I chose to self-publish my debut novel, Every Time He Dies, for many reasons; most of which I will unpack in this blog.
Before we get started though, I do want to add the disclaimer that both self-publishing and traditionally publishing have their strengths and weaknesses.
There are many factors that you need to consider before choosing an option, such as:
- what your publication goals are
- how comfortable you are with technology
- the strength of your author platform (or your wiliness to build one)
- your budget
- how much time and energy you can (realistically) dedicate to this endeavour.
Now, my gut has always told me that self-publishing was the best option for me. However, to be completely transparent, a number of friends who are traditionally published and/or professionals in the industry convenience me to give traditional publishing a go.
I got close twice, but no banana.
So, why didn’t my novel “make it”?
#1 / It was too similar to a book that had already been published earlier that year
#2 / The company already had an extensive backlog (“And by the way,” … the receptionist whispered … “We might not be around that much longer anyway…”)
I didn’t walk away with a contract, but I did walk away with an important lesson: if the timing isn’t right, it doesn’t matter who you know!
I have to say though, I wasn’t crushed. Like I said before, my gut was telling me to self-published. This is probably because my genetic make-up is one part arrogance and one part naivety.
Plus, I’ve been a long-time listener to Joanna Penn’s, The Creative Penn, podcast (among others), and there’s a lot of self-published authors out there that are killing it. Of course, most are lucky to earn a couple of bucks a month, but the same goes for traditionally published authors.
For me, the benefits of self-publishing outweighed the drawbacks.
Full creative control
Self-publishing means that you get to choose who you work with – time and money permitting. Basically, you are the CEO of My Novel Inc. Congratulations! You are now in charge of researching and hiring the best professional
money your budget can buy!
Personally, I loved the fact that I got to choose my own editor; that I could hire the interior formatter that I liked and that the cover wasn’t designed by a department, but through the one-on-one collaboration between ME and the designer I had hired.
As CEO, I also had the final say on everything. Cos, you know, I was paying for it.
The number one reason why people want to go traditional is because they don’t like marketing.
You’re just gonna have to get over that.
As part of my community service to the online writing world, I’ve chosen to write an open letter to all the ‘but I don’t like marketing’ Luddites.
Dear ‘I Don’t Like Marketing’ Luddite,
It is highly unlikely that you will get a contract with a major publishing house if you don’t have an author platform. If you aren’t willing to promote your books then why should they?
This is especially important if you are trying to publish your debut novel. A publishing company WILL NOT INVEST a ton of cash into a marketing campaign for a DEBUT novel.
Cos no-one knows who you are!
You haven’t proven yourself yet and you don’t have a trusted, loyal fan base.
It doesn’t matter whether you chose to self-publish or traditionally publish if you want to sell books, then you have to market your own books.
Sure, a publishing house will put some money towards a marketing campaign, but you, sweet innocent writer, will be expected to do some heavy lifting too.
No one rides the bus for free.
I can appreciate that not everyone will be on board with this one, but in case you haven’t heard, our planet is currently in the midst of the sixth extinction. So, publishing 5000 copies (or more) of a book that I may only sell ten copies of seems like a huge waste of our already depleting natural resources.
Print on demand doesn’t completely solve this problem, but it’s a step in the right direction. Companies like Lulu, Amazon, and Ingramspark (among many others) offer the print on demand option. Every time someone goes onto Amazon, iBook, Kobo, Barnes & Nobel etc. and orders a copy of your book, the publisher (Lulu/Amazon/Ingramspark) will print, package and post that book to your wonderful, generous, and sparkly reader.
How great is that?
Gone are the days when self-published author had to keep twenty book boxes in their garage and physically distribute said books themselves (probably from the trunk of their car…).
Bookshops and Libraries
Another common reason for going traditional is because authors want to see their book in their local independent bookshop or library.
Oh, man, I feel like I’m about to tell you that Santa isn’t real …
Okay, look, the thing is, most new releases only stay in bookstores for the first three-six months following their release.
If your stock doesn’t sell, then the store will ship your book back to the publisher where it will hang out in a giant warehouse until someone buys a copy online or until another shop orders in extra stock (if you’re really, really lucky).
So … that book that you spent years writing will be on the shelf at your local independent bookshop for a few months … maybe.
So, you better enjoy that ‘thrill’ while you can, sailor.
It’s a common misconception that independent bookstores and library won’t/can’t sell self-published books, but that isn’t true. Thankfully, services like Ingramspark make it easy for bookstores to order in (at wholesale price) copies of your book. YAY!
If you live in a small town, you might also be able to negotiate a deal directly with your local bookstore owner.
Companies such as Kobo, also make it very easy for libraries to order in your book. However, someone may need to request the book in order for this to happen. (It’s about time your Nan did something for ya, right?) Alternatively, you can always donate a copy to your local library. Now all the local residents will benefit from your literary generosity!
These four pros are the biggest reason why I chose to self-publish. I would list the cons here too, but that would make the post WAY too big.
Don’t worry, I’m gonna realise part 2 next week. 😉
All that being said, you are in charge of deciding what is best for you and your project.
While I have chosen to self-publish this novel, I would be open to traditionally publishing in the future just so I could experience it. (You may have noticed that I have a writing blog … that means I like to do stuff and then write about so that others can learn from my experience).
Writing, editing and then publishing my debut novel, Every Time He Dies, has been one very long road. For the most part, though, the view had been spectacular.
I hope you can say the same.
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