On Your Own: Should You Self-Publish?

The Self-publishing Route has Exploded as a Platform for Writers to Become Authors, and get Their Written Work into the World, Without Waiting for an Agent to Pick up Their Book and Decide it’s Worthy

Written By Kate Barg Kreiman

Here you are, one way or another you have arrived at the conclusion to write a book. You’re pretty proud of yourself. Your friends and family are so excited for you and can’t wait to read it once it’s published, which of course it will be. Right?

Of course, you’ve thought of that detail, right? The part where agents and editors are clamoring to get their hands on your novel, the next Great American Novel. Oh God, Agents? Editors? Now you’re sweating. All of a sudden writing has become much more than writing, hasn’t it? Deep breaths. You take a few days, and you talk with your friends and your spouse, and you’re reminded that first and foremost writing is for you. Not for anyone but you. And you’re really good at it. You have a talent that you should share because it’s unique and it connects, and you have a story to tell with your passion that will no doubt find its audience.

So there you are, your confidence returns and you sit down and begin to write.

Some months, maybe years depending on your subject matter, if you’re writing a novel or a children’s story or a compilation of short stories or poems, whatever your calling you have finished, and you sit and look at the printed pages in front of you and think to yourself “Now what?” Well first off, congratulations, you persevered through many a dry spell. Writer’s block, months of staring at the screen with nothing but that damn theme song from that show you were just watching in your mind but can’t remember the name. Middle of the night waking from a dead sleep inspirations, the cocktail party dictations on your phone. You deserve to relish in this accomplishment for a bit before…

You contact agent number one, number two, number three, and four, and five and so on until you have reached agent number 174 and have been ever so politely rejected so many times you could do their job if this falls through. So, what to do? Well, a new trend that is gaining widespread popularity and is as easy to use as the computer you just wrote your book on is self-publishing. Right now there are currently sixty-six self-publishing company sites on the internet. First Time Publishers offers a list of their top 10 for 2017 online. You can find it here at Firsttimepublishers.com.

You need to do your homework when choosing the right one for you. Some are easier to use than others, some are better suited for certain genres, some have better benefits than others, and some own the rights to your book and get a pretty nice chunk of change of your profits. Amazon’s hugely popular Create Space is #2 on the top 10 list of First Time Publishers. It offers editing, previews which allow you to post a portion of your writing to be reviewed and rated by peers answering questions you pose to them. There is a community where you can ask questions and get feedback, and you can schedule phone assistance appointments with publishing professionals to discuss everything from your cover art which they provide for additional cost to what your first step should be now that you’ve signed up with them. When your book is released, it is released on Amazon and can eventually show up on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. But, you do want to read the fine print. Always. Maybe even have a lawyer take a look.

 I spoke to someone who recently published his first novel on Amazon’s Create Space.

David Mullaly is a former English teacher at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Illinois, and is currently retired and living in Annapolis, Maryland with his beautiful wife. This is what he had to say about his experience being a first time novelist and self-publishing with Create Space.

I discovered what I thought was an interesting individual who lived in England during the period around the turn of the millennium (1000 A.D.) and who had a strange and complicated relationship with the Vikings. I wrote what I thought was a good story about him and the actual events of the period–a serious melding of history and fiction. I believed that the current fascination with the Vikings would make the novel of interest to agents and publishers, and called it Eadric And TheWolves: A Novel Of The Danish Conquest Of England.

I contacted between 150 and 200 agents in the U.S. and the U.K., probably closer to the higher number, and not one expressed any interest in seeing the text. Not one. A few commented that they thought I had an interesting idea, but they didn’t think they could “sell” the book to publishers they knew. Have they not heard of Bernard Cornwell? I think he’s sold over 30 million copies of his novels. I got one substantive response. One agent living nearby suggested that I call her, I explained to her the core of the story, and she immediately told me that because my central character was an actual historical figure (although one about which not a great deal is known), that no agent would be interested in it–I would have to self-publish. So I did. The first eleven reader reviews on Amazon suggest that I wrote a really good story, but the purchase numbers are small, and the book may wind up a great read that almost no one will have read. When a tree falls in the forest, and there’s nobody there to hear it… As it happens, I posted everything that I just included here on a Facebook site specifically for historical fiction writers, and the general responses were a) the agent who made that generalization was probably only speaking for herself, and b) if other agents responded with indifference to my story because of a similar perspective, that’s another explanation why the publishing industry is in trouble right now. J.K. Rowling self-publishes. James L. Nelson, a prolific guy who has among other things written a series of novels about the Vikings in Ireland, who I’ve worked with, and who unintentionally inspired me to try my own hand at longer fiction. There are lots of other legit writers who have chosen to self-publish. It’s a new publishing world out there.

A few weeks ago, I was doing some reading about self-publishing and stumbled on a gentleman who asserted that 95% of the stuff which is self-published is garbage. There are no gatekeepers, no monitors, so if somebody wants to publish something for the sake of their vanity, or who simply doesn’t have any sense of what good writing might be, they can. Of course, that last is accurate. Anybody can publish anything, and the expenses involved can be pretty modest. However, if a writer is serious about his craft, takes the time and effort to edit and proofread what he’s created, and believes in himself, he should work to get his work published even if agents aren’t interested in the least. Many of them are looking for clones of previous best-sellers: guaranteed money makers. Let the reading public decide what they think. Just understand that, once a book is about to be published, the work to market and promote that book will be your next big challenge. And that is a subject for another commentary.

It’s an interesting take on the game. It does require you to invest in yourself. You have to be prepared to do that financially, and that means believing in yourself and your craft. You need to be prepared to hear the negativity others will surely throw at you and continue to march on. You need to be prepared to market your book and promote your work which takes a lot of physical labor and time commitment and possibly travel and late nights or early mornings. You need to be prepared for all of this to yield very little in returns and to not lose faith in yourself if that happens.

There is absolutely no guarantee that you will succeed in this market, none whatsoever. You have chosen a path that very few succeed at and even fewer receive acknowledgment. Just remember what counts and what matters is you are doing this first and foremost and lastly for you, because you believe you have a story to share either about pain, or joy, or love, or a loose tooth, or espionage. Now there is a way for you to make that happen.

Self-publishing can make you a published author and get your words out to the masses, and that is a pretty incredible thing. There is an explosion taking place in self-publishing right now it’s a wonderful time to get in on the action and all you have to do is sell one book, get paid for one book, and you can call yourself an author. How incredible is that? So grab your laptop, grab a drink, sit outside if the weather is beautiful where you are and let your imagination fly. There’s no reason not to. Just get your ideas out, see which ones speak back to you, see where they take you, could be a fantastic ride!

Written by Kate Barg Krieman

Self-published children's book about losing teeth is a great example of self-publishing without using Amazon.Here’s another example of a self-published author that did not use Amazon Createspace, but still lists her book for sale on Amazon, as well as on her own website. She still has the ability to advertise using Amazon Seller Services. Again, do your homework, and use what works best for you!

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