To self-publish or not to self-publish? That is the Question.

To self-publish or not to self-publish? That is the Question.

So what are the differences between self and traditional publishing?

To my mind there are basically just two big ones, each of which has a bunch of sub categories. And before I go any further I must explain that in this post I’m not talking about the family memoir or the history of your village fire station type book with very limited and local appeal. I’m talking commercial venture.

1/. With one you should be able to ensure you get your book published, no matter how good or bad it is, but you’re pretty much on your own in doing so.

2/. With the other you should be able to obtain a load of assistance in areas where you likely lack expertise and resources, but there’s no guarantee your book will be of any interest to the publisher or ever get anywhere near the printing press. Oh, and you have to think about giving up ownership as well.

In the first case it’s not enough merely to be able to write a good book. In fact, that is not even necessary to be published via that route. You can write a terrible book but if you have the resources you can still get it published. But will it be read? And once read, will it be recommended? Will it sell?

Probably not, unless you are able to do all that is needed to make it good, like the financial resources, contacts and patience. Let’s not forget the ability to shelve your ego as well, for this is your creation that, if you go with professional help to improve, someone else who is technically working for you (and may not see it as you do) will likely be wanting to change.

Those added layers after you’ve written your masterpiece don’t just include proof reading, copy editing, cover design, lay-up, digitization (for P.O.D.), ISBN registration, setting up Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, Lighning Source, Ingram Spark, Barnes and Noble et-al accounts, etc., etc., etc. It includes marketing, tying the cover design and blurbs to your target markets (which of course you have expertly pre-established) as part of your integrated marketing strategy, establishing contact with and exploiting media, organizing launches and public readings, generating websites and blogs and twitter feeds and facebook groups and creating Amazon and Goodreads author pages and so on and so forth…….. And even then, the book may still not sell.

Via the other route much of that will be done for you or, if not, at least assistance and guidance will be there for the bits you may still need to do yourself. And the capital outlay will likely not be nearly so onerous for you, both in post writing time and financial terms.

So why consider the self-publishing route at all?

In a large number of cases it boils down to the chances of getting the book published.  If you self-publish you control whether the book ever makes it to print, which of course means you can be assured it will if that’s what you want. If it’s not a good book, or a good book that has no appeal, it will not be published via the traditional route. Which means that one heck of a lot of books that people write will not be published via the traditional route, including some gems that the traditional editor didn’t notice before sending the rejection note.

Another factor that must be considered that impacts the to-self-publish-or-not-to-self-publish decision is ownership. If the traditional publisher wants to recoup the quite extensive outlay it will be putting up to have your book hit the shelves, and they most certainly will want that, they will require some safeguards their return on investment is at least protected if not guaranteed. They will then, to a greater or lesser degree, likely want a piece of the ownership of your work which means you are no longer free to do with is what you wish. It is no longer entirely yours whereas with self-publishing, of course, it is. To some that is very important.

Here I will make a brief comment about the various “publishing houses” through which you can self-publish. Unlike the traditional publishing houses their goal is not to sell your book(s) to the targeted markets. Their goal is to sell YOU their self-publishing packages. YOU are their targeted market, not their client, and therefore your own product, your book, is not the product they are selling. Their interest in its salability is in many cases negligible and any “added services” they may offer you are often merely just other products they are hoping you will buy from them that may or may not have any influence over increasing the sales of your book. Beware who you choose for like anything you buy there are some products that are inferior and over-priced. Do your research.

So why did I self-publish?

Because I write largely in a genre that no traditional publishing house in their right mind will touch unless the writer has a proven track record and a bit of a following.  As an unknown I had little choice but to initially go that route although my desire has always been to go with traditional publishing houses. For me self-publishing the first three or four books are stepping stones along the path that leads, I hope, toward traditional publishing. It remains to be seen whether or not that path leads to where I hope it will.

For anyone reading this post who is considering the road to publishing I suggest you weigh up the pros and cons of both options for they both have merits and draw-backs, probably in equal strengths once quantified, which vary greatly according to each individual writer’s perspective. The decision then rests with what your goals are. What is important to you. The reasons why you are considering having your work published. And especially in the magnitude of effort and resources you are able and prepared to commit to achieving those goals.