Is Self-Publishing for Me?

There is a craze taking hold of the publishing industry; the self-publishing craze. If you aren’t aware of it, then you’re an even bigger hermit than I am (but if that describes you, you probably aren’t reading this…you’re probably sitting and writing and not perusing blogs!) It was only a year or two ago that, as a fiction writer, self-publishing was a dirty word.

Now it’s a buzz word.

The question is, is self-publishing for you?

I am not an expert. I have a novella published with a reputable e-book first publisher (Samhain Publishing) and another novella coming out with a different e-publisher (Carina Press). I have self-published one title (Siren’s Song) and am about to release a trilogy called Thief of Hearts, a fantastical retelling of Robin Hood, where Little John is a woman in disguise.

But, like I said, I am far from being an expert. However, I do want to share my philosophy and thoughts on self-publishing.

First of all, I can honestly say that self-publishing a novella with plans of publishing more has completely altered my way of thinking about writing and given me the motivation to press on in a difficult-to-break-into industry during a difficult economic climate. I have never written more and never had more ideas. This sort of enthusiasm is manna to a writer and is the sort of excitement that is extremely hard to maintain while waiting months and often years to hear back from editors and agents.

As a writer, I consider myself to be an artist. Yet, in what other medium do we expect people to create art and then hide it away until someone recognizes them? Painters, sculptors and photographers have webpages, put on art shows and sell their work while waiting for big galleries to pick them up. Musicians produce CDs and accept money for gigs–some play on street corners, some in clubs, some at weddings and functions–while waiting to make it to the ‘big time’. Why is it any different for writers?

In my opinion, it shouldn’t be.

Which brings me to my next point. Because I’ve embraced self-publishing as an option, does that mean I have given up on traditional publishing avenues?


Diversification is the key. The principal of diversification is not exclusive to writing. As any financial planner will tell you, an investor should have a diversified portfolio. If one area of their  investment takes a nose dive, they’ve got other investments to keep their portfolio healthy. For years, coaches and personal trainers have preached the importance of cross-training in order to keep the body  balanced and free from repetitive strain injuries. There are countless sayings that speak to this issue; don’t put all your eggs in one basket, variety is the spice of life…

Okay. You get the picture.

Therefore, it is my belief that a balanced approach to self-publishing is the way to go. I am going to continue submitting to agents and editors, both at larger houses and small presses. In the meantime, I’m going to build my name with some self-published titles. I have a plan and that is the important point. There are parts of my plan that I have control over, there are parts where I have no control. But I have a plan. If you decide to take this approach, don’t do it willy nilly. In fact, that’s the joy of self-publishing; as an author, you now have the opportunity to create a business plan and follow through on that plan without completely being at the mercy of the market, a publisher, an editor, an agent and so on.

Keep in mind, however, that what is equally important, of course, is quality. Don’t be fooled, self-publishing is hard work. Yes, you are in control, but you are also responsible for everything, that includes the quality of your work–is it good enough? Is it marketable? Is it professional? The quality of your cover. The quality of your formatting and promotions. It’s all up to you. If your book succeeds it is all due to your hard work. If it doesn’t succeed to the degree you’d hoped, well…

From There To Here – The Publishing Learning Curve

Open bookSometimes I think I haven’t learned a darned thing about  writing and publishing.  This sentiment has never been more apparent than in the last couple of months as I stumbled through my first publishing contract – feeling completely clueless.  In addition, after all the years I’ve been at this, I still don’t have an agent, I don’t have a multi-book deal with some big print publisher, I’ve never received an advance and, despite the fact I have now signed two contracts, I have yet to see any sort of remuneration for my work. 

Then I meet a new writer…

Suddenly I am face to face with the person I was four years ago and I realize, holy crap I’ve learned a ton!  Yes, much of my learning has been centered around the craft of writing, but where the learning curve is steepest is in the area of publishing and the topic I want to discuss today is the issue of self-publishing and vanity publishers, something I knew nothing about four years ago.

Self-publishing is basically producing, printing and distributing your work yourself.  Vanity publishing is using a third party to help you accomplish this task.  Both require the author to front the costs of the production.  There is definitely a place for this sort of publishing and I believe it will become even more common in this age of e-books and e-readers.  But for me, at this time in my life, I am not interested in marketing and distributing my own work.  Not only that, I simply do not have the time or capital to adequately promote, print and distribute my books.  This may change some day, but not right now.  In addition, though I recognize that large publishers do not have the perfect model, there is an element of quality control that appeals to me.

I have nothing against a vanity press or consultant that facilitates the dream of someone who just wants to see their book in print so they may pass it off to their friends and family.  I also believe self-publishing is essential for writers of non-fiction, where their book complements their work and may be sold on their website.  I even think there is a place for those who want complete control to mass produce and distribute their work to a wider audience – as long as they know what they are doing and what they are getting into.  

What I have a problem with is a vanity press or supposed literary consultant posing as a legitimate publisher and/or agent.  I have a problem with people blatantly lying to new writers, taking advantage of their naivety about the publishing industry and trying to make a quick buck.  In the three short months since I have taken on the role of president of my local chapter of Romance Writers of America, I have already come across two such situations –  new writers who have come to me to ask my advice on an offer of representation.  It’s funny because in both instances my initial response was, ‘why are you asking me?  I’ve never been offered representation by an agent?’.  Then I looked at their offer.

Fees for postage and photocopying (okay, some small agencies still do that).  Fees for editing (red flag!).  A literary agent who also happens to be the president of a vanity publisher (hmmm, can you spell, c-o-n-f-l-i-c-t o-f  i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t?)  But the worst part of it is, that in both situations the people offering to help these writers publish their books pretended to be mainstream legitimate agents.  One of the writers even sent me a portion of the letter from the individual offering representation.  In the letter the representative said (I refuse to call them an agent), there are two types of agents, ones who ask for fees up front (but only take 15%-20% off royalties) and those who don’t (but they take 30%-50% off royalties).  This is a bold-faced lie!   However, I only know this is a lie because I have been researching agents for a few years now and am familiar with sites like Predators and Editors, Writer Beware and The Association of Author Representatives.  But this author had no idea, just like I wouldn’t have had any idea four years ago either. 

What this has made me realize is, first of all, how far I’ve come as a writer and how much more I understand about this industry than I did when I began.  While I may still feel like a beginner because I don’t have my dream contract, I’m not – and that’s a good thing.  I’ve learned what I know today from savvy people who share my passion for writing – people who have been involved in this business longer than me, people  who continue to take time to guide me through the maze of publishing.  The result is that I’ve realized my responsibility to those new writers who are now coming out of the woodwork, toting their first completed manuscript and thinking, like I did, that the hard part was over.  It’s my turn to ‘pay it forward’ and do my best to help.

For more information on how to tell the difference between a legitimate publisher and a vanity publisher, check out Rachelle Gardner’s post (Ms. Gardner is a legitimate literary agent) from June 10, 2010, called Sussing Out Legitimate Publishers.