When I began writing Mother Earth Father Sky way back in the 1970s, options for publication were pretty much the following. You could submit your novel directly to a small publisher or university press. You could find an agent who would begin the submission process to larger publishing houses. You could pay big bucks to a vanity press to publish the book. You could self-publish, which would still cost thousands and pretty much relegate your novel to the dreaded “ignored” category. Ignored by bookstores, ignored by reviewers, ignored by readers.
Today, with the advent of ebooks and print-on-demand, self-publishing carries no loss of prestige, and it doesn’t break the author’s budget.
I’m not an expert at self-publishing because I haven’t gone that route yet. I believe someday I will, but right now I have too many projects on my desk to pursue that possibility. So this post is not about those steps of pursuit. You can find many self-publishing experts on line. I recommend literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s book, which will walk you through the decision process. How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing (A Field Guide for Authors) is available as an ebook through Amazon for $2.99. Definitely worth the price!
Meanwhile, let’s talk about the positives and negatives of self-publishing.
1. You are in control. You decide what gets edited out of your novel and what you want to leave in. You control cover art. You control font choices. You control length.
2. You decide what time of year to publish your book. If you want to bring it out in time for Christmas, you can. If you want to arrange publication according to your personal schedule, you can. You’re not in lockstep with the publishers’ other books, waiting your turn.
3. You can keep your novel in print as long as you want. Publishers usually “retire” in-print novels, many times it’s after only a few months on bookstore shelves.
4. Once you pay the costs, you don’t have to split the profits with a publisher.
Of course, there are negative aspects:
1. You pay. If your novel comes out as an ebook, you might pay between $100 and $300 to have your manuscript formatted. Hard copy books are of course more expensive, but print-on-demand allows those costs to come to the author in a more gradual way. You may decide to hire an editor to vet your work before you publish it. Editing costs can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, but the choice is up to you. I do recommend an editor, not only for grammar, spelling, and typos, but for content. You want your novel to be the best possible. Otherwise, you may lose your readership for a second book.
2. You must find your own cover art and pay the artist.
3. You may have to acquire more “techie” skills to ready your manuscript for ebook formatting.
4. You must do your own PR work. In the current publishing climate, that’s also true with many commercial publishers. So this isn’t as much of a deterrent as it used to be. Still, you can’t sit back and expect someone else to research the market for you or find bookstores willing to carry your novel.
5. Most national reviewers don’t review self-published novels. On the local scene, though, many reviewers do. It’s your job to find them.
The most important thing for a writer with a completed first novel to know is that self-publishing exists as a viable option. You do not ruin your career if you decide to self-publish. You’re simply getting your novel out there to an audience.
Have you considered or pursued self-publishing? Tell us your experience!
Strength to your pen!
*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*