Publishing: Making Choices that are Right for You

As a writer, I understand that what is right for me is not necessarily right for someone else. How to publish is a personal choice, but it is one that requires a great deal of research before reaching a decision. The problem with many novice (unknown) writers is they understand the competition, and they understand it will be difficult to find a traditional publisher but without doing any research or attempting to contact a publisher or agent, they immediately make the decision to self-publish. The problem I am seeing is many seasoned authors are encouraging these new writers to self-publish while failing to provide all the information they need to make the right decision.

I have to admit, I have not yet published a book though I have done a substantial amount of ghostwriting and have published many articles online. However, that doesn’t mean I am going to rush out and self-publish my first book even though at 58 I may only have 20 more years to earn my recognition. In today’s market there is still a stigma attached to self-publishing, and it is not confined to just publishers and agents. Many readers even hesitate to read self-published books because they are not certain of their literary worth. I have done it on occasion myself, especially if the book is from one of the vanity presses or from beloved Publish America, the latter of which is the lowest on my list of potential books to review. I attempted once to read a review copy from an author who published through Publish America and couldn’t get past the first page–the entire thing was narrative, no showing, all telling.

Where does that leave new authors, myself included? With digital technology there is an entire world out there–e-books, and you don’t have to pay someone to publish for you. What many people don’t know is there are many royalty-paying e-book publishers–you just need to take the time to search. You don’t need an agent even for a royalty-paying e-book publisher, and many of them even offer the option of publishing your book in print if it does well in e-book format. However, if you choose to pay to publish your e-book, you will face the same stigma you will if you self-publish your print book.

I have learned through various contacts over the past 8 years or so that self-publishing is not the way to go unless you fit into one of two categories:

  • You have attempted to publish your book traditionally without success and you believe in its worth.
  • Your book fits into a niche market that a traditionally publisher is unlikely to accept.

Unfortunately there are many people who disagree with this reasoning and feel it is strictly a personal choice. For some it’s a matter of having “control” over what they do. They talk about not allowing a publisher to take most of the profit from the book, but they fail to look at the big picture and what they receive in return for giving the publisher most of the cost of the book.

  • The publisher pays all the costs of printing and binding the book.
  • The publisher secures your copyright registration and ISBN number.
  • The publisher does much of the pre-release promotion and marketing for your book and helps you identify your target audience.
  • The publisher will help you arrange book-signings and distribute review copies of your book.

One of the biggest reasons many authors give for self-publishing is because they want to have complete control and because they don’t want to depend on someone else to do marketing and publishing. Even when you are traditionally published in today’s market, the publisher expects you to help market your book. The days of publishers doing all the marketing have faded into oblivion; besides, would you really want to depend on someone else to get your “baby” before the audience.

I am not telling you not to self-publish, but you do need to make sure you have all the information you need before you make that decision. You also need to understand you may be placing your career in a stalemate since many bookstores will not carry self-published books. If you only want to sell your books online, you are in a better position to self-publish, but if you want to see your books in bookstores at some point in your career, you should look at a royalty-paying e-book publisher that also offers print publishing. After that, PROMOTE PROMOTE PROMOTE and never stop.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. CW64
    Sep 10, 2010 @ 16:27:04

    The one point you forgot to mention is that many writers you strive to publish for the first time feel discouraged when they are turned away. This might be why writers tend to forgo them.

    Traditional publishers are very discriminating (as, perhaps, they should be), so many writers new to publishing find it difficult to get their feet inside the door. Self-publishing, they feel, will help them in that respect. Yes, writers have to pay for most, if not all, expenses involved, but they achieve one thing they otherwise wouldn’t, and that is very important to them: recognition. Once they get their name out there, traditional publishers are apt yo see them and, after a while, become familiar with them. This will lead many otherwise hapless writers to gain entrance through that door with regards to obtaining success with traditional publishing.

    Please remember, too, that many famous writers self-published at one point early in their respective careers, including Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Stephen King. Look what happened to them.

    I am not saying I accept self-publishing 100% as a publishing solution for any writer, as sometimes self-publishing can prove detrimental for any writer who is not yet ready for publication; what I am saying is that self-publishing has its helpful [strategic] purposes other than serving as a fall-back or last-resort.

    Very insightful post. Thank you for sharing. I will be looking on the blog more often.

    Take care!


  2. Brenda Coxe
    Sep 10, 2010 @ 16:45:26

    Unfortunately there is still a stigma when it comes to self-publishing, and these writers who think they are achieving recognition really aren’t. Yes, there are those who succeed such as Stephen King, but the problem is many new writers do not make an attempt to become traditionally published. Stephen King to use your example self-published because he was turned down by traditional publishers–self-publishing was not his first choice.

    The problem with many new writers is they are over anxious–all they want to see is their name in print. They do not take the time to edit their writing or even find out if they have the ability to write professionally. They do not see being turned down by traditional publishers as an indication that maybe they don’t have what it takes for publishing. I’m not saying they should give up their dream, but they should certainly discover if it is their writing is at fault before they resort to self-publishing.

    Another thing to keep in mind is there is a difference between self-publishing and using a vanity or subsidy press. When you create your own publishing imprint you stand a better chance of achieving success than you do if you use a vanity press and pay someone to do everything for you. The vanity presses don’t care how good your writing is; all they see is money in their pockets. This hurts the new writer who often does not find out until some time later the mistake they made.


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