then they’re likely to get in a traditional contract. And these are first-time authors.
This is true. Authors usually have no true idea of the quality of their work. We’re too emotionally invested in it. So a lot of people do self-publish before they are ready.
And there’s no question the more books you have available the more money you’ll make. Every title you release boosts the previous titles again.
I’ll breathe alot easier when I have more titles available, so I’m not relying on just the one.
There is absolutely nothing convoluted or hard to understand about the Amazon ranking system. It’s simple. The lower a book’s rank, the better its selling. If you want specific rank to sales info- you can find it anywhere on line. There are plenty of ranking charts. This one has been the most accurate in my opinion. http://www.theresaragan.com/p/sale-ranking-chart.html
Nor are self-publishers saying it’s probable that everyone who self publishes will make so much money they can quit their day job. We are saying it is possible, that there are hundreds doing it right now, that if you are good enough to sell to NY, your are probably good enough to make a very good living self-publishing.
I think frustration is a huge factor for the fiction crowd. The web is full of people who rage against the machine and scream that the system is stacked against real art- yada, yada, yada. The truth is, most of these drama kings and queens would jump at the chance at a book deal. Self publishing fiction in today’s market is like digging for gold at the city dump. Yeah, you’ll find something of worth when your standards of success drop to, “Hey look, a toothbrush that’s still in the package!” Mow lawns. You’ll make ten times the money per hour of work then a self-pubbed novel. I guarantee it and if I’m wrong, I’ll send you a free copy of my book- “How to Write Novels on a Cub-Cadet.” (Available at all Deere John retailers)
Non-fiction is another matter due to platform. Sometimes the best way to build a platform is to self-publish a book and use it as a marketing tool to sell oneself. Hi, I’m PJ and I wrote a book to help people just like you! (kissy-kissy smooze-smooze)
Although you can make some good money selling 99 cent “How To” books on Amazon. “How to Get Your Book Published” has sold thousands!
I’m not jaded, it’s just a residue from all this fine jewelry!
(None of the above should be taken too seriously. If feelings of negativity persist longer than 3 hours, see a doctor as this may be a symptom of a rare but treatable form of grouchiness.)
You make me chuckle.
On a roll PJ!
Laughing out loud this morning. 🙂
I’m still in the middle of making a decision to self publishing or going to a publishing company.
I can see personal history or genealogy more on the self published side then your everyday Harry Potter, James Patterson books.
Self publishing is something that’s sounding more and more appealing to me every time I read something new about it. Before I started following blogs and such, I thought of self publishing as a last resort, but it’s really quite a good first option. 🙂 Thanks for sharing these reasons.
I share same thoughts. Mine may be worse because I have started shifting my mind away from, and seeking traditional publishers. And its not as if they are easy to ‘come by.’
The one thing I could see happening, in my pie-in-the-sky fantasy of getting published, is that I sell the book/trilogy I’m revising right now (only the first book of the trilogy). I have six sequel novellas plotted out that occur shortly after that trilogy ends. Novellas aren’t an easy sell. I could see self-publishing those for my imagined fans to read (assuming the pie-in-the-sky of the publisher of the trilogy opting to put those novellas out in an omnibus) while waiting for my next book. (Which is also set in the same universe. I’m a fantasy writer. What can I say?)
That would be the only scenario I could see outside what you listed there.
The thing that really draws me, as a writer, is #6 – Freedom. I like the idea of succeeding or failing on my own account. If I go that route some day, then I will be delighted to take responsibility for my book.
I’d still like to publish traditionally, but the temptation of that much freedom is very strong.