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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Should You Self-Publish?

Should you self-publish?

That's a tough question, and you're the only one who can answer it. I can't tell you what to do...but I since I've been both self-published and traditionally published, I can share some insights.

The biggest question you need to ask yourself is: What's my goal? And as you ponder that question, mull over these four considerations:

1. If your goal is to make money...

Unless you can snag a big advance, you might be able to make more money fast self-publishing. Of course, it depends on whether you can buy your books at a reasonable price and if you have a way to sell them. But let's say you do. Let's say you're a motivational speaker, a job I did full-time for years. Since I was already in front of audiences, selling books was a way to add income to my speaker's fee. So, yes, it's possible that self-publishing will quickly put more money in your pocket. By contrast, with traditional publishing, you have to first repay your advance, and then wait for the publisher to calculate your royalties. (And know that publishing houses hold out a portion of those royalties until they see what your returns are.)

2. If your goal is to minimalize your risk...

You won't want to self-publish. At the very least, you won't want to act like a traditional publisher, a job which includes book design, cover design, getting the ISBN, setting the price, paying for the printing, shipping and warehousing books, and getting distribution. But, you might want to self-publish through a POD (print on demand) publisher or through an ebook publisher.

3. If your goal is to be known as an author...

This one is tricky. Yes, if you self-publish you can call yourself an author. You will be able to point to a book with your name on the cover. However, in the hierarchy of author-dom, and yes, there is definitely a food-chain, you probably won't get a lot of respect. So if you want to be accepted in almost every venue--such as author's conferences and at booksignings--you probably won't want to self-publish. (By the way, to the best of my understanding, the food chain starts with literary authors at the top of the pyramid, then thriller and suspense writers, then hard-and medium boiled mysteries, and finally cozies. Yeah, I'm probably wrong. This is pretty much on the basis of my observations. And yeah, I have NO idea why it seems to be like this...but even Stephen King admits that his commercial success hasn't always brought him respect as an author. It's a weird, weird world.)

4. If your goal is to have a career...

Um, self-publishing will not ruin your career. I know, I know. You've heard it said it will. But if your self-publish a great book--one that's well-written, well-edited, and professionally produced--you aren't going to deep six your career. That said, if you self-publish a product which is shoddy, you take your chances. And if you only feel you have one GREAT book in you, then self-publishing it is risky because once your book is out there, you might (and I emphasize MIGHT) have issues with copyright. (But I'm not a lawyer, so don't take this as legal advice.) Do realize that ebooks are much trickier when it comes to protecting your rights. Anything on the Internet is harder to monitor and control. The biggest fear you should have is how your final product witll reflect on you as an author. On your professionalism. Frankly, this is incredibly important. (At least to me!)

So now I've given you four considerations. There are more, and I'll cover them in another post.

2 comments:

Raquel said...

What about a 5th consideration--- publishing for a niche or limited market?

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Raquel, yep, that's a consideration I'll tackle in another post--this one was getting too long!