Self-publishing has come a long way from the vanity based projects that once consumed the industry. It was not something I have ever given serious consideration to. My thoughts were quite dated in the sense that I thought it would like being a signed or an unsigned recording artist, you are either signed, or you are unsigned, it is not so much a choice as a decision made for you. Not so it seems, many established authors are choosing the self-publishing route. By why so I remain instinctively reluctant?
Perhaps acceptance by someone else is one of the major reasons, in the traditional route, a professional has patted you on the back and put a stake of themselves in your book. Then there is the question of how little old me could get my book into the stores to sell it. Even the layers of support that comes with a book deal, albeit at the cost of the control.
While I believe in my writing, I also believe that my children deserve the occasional meal. The cost of going alone must be astronomical, surely? I’m not looking to make a fortune out of writing (and you’re thinking just as well), but I don’t want it to cost me a fortune either. Would anyone even take me seriously if I published it myself?
Of course, there are negatives when navigating the publishing route, the main one being actually having a professional take a punt on you. Even when they do, you have considerable delays, a loss of creative control and a loss of ownership. Royalties are low, albeit balanced but the larger reach a traditional publishing house would expect to cover. Then you have the whole minefield of contracts, with clauses as restrictive as claiming percentages of all future sales regardless of whether or not they are involved with your writing at that stage.
Enter the different but equally stress filled world of self-publishing, in short, doing it all yourself. Many prefer to refer to themselves as independent authors, perhaps justifiably distancing themselves from the negative connotations associated with self-publishing. To some people, self-publishing simply means not good enough to be traditionally published. It is a harsh interpretation given the volume of established authors who have chosen to adopt this method of reaching their readership, but the view does still exist.
As an independent, you do keep creative control and ownership, and you can get your book out there the instant that it is ready. We all have different views on what ‘ready’ constitutes and this has contributed to the vast spectrum of quality out in the self-published market. Royalties are higher, and while you do have to work hard to market the book, you have to work hard to market the book in the traditional world too. If you hope to be published in the traditional manner, this can even be a step towards attaining that goal – see 50 Shades of Grey as evidence of this.
It seems that the key when self-publishing is to ensure you have taken a cautious and professional approach to the process which a publishing house would. You will need an editor, a cover designer, and a company to publish the books at your cost. It all adds up, if you want to do it properly. Then, are you focusing on online, or are you going to try and get your books into stores? Despite the costs, it is this that sounds like one of the most difficult challenges to me.
The reality is that there isn’t a correct path any longer, there is the way that is best for you. Despite all my research into the various options, I’m still none-the-wiser of which I should do!
What made you self-publish? If you are signed to a traditional deal, would you consider self-publishing in future?