Sunday, April 22, 2012

Are You Ready to Self-Publish?

I'm sure we've all seen the miraculous success stories in the e-publishing world, particularly at Amazon, and to a lesser extent, the other major online publishers. There's a heck of a lot of claims and names being dropped; lists of those who have sold or sell thousands of copies per month. Many of these writers have gone from rags to riches, as can be attested to by their popular blog posts and threads in the large writing groups. I admit that I've seen them, listened to their reasoning, tabulated their facts and figures, and come away from it scratching my head, but also feeling very envious of their sales and popularity. In spite of the naysayers, we are experiencing a revolution of sorts in the publishing industry, and the concept of self-publishing has racked up some pretty good credits and figures. It seems everyone who has failed to sell the conventional route or has just started out, are diving into this lucrative pool.  Even brand-name authors are jumping on this wagon with both feet and landing squarely.

I don't know about others, but I've had just as much difficulty and workload promoting and marketing my trade publisher's e-books, since they are now in direct competition with this flood of new initiates and entrepreneurs. Of course I'm reminded that I'm not pulling 70% royalty fees like they are. And I'm reminded of it every day. And maybe that's where the dollar signs are beginning to fog my judgement. It seems we never hear of the abject failures from those who have made this dive and come up with nada, or very little in the way of sales and readership. Oh, I've been tempted, all right. I've already set up relations with writers who will format me and supply cover art--for a pretty coin, or even a deal that I can stomach. But you've got to ask yourself a bank of questions before considering this publishing option.

Are you ready to expend cold, hard cash to have your books or stories formatted, edited and supplied with cover art, if you don't have this skill? Realize that you will be required to make this cost outlay right up front, without knowing if your book or story will ever sell. To anybody. If you're on a strict budget at the present, and this cost could sabotage your monthly payments, you would be wise to back off and wait until you have the capital.

Are you willing to be honest with yourself and claim that your book or story has gone through a vigorous structural, content and proof-reading stage, so that it appears professional, clean and easy to read? Or are you intent to risk ridicule and bad reviews, because YOU believe your words have been trimmed and polished and that the reader will not likely care or gloss over those types of mistakes? You're fooling yourself and cheating your reader if you think that publishing those pixels are going to, first and foremost, bring in gobs of cash in spite of the low quality, misspellings, goofs and errors. I can tell you that my trade publishers expended untold hours of editing that lasted months for each of my books. I don't have this editing concern.

Are you willing to expend 40 hours or more a week to a constant and unswerving promotion and marketing campaign? Creating your own buzz is hard enough, even when you have a publisher behind you doing everything in their power to get the word out and boost sales. If you self-publish, YOU are the publisher, the publicity manager, sales force, marketing manager, mail room lackey, and overall sales person. It all rides on you. How long do you think you can keep that up without pulling your hair out, and then researching new ways to create buzz after you experience several failures and dead-end roads? Oh, yeah, you'll have to adapt and research every day to find new markets and strategies, once you've exhausted your pool or worn out your welcome. You'll become a spam-bot, as I've nearly done, or have done. Then your popularity will decrease. For those of you on Broadband with limited gig usage, you'll have to watch your monthly tallies to make sure you don't run over your allotted usage.  You'll be googling and clicking on more websites than Carter has pills.

Are you ready for cutthroat competition? You won't be alone out there. You'll be in a sea of millions of writer/authors who have the same mind-set you do--sell thousands of copies to the general reading public. One of two things will happen: either you will start off with a bang and gain an impressive readership and sales, then find an increasing momentum, or you will be lost in that sea of millions of books or stories, and experience lackluster sales or no sales at all. Then panic will set in and you'll be forced to stoop or adopt to chicanery or some fly-by-night method of advertising, promoting and marketing that might not be aboveboard. Desperation drives many to think up new schemes and ideas on how to get their book or story front row and center. The display sites are full of self-publishers, all of them jockeying for position.

Are you ready to undercut your competition's prices? And I do mean slash and burn. If everyone decides to beat the competition by lowering their books to $.99, then the playing field has been leveled and there's nothing you'll be able to do about it. You'll exist in a sea of millions of $.99-cent e-books. Once the typical reader understands that these $.99-cent books are primarily put out by self-publishers, they'll become aware of the quality issues associated with them and give them the pass, which is already starting to happen.

If you decide to self-publish e-books or digital shorts, make sure you know what you're getting into--that means all ducks in a row. If you have a non-fiction book that appeals to a large niche audience, let it fly. Your chances of success with NF are far greater than fiction. How popular is your genre right now? Does it stand a good chance for sales? Just me, but I would not e-publish a collection of short stories unless I had a built-in readership. I would not e-publish an autobiography or a memoir, or poetry. Horror and westerns are not real popular, so think twice about them. Romance, erotica, fantasy, YA, some SF, and thrillers seem to hold their own and do very well.

Whatever you decide, be prepared for a long and arduous journey with self e-publishing. It won't be easy. Perhaps one day, we'll be reading about you on that top 1,000 list--a writer who went from rags to riches.



  1. Thanks you have great tips. I personally wish I had explored different self-publishing options before I published through an expensive venue...Live and learn :)
    M.C.V. Egan

  2. Your welcome. I'm still trying to find the cheapest routes for cover art and formatting, since I know nothing about the tech side of it, and I'm liable to mess things up. Perhaps you'll make up for the associated costs on the far end of it with enough sales to compensate.