I belong to a wonderful group of authors on Facebook called The Authors Think Tank. This group is filled with writers in all stages of their career. We help motivate each other, respect each other, and help each other succeed. I love this group! Today I saw a request for everyone to share their feelings on self-publishing and whether or not it was right for them. It really got me thinking about my own personal path in publishing and how I feel about things now that I’ve been a self-publishing author for several years. Here’s my own response:
I shopped my first book around agents and publishers for almost 3 years because it has ALWAYS been my goal to be traditionally published. When I finally got a publishing contract offered by a small but competitive house, I declined it after not being able to resolve an issue with giving up my audio rights (the refused to produce an audiobook but wouldn't allow me to create my own). I had other concerns with the distribution as well. Like most small presses they use Createspace (an Amazon owned company to distribute paperbacks). This was something I could do on my own and have done for other self-published authors (I'm a cover designer, formatter, and project manager; basically I get paid to help others self-publish). So I already knew the ins and outs to create and publish a book. The only thing this publisher was really offering me was a hand in the marketing. So I did the hardest thing EVER and declined the contract, sent the book to another freelance editor and self-published it. Was that the right path? At the time, yes.
After self-publishing 5 novels, 3 picture books, and illustrating 6 more picture books that were also self-published, I began seeing that I was only self-publishing because it was the easy thing to do. The more books I released the less effort I put into the marketing of them and slowly my sales began to drop. As long as I was out there, day and night, pushing my books the sales were there. The moment I stopped, the sales dropped. How nice it would be if I didn't have to handle ALL the marketing. So I am once again trying the path of traditional publishing. I want this to be a lifelong career and I need help to do that. I need a great agent to find me some awesome publishing houses to make my books their priority.
I believe self-publishing is a great place to start. I've learned so much I could teach a full course on the ins and outs of it. I'm not against self-publishing—if it's done right. If the author gets a flawless cover, hires a detailed editor, and writes a great story. So many hurry-to-publish-authors muddy the water with crap that makes it harder for the rest of the awesome self-published books to be seen. So, yes, self-publishing CAN be good. It was for me.
But is it for everyone? Is it for you?
What are your goals, dreams, and aspirations when it comes to your book? Will you feel comfortable being the only author selling your own books at a mass author signing (yes, I've been there and felt really awkward and out of place)? Will you be comfortable doing all the work (for a while I was but now I'm burnt out)? Will you feel comfortable when your own public library declines to carry your book because it's self-published (even after I donated my books they didn't shelf them, they sold them for 25 cents)? Will you feel comfortable feeling like you're the only supporter of your book (at times you'll have to because you don't have a publisher qualifying your book)? Will you feel comfortable being in charge of everything (which I liked A LOT)? Will you be comfortable claiming you are a self-published author?
Ask yourself all these questions and more. Then weigh if you truly want all that. For me, I'm ready to climb a different mountain. Is it hard for me to do this? Yes! I have emails from kids asking and begging me to get another book out for them to read. I’ve written three more books that I have not released so I can shop them traditionally. It hurts, it really does, to tell these kids I won’t be releasing anything soon. But I have come to the realization that for the market in which I write, traditional publishing is the best path for me. It’s the path that is going to stabilize my writing career. Maybe when I’ve arrived on that summit I’ll discover it’s not all chocolates and roses (I know deep down that it’s not) and I’ll move on. First I have to get there.