Taking the Plunge: Self-Publishing (or Not)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012
The manuscript in question.
Credit: Elizabeth K. Humphrey
I think I'm going to do it. I've been putting it off, researching it until the cows have come home and left again. I've talked about it to friends and colleagues. I've read WOW's great articles about it and I agree with Deana.

I'm going to self-publish.

Or at least I think I'm going to...I guess I need to get over my hesitation.

We all have them. Hesitations and those manuscripts printed, marked up, and relegated to the bottom drawer of a desk. Every once in a while, I pull out mine, pass it along to a reader, collect comments and back the draft goes. Life in a drawer. At one point, a large portion of my filing cabinet was devoted to the remnants of my WIPs (works-in-progress, but perhaps it should be WIHT, when-I-have-times).

Even though I need to make the final decision and I'm still not convinced I should do it, here are the reasons I've been thinking of self-publishing:

  • I know my writing is ready and I want my writing to reach beyond the filing cabinet.

Sure, there is more to why I want to publish (going back to childhood reasons), but that in itself would take up another filing cabinet if I were to write my reasons.

Unfortunately, in my simple reason for wanting to self-publish is the complexity of the entire issue. While I want my writing to extend its reach, how much am I willing to support it. Let's face it, it doesn't need my support and nurturing when it's stuffed into the drawer.

I'm not saying I wouldn't have to support my novel if a traditional publisher took it on. But somehow being on the precipice of self-publishing seems just that much more daring.

Have you taken the plunge to self-publish? If so, what got you to go there? If not, what's holding you back from self-publishing?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor in North Carolina. Some say is the "writingist state"...if so, many file cabinet drawers must be stuffed to overflowing.


Lavinia said...

I am not even done writing and I am already considering self-publishing. I am researching the web and sending emails. Just few hours ago I had a very long talk with a guy at xlibris. He was so nice and kind, he answered all my questions, then he told me there is an offer if I sign the contract by Friday! I told him I would first like to have at least a first draft of my manuscript, before starting paying the big bucks. He kind of backed off at this point, or maybe I am paranoid. Anyway, after I had finished talking to him, I googled the company a little. I was absolutely terrified with the amount of bad reviews. I am not sure I want to give them my money now, although I am aware some of the reviews might be fake. I also considered Raider Publishing at one point. I emailed them and while waiting for their reply I googled them. Not even ONE positive review. They replied the same day, sending me to check their website for info. I told them I did that prior to emailing them but I would like a human touch to the whole process, especially that this is my first book. I would like to have my questions answered, even if some info is on the web. I would like advice given to me by them, the professionals, all according to my needs. I didnt hear from them, after this email. So, from this point of view, xlibris is better. I sent them a long email and I got a phone call and someone, having my email in front of him, answered all my questions and more. Reviews say they are nice till they have your money. You can't reach them afterwards. So, I am on the fence right now. Still researching. I hope someone experienced in self publishing, will comment here. I will follow up! Good luck! :)

Robin Lamont said...

Go for it! I have self pubbed two books, one with a self-pub company, the other under my own imprint. I would highly recommend, however, if you have some financial resources, to have your cover designed by a professional graphic designer. These days, when readers are scrolling through Amazon and Goodreads at lightning pace, and you're competing with thousands of other self-published authors,you need a visual that will stand out.

Good luck!

Amy and Joanne said...

Hi Lavinia and others interested in self publishing,

My name is Joanne Lewis and I have self published three novels. I published them through Telemachus Press. They are John Locke's publisher. John was the first self published author to sell over 1 million ebooks.

I like Telemachus Press so much that when they asked me to be their Author Advisor, I said yes. The best part of my job is that I am a writer who gets to speak to other writers.

If you want to talk about self publishing, please send me an email and I will be happy to answer all of your questions. Or, if you want to speak by phone let me know.

My email address is joanne.lewis@telemachuspress.com or you can send it to my gmail account at jtawnylewis@gmail.com.

The great thing about Telemachus Press is that it is an honest, straight forward group of people with no games and no hard sale pitches.

I hope to hear from you and to answer all of your questions.

Warmly, Jo

Martha Stettinius said...

Hi Elizabeth. A couple weeks ago I self published my book "Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter's Memoir" in hardcover, paperback, and e-book for the Kindle and Nook with my own small publishing company that I started with the sole intention of publishing this book. The book is available on major online retailers in the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and can be ordered through my print-on-demand printer, Lightning Source, by libraries and bookstores. The Library Journal just reviewed the book as "highly recommended"--unusual for a self-published book.

I started "Inside the Dementia Epidemic" 7 years ago, and decided about 3 years ago to go the self-publishing route. Why? And would I do it again? First, why. I took a teleclass through the National Association of Memoir Writers and learned about Susan Daffron and James Byrd of Logical Expressions, publishing consultants who have self published 12 books of their own. I read Susan's book "Publicize," and realized that I would be doing my own promotion online as a new author whether or not I had a traditional publisher, so I might as well keep more of the profits of the book by publishing myself. I'm also super organized and don't mind all the administrative details of creating a publishing company. And even though I'm an editor, I knew I would need to hire at least one top-notch editor to review my work and make suggestions. (I ended up hiring 4 editors over 4 years, and I'm glad I did. Each had their own strengths as an editor.)

Now, would I do it again? I'm not sure. The reason is purely financial. It has cost an arm and a leg to hire those editors, hire an excellent cover designer, pay a typesetter to lay out the book in InDesign (Word looks less professional), and pay a company to design a top-notch e-book version. Yes, it's possible to self publish through Createspace on Amazon with a bare-bones budget, but I worked so long and so hard on this book I didn't want to put out a book with typos and a poor cover design. I'm very happy with the quality of my book, but only time will tell if my promotion efforts will bring in enough sales to make self-publishing worth it. In the meantime, I'm trying to enjoy the process! It's a steep learning curve (sorry about all the cliches), but I love a good challenge. The best of luck to you, and check out Logical Expressions Book Author's Circle for affordable advice on self publishing.

Anonymous said...

It would absolutely be a last resort. ANYBODY can self-publish. Most self-published books I have read have been exceedingly low-rate.

Martha Stettinius said...

Self publishing is no longer a last resort, and can be done really well. I believe I could have found an agent and traditional publisher, but I chose self publishing. Self publishing got a bad name when it was "vanity publishing" through Lulu, etc., companies that would print almost anything. Now you can hire the best support and put out the highest-quality book, if you are willing to make that investment in time and money.

Ellen M. Gregg said...

I'll be self-pubbing my debut novel mid-December. I am a part-time assistant for an author who just published her debut novel, and was responsible for formatting for both digital and print to all major retailers. Time-consuming? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. We hired out for a cover designer ($299.00), and for editing ($2,000.00+), but did everything else in-house. I will be designing my own cover, and doing most editing before passing it on to a professional editor. And I won't be paying $2,000.00, but I will get my money's worth. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best option these days.

Elizabeth King Humphrey said...

I feel like I have a cheerleading team on my side now!
I love the advice that everyone is providing and will investigate it all.
As I push through this journey, I will keep you all posted.
Thank you...and keep the comments and ideas coming!

Kathryn Schleich said...

Hi Elizabeth,
As you can see from the many responses, self-publishing has its pros and cons. I self-published "Hollywood and Catholic Women" in 2003 and an expanded 2nd edition in 2012. The book is more of a textbook that evolved from my master's thesis, and while I won't sell a million copies (or even a 1,000) that's okay.
So here are my pros and cons.
You have total control over your work.
That said, make certain it's professionally edited and you've gotten feedback from an objective editor before you publish. WOW is a great place to find such a person (my editor was Margo Dill).
You can choose only the self-publishing services that work best for you.
Self-publishing companies usually offer minimal marketing services (more generally for a fee), but you can expand on those and do your own marketing if you know your target audience well.
You will have completed a book that you are proud of.
You should be able to order only the amount of copies you want.
Self-publishing can be expensive, so research and compare publishing packages.
Self-publishing companies can also be pushy about selling you services, but you should have an established budget in mind before you publish. If it's not in your budget, say 'No'.
You will have to do a lot of the promotion yourself and it's hard work. As an example, my target group is academic, in particular women's studies programs. I contact those programs on my own and while it has paid off, the pay-off have been relatively slow in coming.
You may have to research reviewers for your book.

Hope this information is helpful and good luck!

Christine Leov-Lealand said...

The key question is do you want to share your writing with anyone else? If you do then self publish.
David Gaughran's book Lets Get Digital is your best source book. Get it here http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/lets-get-digital/
Check out Writer Beware blogs... and do NOT pay anyone but a printer, editor and book cover designer and layout specialist for book production expenses.
Xlibiris and Author solutions and the other so called publishers in their group (Now owned by Penguin)are scamsters who do not give you a quality product and will cost you (as an example) $1500 for a press release you can write yourself and you would get more publicity if you burned that many $1 bills on Youtube. They will also endlessly hassle you by phone if you give them your ph no. They call from the Phillippines.
The advice in the earlier comments is good.
What have you got to lose? Once you are self published you can hunt around for trade publishers and give them print rights to certain areas. That is what they are good at - distributing print books to book stores.
Do NOT give them digital rights as you have no way of monitoring how many they sell and you will likely be ripped off of money due to you.
Study the BUSINESS of writing so you can make an income long term. Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine K Rush are excellent author biz bloggers.
Learn from them.
Good Luck!

Unknown said...

Hi Elizabeth -

As a writing coach, after I worked with a client to get their book finished, they would always ask me "what next?" I would tell them about traditional publishing (almost impossible nowadays), print-on-demand companies (stay away), and self-publishing (a lot of work). Invariably, since they knew that I had self-published my books, they asked if I would publish their books.

I have three books that I self-published - Life With Sally: Little White Dog Tails (2009), Life With Sally: Still Spinnin, Tails (2011), and Quit Whining Start Writing (2012). They are quality books with great covers.

So about six months ago, I started my own publishing business to help writers self-publish - Splattered Ink Press. I did this because I got really tired of seeing the Print-on-Demand companies ripping off writers. More of the money goes into their pockets than into the author's pocket - where it should be.

I work with an amazing graphic designer who does all of our covers; a great formatting person who gets the manuscripts into print-ready form; and a fantastic illustrator for children's books. We have published about six books so far and are working (in different phases) with about a dozen writers. Our books are quality books and I am proud to have our logo on each one.

I am learning more and more about marketing and sharing that with our authors. Traditional publishers expect authors to market their books more and more, so why shouldn't the authors be making the bulk of the sales and keeping the rights to their books?

I believe that self-publishing is the way of the future for books and would encourage all writers to seriously look at self-publishing.


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