Saturday, June 15, 2013

Should You Self-Publish Your Book Or Not: Things To Consider

More people are writing fiction today than ever before. A case could be made that more people are writing fiction than reading it. reports 7,807,283,481 words published.

That’s a lot, and a Google search “how many eBooks are there?” shows that there is no count, just more and more every day. One must remember that eBooks are universal, not just American phenomena, and that the Global Village has more readers than ever before.

Writing a book, getting an agent, finding a publisher and an editor willing to take a chance, waiting two years for your book to appear, then getting shelf space, doing book tours to drive sales, putting out a blog and a website and joining forums---traditional publishing is harder to do now than ever before. The volume of submissions has caused bottlenecks at every point of transition. One is likely to get shut down at the agent level by rejection letters citing “No longer accepting unsolicited submissions” or some variation. Whatever happened to that book you were writing? People will say. Meanwhile some teenager just made $100,000 online with her tale of vampire romance. The urge to say the hell with New York City gets stronger, the more you investigate the resources available to the self-publishing community.

It is important to talk about the alternatives open to writers.

Self-publishing is easy to do, you send in your Word document in a proper format (See The Smashwords Style Guide)and get approval options at You create your own cover (or have it created) and upload it. You can change your text or art at any time. In a day or two your eBook is online. In a week or two it can be purchased at iTunes, Kobo, Diesel, even Barnes&Noble, and the options keep growing.

Here’s the hard part: where will sales come from? There’s no Publishers Weekly blurb, no Book Review ad, no stand-up display in a crowded store, nothing more than the brief front page splash you get for a couple hours on the front page at Smashwords. The self-pubber has to do his/her own marketing and publicity, and this part of the process is actually harder than writing the book. 

Any self-published author you encounter online you encounter because of the extra work that writer has put in. I have 600 friends on Facebook and I don’t know 560 of them. The majority are self-published authors looking to use Social Media to promote themselves and their work. When I first put out this blog, SmashwordsBooksReviewed, I was overwhelmed by the amount of submissions. I created a Facebook Page of the same name to allow writers to post their own reviews, since there was no way I could provide so many. It’s still there, a resource to get the word out about a new eBook.

What I noticed immediately, when the manuscripts began arriving, was that few of them could get an agent’s attention. The editing was horrible, grammar often incorrect, punctuation seemingly invented on the fly. There were some well-written eBooks I featured here, but the avalanche of rough first-drafts masquerading as finished works convinced me that little or no effort had been made in the traditional publishing channel. And that was a shame, because writing can be very rewarding, and can last for a very long time, if the effort is made to correct, revise and re-write, over and over, until the work offered for consideration is worthy of another’s time.

I am quite sincere about this. I took down and deleted my own eBooks from Smashwords and the other sites, because when I had gotten over the initial excitement, I saw the many mistakes in continuity, formatting and copy I had made. Eventually I will re-write these books. But for now what I want to offer writers is this insight: either publishing avenue, traditional or eBook, should come after you make your most serious effort to produce your best work. There should not be two standards, good enough for traditional publishing or good enough for eBook. The readers are the same, and deserve a finished product.

In future posts, I will be discussing options for writers considering publication in either format.