Thoughts on Self Publishing?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Nathan J. Lauffer, Mar 23, 2011.

  1. Nathan J. Lauffer

    Nathan J. Lauffer Staff Leadership

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    Recently, I read a post by Seth Godin called Reject the tyranny of being picked: pick yourself. In it, Seth mentioned a woman that was quite successful self-publishing on Kindle. I've noticed a lot of authors promoting their self-published books on Twitter. However, I recently read an article called Should You Self-Publish from the Daily Writing Tips blog that discourages it, but ignores how easily it can be done with e-books.

    So, does anyone have any thoughts or experiences with self publishing, particularly with e-books?
     
  2. srg

    srg Journeyman

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    I have two opinions on self-publishing (but no experience).

    One. Don't do it thinking that you're going to be the next Amanda Hocking. It's not going to happen.

    Two. Readers are the true gatekeepers in the book world; if readers think your book is tops, it'll sell.

    The thing about self-publishing is that you have to do a lot of legwork yourself. Promoting is a hard thing to do, but if you put the work in you can make it.
     
  3. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    In my opinion, not a good way to start out. It's my fall-back. The option will always be there, once I've exhausted other, more attractive, routes - the most obvious being the standard 'send to an agent' one.
     
  4. srg

    srg Journeyman

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    I've been reading a lot from Dean Wesley Smith, and he's convinced me that there is no reason or cause to send anything to an agent.
     
  5. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    I've heard of the guy. Suffice to say that I disagree. Rather strongly.
     
  6. Kelise

    Kelise Scribal Lord

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    If my work isn't good enough to be picked up by an agent or publisher, then it's probably not good enough to be worth printing. I have no interest in self publishing at all, it just wouldn't feel right, or like I'm an author.
     
  7. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Dark Lord

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    Yeah, I basically agree with this. I'm not going to say that being published means you're a good writer, either, mind you. But I've read enough works online, self-published or otherwise, to know that no matter how awful I think published books are, 99% of the self-published industry is a hundred times worse. There are gems out there, gems that could have been published, that now ruined their chances and are stuck trying to promote the books themselves. Few of them go far. The industry makes up for a lot more people than just the author. Cover art? Stock photos and photoshop isn't particularly spectacular for most of us, unless you're also a graphic designer. Want a map or some art in the book? You'll want a professional artist, and you're going to pay for that out of the pocket. While you may not have to pay for publication (be it an e-book or otherwise), it is a costly endeavor with a low rate of success that, frankly, doesn't seem worth it. Just spruce it up, put it in the correct manuscript format, send it to a few people, take their suggestions, and try until you succeed.
     
  8. kjjcarpenter

    kjjcarpenter Master

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    It's a sad truth that so many will go unpublished, and sometimes this is the only option.
    The problem with self-publishing isn't necessarily the quality of the work, but it is in the distribution of said work and the factor of money. If you want your book to go far, you're going to need a lot of it without relying on a hell of a lot of luck—I'm looking at you, Matthew Reilly. By all rights, you can pop a book out for under $500. You have places like Lulu and the like that offer these services, but face it, the quality is downright hideous unless you're willing to fork out at least $1000 just for the cover design. I've had experience here, and I have to admit, I was quite embarrassed by the end result; one of the many reasons I ceased production with them.
    Then there's publicity and distribution. The cheapest you're going to manage is around $2000 - $3000 for marketing the book, and even then, you won't be able to penetrate a huge fan-base, if any. If you want the world, or even just your country to know, it's going to take a lot more money. And, of course, perseverance.
    Say you're only interested in a small fan-base, and there's nothing wrong with that, bookstores are more than happy to have your self-published book on their shelves. They get more of a profit out of it and, despite rumour, they like helping out their fellow man, especially independent bookstores.
    There is a huge benefit to self-publishing. You're your own boss, and you need not deal with publishers who weigh you by how much money they can milk from you. When considering it though, weigh the odds yourself against your income and the likelihood of a publisher selecting your story.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2011
  9. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    I think there is a slightly better angle in E-publishing, which is what I was talking about as my fall back. I would never pay to have my book printed. Vanity publishing is not for me.

    However, putting your book into an open-standard Ebook format is free. After that, you can 'market' however you choose to. It may never be read by many people, but as a last ditch effort to get it seen, you should already have accepted that.
     
  10. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Dark Lord

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    Marketing, art, etc. is still gonna cost you if you want your book to look professional, though, and appearance is a big deal. I am definitely more likely to buy an independently published novel that looks like it could have come right from Del Ray or Ballantine than something with a stock image and some poorly chosen typographic choices - which is what most of the covers look like. I also am generally more hesitant about purchases if I am shopping online. Online, my resources are limitless. Why buy some author I've never heard of and have no reason to buy, when I can find obscure Japanese fantasy novels from 1860, out of print classics from Moorcock or LeGuin, or any other no doubt better (not to say the ebook in question is necessarily bad) book? If I am at a bookstore, though, I'm just picking things up and reading the backs. Given a nice enough presentation and opening up to the right page, I'll probably buy anything at a bookstore.
     
  11. kjjcarpenter

    kjjcarpenter Master

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    As I said, at least $1000. Obviously for this price the quality will be sub-par.
     
  12. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I think if you want to impress friends and relatives with your book, then sure, do self-publishing. To me self-publishing is likened to posting videos on YouTube. Anyone can do it with the right software and a camera. Of course we all know the quality of YouTube videos greatly varies. While some become viral, getting millions of views, others get maybe 5.

    I've noticed on Amazon that a lot of people are trying to capitalize on the e-book formatting by offering a low price for a Kindle book. Seems a good idea. But if you aren't known, you have an upward hill to climb. A long, long hill to climb.

    From what I understand, those who have self-published with success have swamped message boards, social networks, and the like to get their name out there. It's not as if you just becoming instantly famous.

    I think the old fashioned route is still the best...for the time being. With the collapse of book stores in America and elsewhere, I feel like an increasing reliance on e-books will continue. That could mean a flooding of the market with writers who self-publish, and that may not necessarily be a good thing.
     
  13. srg

    srg Journeyman

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    Just a question. What's the difference between an unknown author self-publishing and an unknown author getting a publishing deal? They both have to start out as unknown authors to the reader, regardless of any marketing dollars put forth either independantly or by a major publisher.

    It all boils down to whether readers enjoy the work - to them, especially those with e-readers, it doesn't matter if it's self-published or released by a major publisher.

    I will grant that a large number of self-published works are sub-par where quality is concerned. But there are people out there doing their homework and putting out their own money to put together quality writing. And you know what? Those are the people that are making money by self-publishing, and they're going to get a lot more for each sale of their book than someone who goes through a publisher (or even an agent).

    The fact of the matter is self-publishing NOW is a lot different than it was before e-readers became common-place. Your chances of success (which quite honestly depends on your definition of the term; for instance, if I wanted to self-publish something, I'd be happy with 5 sales in a month simply because I don't have a lot of marketing leverage at my disposal) are a lot higher now than they ever were before. But only because of ebooks, really.
     
  14. Kelise

    Kelise Scribal Lord

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    Do all bookshops take self-published books? I asked at a random bookstore - a franchise that was owned, so it wasn't part of the main chain, but had the name - and they said to date they haven't simply because they need all the space they can get for books from publishers. If someone asked for a specific book, it may be possible for them to order it in... but probably wouldn't be worth their while, and would be easier for the singular person who wanted it to order it themselves.

    So is there a chance more than just this bookstore feels the same way, and self-published books would find it hard to get space in bookstores? Depending on how the self-published book was set up to be ordered, I suppose.


    Sorry for the badly worded post. Just woke up and this site is blocked at my work for some reason :(
     
  15. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Dark Lord

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    The amount of work you put in to marketing, hiring artists, editors doesn't seem to have much of a correlation to your likelihood of success. For every time I hear a story about someone making it big as an independent author, I hear a horror story about someone who spent $10,000 and saw no more than $1,000 in return for their efforts. It's a big investment, and I'd frankly rather I got $3,000 and it went no where than I spend $3,000 for the same result. And, even as an ebook, a publisher's name is attached. There are certain publishers I like - they publish a high percentage of quality books. Given two books that look and sound interesting, but one is published independently and one is traditionally published, I will near invariably pick the traditionally published book. It would have to be a really phenomenal self-published book for me to pick it first, or, you know, it was published by a friend of mine.
     
  16. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    Well, off the top of my head, a BIG difference is who pays out those start-up costs. Getting a publishing deal obviously means that somebody has paid YOU for the right to print your book and put it on store shelves.

    Self-Publishing means that you front the money yourself, and then hope you can get it in front of people who will buy it.
     
  17. Mdnight Falling

    Mdnight Falling Mystagogue

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    I know an excellent self publisher. I was going to use it myself unfortunately me and Bry now have a baby on the way and I can't afford the package I want for it LOL. This is the link to Xlibris. They were so very helpful to me and worked with me even though I wasn't finished with the manuscript. They even cut me deals when I couldn't afford their cheapest package...
    Self Publishing and Print on Demand Company | Xlibris Book Publishers.
     
  18. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Dark Lord

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    In order for the package to have enough to get you to look professional and marketed professionally, you'd need to dish out $7,000. :/ I just don't see how that could be a good investment.
     
  19. Ravana

    Ravana Istari

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    The main difference, I'd say, is getting anyone to take you seriously.

    You may be able to self-publish less expensively these days because of e-books (though don't assume "less expensive" equals "free")… but, to rephrase your example by reversing its elements, the people who are making money are the ones who are putting money into it–and I'd like to see their balance sheets before claiming too much success for them. Do they make a lot more off each sale? Almost certainly. Does it make up for the difference in quantity of sales? Almost certainly not. Remember that an author accepted for print isn't paying one cent to get the work published (aside from a ream of paper to print the manuscript out, and postage to mail it), and unless he accepts very dubious contract conditions, is guaranteed to make some amount of money off it, even if every last copy is returned unsold. (Which never happens, as there will always be a few library sales, if nothing else.) That doesn't even begin to take into account cover art, distribution, publicity, promotional appearances/tours… all the other things you're paying for yourself or doing without when you self-publish. And all of which are important to getting an "unknown" author noticed by readers–overcoming that "unknown" disadvantage. You might spend hours a day trolling through e-book titles by people you've never heard of; I have more than enough to read from people who have made it into print.

    But the real kicker is my first point: getting anyone to take you seriously. There's a reason these are referred to as "vanity presses." Self-publication is virtually an admission–more importantly, will be viewed as an admission–that you can't get your work published any other way. It will definitely be viewed that way by any publishers you approach at a later date; it will probably be viewed that way by much of your potential readership. If you do decide to self-publish, you'd be well advised to conceal the fact if you ever want to go beyond that stage.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  20. srg

    srg Journeyman

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    I'm going to bow out of the thread because it seems that everyone against self-publishing is ignoring the e-publishing route. The only reason self-publishing is a viable option right now is because of e-publishing. You don't have to have a physical book to self-publish. The only reason self-publishing authors are successful is because they DON'T have to shell out a ton of money to publish their book.

    They can sell it as an e-book and not have to sell a large number of copies just to break even.
     
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