It’s that time of year again. Nanowrimo! And following every November, the self-publishing business gets a little crowded. So to celebrate, I’ve got some great posts lined up to help you decide if you want to stick to tradition or become an indie trailblazer.
When it comes to publishing your novel, there is no right or wrong answer, but here are some things to consider first:
I put this one first because it happens all to often and can easily cloud your judgement. Don’t choose self-publishing simply because you’re tired of rejections. Is it really ready? Or have you simply become impatient to see your manuscript become a book? For those that fall into this trap, I would use the term ‘vanity publishing.’
Take a step back and try to be objective. Ask yourself: what is the real reason it’s not selling? It might be a number of reasons. Just make certain that the answer is NOT because it isn’t ready. Your name will be on this work FOREVER. So make sure you’re self-publishing for the right reasons.
They say to become an expert on something, you must practice it for 10,000 hours. So for a traditionally published author such as David Mamet or J.A. Konrath to turn to self-publishing is one thing. Are you really ready?
I hope you’re a patient person. If you take the traditional route, you need an agent before you can even begin to shop around for publishers. It can be a long and arduous process full of ups and downs. Even once you sign a contract with a publishing house, it can take up to two years until you finally see it on the shelves.
Every writer’s journey is different, but it’s not unusual for this whole process to take a whopping five years (if you’re lucky). And even then, maybe it’s a great novel but it just won’t sell for a number of reasons which have nothing to do with your writing. In the meantime, you’ve been sitting on it for years and the market has moved on without you.
Traditional publishing and self-publishing both have their pros and cons, but if you want to see your book in print faster, self-publishing has the obvious advantage.
Time and Effort
Self promotion will always be equally important with both self-publishing and traditional publishing. If you want to do everything you can to help yourself succeed, both choices require a lot of effort on the author’s part. But what about everything else?
It doesn’t take long to figure out that there’s a large learning curve with query letters, rejections, proposals, and the list goes on. It all takes a lot of time. Time us writers would rather spend writing. But it’s all necessary if you go traditional. If you’re very lucky, things will pan out the first time. However, for those of us mere mortals, getting through all the checkpoints and hoop-jumping can take years.
However, once you sign that contract, you don’t have to worry about all the niggly things that make a book a book. The publisher takes care of that. All you need to worry about is writing that amazing sequel.
If you want to self-publish for family, friends, and a few odd strangers, then things will be more relaxed. But if you’re going to make a serious go of it, then you want to give it your all, right?
One of the biggest self-publishing time consumers is simply learning how to get it done. But once you’re familiar with it, you’re checking your stats, searching out booksellers that will carry your novel, and maybe you’re even shipping the physical books out yourself (which, if you are, there are better ways). It does take a little extra time to self-publish, but after a while, you will become more efficient and savvy at it. Do you work full time? Are you a stay-at-home parent with needy kids? It’s up to you to decide if you have that time and if it’s worth it for you.
How in-depth you want to go is up to you, but the amount of effort you put in will show in your finished product. Of course, some of the work you can hire out, but that brings us to…
With traditional publishing, money flows towards the writer. Let’s start with the advance. For first time authors, this isn’t huge, but it will help with self-promotion. When you’ve sold enough to pay off the advance, you’ll start to see royalties. But even if you never sell enough to pay it off, you won’t have to pay the publisher back (but hopefully that’s not even an issue). And your agent gets paid when you do, so you’ll never be out any money.
With self-publishing, you’re fronting all the funding right from the start. A good editor, a great cover designer, and even someone to format the files are needed to make your novel look and feel like a ‘real’ book. But it can cost a lot. Sure, you can teach yourself to do a lot of this, you can skimp and save. But this is your baby. Don’t you want what’s best for it? The way I see it, I would rather spend the extra money for an expert who would make it absolutely perfect. Then I can spend my time working on my next bestseller 🙂
You have to be prepared, put-together, and professional when dealing with agents and editors, and most importantly so does your manuscript. However, a few tiny little mistakes here and there won’t dissuade someone from taking on your project, so long as it shows great potential. Those mistakes will be hammered out over and over again by the time it’s published. But if you self-publish, it’s up to you to make sure it’s perfect.
As I said above, you want your book to look and read like a ‘real’ book. For your average reader picking up a self-published novel, they will instantly be skeptical. It starts with the cover. Admit it. You judge books by their cover. We all do. We see something shiny and pretty and we want to pick it up and look at it. If your cover fails to get a potential reader to pick it up in the first place, then how will you ever get them to read it? This is still important for e-books displayed on websites.
Once a reader opens the book, any grammatical or spelling mistakes will be glaringly obvious and will make it hard for them to take you seriously. You want both your physical and your e-book to look exactly like those published the traditional way. There are a lot of other books to read out there. Don’t give potential readers a reason to put your book down.
Who are you trying to reach with your novel?
Perhaps your target audience are the people perusing the bookstore shelves or have wandering eyes in grocery store lineups. Maybe it has always been a no-brainer that you need the kind of backing that a publisher and the big bookstores can offer. Or maybe you’ve always dreamed of seeing your novel on those shelves. Whatever your reason for choosing traditional, just make sure it’s right for your specific book.
Maybe you’re receiving rejections because the editor isn’t sure how to categorize your manuscript or isn’t sure if it will fit the current market. That could simply mean you need to find that special niche. Building your own platform allows you to reach your audience, whether it be a specific group of locals or a widespread international target. That’s up to you and your marketing skills.
We all want to sell high volumes, right? This is your story and you want people to read it. Do a little research. What is the best way to reach your specific audience?
By the time a novel hits the shelves, it looks quite different than the original work — for the better (or so the author hopes). But that’s the process you’re signing up for if you decide to go traditional. There will be a lot of cooks in the kitchen. And every one of them is there to make sure your book is as amazing as it can possibly be. This is great for some. You have a lot of experienced professionals in your corner.
But maybe you prefer to cook alone. By self-publishing, you are guaranteed to retain total control over your creative work. Just make sure it’s about being true to your story and not plain stubbornness. I know, I know. That 500 page prequel is totally necessary. Are you truly being objective with this decision? Remember to do what’s best for your novel.
Level Of Success
Years ago there was a stigma attached to self-published novels. Many thought it was for those who just couldn’t ‘make it’ in the traditional publishing industry. We know better now. It just took real entrepreneurs to blaze that trail for the late-comers. The self-publishing industry is getting stronger every day and there is still so much potential to be taken advantage of by writers.
A good novel is a good novel, regardless of how it’s published. Take 26-year-old millionaire Amanda Hocking, for example. Enough said. And at the SIWC last month, I met Lorna Suzuki, author of the Imago Chronicles, who has landed a blockbuster movie deal with her self-published series.
And finally, stay tuned for an upcoming guest post from Jodi McIsaac, author of The Thin Veil series, who’s own self-publishing success landed her a contract with Amazon. She will be giving us tips Marketing On Amazon for the self-published author.
This is just the quick and dirty version of this controversial discussion. I know I’ve missed a whole bunch of points, so help me out. What are your experiences? Do you have any pros and cons to add to the list?