Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Writer's Block Wednesday: Self-Publishing Today

It seems that lately more people are turning to self publishing. Instead of going through conventional channels, they are printing their work with Lulu or other print on demands, uploading Kindle editions, and marketing the books on their websites. Does this mean that the publishing industry is changing? Absolutely. Does it mean self-publishing is a better option over traditional publishing? No way.

I wrote about this subject a couple years ago, so I won't repeat myself, but a lot has changed since then. E-books no longer carry the same stigma and, in some cases, are actually more profitable than print books. Most of our society has moved from print to digital and books are slowly following. When writers are rejected by agents and big houses, self-publishing seems like a viable option. After all, you get to control your product, the way its marketed, and if you need to, you can change it.

I understand why more and more authors are going down this road, but despite all the changes, the downside of self-publishing is still far greater than the upside:

The Cons:
  • No Distribution. Chain stores won't carry the book and the indies that take it on consignment will take a large chunk of the profits. In order to hit it big, your book needs to be available everywhere.

  • No Financial Help. Even though publishing houses don't have huge marketing budgets, they will still give you something. Whether it's free copies of the book to send to critics, promotional bookmarks and business cards, or even providing you with a webpage, the publishing houses offer you something. When you're self published, all those review copies, promotional materials, and shipping costs come out of your pocket, and even though it doesn't seem like much, after a while it begins to add up.

  • No Resources. Publishing houses have a lot of pull. If you want to be on a panel at a conference, have a book signing at a local bookstore, or land a guest spot on a radio show, your publishing house has the backing to make those things happen. The publicists and marketing team have contacts and long standing relationships that you don't have. If you self-publish, all the market research will have to be done yourself unless you hire an independent publicist, which again, takes money.

  • Lack of Media Coverage. Even with all the changes in e-publishing, book critics still won't review self-published books. This is due to reasons I explained in my previous post. Media coverage is necessary to marketing a book, and without it, your book cannot succeed.

My advice to writers is get published through traditional channels. If you get 400 rejections, it has nothing to do with the quality of your manuscript. It could be the current market, sales trends, or for whatever reason, it simply didn't strike a chord with anyone you queried. Fight the temptation to self publish and simply put the book aside and start a new one. Once the new book is completed, return to the query-go-round. Eventually someone will bite.

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