Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Self Publishing All The Rage? Huh?

Okay, I’ve been hopping around blogs lately and all the talk about this writer going from Self-Pub to Traditional, and that writer turning down traditional pub big $ to self-pub oh my!

Here’s my take, and let me tell you – I know the ropes inside and out. How?


We have choices! Yep, that’s what is going on. Again I say it. Writers should now see themselves as a true business entity. An entity that has the ability to decide what is the best way to sell their work (and each work has a different road to be sold). That work being short stories, poetry, novels, comic books, scripts or whatever. That means that an author no longer has to define the potential of a sale based on one avenue. Now we have many avenues.


I, an African American, who grew up in Washington DC which has been a known to have a diverse group of people desired to read books that identified with my personal struggles in life. Where did I find these books? Many places like, street vendors that sold books written and published by African American Writers, colleges where I attended (since I went to a predominately black college) and Indie bookstores that specialized in those authors – self published African American authors.

Truth is, when I was just a reader (not the writer pursuing to sell her own stuff) I didn’t even look at the books to see who published them. I first checked out the cover, then the back of the book, and a few of the first pages. Viola’ then I’d decide to shell out my cash for it.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still purchased mainstream books that were in the bookstores and libraries, but the ones I found at the street vendors, my college, or when an author came to speak – they were gems.

I still own all of those books today – you know why? Because no one else has them. Some of my friends from college even ask me if I still have one or the other.


If you just want to only write and have someone else do all the selling – those days are gone. Sure, famous writers seem to have all the promo – but remember, in life there’s a price for everything. Don’t waste your time hating on someone that’s got something you want – make it happen for yourself!

Authors of all sorts have to do some of the work. Publishers don’t have full pockets and now don’t mind investing in authors that they see are willing to do some of the investing in themselves in order to be successful. Truth is, my small publisher, doesn’t want a pre-Madonna author that refuses to help promote their book in some way. Now, many of the small publishers need an author willing to invest time and efforts in promotions just check out some of the small publishers forums.

For an self-published author to have success, they have to have a decent cover, good book, BUSINESS KNOWLEDGE (so they should research what they are getting into first), and time. It takes time to be successful in the Indie game. My friend who is self-pub invested 3 years of constant marketing care and feeding before she hit number #35 on the NY Times Best Sellers list.


First and foremost I tell you to pursue getting a Lit Agent, then selling your stuff to a large publisher or submit direct to publishers. Before you do that – LEARN THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS! If that road doesn’t work out for you – consider other roads for that ONE piece of work. Then write something else, pursue the above, and it that doesn’t work – consider other roads.

Now, see yourself as a business. Each work you produce has a different road to be sold. Figure out that road for each, but be willing to try them all. You just may find out that those large publishers – are doing the same things to sell their work that you do as an Indie – it just may take you a little more time :-D


Beth said...

LM--if a writer self publishes one piece of work while working on the next in hopes of finding an agent the second go, how could the first publication impact their career? For an unpublished author this will sound ridiculous, but I aspire to be a best seller. Small presses seem like a good place to start, but I always hear agents say you're only debut once, and you need those numbers. What do you think? You think with enough marketing your numbers will be strong?

Kelly Hashway said...

Great post, LM. Even with all the self-pub buzz going on, I'm still pursuing traditionally publishing. My first book is through a small traditional publisher, and it's really nice having someone to work with on my book. I don't want to have to go it alone. If in the future I have a manuscript that doesn't make its way into a traditional publisher's hands, I may think about self-pub, but I plan to exhaust all the traditional publishers before I look down that road.

Christine Danek said...

This is interesting and very, very true. I think you must research and understand the business for any profession-- in order to get ahead.

LM Preston said...

All I'm saying is - We have choices. Only you - the writer - knows yourself, your capabilities, your goals enough to decide what road you plan to take to get your work out there. But now, those roads are plenty. Much more opportunities for personal success. Me, I just want to sell my stuff. I don't care if it's to another publisher through a Lit Agent, or direct to another publisher, or direct to customer. For me, it all equals my personal success. I know authors that have done it all. If you want to make a living at being an author, you have to realize it's a commission based job. You have to write and be open to selling your stuff however possible :-D In the end, it all boils down to SALES - the road to doing it, is different for everyone.

Catherine Stine said...

LM, thanks for your story. I am traditionally published, and I do have an agent. I am itching, however, to try to indie pub one novel. In other words, I'd like to be published in both ways. I am also an illustrator and I like the idea that I could, for instance, do illustrations on every chapter head. You know, the control over product issue. I am just compiling info right now. I am also considering using a pen-name, though that would prevent readers from seeing my other work. Bottom line, I am confused, excited, an eager learner.

Ellen said...

Totally agree, sometimes self-pubbing does make sense! I don't think it would work for me right now, because I'm a n00b at marketing myself... but if my current novel never sells, I might consider self-pubbing it someday, if/after I've sold some others (haha wishful thinking!!! :) ).

Tracy said...

I think the biggest problem with the decision to go one way or another boils down to people not doing the research. The most important thing I pulled from your post is: know what's entailed with whichever path you choose to take on a particular piece of work.

LM Preston said...

Thanks Tracy - you got it! Know this business, nothing in life is a gimmee. If you want writing to be your career you have to take the time to learn how to get the most out of it for you :-D

C.D. Reimer said...

I started publishing short story ebooks because the fiction reprint market was long dead. Once published in an obscure magazine with only 400 readers, a short story has no further value in the print world. Now my short stories live on as ebooks. I recently been publishing older short stories that haven't found a home in the last five years.

I'm still working on my first novel and planning to get a traditional publishing deal through an agent first. If that doesn't happen, I can always fall back on publishing my own novel ebooks. If traditional publishers continue to mismanage the transition to ebook publishing, I might not need them at all.

LM Preston said...

Here's a fellow author who started out as an Indie author and was signed - yes, called and signed by a big publisher. Now her re-released book eeked up on the Best seller's list. K.L. Brady,

J.Rose Allister said...

One can't judge indie pub today based on experience from years back any more so than big pubs properly judged the ebook trend based on their knowledge of print pub history. Times are a'changin', and indie pub is a whole new animal. I swore for years that I personally wouldn't be interested in that route, but I'm seriously considering it. Not to replace my pub--I adore them--but as a way to explore new methods and possibilities.

A.M. Kuska said...

Thanks for the great post. You're right, it is all about choices.

E. Arroyo said...

Choices. It does give me something to look forward to, and that for me, is worth all the hard work. Great post.

Anonymous said...

I took the time to read your full post because you said the magic word...choices. I personally am really tired about this vs. that. I am so glad for the choice writers have to go self-pub/indie or I NEVER would have read some of my now favorite reads and writers! It use to be self-pub/indie was where you went if you couldn't get a book deal. Now, people are seriously looking at the whole business and deciding which way to go for THEM. Nothing to do with if they can get a book deal or not. I also think what you say about knowing what both sides entail is crucial. If someone thinks for a minute to self-pub/indie is easy AND be successful, they are crazy. OR, that going traditional they won't be working just as hard self-promoting to be successful. It takes a lot of work! This is one reason I have a personal passion for self-pub/indie's that put the time in, are very professional, and produce quality work. Those people I invest in and will help promote them until the cows come home. No idea why it has to be one way or the other, one is right and one is wrong, one is credible the other not. I call bull on that. I've read some self-pub and indie work that knocks the socks off traditionally published books. The whole publishing game is changing and it doesn't have to be a bad thing. I read and review BOTH avenues to publishing. I think there is a place for BOTH. I just want a good read no matter how it gets into my hot, little hands. :) that!!!

Bratty said...

Er... it's prima donna not pre-Madonna. You know that, right?

Excellent post btw. All news fit to print!

Rusty B. said...

There are multiple facets to self publishing. One of the more important things to decide is: "Are you willing to give up a large chunk of your writing time? Are you willing to spend, perhaps 6 months a book, getting your book off the ground and published?" You have to decide what your goal is also. If your goal is to get your book out there because no big publisher seems to care about it, then that is an approach which will not consume as much time or money. But if you are really want "to be the publisher", the self publishing will cost a lot of money and take a lot of your time. I'm not talking about the promotion. Editors, cover artists: they can't be on autopilot. It's a partnership. I'm trying to put a 4 installment serial novel through the self publishing pipeline and I can say it is definitely a full time job just to that.