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Editor’s note: This article pertains largely to self-publishing with a third-party publishing house, as opposed to starting a publishing company from scratch. Both processes present their own difficulties and advantages.
Thinking of self-publishing your book because you’re tired of the stress and frustration of making submissions to literary agents and editors? Feel like self-publishing is the easiest way of making your dreams of being a published novelist come true?
Self-publishing is NOT necessarily the easy route to achieving your dreams. Self-publishing companies strive to make the process of typesetting, binding, and printing your book appear stress-free and easy. But when you buy into the easiness hype, you may be opening yourself up to even more difficulties than if you’d continued trying to publish the traditional way. Here are just a few of the reasons self-publishing isn’t always as easy as it seems:
HYPE: Publishing with a self-publishing company is simple and stress-free.
FACT: Self-publishing is NOT necessarily simple and stress-free. First, you have to research self-publishing companies. We get calls and e-mails all the time from optimistic writers who naively got locked into bad (or just plain disappointing) contracts. To self-publish, you must be able to read, negotiate, and interpret contracts, you must research distribution packages, you must develop and implement a marketing plan…in short, you must develop as much business know-how as if you were seeking a traditional book deal. It’s not impossible develop all the knowledge you’ll need to be successful, but it’s far from easy.
HYPE: Self-publishing will easily satisfy your desire to share your story with the world.
FACT: Unless you have an amazing (expensive) book distribution company in your corner, your book won’t make it to the shelves. And even if it does physically get on the shelves, readers won’t buy your book unless they already know it’s there. Very few sales are made because readers stumble across books. Many self-publishers offer to list their books on Amazon.com; but be warned: it’s unlikely that anyone will buy your book from Amazon.com unless you’ve already enticed them to go there and buy it. You’ll have to do a lot of hard work to get your audience to notice your book; writers who are looking for the instant gratification of being an overnight success will not likely find it in self-publishing.
HYPE: Self-publishing your book could “make” your writing career.
FACT: For every self-publishing success story you hear, there are literally tens of thousands of self-published books that get no attention at all. How hard and long you work to sell books relates directly to your book’s success. For that reason, self-publishing appears easy, but is not necessairly the path of least resistance.
The Truth About Self-Publishing
If you’re trying to figure out where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck in terms of reaching your dreams, the answer may or may not be self-publishing. Our advice (based on watching industry trends) is to exhaust all avenues available to you before you decide to self-publish. If you haven’t queried 100 literary agents for your book project, you don’t have enough information to make the decision to self-publish.
If you self-publish because it seems simpler, be aware that literary agents and editors tend to be somewhat suspicious of the writer who can be tempted to take the easy way out, or the writer who chooses instant gratification over perseverance. If you self-publish, you’ll need to work extra hard to distinguish yourself and your writing. You’ll need to make some serious sales or get some truly reputable and impressive reviews in order to be taken seriously.
The Moral of the Story (aka The Good News)
Self-published books (and all early-career books) are very important in the life of an aspiring writer. Writing a book is a huge accomplishment and should never be dismissed! If you’ve written and self-published a book, celebrate your accomplishments! Literary agents will view your first books as very important life credits, even if they don’t end up being important publishing credits.
The good news is that even in these tough economic times, more books are being published now than ever before!
- Are you ready to commit to spending more time doing what you love (learning about writing and improving your techniques)?
- Can you get your submissions out effectively (can you send them to the right people in a professional format)?
If you can do those two things, you may have a shot at getting a book published. Not all writers achieve a pie-in-the-sky book deal with a major New York publishing house, but those who quit too soon NEVER have a chance.
Visit www.WritersRelief.com if you would like to learn how we can make the submission process easier and more effective.