Writing Academy, Memoirs, Novels, Short Stories, Book Proposals

New York City Writing Coach

Gay Walley

Is it smart to self publish or a waste of time?

It’s very tempting to want to take control of the fate of your own book. Why would any self-respecting person want to go through the length of time it takes to get an agent, while experiencing all too many rejections? (Although studies have shown that a trait of creative people is our tendency to be very persistent, even in the face of doubt and naysayers.) And if you do get an agent, then you have to wait the endless time for them to find a publisher, and along the way you will experience a maddening series of rejections there, too.

Be that as it may, for those who are well versed in the internet generation, there is a natural inclination to say, “Who needs it? I’ll publish the book myself.”

Okay, here are 5 pros and 5 cons to be aware of before you begin. (Keep in mind, in publishing, there are always exceptions to every rule.)

PROS for self-publishing:

1. Any money you earn, you probably will only share with amazon, earning 70% of the book price for yourself. A book publisher will only give you a small percentage of the book price, $1/per book, after they have paid the distributors, themselves, advertising, and so on.

2. Publishers are giving smaller and smaller advances to writers, sometimes none, so you’re not missing out on earning some immediate money.

3. Your book will come out while you are still ambulatory. Publishing, as one agent said, is “hope deferred.” It often takes forever to get a book out. If you self-publish, you will do so while still in the thrall of the book.

4. If you do an e-book, it almost costs nothing. Formatting the book for amazon and other e-outlets, as well as designing a cover, are your only costs. If you choose to make a print version, there are on-demand book publishers whose costs are low, too, although you will have to pay for copy editing and a cover again.

5. If you are writing a book that has a known universe for an audience (cowboy lovers, people interested in neuroscience, car racing, etc), then you can use the internet to find your audience and promote your book. You can hire your own pr (many traditional publishers won’t do it for you anymore anyway) and create a campaign to sell to your target audience. If you are good at marketing, you can do it yourself. If you have 60,000 friends on Facebook, it’s a good sign. Do it.

1. Most distributors won’t carry your book and it will be very hard to get your book into a bookstore. “Who goes into a bookstore anymore?” I can hear you say. People do.

2. You most likely won’t get reviewed except by sites that specialize in self-published books and they are inundated. It will feel at times like a tree fell in the woods.

3. Unless your audience is targeted and defined, no one will know of your book. Novels, in particular, fare badly in the self published world. (I know, I know, 50 SHADES OF GREY went wildfire but that was a black swan.) No-one, not even the publishers know, who buys novels (well, they know it is mostly women) but no one has figured out how to market novels.

4. Only your friends may buy your book. You may find out you have a paltry number of book buying friends.

5. You risk putting out a book that is still in embryo because you haven’t worked it out enough. It is also rumored that many self-published books have terrible grammar and spelling. Try not to be impatient and keep working on your book till it is near perfect (there is no such thing as perfection in books. Perhaps Tolstoy.)

Of course, many books that are published by publishers have ignominious fates, just as self-published books do. That said, I personally would recommend self-publishing if 800,000 people are following your blog and you are going to announce your book there, or if you have a following of any sort. (Stephen King now self-publishes. ‘Nuff said.) Many people HAVE done well with self publishing and they are mega marketers (and I also don’t know if they are telling the truth and saying so to create a business.)
If you want to self publish, wait till you have built an audience. Or you have an audience waiting for your book. Otherwise, have some patience and keep refining your book, and keep going after an agent and publisher. Good things happen if you are committed.