Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Introduction

publish_buttonWe’ve talked a lot about the craft of writing since we first started posting here on the blog.  Now I’d like to switch gears and talk about the publishing side of things for a while.

While I don’t yet have a completed a manuscript that I think is ready for public consumption – my first two are definitely “for my eyes only” – I’m very hopeful about my third.

When the time comes and I’m ready to move on to the next step, I’d like to have some idea of where I’m going.  I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all been busily working away on our manuscripts with the plan of publication.  The question is:  what path to take – traditional or self (indie)?

As Nancy mentioned in her post last week, from the reader’s side of the fence the question is irrelevant.  They’re just looking for good, satisfying stories.  From the writer’s side of the fence, however, the answer depends on a lot of things including how much control you want to have over the process, your level of interest/skills, and whether you want to focus your efforts on writing or on the business side of writing.  There’s no right or wrong answer and the method that’s appropriate for one book may not work for another.  Add in the fact that the self-publishing marketplace seems to be constantly changing and there’s an internet is full of conflicting, quickly outdated advice, and the whole question of publication can be down-right daunting.

So what are some of the benefits of self-publishing?

Control

Self-publishing gives you a lot of control over your finished product, from the cover and title to marketing and pricing.  You get to be the one to make all the decisions that (hopefully) will result in a book that turns out just the way you want it to.  The downside of course, is that you are the one who has to make all the decisions.  We’re not all experts in cover design and marketing and editing (at least I’m not), so having all this control means you’re probably going to need to assemble a team of others to help take care of the things that are outside of your area of expertise. All of which is time away from writing, which is probably what you’d rather be doing.

Flexibility

Self-publishing offers flexibility in terms of format, content, and even genre.  Based on my experience, limited though it is, traditional publishers seem to want books that fall into recognized categories – romance, women’s fiction, western, mystery – and those stories that don’t fit neatly into the standard category boxes can wind up rejected, as may those stories that don’t fit with what is currently being marketed or sold.  Self-publishing provides greater opportunities for those “outside-the-boxes” stories and also makes it easier to publish works of different lengths (e.g, novellas or serial fiction).

Profits

A greater portion of the price of a self-published book typically stays with the author than that of a traditionally published book.  That’s great, but self-publishing requires an up-front investment for things like cover design, editing, etc.  Even with a higher earnings-per-book percentage, it is possible to lose money if you don’t sell enough books to recoup your initial investment.  You may or may not get an advance with a traditionally published book, but at least you don’t have that initial investment to recoup.

Speed

Self-publishing can be fast, which can be both a good and a bad thing.  At the click of that “publish” button, you can get your book out there in front of readers without having to fit into someone else’s release schedule or marketing plan.  The timing is dependent on when you (and your book) are ready, not when someone else is ready for you.  The downside of this ease of publishing, however, is the possibility of clicking “publish” before your book is really ready to go.  The last thing you want to do is publish your book before it’s been fully edited or before you have a marketing strategy in place.  The speed of self-publishing means making sure you’ve done your up-front planning, so you don’t wind up scrambling to fix problems after the fact.

Over the next several Wednesdays we’ll be talking about various aspects of self-publishing – covers, marketing, editing, platforms and more – with a few interviews thrown in for good measure.  To get yourself in the self-publishing frame of mind, be sure to check out Michaeline’s post this Saturday where she’ll be talking with Lois McMaster Bujold about her upcoming self-published novella.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts on self-publishing?  Have you tried it (plan to try it)?  Do you have any self-publishing resources to recommend?

12 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Introduction

  1. There’s a great blog on self-publishing: http://www.thepassivevoice.com. According to Passive Guy, the lawyer who writes that blog, a new author would have to be “totally innumerate” to go traditional these days. Not only do publshing houses keep most of the money, but they do little to promote new authors, preferring to expend their resources on established money-makers.

    There are also some good Yahoo discussion forums: selfpublish@yahoogroups.com, IndieRomanceInk@yahoogroups.com and AuthorsNetwork@yahoogroups.com. All, I believe, are private groups so you have to request an invitation to join. They have recommendations for the various kinds of editors and formatters and cover artists.

    As you can tell, I’m giving a lot of thought to self-publishing.

  2. I second all Jeanne’s recommendations, but especially The Passive Voice. I subscribe to that blog and read it every day. Also Joanna Penn’s blog The Creative Penn has a ton of helpful free information. I subscribe to that one, too: http://www.thecreativepenn.com.

    There’s the Author Earnings Report: http://authorearnings.com/report/may-2016-report/ which has a lot of hard information on what indie authors are really doing and how much they can/should expect to earn. And the Alliance of Independent Authors, which I would almost certainly join if I decided to self-publish: http://www.allianceindependentauthors.org

    As you can tell, like Jeanne, I’m giving a lot of thought to self-publishing. It makes sense to be as well-informed as possible about all the available options.

    • Jilly – I definitely agree about the “be as well-informed as possible” plan. The last thing you want to do is make career decisions without knowing the facts. Thanks for the additional links / resources. There is so much out there, it is hard to know what will be helpful and what will not.

  3. I would really, really prefer to go the traditional route. I just have no marketing skills or instinct whatsoever, and I don’t really want to learn how to do it, either. I hold a dayjob down, and I would prefer to spend my freetime writing.

    However, the kind of stories I’m writing aren’t fitting into the traditional format. They are too short. They may be too romantic for a lot of SFF editors, and too involved-with-other things for paranormal editors, and not high-brow enough for literary editors.

    So, I’m going to look forward to this series; not with glee, per se, but with resignation that self-pubbing is probably the only way I’m going to get my work in front of dozens of eyes.

    • I’m with you Michaeline, I too would prefer the traditional route, but I’m trying to learn all I can about self-publishing as well so I have options, once this book is Finally Finished. Glad you are looking forward to this series, even if it is with a healthy dose of resignation. 🙂

  4. I know I sound like a broken record on this point, but for me, it all comes down to the terms and conditions (Ts and Cs) of any contract a publisher would offer. I wasn’t all that careful when I went with a small press years ago, and while that all worked out okay from a future work and ability to protect my own pen name perspective, I am older and wiser now and wouldn’t agree to some of those terms today. And that was before the big houses (and many of the smalls as well) went crazy with rights grabs and in-perpetuity clauses.

    While we’d like to think agents will be the ones standing between us and bad Ts and Cs, one of the big eye-openers for me at RWA Nationals in NYC was that so many authors felt they’d gotten agent advice that wasn’t in their best interest as writers. So it’s writer beware all the way around.

    • Nancy, that’s an excellent point. You’d like to think that an agent would have your very best interests in mind, but that’s not always the case. It’s important to remember that this is a business for everyone involved and that we’re the only ones that will *definitely* have our own best interests in mind. Much of the information I’ve come across thus far recommends having an independent legal review of any contracts / terms, regardless of which type of publishing you’re going with. Writer beware, indeed.

    • And you might get a contract with a publisher before you get an agent, too, so what the agent might advise could be a moot question for some of us. In that case, a lawyer who specializes in publishing contracts is definitely a good option for advice on what points to negotiate or reject, although I don’t think most of them do the negotiating for you—you’d have to undertake that yourself. The upside is that you can always walk away, and these days, it might be better to do that.

  5. Pingback: Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Covers – Eight Ladies Writing

  6. Pingback: Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Editing – Eight Ladies Writing

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