The world moves quickly. In just twenty-five years, humankind has seen the birth of the World Wide Web develop from clunky computers to speedy laptops, tablets and smartphones. Less than a decade ago, only a select few ran a blog, now there are thousands on every topic imaginable. When I was growing up, self-publishing was called vanity publishing and was blasted by the majority of writers, now it’s a way of getting noticed by the world and has produced bestsellers.
Last week I announced that I am planning on self-publishing four novellas, starting with one this summer. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and umming and ahhing over.I spent over a year wondering whether I should self-publish my novels, trying to weigh the pros and cons of both self-publishing and traditional publishing. So, here’s a summary of what I’ve learned over that time:
The pros and cons of self-publishing
✔ You’re in control – from the words on the page, the formatting and cover to the way you sell your book, the price and promotion.
✔ You cut out the middle person – with no agent or publisher taking a commission (higher than Amazon) or having a say, there’s more profit and control for you.
✔ It’s immediate – securing an agent and publisher, editing and the publishing process can take years. Self-publishing, done correctly, takes months. Great for your readership, anticipating your next book. You can give them what they want before they forget about you.
✔ Catch the attention of an agent or publisher – agents and publishers have been known to take on self-published writers if they can prove that a large enough readership and market exists through their sales and marketing. It can be a way to land that book deal.
✘ You get out put you put in – this could also be a pro. Self-publishing is hard work, and it’s all down to you. There’s no editor, publishing house or agent who’s got your back. You may have an editor, and supportive family and friends, but all of the decisions ultimately lie with you, which can be stressful and heavy weight on your shoulders.
✘ You need to self-promote! Which is something a lot of writers, being quiet shadow-dwelling folk, aren’t very good at.
✘ Can be expensive – whether you’re going through a company or you’re doing everything yourself, self-publishing is expensive. You can do it on a budget, but there are some things you just shouldn’t skimp on.
✘ Rewards can be limited – and after you’ve invested all of that time and money, the chances are you won’t make a profit, especially if it’s a fiction book. You might never see that money again.
✘ This might just be me, but it often feels that self-publishing is still quite taboo. Some people haven’t gotten over the vanity-publishing decades, and I’ve spoken to quite a few people who aren’t impressed by the self-published, taking no consideration to the time and money you’ve invested in your baby.
The pros and cons of traditional publishing
✔ It’s the dream – every writer has a dream. To walk into a bookshop and see your book there. An agent and publisher can make that happen. It’s something to take pride in, and there’s just no getting away from that.
✔ Advances – yup, you can paid to write your novel!
✔ It doesn’t cost you anything – other than perhaps some expenses to promote the book.
✔ You get a great support team – not only will you have those supportive family and friends, but you’ll have professional editors, publishers, artists and your agent backing you up and helping you to succeed.
✘ It’s hard to do – Unfortunately it is now very difficult to get an agent or contract with a publisher. The recession hasn’t helped matters, as fewer are willing to take risks on new writers with new ideas.
✘ Many of the major publishers will not look at unsolicited manuscripts. If you want to be signed by them, you need an agent to get through the door. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as an agent can be very important in making sure you get the best deal possible and are treated fairly.
✘ Lack of control – once you sign that contract, you sign over a lot of control over your baby that you’ve spent every free hour working on for the last who knows how many years.
✘ It takes a lot of time – after you finally manage to secure an agent, you’ll have edits to do. Then, if and when you get the book deal with the publisher, there’ll be yet more edits plus waiting for the publishing process.
✘ It is still hard work – just because you’re not doing it all yourself, doesn’t mean your job is over once the words are right. Even if you get that book deal, you’ll still have to promote your book, get out there and meet your readers, and invest more time, energy and money into making it a success.
You might read those and feel the path to choose is obvious. Personally, I change my mind every day. So, in the end, I decided to give my novels a chance with the traditional side of things while testing the self-publishing waters (and my marketing skills) with four novellas that have been forming in my mind over the last six years. I think of it as a bit of an experiment. This year I’ll be submitting one novel to the traditional route, while a novella gets the self-publishing treatment. I wonder what the result will be by December 2014.
After all of this research, reading interviews and articles of different people’s opinions and experiences, I realised that whatever way you choose to publish, you really only need two things to succeed; hard work and lots of luck.