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A word about self-publishing

As the digital transition transforms the publishing landscape, a lot of aspiring authors are turning to self-publishing. Print-on-demand technology had already had an impact in making self-publishing easier, but POD books aren't cheap to produce and had to be priced above $15 or so, which made it hard for them to compete with trade press books. eBooks, on the other hand, have a base price of production but the incremental cost per book is virtually nothing. That means they can be priced very cheaply indeed.

The fact that an ebook can be priced at $2.99 and still make money does not mean that it should look cheap. My advice as an ebook reader is, if you want to self-publish, get help! Get help with the cover, and with editing, and especially with proofing. Proofing a manuscript to send to an agent or editor requires a decent level of accuracy but it's still way down from proofing a book someone is going to pay for. Once someone plunks down money, their expectation goes up. When you self-publish, you've got no one to blame but yourself if your product is full of errors.

What it boils down to is books are products as well as creative efforts. A publisher has staff to deal with the editing process, page and/or ebook layout, and quality control. With self-publishing, you have control, but you have to do the work. And it is work. If you decide to take the self-pub route, you need to know that up front.

But hey, at least it's an option! It's better than what we had before, which was spending thousands to produce a print book with no good way to sell it. Ergo, I decided to run a poll, to see how other folks feel about this issue. Feel free to weigh in in a comment, if the options listed don't match what you want to say.

Note: I've disabled anonymous commenting because of spam, so you need an LJ account to take the poll, or to leave a comment.

Poll #1706985 Would YOU ever self-publish a book?

If you have had no success with traditional methods, would you self-publish?

No way! I want to see my book in a store with a publisher's name on the cover.
1(9.1%)
No way! Self-publishing is the kiss of death. It's like giving up.
3(27.3%)
Well, maybe, but only after a decade of trying
3(27.3%)
Probably, if it looks like other folks are having luck with it.
1(9.1%)
Sure, why not? What have I got to lose if the other route isn't working?
2(18.2%)
Sure. It's the 21st Century. I would go right to self-publishing and not bother trying to sell my book to an editor.
1(9.1%)




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Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
karen_w_newton
Feb. 19th, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC)
I see it as more of a lottery. For millions of people, a lottery ticket is a waste of money, but for a small few it pays off. But if you only spend a few bucks on the lottery, is that really such a bad thing to buy a ticket? If the alternative is the book will never ever see the light of day otherwise, is it really worse to self pub it?

And to avoid the kiss of death syndrome, there are always pseudonyms. -)
(Deleted comment)
karen_w_newton
Feb. 19th, 2011 05:41 pm (UTC)
>pseudonymity

You made that word up! It's true that a pseudonym makes marketing harder.
(Deleted comment)
karen_w_newton
Feb. 19th, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC)
Actually, it is a word in English. It just sounds made up. :)
jongibbs
Feb. 19th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
I've nothing against it in principal, and there are always exceptions, but I think it's all too easy to convince yourself it's the way forward when perhaps the book itself is either not quite ready or just not good enough.

Just my 2 cents'

Edited at 2011-02-19 05:12 pm (UTC)
karen_w_newton
Feb. 19th, 2011 05:27 pm (UTC)
The question is, not good enough for what? I agree if someone really hasn't tried the traditional route, I would never recommend they start with self-publishing. But I still remember Joe Haldeman thanking his agent for taking THE FOREVER WAR to "that 18th editor" because the first 17 rejected it. Editors are, as much as anything, assessing a book's marketability. And in that regard, they are assessing it in terms of "If we spend $20,000+ on this book, will it sell well enough to make money?" Seventeen editors answered no on THE FOREVER WAR and they were all wrong. Admittedly, self published books probably have zero chance of winning a Hugo, but they do have a chance of getting readers. And if you have no other options, isn't s small chance better than no chance?
bogwitch64
Feb. 19th, 2011 05:16 pm (UTC)
I didn't clicky on a ticky up there, because I actually HAVE self-published a book, just not for resale.

I organize a writing retreat every year--ten writing women. It's fabulous. I've made it a tradition to celebrate all of our unbirthdays during this week, and I buy them all a little gift. Last year, I collected a short story or chapter exerpt from each of them and published it on Lulu. It turned out really beautiful. They all loved it. But it's not for sale, of course.

So my answer to the above would be, yes, I'd self-publish, but not as a means of getting my book to anyone but friends.
karen_w_newton
Feb. 19th, 2011 05:30 pm (UTC)
It sounds like a lovely tradition, but I don't consider that true publishing. I've done that myself, in pre-Kindle days, because my husband won't read books in manuscript form. Actually, I found the Lulu version very useful for proofing. It was much easier to see typos in a printed book.
bogwitch64
Feb. 19th, 2011 05:35 pm (UTC)
They do a good job. And, like you said up there in your post, if anything goes wrong, it's YOUR blunder, not theirs.

That was a fun project. I wish I could do it again!
karen_w_newton
Feb. 19th, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC)
Why not?
bogwitch64
Feb. 20th, 2011 02:28 am (UTC)
I have to do something NEW! They expect it. :)
karen_w_newton
Feb. 20th, 2011 02:29 am (UTC)
So, make it an ebook! Or an audiobook!
darke_conteur
Feb. 19th, 2011 06:05 pm (UTC)
I see a time when ebooks will be the norm, but the problem now is (IMO) the industry hasn't caught on to their potential. Right now there's probably a pile of crap ebooks out there due to impatient writers. Fine, but I see those days as numbered. Sooner or later someone is going to say "Look, you want me to buy your book, then learn what your doing and give me something worth reading."

Ebooks may one day dominate, but until the entire population is hooked to their laptops/kindle/whatever, people are still going to want a physical book, and that's fine with me too.
karen_w_newton
Feb. 19th, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC)
I don't think ebooks are going to kill print, but they are going to shrink it. And I think one thing that will make self-pubbing more viable in ebook form than in print is the the "free sample" feature. This is useful even for trade press books. If you don't know the writer, you can always "taste" before you buy.
darke_conteur
Feb. 19th, 2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
That is a good idea.
mikandra
Feb. 20th, 2011 01:36 am (UTC)
I have recently put some material on Amazon and Smashwords and am humbled that people are buying it. Granted, they were pre-published items, but I'm preparing to put on two novels.

Why?

Because I am marketing four novels, and writing three more, and there aren't that many places to market them, especially if agents and publishers ask fulls and sit on them for a year or so.

Because I feel that as modern writer it's prudent to have a foot in each camp, and take care of your own career and business.

I also feel that self-publishing in no way means you have to stop sending your stuff to publishers. Just send them different stuff.

Why did I choose these novels? Because one is a kids book and the other a SF romance. They're different genres from why I write at the moment.

Because I believe the books are good. I got a contract for one of them, but didn't sign because of restrictive clauses and the publisher's inflexibility.

Why now? I made a promise to myself not to venture into the jungles of self-publishing until I'd met the criteria for SFWA membership through short story sales. I did and so here I am.

You have to make sure you only put good work out there. I'm paying for cover artists and having people from the magazine proofread the work (since they still owe me some proofreading credits). You have to get help.

Karen, the 'I believe a writer should do both' is not an option in your poll, so I ticked 'Why not?'
karen_w_newton
Feb. 20th, 2011 01:38 am (UTC)
That's a good option! I don't consider that by choosing self publishing for some work, you are locked out of using more traditional routes for other work. I think that's very true if you write in more than one genre, especially if you don't think you'll write more in a given genre.
mikandra
Feb. 20th, 2011 02:09 am (UTC)
I think that people citing imminent career demise and Hell Freezing Over if you self-publish have well and truly bought the hype surrounding this subject. Alternatively, I also believe that people who think that big publishers are TEH EVIL need to re-examine their arguments. Both are completely different markets and there is absolutely no reason why you can't market two different works to both.
karen_w_newton
Feb. 20th, 2011 02:22 am (UTC)
Very true! Neither is the devil, but neither is a panacea, either. Both routes take a hell of a lot of work.
paulwoodlin
Feb. 21st, 2011 07:59 am (UTC)
It wouldn't surprise me if publishers started e-publishing all new authors to cut down on their risk, and when an author hits big, publish their next books in print.
karen_w_newton
Feb. 21st, 2011 04:11 pm (UTC)
You're not the first to suggest that. In fact, if the ebook sells really well, I can see print coming as a second phase, in reverse order.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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