Self publishing your own book is one of the publishing industry’s dirty little secrets. Mainstream publishers, editors, and authors easily dismiss self publishing and print on demand publishing as a rip-off for both the writer and reader. After all, if the writer was a real writer then they could find a real publisher, right? That has been the conventional wisdom for a long time but in today’s modern, technological society that conventional wisdom does not always hold true. So who should consider self publishing?
Real writers should consider self publishing. Published authors often find themselves placed in a prison of their own making. Once they have achieved even modest success in a specific niche it is often hard to break out of that niche and publish something different. However self publishing gives authors control over their own writing so they can change direction or genre if they choose. Published authors who have taken any time off from their writing often find it just as hard to return as it was to break in initially. They can often easily parlay their experience and audience into a successful self publishing career. Finally, writers who have an idea that does not fit neatly into one of the major publishing houses slots may find self publishing their only alternative. Just because it doesn’t fit into a neat slot doesn’t mean your book doesn’t have great potential — think about Diana Gabaldon and J. K. Rowling.
Control freaks should also consider self publishing. Once you sign your baby over to a major publisher then you lose control of your book. The publisher can slap a horrible or inappropriate cover on it, change its name, or even alter the main characters. Your name will go on the book but what is published may be drastically changed from your original creation–and not always for the better. Think it will not happen to you, or that you will not care when you get the royalty check, then think again. I can tell you that I still cringe whenever I have to claim a book I published in 1998. It’s not the book that makes me want to crawl under a rock–but the cover and title the publisher slapped on it.
Money grubbers should also consider self publishing. While the independently wealthy may consider their art reward enough the rest of us need to eat and pay the mortgage (not to mention buy paper and pens) so money does matter. And of course, we want all our hard work to be rewarded. In our capitalist society that reward should be monetary. While self publishing may require you to put up any of your own money and traditional publishing will instead offer you an upfront payment, the final balance sheet will tell you a much different story. The initial advance from a traditional publisher will be small (unless you are Stephen King) and may be the only money you receive for your book for a long time — and perhaps ever depending how your book sells. Any book royalties you receive will be for a small percentage and will be spread out over years to come as well as held ransom for book returns. The final indignity is that your book’s sales depend greatly on the promotional effort your publisher puts into it. The ugly truth is that the publisher does not much care about your baby and will rarely put any extra money, manpower, or thought into how to promote your book. Most midlist and lowlist authors conduct (and foot the bill for) their own promotion. At least when you self publish you know you will be on your own and you can feature that into your budget.
If you are a real writer, a control freak, or a money grubber (or perhaps any combination) then you should consider self publishing your own book.