Should You Self-Publish?

I was talking with my husband this week about the fantasy novel I am writing.  He was under the impression that I would self-publish or make it into an ebook.  I was under the impression that he knew me better than that.

His reasoning was that it would become available faster–which is true–and that it would tie-in with a whole series of short stories that he intends to do on the world my novel takes place in and some of the characters in it.  Not sure if I explained this before, but my novel is actually based off an RPG campaign that he moderated for me and a group of my friends.  The world is fantastic.  The story is fantastic.  I thought to myself–“This has to be written down.”

But I never ever considered self-publishing, or e-publishing it.  To me, self-publishing has always had a defeatist ring to it.  Either no one else wanted to publish the story or you didn’t think anyone else would want to publish the story and so you self-publish.  I’m not at all saying I am right in thinking this.  In fact, there are authors out there who prefer self-publishing.  Here is an article that takes the stance that self-publishing is better, if you care to read it.

Here is another article detailing a study done that shows that self-published ebooks actually generate more income for the author than ebooks published through publishing houses.

These articles, and my husband’s points, are almost convincing me that e-publishing might be the better way to go.  But it’s hard for me to completely accept.  It feels like I am trading any possible writing income or notoriety.  Am I being stuck up?  Am I thinking too old-school?

Let’s not forget to think outside the box.  One author I really like, Max Barry, wrote his most recent book as an online/email serial, sending out one page a day.  The first month was free, and afterward readers had to pay a small subscription fee to continue.  Once it was finished, he did some edits, put it all together and published it traditionally.  He had positive things to say about the experience.

What do you think about e-publishing and self-publishing?

5 thoughts on “Should You Self-Publish?

  1. It’s an interesting topic, and the answer depends on YOU and what you want to do with your career as a writer.

    Generally speaking, “serious writers” have agents that help you to make deals with publishing houses. As a self-publisher, you’re only as good as your word of mouth can generate because you don’t have the financial resources (and marketing prowess) of a major publishing house behind you. (Asking 200 friends to buy your new ebook will likely only yield 50 purchases.) There’s a TON of money that must be spent to get any traction with your work if you decide to self-publish. You have to purchase your own ads to market your stuff (in newspapers, magazines, facebook ads, etc.). While there are always exceptions, for the vast majority of writers, it’s the difference between having 200 people read your book vs. 200,000 people reading your book. Most writers want the latter.

    I could take my screenplays, get a small crew together, and make the films I’ve written myself, but they will likely never be shown in a major movie theater on a large screen (unless I rent out the space for lots of money and manage to fill the seats), they will never been seen and reviewed by major critics, and I will only make money from any kind of online digital file sales, unless I want to take the time (and more money) to make DVDs myself to sell in an online store. (Also, you’d be responsible for ANY kind of legal matters that crop up, much like being responsible for your own house repairs once you don’t have a landlord.)

    So it all comes down to what you want out of your career. If you simply want to make a quick buck by getting 200 sales of your 3 dollar ebook, then go that route. This really isn’t the path toward a legitimate CAREER as a writer though. It’s a path for people that don’t mind keeping their full-time jobs while writing on the side. Something like this would work well for my Prose Project stories, because they’re just a series of short stories. But if you’re not just looking for a quick buck, and you want to do this for a living, then you don’t self-publish. You find an agent, and you do it right. (Your Max Barry example kind of doesn’t work in this scenario because he’s already an established name in the writing industry. He can do whatever he wants and he’ll be fine.)

    Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not telling you NOT to self publish. I’m saying that once you do, you start down a path for your career, and you need to think about what you want that path to be. THAT will decide whether you self publish or not. If you WANT my personal opinions on how you should proceed, feel free to reach out. But here, I just wanted to give you the realities about having a publishing house behind you vs. self-publishing.

    • To add one more thought (because my time to edit my comment expired), many people say that self-publishing is a way to get your foot in the door. But that’s not really the case. It’s creating your own door, and many of the people that matter in the industry will never take notice, because there are SO MANY people making their own doors these days.

What do you think?