Sunday, June 10, 2012

The UN-truths of Self-Publishing

One of the biggest, and probably most difficult, decisions for an author is whether or not to self-publish. Unfortunately, there are still many in the literary world who feel that self-published works are sub-standard and that the writers of these works will never achieve any sort of success. As an award-winning, self-published author with sales in the thousands and an ever-growing fan base, I'm here to tell you that much of what you are hearing from these sources simply isn't true. While I always encourage an aspiring writer to choose the path to publication that best suits his/her situation and desires, I would like to help those still in the decision-making process by debugging some of the un-truths about self-publishing.

UN-TRUTH: Self-published works are primarily poorly edited, sub-standard pieces of literature.
TRUTH: While there will always be some authors who do publish poorly edited material(and make a bad name for the rest of us!), it is by no means the norm for self-published works. Most self-published authors spend their hard-earned money to hire professional editors who will examine their works with a fine-toothed comb. Some go through two or three complete edits--including rewrites, deletions, and self-edits--before submitting their manuscripts for publication. Yes, it is true that an occasional error will go unnoticed and wind up in print, but I have witnessed this in traditional works as well. After all, editors are only human!

UN-TRUTH: A self-published author will never sell more than a few copies of his/her book.
TRUTH: I personally know many SP authors, myself included, who have sold thousands of copies of their books, and not just to family and friends! Knowing one's niche market, a willingness to participate in book signing opportunities, and having the dedication to regularly market the work will go a long way in gaining a strong reader base and book sales.

UN-TRUTH: Self-published books don't have a wide distribution.
TRUTH: Many self-publishing companies offer their authors distribution through thousands of online outlets as well as availability through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and Bowker's. Authors who choose not to go through a SP company can still gain wide distribution by signing up with various online outlets. Query letters, phone calls, or better yet, personal visits to libraries and book stores are often all it takes to gain a spot for your book on their shelves. My books are distributed worldwide and can be ordered through 25,000 online retailers. They are also available in many libraries and book stores, including some stores in a national chain.

UN-TRUTH: Self-published authors can't get reviews, awards, or recognition for their works. TRUTH: There are now many online review sites and publications who cater primarily to self-published books. ForeWord Magazine is one of them, and I have two awards through their Book of The Year contest. Several contests invite and encourage self-published authors to participate, including USA Book News. Many self-published authors have had their works turned into movies--"Legally Blonde" by Amanda Brown (published by 1st Books (now Authorhouse)) is one of them. Again, a willingness to seek out and participate goes a long way to getting there!

UN-TRUTH: Authors self-publish only because they can't get a traditional contract.
TRUTH: Authors self-publish for many reasons, and rarely, if ever, is it simply because they are unable to get a contract. Some of the reasons I have heard for self-publishing include, but aren't limited to: a desire to get the work to market quickly; desire to retain all rights to the manuscript; complete control of content, word/page count, etc.; ability to work on one's own schedule (no deadlines); and freedom to market in the manner of one's own choosing. Also, many SP authors who have gone on to land traditional contracts--John Grisham, Christopher Paolini, and Nicholas Sparks, to name a few.

UN-TRUTH: Traditionally published authors make higher royalties on per-book sales than SP authors.
TRUTH: In many instances, it is the other way around! While royalties will largely depend on one's publisher, sales volume, etc., I know many TP writers who make significantly less per book sold than some of my SP friends, including myself. (Six or seven cents per book sold (TP) as opposed to a few dollars per book or more(SP))  Again, this depends largely on the publisher and the contract they've established with the writer.

Again, choosing a publishing format is a personal choice.  Before making a decision, be sure to thoroughly research all the options available to you.  I hope this post has helped you on your path to that decision! Happy writing!

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