Monday, July 28, 2014

Is It Time to Reconsider Self-Publishing?

"What have you got to lose by shopping your book around?" my friend asked.

Although I have been an outspoken advocate of self-publishing for years, I admit this wasn't the first time I considered the traditional publishing route. Why not shop it around?

Last week I completed the final FIRST draft of my novel. I sent it to a few readers, including my son. “Mom,” he said. “It’s really good. I don’t think you should self-publish this time."

Ah, the enthusiam of youth! And, of course, he is my son.

But what he proposed struck a chord, especially when another reader said, "It's by far your best work.  I see it as a movie!"

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I'm not naive.  I'm a journalist, after all.  But I believe in this book.

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Was it time to reconsider self-publishing?

I love self-publishing; the total creative control; the collaboration and sharing of pioneering indie authors as we explore the new publishing dynamic. I like setting my own pricing, and the digital royalties at 70 percent an ebook are great.

What I don't love . . . this quote from author Hugh Howey sort of sums it up

"Indie authors are maniacally focused on the reader, almost to the exclusion of anything else. Low prices, fun and interesting genres and styles, a direct relationship, frequent output, you name it. Indie authors are doing well because they know it’s all about the reader."


I'm good with the part that it's all about the reader, but "frequent output"? And "fun and interesting genres" sounds like romance, mysteries, witches and warlocks, sci-fi That isn't me and never will be. My hope is to produce something lasting and at least quasi-literary.  And, in fact, this new novel may very well be my last book.

Since I am not an author who toyed with the idea of being a self-publisher, but ACTUALLY DID IT,  (I created my own imprint this year called Writing Circle Press), I have experience when it comes to publishing strategies and options.

Should I traditionally publish?  When I say traditionally publish, I’m talking about legitimate big and small publishing houses - not publishers and small presses who offer limited exposure and distribution; or those which are, in actuality, vanity presses in disguise, treating authors like customers.

Maybe, in order to reach a decision, I needed to re-examine the realities of self-publishing. 

“Evil Amazon” -  Amazon hatred, or the “evil” Amazon as some writers refer to that conglomerate, has grated me for years. Frankly, where would most of us be without Amazon? I'm not saying who's responsible for this outrage/prejudice. I'm just saying it makes it difficult. When authors complain about Amazon, it seems like shooting oneself in the proverbial foot.

I DO happen to think CreateSpace does a bang-up job for a very reasonable cost and outstrips the competition in that regard. Their formatting and cover design teams are excellent – I love the look and quality of my ebooks and my trade paperbacks.

Bookstores and Libraries -  Isn't it nice to think your book might be sold at the Barnes and Noble in Seattle? No matter how hard you hold out hope that your book might some day land in bookstores and libraries across the country, this is mostly a pipe dream for authors not published by the Big Six (now the Big Five). How important are bookstores?  Important.  People still love to touch and hold a book as they browse a bookstore.

Audience - I write with the idea of  reaching as large an audience as possible. To say otherwise, as some do, sounds disingenuous – or somewhat lacking in confidence. The average self-published book sells 250 copies. Forbes  recommends Guy Kawasaki's book which includes chapters on traditional publishing and the self-publishing revolution.

Reviews – As an indie author, you soon learn that well-written and thoughtful reviews that evaluate why readers should buy your book are scarce.  A national review would be nice, wouldn't it?

Hustling and Bussing Books – Neither self-publishing nor traditional publishing precludes marketing and promotion. That said, driving around to stores and shops, selling books on consignment as I have done over the years . . . can get wearisome. Things I have NOT done. . . pay for blog tours . . . run a Crowdfunding campaign, spend thousands of dollars on editors.  Random House where are you?

Wait Time - With self-publishing and many small presses, you don't wait sixteen or eighteen months (years?) for your work to reach the light of day. (Some small presses also use CreateSpace as their printer.) That's great and no denying the prime reason people self-publish. But if I truly believe my book deserves a place in a New York City bookstore, isn't the wait worth it?

As I begin seeking a publisher, an agent, or continue to self-publish under Writing Circle Press, I'll keep you posted on the journey. The one thing I'm certain - neither publishing route is a great alternative. Both are rife with flaws, but having gone down one road . . . the other is starting to beckon.

Love to hear your thoughts. Are you considering or reconsidering self-publishing or traditional publishing? 
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