View Full Version : Advantages/dis-advan. of self publishing?

writer friend
03-12-2008, 11:57 PM
:flag:What is best? Total control of everthing we write (by self publishing) or waiting to hear from the Mt. Olympians of publishers houses /lit agents? You might only sell one or two copies if you self publish, as opposed to thousands going the "real" route. But by self publishing, (if we own isbns/etc. which I do) at least it becomes a book on a shelf, somewhere. One would not get rich this way unless very lucky.
I have heard some self publishers have taken their books to fairs/festivals, local events and eventually got a publisher or agent interested? Of course in some cases, they had to re-mortgage their homes and live out of a station wagon to promote it and buy enough copies to get people interested. Also very expensive to get the book done in hardback, (I know. ) Still, it's there on my shelf with such a nice cover....and in the local libraries.....
What are your thoughts?
Just keeping busy while waiting to hear from two lit agents and a publisher about my full reqtd. manuscripts being in their hands after many months. Patience is a virtue. I am trying!!!!
Writer Friend

03-13-2008, 08:40 AM
Hi writer friend, and welcome to AW!

So I have been studying both sides of this but have not gone either route, so my two cents is to be taken with a grain of salt.

Here's the upsides to going the 'big publishing house' route:
-professional editors who both screen your work and go over it to make sure it's in top shape. (whereas if you self publish, you are relying on only your own editing skills and could be putting out something horrid with your name on it without realizing it)
-marketing. this goes everywhere from making sure your book is on bookstore shelves to giving it publicity. (granted, big publishing houses don't always do tons of marketing, but they do have connections to try to make your book visible)
-money. you are much more likely to make money by going this route than the other, though it's not guaranteed.
-credibility. Honestly, no one will truly consider you 'published' if you go the vanity publisher or self publishing route.
-business knowledge. to be blunt, the 'big publishing' houses know the business. most writers starting out do NOT.

benefits of self publishing:
-instead of 2 years to get book published, it's usually published far more quickly
-no going through the query-rejection rigamarole
-you have control. you choose the cover, the edits to keep, the marketing scheme, etc.
-sometimes, VERY rarely, you can break out by going this route and doing a ton of self promoting. but you have to have a story that more than speaks for itself and a willingness to, as you said, live out of your car to promote it.
-you can get your book published even if it appeals to a very small niche of people.

So, the question really is-do you wish for this book to be a hobby or do you wish to turn it into a career? If it's going to be a hobby and might only appeal to a few instead of being a commercial story to sell to the masses, then by all means, go the self publishing route. As you said, you will have something tangible to hold in your hands (or put on your bookshelf) and you might be able to get it into your local library and into the hands of some people, without playing the query game and without waiting the time it takes to get a book published professionally.

So, there is definitely valid reasons for going either route. It really just depends on what your end goal is.

Good luck with the full you have out! That's gotta be nervewracking!

Lauri B
03-14-2008, 12:22 AM
Self publishing is a good idea only if:
1. You have a built-in audience to buy your book (for example, you are a motivational speaker and you speak at conferences or events all over the country at venues where you can sell your book)
2. You are writing a book that has a niche market appeal and you have access to that niche market: a poster on AW a couple of years ago self published a book targeted to small business owners in the jewelry trade. He had a very specific audience and knew how to reach them. He sold direct via the internet and trade shows, and did very well.
3. You are very, very motivated to pitch your book to every venue you can think of, and are willing to sell one copy at a time to bookstores, pharmacies, relatives, friends, etc. It's really unlikely that you'll sell more than a few hundred copies of your book under the best of circumstances if you don't meet one or both of the above criteria. On the other hand, if all you care about is having a book on a shelf, get one copy printed up with Lulu, and call it a day. You'll have your book and you can put it anywhere you want.

03-14-2008, 12:27 AM
Excellent overview, dreamsofnever! Spot on.

03-14-2008, 12:31 AM
Advantages: You have a real book in your hands and you can call yourself a published author.

Disadvantages: You're only "published" in your mind.

writer friend
03-14-2008, 04:21 AM
Thanks! I have two fulls out! Yes, nerve-wracking. I try to think of those famous authors from centuries ago who had to self publish, so I have always self published my own poetry books in hardback and yes, I own all my own isbns and so consider myself as my own little publishing house and only publish my own little tomes of verse. It's an expensive process, and some think it's not really publishing, but it is. And it's not vanity press, as I'm not paying anyone else. For new poets, the chance of getting a publisher is very low. Yes, there are exceptions and wonderful ones. But for my novels, I have to hope to really get a "real" publisher (large publishing house) interested! It's one thing to have local libraries buy my little poetry tomes, and they'd buy one or two copies of my novels too, but unless I get a distributor license I couldn't sell anything to the big chain bookstores. I heard a lady on radio not long ago say that she didn't care a bit about landing a publisher though! She said she was much more interested in her literary legacy. (True, but who would see it, you ask?) Poetry, being difficult to market if you're not well known, is one thing, but I'm lighting candles and saying prayers about my novels! Thanks for you support.
Writer Friend

writer friend
03-14-2008, 04:26 AM
Yes, Lauri, thanks. I agree with you and the others in the roundtable that it's one thing to do some hobby type books (as I do with my poetry) but I've written these novels and they would need a larger audience, just my feeling. I think it's because my poetry is so personal and it's nice to have a dozen or so copies in the local libraries. But novels, and this is just my feeling about my own, seem to need a wider audience. I'm not sure why I feel that way as they are not more important, per se, than my poetry. Thanks for your input and keep some good thoughts for the two fulls I have out!!!!!
Writer Friend

Just Jack
03-14-2008, 04:27 AM
I would love to self publish.
But im a little lacking on the finance. (politicians way of saying im dirt poor)

writer friend
03-14-2008, 04:31 AM
I know what you mean. I would prefer to have a "big house" publish my novels. But I do feel really published with my poetry. It almost seems like a different species from novels. Maybe that's because people don't expect poetry to do too well, with the exception of those tomes on back order that were written eons ago by the Greats and are studied in the universities, etc. Thank you for your input.
Writer Friend

writer friend
03-16-2008, 04:48 AM
Thanks, Just Jack,
Yes, it is expensive to self publish. I think for poets, it's a life saver because it's a cruel world out there in the world of rhyming, trust me on this. I wish you the best and don't worry about self publishing. If I hadn't already started doing this self publishing of my poems over twenty years ago, I might not be able to afford it now either! And anyway, as I said, if it's a novel it would be even harder to do on one's own.
Just my opinion,
Writer Friend

03-16-2008, 05:20 AM
I think that self-publishing poetry is different from self-publishing fiction. Poetry has a very limited distribution network, short print runs, and a long tradition of self-publishing. And there's no money to be made in it whatsoever, unless you're Billy Collins or Seamus Heaney.

Fiction, on the other hand, is a commercial business, and your chances of succeeding by going the traditional route are much better than they are by going the self-publication route. Every year, dozens of first-time authors wind up on local and national best-seller lists; in the last three decades, probably fewer than a dozen self-published fiction authors have made the jump to mass-market success.

Some other categories, besides poetry, where self-publication is a strong option: local history, highly focused guidebooks, self-help or how-to books to be sold in conjunction with personal appearances/speaking engagements/seminars, textbooks of very specialized interest. All of these have their own distribution networks built in (maybe the local historical society or library will sell the local history, area hotels or nature preserves might sell a highly focused local guidebook, etc.)

writer friend
03-18-2008, 02:22 AM
I totally agree with you, Ice Cream Empress! Novels need a wider market.
But I just got a full, requested ms. back in the mail box today for my latest novel!

OH well........quitters never win and winners never quit.
Writer Friend

03-20-2008, 07:47 AM
The real question is whether you want to self-publish in order to "get in" with commercial publishers and eventually transfer the book over to them, or whether you want to self-publish for its own merits rather than as a stopping-point on your route to somewhere else.

In both cases, self-publishing is quite a difficult endeavor.

However, in my opinion, if what you really want is an "in" with commercial publishers, it is easier to convince them by going the traditional route than with any self-publishing scheme.

But, if you want to self-publish in order to exploit its unique features, then it can be very good for certain types of books, mainly nonfiction titles for which the author has better access to potential customers than any publisher would.

For example, let's say your book is a manual on how to run a particular sort of specialty business, something that has only 2,000 business owners in existence. A publisher would not think it worth their while if the maximum readership is only 2,000 people. However, perhaps you go to an annual convention where many of these business owners congregate, and you can sell your self-published book easily and profitably from a booth at this convention. If you are smart about your expenses, perhaps you can sell at a high profit, such as five times the royalties a publisher would give you.

The above scenario is one of the best cases for self-publishing, and any author who was in that situation would be better off keeping the book as self-published.