Friday, 1 April 2011

Seven reasons why you may decide not to self publish

Recently, a string of authors, including the big name Barry Eisler, have gone on to turn their backs on the traditional publishing route and self-publish, sparkling plenty of discussions and divided opinions in the author community. We don't know where publishing will be in two, five or ten years. All we know is that the publishing world is changing; with Kindle, Sony, Nook etc. more and more authors realise they can reach their target audience by going indie, without having to wait months and years on agents and publishers. While not everyone's Amanda Hocking, making millions in the process (I know I'm not, not sure about you!), it's not just about making money, but more about seeing one's work read and hopefully enjoyed by others.
Of course there's the stigma of publishing: that a book's not good enough to be picked up by a traditional publisher, that it might be riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes, etc., but like prejudice goes, it's usually based on a few bad examples rather than on the majority.
I call self-publishing 'author self-impowerment' because it gives authors full control over their book and whatever happens with it, such as what to write, how many books to write in a series and, my favourite activity of all times, cover design. Hence, I'm all for it if your book's gone through enough editing and you have given thought to the seven points raised below.

Read my favourite seven points to consider before you take the leap and self-publish:
  • you expect to make millions in the process. As said, most writers will never reach Amanda Hocking's status. This certainly applies to both self- and traditional publishing. Some make it, others don't. Unfortunately, that's the reality.
  • you're a recluse and don't enjoy human contact, not even the virtual one like social media. In that case, you're better off locking the manuscript away forever because in our world there's no way you won't have to communicate with fans and those yet to become at some point.
  • you're not prepared to listen to audience taste. You don't need to waste your time trying your hand at steampunk and YA vampire romances when you'd rather write futuristic thrillers, but it might be worth looking at some aspects of what is popular nowadays and find a way to bring your knowledge and research into your preferred genre to give it a modern or unique twist.
  • you have nothing unique to say. This one ties in with the point previously made. Readers are spoilt for choice. Since almost everything's been done already, if you can't come up with a new twist, your books might never really take off and find worldwide appeal.
  • you don't mind waiting. As in, you don't mind waiting to hear back from agents' assistants, agents, a publisher's editor, then the editor-in-chief. It could take years. Life's too short not to take your own future in your own hands. This doesn't mean you shouldn't try the traditional publishing route. But I've talked to authors who built a platform first and then were approached by agents/publishers rather than spend their valuable time trying to persuade someone else of how much potential their novels had.
  • you're not prepared to spend forty hours a week marketing your work. As much as I'd like to pretend otherwise, even traditionally published authors spend more time engaged in promotional activities than they spend on writing. So, learning about marketing and PR comes with the job, really.
  • you can't take criticism. And there's going to be lots of it in the form of bad reviews, comparing your work to those of others, etc. Writing a book is highly intimate. By putting your work out there, you make yourself vulnerable to others belittling your work, talent, and so forth. Don't forget it's a job. Customers pay for your novel, so they're entitled to say whatever they want. Of course, we all wish they could play nice and fair, but life doesn't always work like that. If you can't grow a thick skin, then you're better off never showing your work to anyone, not even to friends and family.
To your publishing success!