The publishing industry is constantly evolving and we as writers are expected to do our research to stay in the game. That research includes the publishing routes writers take upon themselves.
Self-publishing is a very personal choice. No one has the right to tell you how to publish your book, but do you know what you’re getting into by leaving a traditional publisher on the sidelines?
If you’re considering self-publishing, you have to research and you have to be meticulous. Otherwise, without the tools a traditional publisher or an agent offers (editing, copyediting, marketing, legal guidance, etc.), you may look like a fool. Your dedication to succeed is the deciding factor. Self-publishing is a great resource for new or advanced writers to get their work into the world. Without the stress and disappointment of finding an agent or waiting years for your book to hit shelves, you can take your career into your own hands. But there are a few things to consider before you take that final step.
Interviews from four authors will give you insight into the following questions when comparing a traditional publisher to self-publishing:
* How long does it take for my book to become available to readers?
* What are my royalty rates?
* What level of self-promotion is involved to sell my book?
* What level of editing is required to self-publish my book?
* How does self-publishing help already-published authors?
Sherri A. Dub, self-published author of her paranormal romance, Goddess Cottage, chose to take her career into her own hands because the slushpile was taking too long. She states, “I knew my book was ready, as it was requested, in full, by a major publishing house, but they chose to praise it and pass” (Dub Interview). This led Dub to utilize BookBaby.com and pay $219.00 for an ISBN number, a cover and to format her novel. Dub’s novel was made available on iBooks, Sony, Nook & Kindle on April 21, 2011 at $1.99 with a second novel, The Witch Ball, and a third novel, following suit later in the year. However, there are no royalty figures available as of yet for Dub as it can take between 60-70 days in order to receive payment from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple and Sony. The writer spends a good chunk of free time, when she isn’t writing, promoting her first novel. “I do daily promotional work on Twitter, Goodreads.com and Facebook” (Dub interview), she states and lists Twitter as her greatest resource, reporting over one thousand followers. Dub feels she is doing well with over one hundred downloads of her novel and advises, “If you have a large writing group of peers who are encouraging you to do this and you have honed your craft, then I say go for it” (Dub interview). Even with this amount of success, Dub is still on the hunt for an agent and looks forward to pitching herself at future writing conferences. Sherri A. Dub can be reached through her website: www.sheropatra.com
Romance writer Sherri Smith, writing as R.M. Sotera, has numerous novellas traditionally published electronically. Her decision to self-publish came after she realized she had to evolve as the industry evolved. “In all honesty, it appears that building a name for oneself through E-Publishing and Self-Publishing is a good step in securing the ultimate goal of a traditional publishing—if this is an author’s goal” (Smith interview). Smith continues to query agents in the hope that one of her manuscripts will catch an agent’s eye, but is currently succeeding electronically through eXtasy Books and Evernight Publishing. Smith reveals that even though she has gone through a traditional publisher for her work, the release date for her novellas, after the contract is signed, is only two to three months. According to Smith, e-published authors can be paid monthly, quarterly and semi-annually, depending on the publisher, but Smith reports that $55.00 is the most she’s made in one month through this route. The writer attributes the amount of money she personally makes to promotion. “I’m sure I could do better if I had the time needed for promotion, but with my full-time job and allotting writing time in my schedule, online promotion is a big problem for me” (Smith interview). Smith is one of the authors who have considered self-publishing, eager to get her name out there as any author is, but she goes on to state, “At this time it isn’t feasible because I don’t feel that I have the time to put the amount of leg-work needed into self promotion” (Smith interview). She can be contacted through her website: www.rmsotera.com
Self-published author and self-publishing guru Kris Tualla is another one of those authors who tried the traditional publishing route, but found that her books were not what the publishing houses were looking for. The main reason: her Norwegian heroes weren’t Scottish. Thousands of writers are praised for their writing capability, but hit the “your book isn’t sellable” wall. Tualla’s answer: self-publishing. Spending over ten hours a day promoting her books while writing three to six hours on her next manuscripts, this writer has published her books both in print and electronically. Tualla pulls in about $75.00 a month with her books, spending between $4.88-$5.00 on the print-on-demands and absolutely nothing for her e-books. How’d she do it? CreateSpace from Amazon. With offers like free membership, flexible royalty models, free CreateSpace ISBN, and a print-on-demand option, CreateSpace is the “juggernaut” of self-publishing (Tuall interview) and perfect fit for Tualla. With an art degree in her background, Tualla created her brilliant cover designs herself. By studying traditional covers for those key elements, this writer took every aspect of her career into her own hands, but warned writers that, “No writer can edit themselves” (Tualla interview). Because of this, Tualla uses four separate readers for plot consistency, characterization, GMC and setting while using a completely different set of readers for copyediting. Before even considering releasing her manuscripts to the masses, the writer buys her own book for one last edit, folding down the corners of every page that has a missed mistake. Her first rule before self-publishing: create a well-written product (Tualla interview). Currently in the works with a traditional publisher for her sixth, seventh and eight novels (a trilogy), Tualla offers a 5-day self-publishing intensive for members of www.savvyauthors.com who want to learn the ins and outs of self-publishing. She can be reached through her website: www.kristualla.com.
And lastly, our very own multi-published crime author Robert S. Levinson has nine novels published to date. Taking six months to find an agent and a year to land a publisher, Levinson takes the brunt of his promotion upon himself, even with publishers Forge and Star/Gale at his back. This author reports that it generally takes between twelve and sixteen months for his novels to become available to the public and receives industry standard royalties of the cover price.
But how can self-publishing help already-published authors?
Even though Levinson still writes and submits to his publishers, he has taken his backlist (those books no longer available) and self-published them electronically on Amazon’s Kindle and other e-book outlets along with authors such as Carolyn Jewel, Kevin J. Anderson and L.L. Bartlett. Websites such as Smashwords and CreateSpace are helping traditionally published authors keep their titles available after the publisher has given back the rights to them. Once the author has those rights, it’s fair game.
If you’re still not sure self-publishing is right for you, consider one last route before uploading that file. Jessica Faust of BookEnds Literary Agency is just one of the thousands of literary agents who have opened their own e-publishing house. Beyond the Page Publishing is out to help both agented and unagented authors to publish electronically. They offer expert editing services, cover design, distribution through major e-book sellers, copyright application, pricing consultations, and marketing guidance. What the agent gets in return: 15% commission from your sales. All you have to do is submit your query to firstname.lastname@example.org. Beyond the Page is a traditional publisher. However, they are strictly electronic. Other companies such as Carina Press and Sapphire Blue Publishing follow the same line and since they are strictly electronic, the guidelines are a little more relaxed and you’ll see sales a lot sooner than with a traditional publisher.
Whether you’re a new author or a veteran, writers all over the world are working to stay in the game by self-publishing. Either you can take your career into your own hands or wait another year to see your book on the shelf. The choice is up to you.