Oh the things I could say about this. I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading and researching and asking for advice about traditional publishing and self-publishing.
To me, traditional publishing has always been a bit of a pain. It is slow to publish and slow to pay authors. It plays gatekeeper between readers and writers, often preventing the good as well as the bad from being published. The author looses a lot of creative control when it comes to things like title of the book, how the cover looks, and sometimes traditional publishing even requires writers to take out or put in text they don’t want to. The author has no control over price of their book, and they only receive a few cents on the dollar for every book sold.
Plus, the hoops one has to jump through to get the attention of a publisher are agonizing. Once you have a contract with one, it doesn’t even offer the things self-publishing can.
Let me stop here for a moment and say that I have an intense respect for literary agents, despite my opinion that self-publishing is the way to go. Agents are awesome amazing people who work very hard to make writers’ dreams come true. I hope that in the future of publishing, their role expands instead of diminishes.
So, for me, there have always been barriers to self-publishing that in recent years, as the market has stabilized somewhat, have just disappeared.
1. The stigma attached to self-published writers and their works.
People used to think that if you self-published, it meant your work wasn’t good enough to be traditionally published. It may have even counted against an author if they decided to pursue a traditional path later on. That is no longer the case. In fact, in a lot of ways it’s the opposite. If someone manages to self-publish and sell a decent amount of books, they are seen as an entrepreneurial guru. They have proven that they have what it takes. In fact, traditional publishers are offering self-published authors contracts after they have already published with more and more frequency. I didn’t see self-publishing as an option for me before because I was told that’s for failed writers. How different things are now!
Self-publishing was only good for eBooks. Five years ago, it didn’t seem like anyone I knew was reading ebooks so that didn’t seem like the format I wanted to publish in. Brick and mortar stores didn’t carry self-published books. It also was extremely important for an author to have their book in a brick and mortar store because that was how the majority of readers found authors they love.
Three things have changed. First, my own personal desire to see my book in a Barnes and Noble has greatly diminished. I hardly do any of my book shopping there anymore, so I’m less attached to it. I get most of my books online. Second, more people are reading ebooks and I think the majority of readers, even if they buy a print version, encounter books first online before they see them in a store. Third, if an author did wanted their book sold at a brick and mortar store, that is now possible. Not only is it more possible for a self-published author to get their books in stores, it is less important. It’s like a pincher movement meant to make this barrier for me dissolve into the aether.
3. My own view of myself
I used to abhor the idea of being a sales person or a marketer, especially when trying to sell something I created. But over the last two years, that has changed entirely. Now I can easily see myself doing all the things required to handle the business side of writing, including marketing and sales and taxes and all that.
It kind of came down to the realization that I really just wanted someone to hold my hand and believe in my projects enough to get them published, because I didn’t believe in them. Which is silly. If I don’t believe in them, how can I ask readers to do so? What I really needed was to write things I believed in.
I also fell in love with the business side of writing to the extent that the parts I wasn’t too crazy about I’m now willing to do. Remember how I said I really love literary agents? I’m convinced I would enjoy being an agent much more than I would being a writer. Well, with self-publishing, I get to do both things: write and manage the business side of writing.
I have a loooooooong journey ahead of me before I publish any of my writing. I am not like other writers who can write, edit, and polish a book in six weeks and have it on the market two weeks after that. I am a mother and I work full-time, and at some point this year I’m going to have another baby.
Make no mistake, self-publishing requires a lot of time from the author. Most success stories of self-published authors include something along the lines of writing for ten hours every day.
But at least now I know what path is right for me and my work, and I can make progress day by day.
If you want to talk more about publishing, I’d love to chat. Just leave a comment. Any advice for someone just starting on this journey? I’m all ears. 🙂