To Self Publish

The decision to self-publish now seems obvious. However, with all the debate over how to successfully publish and market a book, it was really a very difficult decision to come to. On the one hand, there is and all its heft. Amazon and their eBook format is a relatively straight forward way to publish a book. I like this model partly for the fact that the paper, ink, glue, and other environmentally unfriendly aspects of printed copy are avoidable. To further extend their self-publishing offerings, Amazon has CreateSpace, a company for printing books on demand. The on-demand model applies state-of-the-art printing technology to cost effectively print one book at a time as ordered, i.e. on demand. Okay, so we’re back to paper and ink, but at least only the copies sold are printed.

On the other hand, there is Big Publishing. Essentially five traditional publishing houses rule the market. In this model, the author sends out query letters (nowadays its emails) to independent literary agents. It is not unheard of for a writer to query 50 or 75 or even 100 agents in a process that could take months, years, or even tens of years in an attempt to find someone, anyone, to agree that your manuscript is worth the time and attention needed to get it to market. The agent then tries to sell the manuscript to a publishing house. In the meantime, the author may be asked to edit and re-edit and re-edit again. In the end though, the manuscript may end up as a book with a Big Publishing house name on its copyright page and a contract for soft and hard cover editions to be distributed through Big Publishing’s many avenues.

But even a contract with Big Publishing doesn’t guarantee sales. It will, however, certainly guarantee lower royalties. Although the picture seems to be getting clearer toward a decision for self-publishing, there is still that nagging feeling of going it alone. Perhaps the lower royalties and the edits and querying are worth it if the book is marketed to countless bookstores and advertised and pushed for you. And there is the added comfort of knowing an agent will have editors review your book to make it polished and professional.


Ultimately though, the success of a book depends on the author’s vision of success and a lot of hard work. Big Publishing will put reasonable effort into marketing a book for a month or so (from what I’ve read) and then the book may be moved out for lack of shelf space. As a bookseller, I’ve seen way too many remainder marks (that black line marked on the edge of a deeply discounted book) on Big Publishing books that have been deemed overstock — a book that no longer sells as desired. Self-published books never need suffer such a fate. They will stay on the Amazon “shelf” as long as the author leaves them there, allowing ample time to get the word out that the book may be worth reading. And what’s to mark with on-demand printing? Only those books sold are printed, so there’s nothing to mark as a remainder.

Back to success…The book signings, the blogging, the branding, the tweets, and so on and so on are, for the most part, often left up to the author in either publishing model. So success ends up being about writing well and marketing well. As far as editors and the other support staff that Big Publishing offers, well, there are plenty of talented independents for hire. So for better or for worse, authors today are really entrepreneurs who may have to outsource their staff and reach outside their comfort zone to make themselves and their books known. Self-publishing doesn’t mean banning Big Publishing. On the contrary, self-publishing can pave the way to Big Publishing and their multitude of connections. Self-publishing allows a relative unknown in the author world to develop a following without the wrath of the remainder mark. I chose the self-publishing model and I hope I can work hard enough and find enough breaks to garner the success I’m looking for with THREADS, a story written to entertain, captivate, and enchant those who read it.

3 thoughts on “To Self Publish

  1. Let’s not forget the original way to self-publish, which is to produce actual books through a short-run book printer. Print-on-demand books are expensive, and return little to their authors. Anyone considering a POD arrangement owes it to herself to first see what a small run (250 copies? 100?) would cost from a short-run printer (like Gorham Printing or Thomson Shore). Writers with some reasonably predictable pool of buyers (writers who have the “platform” of acquaintances or colleagues that agents demand) or some reasonable place to sell (e.g. a local pet store, for a book on cat nutrition) might find this a far better system. There will always be a place, and a market, for actual books, I think.

    1. Thank you for the information about short-run printers. They can be a very good option for writers with an arranged outlet and a predictable pool of readers/buyers. It is important to the weigh the initial cost of printing, the cost of distributing the book yourself, and the cost of storage. POD through CreateSpace offers no-cost printing, distribution through is also free, and there are no storage considerations. An author also has the option of ordering copies of the POD book at a discount if she/he wants to distribute the book. Aside from these considerations, it’s wonderful to have the options short-run printers offer. For example, hard copies, special limited editions, and so on. Most importantly, there are several options for writers to get their book out there. And let’s be clear, POD books are every bit an “actual” book as much as a short-run or traditional printed book.

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