If you cannot find a traditional publisher for your writing, what should you do? If you are a very lucky person, you’ll find that only one out of 1,000 editors will enjoy skimming your manuscript. But, even if they love your style, it is very unlikely that they will work to get your manuscript published because—unless its genre is Sci-Fi or Teen Romance—it won’t sell in the current book market. What should the aspiring writer do?
As a seven-times published author and self-proclaimed publishing guru, I recommend self-publishing your manuscript for the greatest control as an author. Don’t be afraid to do this; you’ll be joining the best selling authors in history: James Joyce, Beatrix Potter, Friedrich Nietzsche and even Charles Dickens who self-published The Christmas Carol.
“Do you realize what would happen if Moses were alive today? He’d go up to Mount Sinai, come back with the Ten Commandments, and spend the next eight years trying to get them published.” ~ Robert Orbenn
Whatever the case, first time writers might have the courage to self-publish their work, but, unless they’re determined to get their book “out there,” they will need to give up being a “genius” recluse. Writing the book is only 5% of the sweat-shop labor, 95% of the real work is sharing it with the world. As Sophia Loren discovered, “I became famous when I was willing to stop being anonymous.”
When to Consider Self-Publishing Your Manuscript
If you have little-to-no money or up to $5,000 to spend, consider self-publishing. If you just want to publish for the pleasure of it, if you want to leave behind a legacy for your children and grandchildren, if your book is written for a small audience, if you believe there is a larger market for you book, if you want to build your writing platform, PLEASE consider self-publishing.
Not-So-Hidden Drawbacks to Self-Publishing
Many people who are lucky enough to still be working in the book publishing industry consider self-publishing to be a forum for the untalented or the egoic nube who will pay for visibility via a Vanity Press. Such workers, in their soon-to-be jobless minds, are convinced that such writers will never be taken seriously as authors.
Unless we are talking the top five mega-publishers, most traditional publishers have a six-prong approach to marketing your book to the “just right” audience. Their sense of your niche is based on the very specific information that you give them. They need you to tell them where to promote your book. They need you to tell them your own and your likely reader’s favorite journals, magazines, blogs, bookstores, like-minded authors, etc.
Should you go the route of publishing your own book, the traditional presses know that you will have to do the very same work to get your work in front of the very same people that you’ve recommended to them. But, it’s important for you to know, they believe you won’t have the guts to take the lead in making your book visible to the readers who will want it. Also, they are convinced (often rightly) that most writers won’t have the energy, stamina or money to market their newly published book. Consequently, whether you go with a traditional press or your own self-published print-on-demand publisher, without your help, your book will be out of circulation within 24 months.
Finally, most people don’t know which forum to use in order to successfully sell their book. One must do research to find out which book chains or independent stores will consider selling their self-published work. So, unless you use Amazon.com’s CreateSpace.com—a place that includes ISBN, production, copyright, and print-on-demand methods to distribute your book (in a way that pays you about 40% of every book sold)—you will be forced to sell your own self-printed book out of your own car, at the Farmer’s Market, flea market, or book fair.
Tips for Self-Publishing a Manuscript
Only consider self-publishing if you have a commitment to see your book come into print and you’re equally dedicated to getting “the word” out there to your “just right” niche. Look at your life, do you have the time to market and sell your book?
Do you have a skillful friend or professional contact (like myself) that can edit, improve and proof-read every page of your manuscript? Do you know someone who will design your book jacket, review your manuscript, blurb (summarize and praise your book) and print your book in a way that’s professional? Be warned, your printed book cannot look too different from the book that sits right next to it in any reputable bookstore. This may cost you a chunk of change in order to create such a work of art.
Research the market to be sure that there are people who not only NEED your book but, more importantly, WANT your book. Is your contribution adding something of value to similar books already flooding the market? Is it too obscure? These are things to consider and discuss with people who have published their own work successfully.
Are You Opposed to ePublishing?
Whether you’re a pro or a newbie to the online publishing world, know that every smart writer will have a platform: websites, blogs, social media relationships that introduce a summary of the book, book reviews, and additional information related to the book and how to purchase it.
Here are a few suggestions for self-publishing on the Web:
Be sure to use free support to create your own blog as a marketing tool. I use my blog as both a website for selling my books (in eBook form) as well as for writing small essays that support my would-be clients and writerly allies.
The ideal tool for creating a marketing blog is www.wordpress.com. Just follow the instructions, choose a theme, add your features, and start blogging. Be sure to include a link for ordering your book or commenting on the blog with their questions related to your work or weekly posts. Create a community of readers and, like any garden you want to see grow, nurture these relationships through regular contact via the blog.
There are tons of free tools to learn how to write for the Web. Unlike the printed page, people scan or skim Web pages, looking for ideas. Be sure to write your blog in the form of a postcard that any smart 8th grader could comprehend. Keep your information brief, inviting, inquisitive, in small paragraphs, use headings and subheadings, use bulleted lists, and link the reader to related content.
Always end your posts with a question or a request for feedback. Pretend you are on a blind date, your readers don’t want to feel throttled with informational monologues about your greatness. They want to feel a growing sense of relationship with you. Your emphasis should be: Connect rather than Impress.
Be sure to be of service. If you’re really on a blind date where you feel a spark of interest, you are probably hoping this first interaction will lead to more get togethers. To create a lively connection, post useful content. Again, don’t write about yourself, unless it will entertain or interest your audience. Include writing or links that interest you but, more importantly, will interest your would-be reader. Ask them for their favorite links or suggestions. Assume you’re here to learn and/or be entertained as well.
At the very least, self-publishing is a way to build your writing platform and writing portfolio. But, there are drawbacks. Before you consider self-publishing, you must weigh the pros and cons.
Be sure to schedule a 15-minute complimentary book coaching session via email: AuthorizeU@gmail.com. If we begin working together, my eBook—Writing From Life: A Wise Guide to Publishing Your Memoirs—will be yours as part of the coaching package.