Thursday, May 31, 2012

Non-Adventures in Self Publishing

I actually find myself in a bit of the same boat as Linda yesterday - the first few posts this week have actually already done a fantastic job in describing some of the ins and out of self-publishing vs trad publishing, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Really it comes down to what you're trying to do, I guess.

But things weren't always that simple. I started writing A Brush of Darkness in 2008 - at that point in time I joined RWA and a number of other writing organizations to try to learn the ropes. One of the biggest no-nos was self-publishing.

If you  *had* self published, you sure as hell didn't want to mention it to an agent or editor you were querying. It often smacked of desperation and failure.

But self-pubbing had a different meaning back then - we didn't have e-readers, so self-pubbing meant you were either publishing with a vanity press (i.e. PAYING someone else to publish your work) or you were shelling out mega-bucks to do your own Print On Demand thing. Very few authors made any money this way - and those that did were the ones who were selling them out of the trunks of their cars. Forget getting anyone to really review your work, or getting a bookstore to shelf them.

And then the e-readers came along and showed that e-books were a viable option - and the beauty of it was that a writer didn't need to pay all that extra for paper and binding. Sure, a good cover and formatting is needed, but the heavy costs for a physical object? Shipping? Printing?


With those obstacles out of the way, suddenly getting stories out to the public was much easier. Not that it's all roses. There's still a bit of a stigma on books that are self-pubbed, but that's becoming less and less with each day - particularly as big sellers are moving through the system - whether it's "Fifty Shades of Grey" or Amanda Hocking's work - the fact is that readers don't care WHO publishes a book. They just want to read good stories.

That being said, there is a difference between an author putting up a work that is well written but maybe doesn't fit a genre that a publisher feels they can sell...and writers who just throw their work out there without doing things properly. (Namely an editor - do NOT skimp on this cost - everyone needs their work edited and it can make a huge difference from a professional standpoint - you want people to weigh your writing on its own merits, not nitpicking over your commas and grammar.) Also, just because you CAN self-publish doesn't mean you should - or at least, not right away. It can be so tempting to get it out there, but now that there's so much competition in the marketplace for readers attention, you absolutely have make sure your work is the best it can be.
Will I self publish? Probably, yes. I'm not sure what, yet - I don't have a backlist and I don't have reams of trunk books that I can pull out and fix up, so I have to weigh my own options of the books I want to write and the amount of work I want to do to get them into readers' hands - and that's a very personal choice for many authors. There's definitely no one size fits all motif here.


  1. But aren't you essentially self-publishing Came a Harper?

    1. I suppose that would count, yes - but it's for free. For some reason, I tend to think that the point of self-publishing is to sell books - by that line of reasoning, anyone who's got *anything* online could be considered self published. (And maybe they are?)

      It *is* possible I may look at selling hard copies as we finish up chapters, though printing comics is a little more complicated than standard books.)

  2. "Can versus Should" -- an excellent point on so many topics. I got a kick out of Roni Loren's post about self-publishing = readers getting a taste the ol' slush pile. Once in a while there is a real gem but all too often ... not so much.

  3. I'm in the same boat as you. Things I want to self pub are going to have to be generated. I don't have trunk novels.

    But I do have a bunch of short stories (1000 to 3000 words) that I can bundle together.

    Plus, self pubbing you can use supplemental material to help make the release more interesting. (Interviews, essays, etc)

    Plus, I like fiddling with stuff, so this is one more thing to fiddle with.