Every so often I’m asked if I’ve considered self-publishing my next novel. Sometimes I’ll answer with a little joke (“I’m not good enough to self-publish.”), but the truth is I’m still hoping to find some moderate success going down the traditional publishing path, at least with the next novel.
One of the reasons I’ve stayed away from self-publishing is that anyone can do it. Yes, I understand that there are many successful self-published authors. I personally know nearly a dozen, most of whom are far more successful than I. But I still see a huge uphill battle taking this publishing path. With a larger publishing house, you have the benefit of their editors, promotional material and distributions. With self-publishing, it can be very difficult–if not impossible–to really stand up, especially in what may be an over-saturated market.
But with that said, there are times when it makes sense to self-publish fiction.
Traditional publishing is painfully slow. If you are a writer who can finish three or four decent novels in a year, it might be better to go out on your own than to wait around for one of the Big
Six Five to take notice, especially since Step # 1 to Big Five publishing is usually to find an agent, which seems just as time-consuming and difficult as anything else in the world of publishing.
It might also be worth considering self-publishing if you’ve already got several short stories published and a strong online presence. If you’re active on Twitter with 10,000+ followers, then you’ve got your built-in audience already. It only takes one percent of those followers to get a hundred positive reviews on Amazon. That’s a hell of a good start.
Another reason to self-publish is simply to have full creative control of your novel. You may have a great original story that’s well written and should be a bestseller, but none of the big publishers will touch it because it doesn’t fit what their current research tells them readers want. If that’s the case, you’ve got to show them that you set the trend instead of following it and get your book published without them.
So now that I’ve nearly convinced myself to self-publish, I’ll move on to some of the obstacles of self-publishing.
For starters, if you choose to self-publish your novel, for whatever reason, just remember that it takes a lot more work than simply writing a decent novel.
First and foremost, if you want anyone to take it seriously, you’ve got to present it as professionally as possible.
This means it must read as flawlessly as something you’d pick up off the shelf of the genre of your choice at the nearest Barnes and Noble. Unless you’re already a professional editor, your best bet will be to pay to have it professionally edited. And don’t just pick out the cheapest editor you can find. Shop around and get the best you can afford.
In our world where we DO judge a book by its cover, you must have the catchiest cover design you can come up with. If that means paying a professional artist or photographer, you best do it. Simply picking a stock photo from the freebies on createspace will do nothing but make your work seem bush league. If you’re stuck trying to come up with a cover, just go browse some of the popular titles in your genre and see what their covers look like. Hope it sparks some of the creativity you have left after finishing your novel.
Perhaps the largest obstacle to overcome when self-publishing is marketing.
Without a publishing house to market your work, you’re stuck doing it yourself. (And just for the record, it’s the same thing if you publish with a small or medium press publisher, but that’s not the focus of this post.) You can have the greatest eBook ever written, but it doesn’t do you any good if you can’t make a couple of bucks off it. Let’s be honest here: you didn’t write your novel just for the hell of it. You wrote it hoping someone will buy it.
The good news is that there are a few avenues for marketing your novel. If it’s a print-on-demand publication, buy 20-30 copies and go to every bookstore and coffee shop in a hundred mile radius. If you can get even a few of these stores to let you put up a table and sell some signed copies, then you’ve made the first step. Next, go on twitter and increase your followers. Then occasionally (and unobtrusively) plug you book to those followers. Also set up a website and give away a couple of chapters. Talk a couple of friends or other writers into writing a review on Amazon for a free copy.
You get the point; just be creative. Get your name out there and get your novel out there. Nobody said it would be easy, but if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Have you self-published a novel? What has the experience been like for you? What would you do differently? Leave a comment and let us know!