16.7.11

The Case for Self Publishing Today

This post continues the series of "To indie or not to indie? That be the question." We now present the case for self-publishing today. And there is a case. What pushed you one way or the other?

Ultimately, the case for indie is thus: you have written a book, a good one, and it is a crime against your creativity to let it rot in your desk drawer or hard drive.

Self-Publishing is a great idea, if:
  • You LOVE the internet, and have a good internet connection.
    • Internet is your friend, you need it for social networking, ebook sales, uploading, etc. 
      • Fun fact: I love the internet, but my wireless tower is being dismantled. Going from the flaky internet I have to the zero internet I will have until a good solution is found  will not help my self-publishing initiative. 
  • You have a very strong need for immediate gratification. 
    • Let's be real. If you want to publish a book, there's no faster way. Sure, it will take some time to muddle through the formatting. But if you have a book and can cobble together a cover, you can find your name on Amazon in about two days! You are now prepared to face the problems of building a platform while riding a bubble of self-satisfaction. 
  • You are really enthusiastic about all aspects of the publishing process.
    • You are excited to find editors and a cover artist, to explore your options for printing physical copies, and to learn all bout the formatting required of ebooks. But wait, there's more! You are stoked about platforming and marketing. You have good ideas for exciting ways to deliver the message of your book to your readers. Maybe you already know a lot about marketing. Maybe you want the excuse to learn. 
  • You want creative control.
    • You're an artist, damnit! There is no reason that a publishing house should rip your book out of your hands and stick some slapdash art on the cover. Other artists don't care about your project, they don't "get it." But your cover art captures the soul of the piece. 
For bonus points, Self-Publishing may be a great idea, if:  
  • You've already been banging away at your platform. 
      • Er, I was going for a hammer and nails and building metaphor there. Moving on.
    • If you have a presence, if you have contacts with bloggers, and you have a number of people who are interested in what you have to say in these webby platforms, you have a much better chance of generating some interest. 
    • If you have built a parallel presence in another context, like, say, a Twilight fanclub, this may only help you if you have written a similarly claustrophobic and sparkling romance. 
  • You have multiple books already that you want to do something with. 
    • If you've been trying traditional for a while and churning out books, now's a great time to try indie. 
    • If someone discovers your book and likes it, it helps if they have more books to buy at once. Impulse and immediate gratification can multiply your sales!
    • Bonus: If you debut with multiple books, you will not be hounded immediately for the sequel, so you will get to postpone the guilty conscience.  
  • You're in it for the long haul.
    • You don't expect your book to be an instant success. You know these things take time, and that you will face a learning curve. But you are committed to writing and promoting your work (without looking like you're trying, of course). You have to start somewhere. 
    • You can test-drive the self-publishing approach with a manuscript you think is solid, but doesn't seem to appeal to agents. It isn't for everyone, but you just might like being so closely involved with the process. 
    • Self publishing works very well for some people. These are the people that put in a lot of effort and do not give up, a few months in, out of frustration.
  • You want to write shorter fiction
    • Ebooks are a good solution for novellas and novella-chunk serials, which are an awkward size to print either in magazines or in very slim book format.
    • They (the grand They who give advice) used to advocate writing a lot of short stories and getting published in literary magazines. Some people still advocate this. I can't remember the last time I voluntarily read a literary magazine that I wasn't published in. However, this did give writers a chance to try different approaches to writing, and more quickly analyze what worked and what didn't. Writing shorter fiction is a good learning technique and opportunity to find your voice. 
    • It is good practice to write some stories on the shorter side to learn some valuable experience before breaking into fully epic length fiction. A novella is long enough that you can have a satisfying plot and character arcs. When sampling a new writer, I am more eager to read a story I could finish in a few hours--I tend to finish the books I read, so shorter fiction is less of a gamble. 
      • Full disclosure: Once upon a time I read an esteemed 400 page fantasy novel by an esteemed writer I had not previously read. I suffered massive burnout and decided I would have enjoyed a 200 pager a lot more. 
    Psychologically, Self-Publishing may be a good idea if,
    • You have trouble letting go of your WIPs
      • Some people have trouble giving up their manuscripts. It could be that you do want to pull an Emily Dickinson and leave all of your writing until your death, but then you would have zero control in how your works were treated. If you find yourself unable to label a manuscript 'finished' for fear that it isn't perfect, it might help you to turn one loose and publish. There is no such thing as a perfect manuscript. If the story is polished, the themes are clear, and you have already edited it many times, you maybe should let it into the wild. Though there are scary critics with dart guns, you have to give the story the chance to run free. 
      • If a reluctance to release is an issue, it might help you to release a story so you can move onto the next one. It can bolster your writing self esteem to release it and have a book. It'll be easier the next time, because you know you can do it. You can let go. 
        • Note: No work is perfect. This is not to say that you should write half a book and throw it online. This is not to say that "nothing is perfect" so you shouldn't bother editing. No. This is to prevent the hoarding the story and hiding in the safety in your own grand potential. 
    • You have tried and tried and tried traditional
      • They beat you down, but you get up again. Never gonna keep you down.
      • The Gatekeepers have turned you away, time and time again. As countless (Amanda Hocking?) examples have shown, readers genuinely enjoy things that get turned down and lost in the slush piles. 
      • If they are turning you down because they don't think the story is marketable - well, here's a chance to showcase your creativity and ingenuity! You will have the challenge of succeeding where they did not think they could.
    Especially if you have a body of work, self publish and market. Don't let the stories rot. If you're on your first full length novel, it might be wise to shop it around for a while. Not writing that long? Try self-pubbing. After all, who wouldn't buy a great story that's only a dollar!
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