Publishing your own book is one of the publishing industry’s best-kept secrets. Mainstream publishers, editors, and authors easily dismiss self-publishing as subpar. After all, if the author was a real author, then surely they could find a real publisher. That has been the conventional wisdom for a long time, but now, with the prevalence of technology in today’s society, that conventional wisdom does not always hold true. So when is it appropriate to consider self-publishing? When you fall into one of three categories.
Real authors should consider self-publishing. Published authors often find themselves placed in a prison of their own making. Once they have achieved even modest success in a specific niche it is often hard to break out of that niche and publish something different. However, self-publishing gives authors control over their own writing so they can change direction or genre if they choose. Published authors who have taken some time off from their writing often find it just as hard to return as it was to break in initially. Finally, writers who have an idea that does not fit neatly into one of the major publishing houses slots may find self-publishing their only alternative. Just because it doesn’t fit into a neat slot doesn’t mean your book doesn’t have great potential — think about Diana Gabaldon and J.K. Rowling.
Authors interested in remaining in control of their work should also consider self-publishing. Once you sign your book over to a major publisher, you relinquish control of it. The publisher can slap a horrible or inappropriate cover on it, change its name, or even alter the main characters. Your name will go on the book but what is published may be drastically changed from your original creation–and not always for the better. Think it won’t happen to you, or that you won’t care as long as you get the royalty check, then think again.
Authors interested in getting paid for their work should also consider self-publishing. Understandably, authors want their hard work to be rewarded in monetary form. While self-publishing may require you to put up some of your own money, and traditional publishing will instead offer you an upfront payment, the initial advance from a traditional publisher will be small and maybe the only money you receive for your book for a long time — and perhaps ever — depending on how your book sells. The final indignity is that your book’s sales depend greatly on the promotional effort your publisher puts into it. The ugly truth is that the publisher does not much care about your baby and will rarely put any extra money, manpower, or thought into how to promote your book. Most midlist and lowliest authors conduct (and foot the bill for) their own promotion. At least when you self-publish you know you will be on your own and you can factor that into your budget.
If you are a real author, an author not wanting to relinquish control, or an author wanting compensation (or perhaps some combination) then you should consider self-publishing your own book.