Think Hard Before Self-Publishing
I recently received an email from a guy who had self-published a book. He’d paid to print 500 hardcover copies, and was pursuing local and national bookstore chains and distributors. But he’d hit a brick wall, finding that most buyers and distributors were not interested in talking to him. He was flummoxed; he needed to sell his books, especially because he was already developing several more books after that first one. He was convinced that if people just looked at his book, they’d want to buy it; he’d already had many positive responses from acquaintances. But he had no idea where to go next.
This was hard for me because basically, I could not help the guy. I’m not a self-pub expert. But I told him that his problems getting distribution are the main reason self-publishing doesn’t work for many people. If you don’t have a channel through which YOU can sell your book, then self publishing usually isn’t a profitable option. And by a channel, I mean something you’re doing yourself: you’re out speaking and selling your book in the back of the room. You’re the pastor of a 10,000 member church and you sell it through your church bookstore. You have a terrific website or blog that gets 100,000 hits a month and your book is featured for sale there. Or something like that.
Trying to get your self-published book into traditional distribution channels can be an exercise in beating your head against the wall. It’s extremely difficult. In addition:
→ There are some kinds of promotions that only publishers can do; e.g. purchasing space on front & center tables in Barnes & Noble. Many promotions aren’t open to self-pubbed books.
→ Major book reviewers (People mag, etc.) don’t review self-pubbed books.
→ Editorial excellence & professional book design can be prohibitively expensive.
→ The odds of a self-pubbed book becoming NYT bestseller are staggeringly slim.
→ Selling your self-pubbed book can easily become your full time job if you want it to be successful.
Having said all that, I do recommend self-pubbing for authors whom I don’t believe are going to get a good commercial publishing deal (for whatever reason), and they have some decent channels through which to sell the book. Of course, if you don’t really care about selling a lot of copies, then none of this matters. Do whatcha want!
I think I’ve said everything I can possibly say about self-publishing by now, and I don’t plan to revisit the topic anytime soon. After all, that’s not the business I’m in, so I admit I don’t have many answers. But if self-pubbing interests you, you can read all my other posts on it here.
Q4U: Why do you think self-publishing is becoming so popular these days? Have you considered it?
Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent