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the self-publishing marketplace seems to be constantly changing and there’s an internet is full of conflicting, quickly outdated advice, and the whole question of publication can be down-right daunting.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?
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.
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).
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.
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?