Some books, no matter how awesome they are, just won’t be a hit with the big six New York publishers. The bigger the publisher, the bigger they want their profits to be.
But some books that won’t hit national best seller lists might become local or regional faves. Just because major publishers aren’t seeing dollar signs, it doesn’t mean the signs aren’t there!
Here are just a few types of books—there are many more—that may be especially well-suited to self-publishing. (NOTE: Often, independent presses are open to alternative books too.)
Seven Book Types That Were “Born” For Self-Publishing
Projects of alternative lengths. A publisher might say there’s no market for your 30,000-word memoir or your 150,000-word novel. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create a market for it if you’ve got the excitement and drive. Read more: The rules of genre fiction books.
Regional market books. Are you really into hiking trails in a specific region? Or maybe the folklore surrounding a certain river? Or the best restaurants for romance in a given city? Tapping into a region’s “branding” is a great way to sell books in that region (and beyond). And while international publishers might not be ready to publish a book that won’t sell outside of a certain region, many local book stores, libraries, and tourist spots are willing to carry self-published books about relevant topics.
Niche market books. Perhaps you’d like to turn your blog about having a very rare illness into a book in order to help people who are in your situation. Self-publishing is a great way to do that. Maybe your audience isn’t huge, but it’s important. Or maybe you’re a vegan creating a book of low-carb slow cooker recipes. Again, not a huge market. But if that’s something you’re into anyway, why not publish a book? You’re probably not alone, and there’s a group of people out there who may be waiting for a book like yours to come along.
Stories that need to be told. Sometimes, having a story that’s burning to be told is enough of a reason to self-publish. Perhaps you want to share and preserve the story of how your grandfather survived a decisive battle in World War II in an unusual way. Perhaps you want to set the record straight about an unknown element of a high profile court case that has personal meaning to you. Even if big publishers aren’t interested, self-publishing can lead to emotional (and possibly financial) reward. Read more: Is it worth your time to write a memoir?
Mixed genre collections. Books that are combinations of poems, stories, essays, etc., often stump big publishers because they’re not easy to market with pinpoint accuracy. Self-publishing might be a great alternative.
Poetry collections. So few big publishers are putting out poetry collections by a single author. These days, there are various alternative methods to get a poetry collection published. Self-publishing is a viable option, especially if you’re hoping to sell copies at your open mike and library readings. Tip: Before you publish, know the current industry etiquette regarding previously published writing.
Books that don’t play to trends. Just because a book doesn’t feel fresh and trendy to a publisher, doesn’t mean it’s not relevant. For example, according to this article, Lionel Shriver’s book The New Republic was passed over by publishers in 1998 because of its angle (a satire on terrorism and journalism, among other things). In the mid-2000s, the book’s ironic voice was out of fashion and the topic was taboo.
Finally, in 2012, the book was published—but by then, many reviewers dubbed it a bit antiquated and out-of-touch. We wonder if the book would have been received differently if the author had chosen to self-publish it when it was completed.
Of course, these are just a few of the kinds of books that can do especially well in the self-publishing market. The sky’s the limit! If you’re not sure if you’re ready to self-publish, take our self-publishing self-test.
QUESTION: Have you ever bought a self-published book?
I have read a self-published book quite recently (The Forgotten Land, Kieth McArdle for those interested). It was really quite good, but I think it would fit in the mixed genre category you mentioned, the first quarter was modern day military action adventure set following a team of Australian SAS soldiers in Iraq. It was extremely well detailed, but then jumped into a time-travel genre sending the soldiers back to meet the Vikings. There were a few flaws I noticed, enough to stop it from being 5 star, but it was still a great read and I was eager to turn each page so I gave it 4 stars. It was definately better that some stuff I’ve seen published traditionally (in my opinion at least).
A book’s status of being self-published doesn’t bother me, a complete lack of reviews online or several reviews which are clearly written only by friends and family does however (unless the description really sounds awesome).
I’ve always been interested in publishing my poetry collection; this article is a nice little push for me to actually research my options.
I bought a friend’s self-published book. It was a lyrically written account of a long road trip he’d taken. It was too short and too mixed-genre for a big publisher to be interested in it, but it was an enjoyable read and he was just happy to share his writing and experiences with his friends. And we were happy to read it, it was interesting and beautifully written. Perfect for self-publishing.
Awesome info. I’ve been playing around with the idea of self publishing my book. I think it might be time 😀
Absolutely! I’ve bought a few and have self-published my own (I’ve been told my writing is great, but there’s no market for it). I love supporting fellow indie authors!
I just went through the self-publishing experiment. I hired an editor and I also hired a book engineer/editor. It is now on Amazon.com and the Title is “Architect of Smiles” by Pat Foy, DDS. It was a fun process in the end.
Several local niche museums have self-published books on their shelves, some of which are exclusive to the museum; you can’t buy it anywhere else in town. It saves a lot of hassle for the author, who simply has the books delivered directly to the museum, rather than having to run all over town restocking dozens of locations. At least one is a university thesis which was researched at the museum and makes for interesting reading in conjunction with a visit to the museum.
In Nov of ’09 I helped my father self-publish his memoir, “Last Roll Call.” He was a B-17 tailgunner in WWII. The niche market for WWII is unbelievable. We have had great success in local independent book stores, warbird museums and local schools as well as some success on Amazon. Finding the right niche is so important to be a successful self-publisher.
The problem with self-published books is that neophyte authors are at the mercy of publishers – or those who call themselves publishers. I self-published a book, which I still believe would sell well in local and niche markets. But the so-called publisher (the guy lives in the neighborhood) didn’t even give me a proof – just turned up on the doorstep with 1,000 books. And they are crap. The type size is wrong, (too big for the page) there are almost no margins and there are mis-bindings, where pages are out of order. All in all, I was suckered. They aren’t even worth giving away. There’s nothing wrong with self publishing, but make sure you know your publisher. Ask to see previous books that he has published. Talk to some of his other author-clients and find out what their level of satisfaction is. And insist on a proof!
Dear Florida Town,
Thanks so much for sharing your story. It illustrates an important lesson for writers who are interested in any kind of publishing.
Thank you for this article. It has given me insights on where I want my micro flash fiction writing career will go.
I am about to publish my own book but not sure whether to do a self help book or memoirs…..its about my childhood and how I have not allowed this to affect my future which has been successful. I want it to be inspiring to other people to show them that no matter what happened to you or where you come from this does not dictate your future or what you can achieve! :o)
Chris, thanks for the great question! However, the real question is this: to which of these two genres does your book most directly relate? Is your book a detailed account of you overcoming your adversities, growing up, and becoming a successful individual? If so, you’ll want to publish it as a memoir. If your book is more of a teaching tool—one that speaks to readers directly and offers advice regarding how they can remain positive in the face of overwhelming negativity—you’ll want to publish it as a self-help book. The most important factor is how YOU have written your book and what you believe its target audience is!
Today’s writers are pioneers, exploring publishing in ways that were either unimagined or scorned a few years ago. I love being part of history in the making.
B. Lynn Goodwin-Brown
Managing Editor of Writer Advice, http://www.writeradvice.com
Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers
Most of what I’ve read over the past year have been self-published books and I’m discovering some terrific authors – and people – along the way.