Tuesday, May 10, 2016

5 Pros & Cons of Self-Publishing

I am one of the self-publishers in the bordello; some call us "author-preneurs" or "indie-authors." Some have other less than awesome names for us, but thhhpppp on them. There are advantages and drawbacks to this path, just as there are with Traditional Publishing. Since I don't have firsthand experience with NYC, I'll defer to my housemates and stick to what I know.

Here are my Top 5 Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing:

  • Control: For better or worse, you have the final say in 90% of what, when, and how your book is unleashed on the world. It's awesome. It's frustrating and frightening. It's an enormous time-suck. If you're not comfortable with managing processes and owning accountability, this ain't the path for you.
    • That missing 10% goes to technology, distributors, and collaborators.
  • Content: Whether you write super-niche stories or last month's trendy genre, nobody is going to tell you "you can't." How well your book is received by the public is something you can influence but not control. Accept that. 
    • Pay for an editor, please, for the love of any Divine Being, pay for an experienced editor. A dev editor is good, a proof editor is a bonus. A copy editor is a must. 
  • Deadlines: They are yours to set, to meet, to watch fly past, or to constantly adjust. Because self-publishing does require you to collaborate with other people at various points, you can't be completely blasé about schedules and dates. But if you're a slooow writer like me, you can create a release plan that accommodates your sloth-like creative process. If you're one of those super-fast writers who can churn out quality books quarterly or faster, then there is nothing to stop you from doing so.
  • Ownership: Of your name, your world, your characters, your rights, your time, your everything. Want to release an audio version of your book? Do it. Want to branch into graphic novels? Go for it. Want to finish out the series even though sales have declined? The fans will thank you. Prequel? Novella? Why not? No asking permission. No worrying about conflicts of interest or interest in general. You're limited only by time and resources.
  • Do-Overs: That cover you loved last year fall flat with buyers? Redo it. Those super-modern references now out of date? Change 'em. Find all the typos after you hit "publish"? Fix 'em, reupload. 

  • Financial Investment: Like any start-up, don't expect to be in the black in your first year. How quickly you can build a large backlist directly affects how long it will take you to earn a profit. Maintaining a profit depends on how often you release new books. 
  • Predators, Plagiarists, and Pirates: Yes, it's a Trad Publishing problem too. They have legal departments and parent companies with teeth. You have a bookmark file of the DMCA & Take Down Notices to deal with Pirates. You pray for enough readers who care to tell you if chunks of your work are showing up in someone else's book, blog, anthology, or toilet paper roll. You're hooked into at least a half-dozen self-pubbing communities to stay abreast of the latest predatory practices, people, and tech. 
  • Brick & Mortar Placements: Don't expect to see your book on an actual tangible shelf anywhere, especially not a national chain or airport kiosk. You might be able to swing it with local indie shops. Part of it is stigma (there is a lot of shitty self-pubbed work out there, not gonna pretend otherwise; OTOH, there's a lot of awesome work out there too). Part of it is the Unsolds and Returns bookstore business model. Part of it is bookstores' slow adoption of the Expresso Print-In-Shop-On-Demand technology. Yes, there are ways to get your book in a store. Is the ROI worth it? YMMV.
  • Conventions: Not every book convention welcomes self-pubbers. Even if we provide our own paperbacks and/or manage the sales of said books. Initially, convention organizers simply didn't know how to incorporate self-published (and at the time typically e-book-only) authors, promotions, and sales into their traditional Con model. Self-publishing has been around long enough now that the know-how is there; however, the desire isn't. It is 100% marginalization.
  • Translations/International: So.Many.Boobytraps. Beyond the expected distribution challenges and finding quality translators, there's a quagmire of legal differences. It's not impossible, and there are authors who have success in non-English markets. But this is a time you really, really want to hire a boutique firm who deals with everything for you.  If you can connect with a US agent who specializes in foreign rights sales, that is a sweet spot for many self-pubbers.

So, is self-publishing something you want to try? Check back every day this week to see what other self-publishers, hybrid-published, traditionally published,and micro-press published authors have to say.  You may find a mix of options is the best path for you.

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