Why Wouldn’t You?

I attended a talk by a couple of publishers and an agent recently. Both publishers were digital first imprints of major publishing houses (the big six… or it might be five now). Both publishers said that they considered a self-published book to be an ‘unpublished’ book or manuscript and could still be submitted to them for consideration.

writer_typewriterIf this is the case, why wouldn’t you try self-publishing first? Why wouldn’t you give yourself a deadline (like three years) or a budget to work with, and invest in yourself? When it’s possible to release books digitally into a growing market for under $500 (with no experience, just with a bit of knowledge where to get things done and some motivation), then why wouldn’t you?

You’re not burning bridges with some publishers for making the attempt. You’re not killing your opportunities, you’re actually expanding on them.

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7 thoughts on “Why Wouldn’t You?

  1. It is my opinion that self-publishing, or what I prefer to call independent publishing, should be your default first step. All the tools to do it correctly are there and it takes a lot less time to get your book to the readers. The benefit of this is that readers will tell you what you did right and what you did wrong so that you can get better faster. Not to mention the royalties are more than twice as good when you self-publish.

    And if your dream is to have your book in the window of your local bookstore, sell a lot of copies and the publishers will come to you. Ask Hugh Howey how it worked out for him.

    I used to think that it was my goal to get an agent and then get a publisher. But the more I write and the more I research publishing, I don’t think I will ever worry about getting an outside publisher, I am a publisher. Maybe, if I get a lot of interest in my books, I might sign with a publisher to get my print books into brick and mortar stores or translated internationally, but for now I have no need for a publisher.

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    1. Ah, you’ve said something very specific whilst agreeing… something that i actually am conflicted about the self publishing community. The community has a responsibility to polish the work/manuscript as much as possible–to “Publishing House” standard. There are so, so many people who upload their unedited, cruddy work into the self-publishing system thinking that they’ll use the readers to teach them. What truly happens is that they burn readers. They burn the people who would’ve otherwise bought from you or me. They burn those that would’ve bought from THEM if their work was better. I will never ever buy what I think looks like a self-published book without reading the first five pages using Amazon “Look Inside” first. However, if a book has been published with a well-known publisher, I’ll likely buy it based on the blurb and the first couple of paragraphs.

      Standards. The publishing houses do have them, and that’s in their favour.

      So while I can see and understand your point about learning on the job, (and don’t worry, I understand the spirit in which it was said, I am making my point at the extreme end here) the credibility of self publishing will never gain strength if everybody decides to use this ‘publish and learn’ tactic. By all means publish and learn – I know Femme could’ve been a deeper, richer tale… but it wasn’t that kind of story. Where I made mistakes was in development.

      This post “Why wouldn’t you?” is truly aimed at writers considering keeping the door open on self publishing. Keep your options open. Don’t be scared to experiment, just because you think it’ll “ruin your chances” of getting published. Keep in mind that bouncing around the name Hugh Howey is like propping up Stephen King… They’re lightning strikes and standouts because they’re rare.

      I wanted control of the title, cover and price. I wanted to dictate the release date and format. Mostly I wanted control of the price… at this stage of my career, I want the option of giving away a book if I want to, of selling it cheaply if I want to… and that left me only one option: Self Publishing.

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      1. You make great points. I also think you get what I was trying to say, even if I didn’t use the best words.

        There is a great book I recently read that talks about this, it’s called “Let’s Get Digital” (http://goo.gl/2Jtq1D) by David Gaughran. In it he talks about all the advantages of self-publishing and includes testimonials from 30 self-published authors. Hugh Howey may be an exception to the rule, but the rules have changed and he is getting lot of company.

        I guess my point is that I no longer see a legacy publishing contract as my goal. I would rather maintain control over my books, reap what ever benefits come from it and interact with my readers. I write to share my stories, I don’t need a publisher to do that any longer.

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      2. Yes, I’ve heard nothing but positive things about “Let’s Get Digital” and even have it on my iPad ready to read (but haven’t got around to it yet). Thank you for mentioning it.

        I completely agree with you that the rules have changed, and I have investigated self-published authors enough to understand that they are making a living from their writing, albeit from a smaller audience that a publisher wouldn’t be interested in as they’re hoping to jackpot the mass market. If a thousand true fans can support a writer, then that’s an achievable goal and certainly one to work towards, and those fans need to be on board with what you’re doing.

        Publishing in general is still going through massive changes. I’ve noticed more micro-publishers cropping up also. I imagine there’ll be specialist online booksellers next, who would specialise in selling quality self-publishers of particular genres. I’m sure they’re already around… but publishing continues to go through dramatic change and the dust hasn’t settled yet.

        We might not be the end result in the future of publishing, but we’re certainly further down the road than particular non-digitally focussed publishing houses.

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      3. This is a really exciting industry to be a part of. Excuse me while I go write something. Talking about writing and publishing always gets me in the mood to create something.

        Keep up the good work Delia. I can’t wait to read your next book.

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  2. I think that there is a lot that can be learned from self-publishing in a different way than you may have assumed. I certainly agree that an author should do everything he or she possibly can before releasing their book. But reader feedback is always useful, whether the book has been self-published or professionally published. And the author can also learn whether her instincts are superior to the “play it safe” formula recommendations (or demands) that a main-line publisher may insist the author must accept.

    More to the point, though, there is a tremendous amount authors can learn to their advantage about the realities of the modern author/reader landscape, and the best way to do so is by learning the ropes and bringing a book to market on their own.

    Given the way the traditional publishing world seems to be going these days, I expect that this kind of knowledge will grow more valuable than ever.

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    1. Let me play devil’s advocate: If all of your readers asked you to dumb down your work, would you? Would you use simpler language for them next time? Or would you tweak the settings on your marketing and target to a different audience instead?

      Absolutely listen to reader feedback, but take it with a grain of salt too. Readers are responsible for some cruddy books selling millions, after all.

      A writer should set the highest standard themselves. Readers are very forgiving of cliches in writing, but writers shouldn’t be. Readers will not catch everything or help you in everything. The only thing they can expertly teach you is what the market wants. The only way they come in useful is if their feedback starts repeating one another. Beta readers are more useful, providing you’ve made careful selections as to who reads it… and that’s BEFORE book goes to market, so not what you’re talking about.

      I’d love to be informed as to how readers can teach me about my writing craft beyond what sells? If they like or don’t like it… that’s subjective.

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