Let’s get something straight; self publishing is not the easy way out. It is 10x more difficult than going through a traditional publisher. However, if you’re willing to put in the effort, the rewards can be that much better. Let’s take a look at some key points of self publishing to see if it’s the path you should take.
Do you want control over every single aspect of your writing and book design?
This is one of the biggest reasons why folks self publish. By self publishing, you answer to no one but yourself. This also means that you are the one responsible for everything and some folks don’t want all that responsibility. If you’re ready to be the end-all/be-all, then feel free to jump in.
Are you prepared to do the work necessary to publish the most polished novel you possibly can?
Self publishing isn’t about cranking out 70,000 words, uploading a Word file to KDP with a slapped-together cover, and clicking “Publish.” It’s about putting out the best darn book you possibly can without having to give up a huge chunk of royalties and a lifetime of rights. This means having the book professionally edited, paying to have a cover created, wrangling beta readers, and maybe even paying to have the insides formatted. If you’re not willing to make an effort to get these services, I recommend traditionally publishing. Honestly. Otherwise, you may be wasting your time and tarnishing your potential reputation. You might not have the money to do these sorts of things and I understand that, but then you’re going to be producing a mediocre product that neither you, nor your readers, will be happy with. Your goal should be to put out a book that rivals those found in any bookstore. If you can’t come close to that, then you should reconsider traditional publishing.
Are you willing to do the marketing necessary for your book to be successful?
This holds true whether you’re self published or a traditionally published midlist author: You’re going to have to do most of your own marketing. Marketing comes in many forms. Some cost money. Some don’t. But, no one is going to hand you a prize as soon as you self publish. In fact, unless your circle of family and friends is extraordinary (and they’re all willing to buy your book), immediate success is rare. It’s often a constant struggle to keep your book in front of readers. This doesn’t mean you need to devote your life to promoting your book (you should really be working on your next book as soon as your first one is published). But, promotion can take time and energy.
Can you handle criticism from strangers and friends in a professional manner?
Self-publishing is still a 4-letter-word to some people. It’s climbing its way out in certain crowds, but there are some who hear it and automatically assume “vanity publishing” and “most likely crap that no one else would publish.” Is your skin thick enough to be on the front lines? You will get negative reviews that target you because you are self published. You will get strange looks from people when you tell them you self published. You will get haughty disdain when you explain in clear terms why you self published. You will be faced with a type of segregation that, at times, will bar you from participation because of your chosen method of publication. You need to be able to take all of the criticism and doubt with your head held high and
Can you live without “publishing industry” validation?
This is a biggie. Do you need the established gatekeepers of traditional publishing to tip their cap your way in order to be proud of your writing? If so, turn back now. The chances of having that happen after self publishing are slim to none. Yes, it’s happened. Hugh Howey got a sweet paper-only contract after his self-published novel, Wool, took off. Recently, cover artist (he did the cover for Danny Dirks!) and author Jason Gurley published his epic, Eleanor, and had it picked up several months later by Crown Publishing (and recently in the UK by HarperCollins). Congrats to him. It’s so rare though. You can pretty much guarantee being shunned by any sort of traditional press once you’ve self published, unless you happen to sell a ridiculous amount of books out of the gate. $ attracts $.
If you answered “Yes” to all of these, congratulations on thinking you’re ready to be a self-published author. 😉 I can tell you, from 3+ years of personal experience, it has its moments, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m proud of my mistakes and my successes because they are all mine.
What do you think? Anything I missed? Let us know in the comments and thanks for stopping by!