Many authors wrestle with the choice between publishing traditionally or to self-publish.
Observing this struggle often amuses me because it was only a few years ago that being self-published was not something that one admitted to doing or being involved with in any form. Authors who self-published were considered egomaniacs and anyone involved with the process of helping an author self-publish was a crook taking advantage of a misguided fool. The word “self-published” was whispered in low voices in hallways and at parties. People who worked in the self-published world moved through the rest of the publishing industry as ghosts who dared not say, "boo" in order not to be revealed.
Now, almost everyone is a writer and everyone wants to self-publish. With new technology, anyone can publish a book and enjoy free distribution for very little cost. Of course, there are those who realize self-publishing is a business like any other and invest thousands accordingly into editors, cover artists, a publicist, ads, entry fees to awards, and so on. Any self-publishing route can be paved with success or fraught with failure or something in-between.
Just Tell Me the Secret, Dammit!
Now, of course, human nature and all, everyone wants the new secret of success, the keys to the golden kingdom of fat bank accounts and working in pajamas.
There will always be those who learn how to crack the nut first and get the best meat.
Then there are those late to the party who get the rotting inner shell of what was once a golden opportunity.
If you're just dragging yourself out of hibernation and learning how to embrace that new-fangled technology that all the kids have, well, you may have missed the nut.
Does Self-Publishing Currently Offer the Same Opportunities?
Is the self-publishing trend slowing down? Is the market glutted? Is it going to crash? Can even “the mighty few” still earn a living just self-publishing?
I personally have edited self-published authors for over a decade. I’ve only come “out of the closet” as it were, about it all, a couple of years ago. Now I advertise my services for helping self-published authors achieve success. My how the worm turns. There are now armies of editorial services geared for self-published authors when before, there were hardly any, and those of us who did it kept it pretty quiet.
Of course, like being an author, anyone can declare him or herself an editor and voila! They can go out into the world and do what they want. Most editors are fantastic and rates vary widely. In my own case, some people tell me I’m too expensive while others say I don’t charge enough. However, some editors charge very little and I wonder if they have other sources of income because if they put the time required into editing that they should, they couldn’t exist on a dollar an hour or whatever. Some really should charge way more. Others shouldn’t be allowed near other peoples’ words.
An editor can only work with what is on the page. We can’t rewrite your work for you, nor should we. There are people who will write your work for you, they are called ghostwriters, and they do a great job as well. A work will stand on its own as it is. An editor can sometimes make a huge difference, but usually, it’s like going into a house. You can tell that the facade is all nice and pretty but underneath there is rot and decay.
An editor can’t help find talent or make a story make sense if it truly doesn’t make sense. However, an editor can do the best he or she can to make it all better. No matter how harsh you think your editor might be, he or she just wants you to look your best. Sometimes it hurts to disembowel your baby, but often, it's not a baby at all, but a big puss filled cyst. A good editor knows what the current market wants and how to make your book fit. It's often painful but you're paying for professional advice, listen to it.
Be Honest with Yourself
It is up to you, the author, to decide if your book is ready for the world. A traditional publishing house’s editor’s opinion can be a good benchmark. Even a rejection can often show that the book is good if the return note says something like there are not enough slots for everyone. That’s a good sign you can self-publish. However, if you get suggestions for writing classes, then maybe some revisions are in order before self-publishing. Don’t go on the praise from friends or mom who are surprised that you finished anything at all and likely don’t know for sure if it’s any good or has grammar issues.
Self-Publishing Is a Valuable Tool
Self-publishing is a great boon for authors such as myself who have had stories published in small press, obscure magazines, or just plain long time ago. We can pull out those old stories and release them one at a time or in a collection. My Weird Tales of Terror collection is the example of what a great tool self-publishing can be for an author with a backlist.
In that collection, there are a couple of stories that were previously published. There are stories that were accepted for anthologies but then the anthology died for whatever reason. There is a complete novel that never fit a slot for horror, fantasy, or occult so it was unmarketable. Self-publishing allows that book to be born when in could have died in a box like some of my other books that are lost forever, and thank goodness for all of that!
Self-publishing has given me a great tool to release these stories. They already had professional stamps of approval which I personally need for my own self-validation issues so I felt confident trying to make them look presentable as I taught myself how to self-publish. The book is chugging along. I often buy a dozen paperbacks and sell them when I’m at local conventions and libraries.
However, if I were a brand new author attempting to self-publish without any previous traditional track record, it would be even harder than it is to build recognition and create a brand.
There Are No Short Cuts to a Writing Career
Self-publishing is a lot of work but so is traditional publishing. If you self-publish, you can save thousands of dollars a year by not having to go to writers conventions to meet editors and publishers. You sell to yourself so you don’t need to schmooze. You never have to face rejection or the hacking sword of an editor.
Of course, if you have the money, you can hire a cover designer and a couple of editors.
Follow the Hybrid Road
I personally think being a hybrid author is the way to go. There are many pros and cons for each manner of publishing. I’m in the position that I’m playing in both sandboxes.
Of course, I really just want a six-figure advance for a contract to write a trilogy! Haha
Anyway, I’ll be at the North York Public Library on Saturday October 8 for the Indie Author Day.
I’m on a panel from 1 - 2 p.m. about self-publishing and then I’ll be at a table selling copies of Weird Tales of Terror and signing any book you might bring in until around 4. So come to the library and meet about fifteen authors and learn the secrets about the self-publishing industry and its rapid growth. Is it still the best way to control a career?
Get Advice from Working Pros
The landscape has changed dramatically over the past five years. Learn all the new tips and trick from the pros working in the trenches right now at the panels and workshops. Everyone at the tables will have a story to share and wisdom on how best to navigate in the tricky mazes of the self-publishing world.
At any rate, there’s an Indie Author Market on Saturday, October 8, 2016 where you can listen to a few panels and talk to real live authors who can offer you some free advice.
Later on in the month, you can find me at the Albert Campbell Library on Wednesday, October 19.
I'm at a Horror Festival at Chapters in Guelph on October 22.
If you come by, say hello and pick up a copy of Weird Tales of Terror or bring something you already have from home for me to sign!