Well, I have to ‘fess up. I’ve gone over to the dark side. I’ve now self-published three titles, and I have to say, I can understand the appeal. Bringing a book to market by yourself is so fast, so easy, so close to painless, that I wonder why there aren’t a hundred times as many self-pubbed titles out there (though I’m certainly glad there aren’t).
I still see the appeal of working with a publisher. The more eyes that look at a manuscript before it goes live, the more chance there is to catch those nasty typos and grammaticos. The covers I’ve created for my self-pubbed volumes can’t begin to compete with the work of a professional graphics artist. Publishing companies already have a audience of readers looking for new authors in the genres they put out. Some publishers actually do quite a bit to publicize their authors’ releases, supplementing the inevitable self-marketing effort.
Furthermore, it’s not a level playing field. The big retailers give better deals and more visibility to publishers than to self-pubbed authors, and the bigger the publisher, the better the deal. There’s still some stigma associated with publishing your own books, largely due to the fact that a lot of self-published fiction is in fact pretty awful. (Then again, I’ve read some pretty terrible books from established publishers as well.)
Balanced against these advantages, there are definite downsides to the more traditional route. It can take considerable time—often months—to get your book out the door with a regular publisher, because you’re only one of many authors with whom they’re working. The bigger the publisher (and thus the larger its clout), the longer the typical delay between submission and release.
In addition, writing for a publisher can be constrain your creativity. You have to produce the kind of books they want to sell, the books they believe their readers will buy. You must follow their rules. Personally I’ve found this rather difficult with erotic romance publishers. My writing is frequently romantic, but violates a lot of the conventions of the genre. It has been a struggle at times for me to warp my stories into the shape required.
In contrast, self-publishing is instant gratification! You can submit your book in the morning and have it available for purchase by the afternoon. If you follow the formatting instructions (which are definitely not rocket science), it’s a snap.
Meanwhile, as long as you don’t break any laws, you can publish exactly the book you want to write. What freedom! There’s no guarantee anyone will buy your books, of course. You have to market them like crazy, or they’ll simply vanish in the vast sea of self-pubbed titles, thousands released daily. But if you write for your own satisfaction—if you want to create stories outside the rigid boxes of genre—self-publishing is a breath of fresh air.
I haven’t yet produced any self-published novels. I’m a bit worried about the formatting issues in a full-length manuscript. And given how long it takes me to write a novel, I’m still nervous about throwing it into the self-publishing swamp if I can find a suitable publisher.
But then, I have a couple of novel ideas that I suspect no publisher would touch. If I ever write those books, self-publishing will be the only option.
For the first time, I am not dependent on somebody else to get my work out into the world. That’s comforting. Freeing. And slightly addictive.