Mar 07 2009
This is pretty much the most obvious writing advice I can think of. If this is your first novel or comic book, don’t self-publish unless you can afford for the project to completely flop.
1. Publishers provide editorial oversight. Editors have accumulated years of experience figuring out how to deliver stories that people want to read. If you are new to publishing, that experience is an especially invaluable asset.
2. Publishers provide promotional and logistical support. Successful self-publishers have to do it all on their own. Unless you have the skills, time and willingness to promote your book full-time, it’s not going to sell. If you’re interested in writing as a full-time career, having the support of a professional publisher to organize events like book signings will help you attract an audience and develop a reputation. (Mind you, you’ll still be doing most of the promotional work, unless you really hit the big time).
3. You’re probably throwing away your money. Self-publishing (even with print-on-demand) is a risky venture that will require you to gamble hundreds or thousands of dollars and hours on a book that will probably not sell many copies. In contrast, publishing a first novel professionally will earn you an advance of typically around $5000, plus royalties if it sells particularly well.
3.1. When it comes to self-publishing ventures, don’t stake money you couldn’t afford to lose. Most likely, you will lose it. It could be a worthwhile venture in other ways–for example, self-publishing could be a great opportunity to practice valuable skills that will give you a better chance of succeeding with a subsequent self-published book or perhaps landing a professional publisher. However, I would definitely not expect to break even on your first self-published book. If you net even $1 for each hour of work you put into your self-publishing, you’re ahead of the curve.
4. SELF-PUBLISHING IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR QUALITY. The absolute worst reason to self-publish is because you don’t think your manuscript is good enough to sell to a professional publisher. Yes, the manuscript submission process is harrowing and frequently involves years of rejection. But forcing your manuscript through that selection process will make your work better and more marketable. Frankly, if your manuscript isn’t good enough to sell to even a small professional publisher, I wouldn’t recommend betting money it’s good enough to sell to customers. Don’t waste your time and money printing a novel that you won’t be able to sell.
4.1. If you’re self-publishing more to practice skills than to make money, definitely keep your costs as low as possible! For example, before hiring a freelance editor (or a “book doctor”), try free online writing circles like Critters. Instead of giving cash (which will teach you very little), you’ll be giving advice in exchange for advice. Reviewing other people’s work will probably help you identify what works and what doesn’t.
What do you think?