Part of what I do as an author is help other writers.
I do that by teaching workshops with Greater Harvest Workshops here in Ohio; as well as by speaking and teaching at other writerly events.
When not speaking in person, I often blog about writing. Not so much here on my own blog since it isn't primarily for writers. This space is for me to connect with you, my readers.
Today, however, I'm sharing a recent post I wrote for the American Christian Fiction Writers Ohio Chapter, even though it IS an article for writers. Many of you are writers as well as readers; some are interested in writing even though you haven't quite tried your hand at it, yet. And today's proliferation of hype about self-publishing has some of you wondering if perhaps it might be a viable option for you at some point.
There is a great deal to say on the subject of self-publishing. Nevertheless, I hazard simplifying it with the following introduction.
The New Self-Publishing: Is It For You?
More writers than ever are curious about self-publishing today, and little wonder: With the abundance of newer, inexpensive options for getting one's work "out there," combined with the traditionally long, arduous process of finding a paying publisher, it seems like a viable option. I thought I'd help those who may be considering self-publishing to think through some of the ramifications.
(I can do this because I've been in both worlds: I started out self-published and then got picked up by Harvest House Publishers, who went on to contract my regency trilogy.)
|My Self-published book|
|My book with Harvest House|
|I think I can, I think I can, I think I can! (Self-Publish)|
If what you really want is the status and paycheck that comes with being published, self-publishing may not be your best choice. There is less of an industry bias today than in the past, but there is still a bias. If your imprint is not a paying publisher, it is harder to sell your books in most retail outlets, and in some cases, nearly impossible. Also, if you want books in hand (ie., in print, not just digital or ebooks), then you have to pay for them, including the costs that a traditional publisher usually coughs up, such as for good cover art, editing, back cover copy, etc. And that's just for starters.
Today, Amazon.com offers a relatively easy self-publishing option, as does Smashwords and BookTango and others. In some cases, you can even get print copies, I'm told, for a reasonable sum. However, the easier it is to self-publish, the more you can count on seeing lots of terrible books that shouldn't be out there, and this is not really good for anyone. And here's the danger inherent in this model: If you don't get your work professionally edited at least once, and ideally more than once, you run the risk of putting work out there before it's polished. This could trip up your possible future in the industry unless you're careful.
The reason there IS an industry bias is mostly because of the plethora of poorly written, unedited, unpolished manuscripts that have been self-published in the past.
Writers are understandably anxious to get their masterpieces into print, but here's another thing to consider before going this route. Most self-published books sell fewer than 500 copies. Even some traditionally published books sell this badly. The person who should self-publish, in my opinion, is one who knows his or her audience precisely, can market to that audience regularly, and ideally has a platform in place from which to do that marketing. For example, a homeschooling mom who travels the country going to Home School Conventions and has a curriculum to sell. She's got a website, testimonials from past customers, a way to process orders online, and knows how to get in front of her audience.
This is a huge topic, and I've barely touched the tip.
If you are chomping at the bit to get your work published despite not having a niche market, a platform, and a fool-proof marketing plan, my advice would be to conquer your impatience, learn who your audience is, and how to market to them. Start setting up a platform. Hone your writing and look for an agent. Go to conferences and meet editors face to face. (Conferences and face-to-face time is the only real short-cut to publishing success that seems to work over and over again, for many people. There are always exceptions, and I'm one of them--but don't count on being the exception!)
If, despite the lack of platform and marketing plan, you are determined to self-publish, my advice would be to go digital. The expenses are practically nil, except for buying yourself a good editor, (possibly a content editor as well as a copy editor) a good book cover (no four-color models, please!) and are certain you have something that is salable. In many ways, the digital book explosion levels the playing field. (Not entirely, but Miss Jane Doe may be able to sell a book to an online audience if she knows how.)
The key is: IF she knows how.
What do you think? Can you see yourself self-publishing? If you only want to reach your own friends and family, or any particular small group of people, it may be right for you. Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.
Before You Go!
There's still time to enter this week's book drawing.
Check it out here
And to all my USA friends: Have a wonderful, healthy and happy Thanksgiving!