When do I self-publish my work?
Self-publishing is a big decision. If you have poured your heart and soul into a work, you want to give it and yourself the best chance of being successful. Most of the time we recommend that you TRY the traditional route first. So, how do you know when to self-publish? Here are some reasons that we feel tell you it’s time to do it yourself.
Exhausted your possibilities
If you have submitted your work to many different publishers, and it has been rejected over and over, it is probably time to self-publish. If you have tried and tried to publish your work, and it just isn’t doing it for publishers, self-publishing might be an option. You really have 2 choices here. You can put the manuscript in a drawer. Write another work, if you publish it then maybe you’ll do well enough people will be interested in the first piece. This happened to many famous writers, but most of those writers didn’t have the self-publishing options that are available today. So drawer it or self-publish.
Many times unconventional or experimental works are just not something a publisher wants to risk their money on. Things are tight in publishing these days, and honestly, publishers are not taking a lot less risks. So you might have a great piece of writing, but maybe it just doesn’t fit the mold. I would recommend trying the traditional publishing route first, but if you find publishers are shying away, then go with self-publishing.
Very Obscure or small audience works
If you have written a manuscript that you know doesn’t have a large audience, you might want to consider self-publishing. For instance, if you have written a manuscript about spiders that migrate from your backyard to your front yard every year, you know you don’t have a best seller on your hands. Honestly, in this case self-publishing might make more sense. The biggest reason is, you can turn an obscure topic in writing into a niche market on the internet. Maybe that market will make you $1000 per month. It’s not enough money for a publisher to mess with, but for you, it could be a nice little part-time job.
I still recommend that you try to publish with a university publisher before going the self-publishing route, but honestly, if you don’t want to teach at a university, self-publishing is probably better. University publishers of poetry many times only have a press run of under 1000. You are publishing for reputation rather than money. If you are interested in building a name in poetry, go the university route first. If you just want people to read your work, self-publish.
The Drive and knowledge
Traditional publishers are having trouble. There is no doubt about that. Self-publishing is the up and coming thing. If you have the drive and the knowledge and you really feel you will be able to make it happen, self-publishing is something you want to look at. If you can build a platform, build a following, and understand how to be successful as a writer, then you might want to simply go for it. Some self-published authors have become incredibly successful. As a self-published writer they keep much of their profits, so they are making more money than they would if they would have gone with a large publishing house.
Yes, short stories can be sold as self-published works. You can sell them individually and you can sell them as collections. Even if you self publish these stories, you can still publish them in literary magazines and other places. There have only been a few collections of short stories on the bestseller lists (ever). So self-publishing your short stories, making money with them, is probably one of the best ways to help support your writing career.
Yes, if you have a collections of essays, you can certainly turn it into a bestseller. Books like Freakenomics are tremendously popular essay collections, but if you have essays that might not be up to these quirky odd standards, you can certainly self-publish them. Even if you have published the in journals, many times the rights revert back to you, and self-publishing the as a single read or a collection might be a money making option.
If you have written a family history, and it is something that is of great value to everyone in your family, but not to the larger world, self-publishing might be the best option.
If you are someone who needs control over every single thing about your work, you might want to consider self-publishing. I know an author who published with a large publishing house. He made some money, but he was miserable the whole time because they made him change his work, go to signings, and do a bunch of stuff he was not interested in. I was shocked by this, it seems to be the dreams of most writers to have these problems, but he simply hated it.
Much like the family, if you are writing a history of a place, like your hometown, you might want to self-publish it for your local audience. Self-publishing will also allow you line up your publishing with local celebrations or festivals.
We’ve just highlighted some of the reasons to self-publish here, but keep in mind that self-publishing your book is a lot of work. It is hard. It is hard to get it to sell. It is hard to get it in front of people, but it is possible. Others have already done it. If you feel it is the best thing for you as a writer, that’s the only real reason to decide to self-publish.
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