There are several stories whizzing around the web about authors who jump-started their writing carreer by self-publishing. They later used the leverage created by the sales of their book to manuever their way into traditional publishing houses. The examples range from oldies like Beatrice Potter and Mark Twain to currently successful authors like Deepak Chopra and Richard Paul Evans.
Would you ever self-publish as a route to becoming traditionally published? Why or why not? Do you think this is the future of publishing, or just a trend?
I would consider self publishing only as a last resort. Sure, I’ve heard the miracle stories, but chances of getting your big break via self publishing are even slimmer than those for getting an agent the hard way. If a person had a huge social network, was very internet savvy, and had an endless reservoir of marketing energy and know-how, it might work, but your average writer just isn’t that kind of animal.
I hold more hope for e-publishing and Print on Demand; they address some of the traditional publishers’ cost concerns without going into direct competition with them. I would definitely go with an e-publisher if I had the chance.
Would I ever self-publish? Good Heavens, yes. I do it all the time when I write and post on my web site. I also self-publish when I submit stories, articles and reviews to non-editing venues such as American Chronicle and my local bi-weekly newspaper. It’s a fast way to get my writing out there and read.
But these articles and reviews are not enduring in the sense that books are. They are “flash” pieces, meant to be received, read, and then – as in the case of a newspaper – thrown away. Sure online sites keep archived records, and there are links on Google that go back years, but these “immediate” stories will never sit on someone’s bookshelf to be read and reread (or at least dusted).
Because of my experience in this type of writing – and frankly the instant gratification that comes with it – I would be more apt to self-publish. I would write the best book I could; pay to have it edited (line and content); use the best POD company and illustrators I could find; and go for it. A distribution deal and marketing plan would also be important.
Several authors I know personally began by self-publishing their books. They did a lot of self-promoting and aggressive marketing, and they were noticed by a traditional publisher. Now they have multi-book contracts. It can be done.
However, one author I know went the “traditional” publishing route with her first two books, and is now actively and happily self-publishing the third and fourth in the series. The construction is top-quality with very professional cover designs. Best of all, she’s “in the black.”
The bottom line is the author’s personal career goals… and how patient and optimistic he/she can be.
I’ve already self-published a children’s book. It was a project I’d worked on “on the side” and I wanted to see it in print. I really didn’t try to market it to traditional publishers first. Instead, I went to Lulu.com. I wrote the story, hired an illustrator, solicited editing feedback, and then published. I will say that I found a few errors in the first copy and had to go back and make changes. (The errors were mine, not the publishers, and they could have been avoided with a more careful review on my part.) So I would recommend special attention be paid to proofing the copy.
I do think that there are a lot of people out there using this method to attract traditional publishers. I can think of three authors off-hand who now have traditional contracts. I think it all comes down to how hard you market the book.