As a writer I have always been told by my fellow writers that self-publishing is a bad bad thing. I have to admit, I still adhere to this belief.
The first reason it’s a bad thing is that writers don’t usually get paid as much to be self published. But, even that simple point has several underlying causes that I must mention. A self-published writer does not have a pre-established nationwide marketing network; that’s the most obvious reason. Another reason is that being self published, their work, on the merits of its quality, may not warrant a large number of buyers. That latter one brings the most difference in the statistical comparison between Publishing House supported writers’ income and self-published writers’ income. There are a ton of self-published writers now that it’s free to publish on Kindle. And frankly, most of them give self-published writers a bad name.
This brings up the second point. Self-published writers do not have a Publishing House behind them guaranteeing any minimum degree of quality. I don’t read as much as my wife does, but she tells me all the time about the poor standards with which some writers are willing to publish. In summary, self-published writers have, as a whole, a reputation for being lower quality. A good author wouldn’t willingly include themselves in such a group, right?
Not so fast.
I know a lot of really good writers. It’s easy for a writer with talent to find markets for their short stories. (To a writer, a market is a publication which will buy and print their story.) Consumers usually call short story markets ‘Magazines’, ‘Webzines’ or ‘e-zines’ and sometimes anthologies.
But it’s a lot harder to find someone willing to invest in a new author’s novels. And this is getting harder everyday as the big publishing houses are downsizing. While they used to arbitrarily stay away from anyone who has a history of self-publishing, these old-school publishers are now looking for authors who have already established a following, even if that following was built using self-published works.
The trick is to not be one of those authors who skimp on quality. Write as part of a community of writers. Get feedback and listen and think about the feedback. Strive to make a story the best it can be before setting it free in the markets.
This means some complexity to the story.
This means editing. Editing is a lot harder than running spell check, though I understand my wife has seen dozens of published works on her kindle that have clearly never been run through a spell checker. Spell Checkers don’t know things like the difference between ‘sword’ and ‘sworn’. ‘The’ and ‘They’ won’t always stand out as a mistake. Often a typo doesn’t create a misspelled word, it creates the wrong word.
I published my first novel, Of Maia’s Mist, on Kindle on Friday. I did not skimp on the editing. I’ve had eight semi-pro and professional writers proof read it during the story’s development. Of course, it’s only after I sent the final copy in that the errors became evident. Since Friday, I’ve gone back and edited the text once and plan to do it again as more of those typos show up. I think I’m up to eight mistakes (all now corrected) in 90,000 words. Luckily, Kindle writers can correct their mistakes, and I have. Readers just need to re-import the work to get the updated version.
Also luckily, I have not finalized my proof for my paperback version, meaning all these typos won’t make it to the print version.
So what are the good things about self publishing?
More money? Not.
More readers? Not.
Any readers? Yes.
Any money? Ideally, yes.
As I mentioned, similar to how employers are now giving preferential treatment to potential employees who still have other jobs, publishing houses are now looking for writers who have successful books already on the market.
Some authors will mention the freedom they have by not being under the oversight of a major publishing house. To me this is much like the freedom an alley cat has compared to a house cat. Food is harder to come by, the nights get cold or the days get hot and there’s always the chance of a truck driving over you. Still, it does seem that these days, in order to become that house cat, you have to walk across that alley.
The costs of self publishing a book on Kindle are $0. The costs of self-publishing a paperback book are the costs of a copy or two of the book at printer cost. The profits are limited by whatever the author is willing to do to market the book. I’ll say, for a $15 three hundred page book and that same book on Kindle for $3, my royalties are about the same per copy sold. There’s no advance to the author. I don’t plan to quit my day job anytime soon.