Embracing Self-Publishing


I promised myself that I would blog about the benefits of self-publishing just as soon as I had passed what some sources cite (Forbes article ) as a benchmark – the selling of more than 250 copies of my self-published novel, Disappearing in Plain Sight.

Well – I’ve made it past the average and I feel pretty good. Heck – I feel totally pumped and I just had to get up and do a happy dance around the room before I could go on.

P1090669A big shout out to all the wonderful people who stopped by my table to chat and purchase a copy of Disappearing in Plain Sight, at the Thunderbird Mall Christmas Craft Sale, over the past weekend. You certainly helped push me over the top of that magic number. Santa had a longer line-up but I had great fun talking with people about my book and about self-publishing in general. And thanks again to my friend Marion who sold her wonderful crocheted hats and scarfs right next to me. I think we make a great team!

Speaking of statistics, here’s another interesting one. (Jan. 2011)  Most (95%) traditionally published books sell no more than 500 copies. I’ve also read that traditional publishers won’t even look at an author who doesn’t already have a solid social media following and that any author signed is expected to take on the lion’s share of his or her promotion responsibility.

IMG_6005A traditionally published author recently told me his story. He wrote a book that was accepted for publication. The book took forever to come out and the author was required to do massive changes that, even to this day, he is not thrilled about. Finally, his book was out! The novel received a great review by a major source; the author was invited to be a guest at a prestigious conference. He toured the book around real brick and mortar book stores. The book sold more than the magic number 500 copies mentioned above. Then the buzz died. The book is available as an e-book on Amazon but the price is set so high (by the publisher) that the book will never sell. The author has no copies of his book – he couldn’t even sell one on his own if he wanted to. This promising first novel is basically dead in the water. What a sad story. Probably more common than many of us realize.

By choosing self-publishing, I take on a lot of responsibility. On the up side, I retain control. I work with a wonderful editor who helps me make my novel the best piece of writing I can manage. She doesn’t try to change my work to make it fit a certain market niche. I control how my book cover looks, based on what I want people to feel when they pick up my novel. I decide the price that I think will sell. I can sell my books, anywhere and anytime. Because the books are print-on-demand, they won’t go out of print. The e-books are out there forever (or as long as cyberspace lasts). There is no limited time frame in which I must shine or be relegated to the publishing trash pile. Check out Indies Unlimited for another author’s thoughts on why self-publishing was the obvious choice.

Self-publishing isn’t easy (but it seems traditional publishing isn’t either). Those of you who follow my blog know that last time around, for Disappearing in Plain Sight, I made use of an assisted self-publisher. For The Light Never Lies, I plan to do much more of the work on my own. I expect to be writing post after post on the challenges – please stayed tuned.

As I sift through my own experience, what other authors tell me (self-published and traditionally published), and what I’ve read, I no longer see any reason to run after a traditional publishing deal.

So, that’s me embracing my experience of self-publishing!

Tell me what you think. Are you ready to give self-publishing a wholehearted endorsement? If not, what are the things that hold you back? What does that little voice that wakes you up at 3:00 a.m. say, one way or the other? And don’t pull any punches – let’s get an honest dialogue going. If you think that self-publishing is vanity press dressed up anew and you’re waiting for one of the big publishing houses to come calling, then say so. Or maybe you know of a better route to get to a better deal with traditional publishing. What about the smaller presses? All thoughts on this issue are invited.


39 comments on “Embracing Self-Publishing

  1. Kate Sparkes says:

    A year ago, I didn’t see self-publishing as an option, mostly because I hadn’t researched it, and I thought… well, I thought people only did it because they couldn’t make it in traditional publishing.

    Feel free to laugh. I do, now. 🙂

    Now I’ve hired an editor I’m really excited about to beat me and my work into publishable, professional condition, and I hope to publish in the spring. I’m not querying agents or submitting to small presses, partly because of how common stories like the one you told up there are. I don’t think they can offer me much I can’t do for myself, except for a chance (not a guarantee) of print distribution. If they did more promotion (so I didn’t have to), it might be worth the trade-off of taking years to get books out and them keeping most of the money, but for me, personally, it’s not, especially with advances being so low now and most books still not earning out.

    I know neither road is easy, and I fully support my friends who are pursuing traditional publication. Both paths are going to work for different people. I’ve simply come to realize that self-publishing is the path I feel better about for myself, even though the challenges terrify me.

    Great post!

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Kate. I’m with you on the terrifying challenges of stepping out into the self-publishing world but once more into the breach and all of that 🙂 I agree that it is a matter of finding out what works for us, personally and then pursuing the dream while fully supporting those who find another route that works for them. Best wishes on the road.

    • amberskyef says:

      I went with a small press because I knew how much money it would take to really whip my book into shape for self-publishing, and right now, I would rather have that money go to marketing endeavors, which doubles what my public relations person is already doing. Plus, I get 50% for every book sold, so there is a chance I could make more than the advances offered for a typical first-time author, even though it is entirely contingent on sales. But it’s way better than the royalties received for every book sold in a traditional house. Like I don’t understand why authors receive tiny percentages for even e-books.

      But advances are actually ridiculously large now, not as small as some people think. Even so, these ridiculously large advances are going toward books that they think will sell like Twilight or similar large books like that. Some of those books flop, though.

      • I can imagine that those large advances are going to a very select few. So many options now – right? Self-publishing, assisted self-publishing, small press, traditional and hybrids of all of the above. I was shocked to find out just how low royalties were for some traditionally published books. Thanks for taking the time to comment on this post. Hope I’ll hear from you again.

  2. fruus says:

    Great read! you should post this on writement.com

  3. Roy McCarthy says:

    I might just go the other way with my #4. I’ve had fun with self-publishing and I might just go fishing for an agent once my present project is ready. If I have no luck then I’ll have a fall-back option that I’m familiar with.

  4. smilecalm says:

    may you continue to have the energy
    and support
    to bring out your heart’s wisdom
    through publication

  5. Congratulations on your success, Francis. Thank you sharing your experience with the good and the bad of self-publishing. Your honesty and openness is admirable.

    • You are most welcome, Jill. it is funny how this blogging thing works out. I started out to create a persona in the blog world that would market my writing and then it turned out that I opened the door to myself. The blog is me – the persona is in the books. Does that make any sense?

  6. Cheney says:

    First of all, congratulations for reaching that first goal – you will sell so many more copies of your books, this is only the beginning for you!

    I also totally agree with your thoughts on self publishing, and how these days it really does seem better to go it on your own and put all of your success in your own hands rather than rely on the system that lets so many great authors down.

    Thanks for this post – I really enjoy self publishing posts and I’m glad you’re going to write more of them. 🙂

    • Hey Cheny – nice to see you on my blog. Sort of lost track of you. Thanks for the congrats. I think that the greatest source of terror in all of this is knowing that, at the end of the day, I am going to make this thing a success or not. EEEKKK – but I’m thinking I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  7. Congratulations Francis! I had only one tiny experience of actually working with an editor for a short story of mine that was included in an anthology, and even though she was very sweet, I couldn’t deal with anyone taking control of the content of my books. Self publishing all the way for me. 😀

    • I hear you. I need my editor – she is essential to my writing process. Her suggestions, when it comes to content, are always presented as just that – a suggestion, her opinion, her taste. And I take that seriously. At the same time, I must control the content of my work. I also know that I have blind spots when it comes to my own work. So if my editor, plus my go to reader say the same thing about an aspect of content – well, I’d be wise to listen up. What a balancing act – right?

  8. Just read a great post on a similar theme – http://chgriffin.com/2013/11/19/self-publishing-is-it-right-for-you/ Please check it out.

  9. dana mentink says:

    Self publishing has become a much more acceptable route, but self published or traditional, platform is key. If you can reach a lot of people, you sell a lot of books. (Hence the plethora of celebrity books.) Wishing you every success and thanks for the post!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Dana. Yes – I hear you – that tricky issue of platform and putting the book on people’s radar is all important. The best book in the world won’t sell if no one’s ever heard of it.

  10. C H Griffin says:

    This is great to hear from someone who has the experience and knowledge in the topic. Self publishing is such a great opportunity for writers these days. And wonderful to hear you’re doing so well.

  11. I was thinking about querying an agent before I release my next book, but this kind of post always makes me think twice.

    One thing that always stands out for me is when I hear about traditionally published writers through facebook or goodreads for example, and I go and check out their work. Their rankings on Amazon never inspire me or make me dream of a self pubbing contract. There are always success stories, and I can remember seeing Gone Girl in the charts for nearly the whole year, but I always wonder if just like the fact that self publishing has it’s stars like Hugh Howey, in the trad world there are also a hugh proportion who are not selling anything.

    There is no definite answer, and both sides of the argument can be argued favourably. I think whichever side of the fence you sit on, what you also need is a bit dose of luck. The right thing and the right time.

    Interesting post, thanks!

    • Good point, MIchelle – luck certainly must play a role. That whole being in the right place at the right time. Some people talk about making your own luck and fair enough, but I’ve actually heard a number of very successful people reflect on the fact that they were fortunate or lucky. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

  12. P. C. Zick says:

    Francis, Great post and I happen to agree with everything you’ve written. I’ve been on both sides, and the rewards are far greater as an Indie. The work may be a little more intense, but I’ve been training for this my entire career. Also, I’m deep into Disappearing in Plain Sight and very much enjoying the immersion.

    • It is always nice to hear the perspective of someone who has experienced both sides of a question. Thanks. I’m so glad you are enjoying Disappearing in Plain Sight – it always feels like someone just told me my baby is the cutest baby ever 🙂

  13. Aussa Lorens says:

    Oh, I’m so glad I found your blog then! I am considering an attempt at self-publishing… but I really don’t know the first thing about it and am rather overwhelmed. I will have to follow closely and take notes. Selling 250 is impressive indeed, congrats!

    • And I second your gladness 🙂 There is a lot to figure out but thankfully – so much information in the blog world to help. I hope to have a number of posts on the process as I proceed through this second time with more of it under my control. But alas, with more freedom is always more responsibility. Fingers crossed.

  14. Gwen Stephens says:

    Lots of good info in this post as usual, Fran. Interesting that 250 is the magic number in self-pub, and congrats on surpassing this benchmark. I have a feeling this is only the beginning for you. I’ve learned a lot about both routes of publishing in the past year – the good and the bad. At the conference I attended in April, I listened to presentations on both, and everything you write here seems to coincide with what I learned. Traditional publishing doesn’t seem to be a writer’s key to the Emerald City. While I can appreciate the industry validation that comes with earning a traditional publishing contract, one has to consider the loss of control that goes with it. The author I listened to got a buy-back clause in her contract, so she can sell books out of the trunk of her car. Sounds a lot like self-publishing to me.

    All the reports seem to indicate self-publishing is gaining momentum, and that’s likely one reason why the traditional route is becoming increasingly ruthless. I think the biggest hurdle that remains for self-pub authors is the damage that’s done to the self-pub image when writers rush into publishing before their writing skills or manuscripts are ready. I think it makes readers reluctant to take a chance on some books. I myself have read some doozies.

    I keep plugging away on my own projects, but I’m undecided on whether to pursue publication or not. I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge. In the meantime, I plan to continue learning here in the blogging world. Looking forward to reading more about the next leg of your journey.

    • I do love the way you put things, Gwen. Nope – no keys to the Emerald City following either brick road 🙂 Though my granddaughter Emma did have the most enchanting ruby slippers to go with her Dorothy costume this past Halloween. I agree about the damage done to the reputation of all self-published authors by those who rush a book to publication – for example – a nanowrimo book that hits Amazon in the month of Dec. I know some of us must be shaking our heads but I think this does happen (thus explaining the doozies we’ve both read). So much seems to depend on what we want or need from our writing. I really felt an absolute compulsion to have people read my story. Which is an odd thing for me since I am generally the least likely person to want to stand out in anyway at all. As to the challenge of publishing – somewhat like having a child. If she really knew what she was getting into what sane woman wouldn’t have more than a few second thoughts? Am I right? Thanks so much for the comment, Gwen. I love the interaction. This post has just seemed like an extended dialogue with people and that is what I love about blogging.

  15. 1WriteWay says:

    Reblogged this on 1WriteWay and commented:
    Francis writes an interesting post about the choice of self-publishing. Traditional publishing seems to have less and less to recommend itself as time goes by (and I get older and older) …

  16. rtvoice2013 says:

    in the end i think it only matters (traditional or self) if you’re looking for a big name rather than an actual audience. self publishing can help you gain an audience – a big name only proves you’ve got an audience – either way you’re still expected to do the actual legwork

  17. jackiemallon says:

    Interesting points. I too have heard from traditionally published writers about their disappointing experiences. I published my first novel recently through Amazon White Glove program which I guess puts me in a weird new half-category. Self publishing will probably continue to morph and evolve. I’m three months in and will receive first quarter sales figures in a few weeks from my agent. I am constantly thinking of ways to promote and get my novel in front of new sets of eyeballs. It’s like being a small business owner, like I’ve opened a corner shop and all the shelves are shiny and well-stocked, now I need the customers coming through the door. I need a lot of naps because my brain is always operating at full capacity! Self promotion does detract from the time I would be putting into writing my second novel though but I guess the traditional route wouldn’t offer anything to combat that problem. It might be too early to offer conclusive opinions yet but I’ve bought a ticket for the entire ride wherever it takes me…How’s that?

    • I love your description of a corner shop with all your shelves well-stocked and ready. That is totally what we self-published authors are – corner shop owners. Or maybe vending cart owners – chip trucks or hotdog wagons or maybe ice cream trucks. The balancing act between self-promotion and writing time is hard one that I find has to be constantly renegotiated. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jackie. I look forward to more contact.

  18. Hello Francis! Congratulations on your sales! My first novel was traditionally published, but my experience was horrible. I plan to self publish my future books. Thank you!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Vashti. Your experience with traditional publishing doesn’t seem to be uncommon – sympathies all the same. To work so hard on our writing and then see it go flat is more than difficult. Best wishes for the plunge into self-publishing. I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes.

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