Years ago when I first sought a publisher, I followed the traditional route. Why? Self publishing has a bad reputation that is well deserved. The vast majority of self-published books are terrible. They are poorly crafted, and the editing often appears to be nonexistent.
Also, self-publishing carries a stigma, that anyone who resorts to self-publishing must not be good enough to be traditionally published. Although that stigma might not be deserved, it exists. Some people point to examples of excellent self-published books, but they are buried in a sea of sewage. Readers have to be highly motivated to seek them out.
For a first-time author, traditional publishing is the better model. More books get into more hands, and the author becomes established as legitimate in the eyes of more readers.
Some argue that the self-publishing option as well as small, independent presses provide higher margins or royalty percentages. This is true, but I would rather sell 2000 books at 10% royalty with a traditional publisher than 500 books at 50% royalty with a small print-on-demand publisher or 100 books at 100% royalty through self publishing.
My goal is to reach hearts with my writing, not to fill my wallet. I want readers. I want to change lives. I didn’t become an author to get rich. I became an author to enrich others.
Since I hold these opinions, some might wonder why I self-published Reapers. The answer is multi-faceted.
- I have an established following, so many of my current readers are inclined to buy Reapers.
- There is little to no self-publishing stigma when an author already has legitimacy through traditional publishing.
- With more than 20 novels under my belt and an excellent editor as my companion, I have the resources to create a high-quality novel without help from a publisher. I must emphasize that having an experienced editor is essential. No author, regardless of his or her experience, is able to catch every error. Don’t ever publish a book that hasn’t been professionally edited.
- Christian publishers showed interest in Reapers, but they wanted more overt faith elements, which were not appropriate for this story. Self-publishing gave me complete control over the content.
- I wanted to get this book into more hands at public schools. Some public schools are hesitant to invite authors of overtly Christian books. Reapers provided more open doors.
- With self publishing I have the option to use offset printing in order to get the price-per-copy as low as possible, so I can sell the book at a reasonable price. Many small, independent publishers use print-on-demand, which significantly increases the price.
These factors didn’t exist when I was first seeking publication. I wasn’t experienced enough or a good enough writer to publish myself. I didn’t have a following. Self publishing my early books would likely have failed.
Is self publishing out of the question for first-time authors? No. It might be viable, but I would discourage it unless the author has genuinely tried the traditional route. Before you attempt self publishing, you should evaluate your experience.
- Have you received more than 100 rejections from traditional publishers and successful literary agents?
- Are you getting personalized rejections that compliment your work?
- Have you written at least a million words during your writing journey?
- Have you read several books on the craft of writing?
- Have you attended writing conferences and had your work evaluated by professionals?
- Are you willing to work hard at promoting, including traveling to speak to groups?
If you answered yes to all of these, then you have completed the necessary prerequisites. You are a candidate for self publishing. Yet, you need to go into that option with your eyes wide open. At the end of the process, you will have a book, but selling it is a monumental task. You have no name recognition, no marketing team, no distribution channels. You are on your own. The key to significant sales will be the hard work you put into marketing. Success is possible, but perhaps after shedding a significant amount of blood, sweat, and tears.
I’ve rambled long enough. Obviously, these are merely opinions based on my experiences. Take them for what they’re worth, and feel free to ask questions.