Should I Self Publish My Book?

in Articles On Writing

should i self publish my book

Should I Self-Publish My Book?

This is an old article. The information in here is still It is somewhat relevant. We hope it is helpful.  There is a big question out there authors are asking themselves every day, should I self-publish my book? I hope this article will help a little bit.

We try to be as complete as possible when it comes to collecting information for our listings and passing on those listings to writers. We have consciously avoided creating a self-publishing/ print on demand list for the last few years. We list our book publishers here. We did this simply because the risks of self-publishing are were great and the pitfalls so numerous, we just didn’t want to put our hats into this controversial ring. We are writer/author advocates, and one of our highest goals is “Do No Harm.” After much consideration we have decide to supply a list of print on demand companies, but with this warning: It is true many self-publishing companies are simple scams. They take your money, or charge vast amounts of money for your own book, and you get little in return. Some are legitimate companies that give you what you pay for and what they say they charge for. They PRINT your book. Vanity publishers have been around for many years. It used to be easy to tell where the problem was. They would charge you lots of money up front, and you would get a print run of books. Print on Demand technology has blurred these lines. Now what seems to be a great free company might be the most expensive of any of your options.

MAKE SURE YOU DO YOUR RESEARCH before you publish with any company. Make sure you know all the costs. Talk to others who have gone with the company, see what it is about first. If you must go the self-publishing route, look at as much information as possible before you make that decision.

This article is not about which company to go with, it is about if you should publish your book yourself. Better stated can you be successful publishing your own book? Here is where the trick comes in. The SECRET most people (authors included) in the industry will not tell you is simply stated: it is not publishing a book that is hard. It is the support of the publishing company, the advertising, the placement that makes a successful book.

The amount of books being published these days is staggering. If you look at estimates there was between 300,000 to 500,000 books published in the US in 2007. It depends on if you count self-published books to get the high end number. Most of these books will not sell. Most will not be successful. Just look at the Oprah book club to get an idea of how a book becomes extremely popular.

The book is displayed in a prominent place. Oprah’s books are always top sellers. They get displayed to a very large audience. No brainer right? Think of the book you walked by this week at your local publisher. You know the one sitting on the table at the front of the book store. The publisher made a deal with that book store to put that book in that space. In fact, if you see any book displayed in anyway at a bookstore, the publisher has negotiated that display in some way. Yes, even to turn a book facing front on a shelf takes some doing by a publisher.

The self-publishing industry points to successful books that were self-published like Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About. This is a case of a self-published book that did very well. It also makes the case for promotion very clearly. Trudeau is an infomercial guru. He has been in infomercials for years, and he used that medium to promote the book.

The promotion and placement is key. Many university “folk” publish books with very small print runs. For instance poetry books many times have very small print runs from established small presses. These books do not sell a great amount, but it serves the author in prestige. You don’t get prestige from self-publishing a book. At your local book store there are many books that do not sell. That will not sell and will sit on the shelf for a long time. These are books published by large book companies. The companies promote the book, but the book still does poorly in sales. Think about this. You have written a book. You have put hard work into it. Now you will put 10 times the work into promoting it, and it still may not sell.

How many books do you have to sell before you are noticed by a major book publisher? No one knows. Some self-published books sell well as a self-published book is concerned. They do not make money for the author. They simply out sell other self-published books. Those authors are still not picked up by large publishing houses.

The next big problem with self-publishing is editing. There is a process the industry uses to make a book successful. It goes something like this: You get a book deal. You sign a contract that protects you and the publisher. You may or may not get an advance. You then go through edits. These edits are not simple spell check or finding grammatical errors in the book. This happens, but it is not all that happens. These edits are discussions about the best way to make the book successful. Will the character be better off doing this or this? Will the end be better if this?

Do you feel the theme of the book is served well? These are some of the questions asked. Sometimes much of the book is changed from the original writing sometimes not, but the point is you have several people looking at the text and making it better. Doing it yourself is very difficult. Even publishing companies have a set “route” a manuscript must take before it ever sees the light of day. No successful writer has ever done everything themselves. Even T.S. Eliot had Ezra Pound edit the “Wasteland.” Writing is a lone act, but editing is best served by a group of talented and devoted editors.

If you self-publish you have no chance of getting promoted except by your own efforts. With the market so saturated it is almost impossible to get people to read your work. What I’m saying is, if you go with a self-publishing company do not expect success. You have a very very slim chance of selling many copies of your books. It will cost you some money no matter what the company says.

Not all print on demand companies are scams. Many are good companies. I mean a good company here using this definition: they do what they say they are going to do. They do not miss lead you into thinking you will be an overnight success. Many authors who HAVE published with traditional companies have kept their day jobs. There isn’t a magic button. Those who have had success with self-publishing companies usually have circumstances surrounding that success that self-publishing companies do not like to advertise. Sure anything is possible, but are you better off to rewrite the book? Are you better off to start your next manuscript and when that one is published release the first? Research. Make sure the company does what it says even if it isn’t a self-publishing company.

This article is from our old html archives. We have just moved it here.

Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal...check our About Us page for more. Also here is info on our On Classic Articles

1 Comment

  1. This is a helpful article. Thanks for making it available.
    I’ve been considering self-publishing. This helps me to anchor my feet and my expectations firmly before doing so. I may well go ahead, thinking only to sell a few copies to friends and acquaintances, but also thinking that it will simply be rewarding to hold some of my work in printed form. It may encourage me, by lending flesh to the fantasy. But thanks for the sobering effect..

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