Before You Self-Publish


There’s an article in today’s New York Times that should be required reading for all writers: Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

As traditional publishers look to prune their booklists and rely increasingly on blockbuster best sellers, self-publishing companies are ramping up their title counts and making money on books that sell as few as five copies, in part because the author, rather than the publisher, pays for things like cover design and printing costs.

Because self-publishing seems to be on the upswing, I wanted to offer writers a few questions to ask themselves if they’re considering this path. I’ve overseen multiple self-published book competitions and have read, reviewed and judged literally thousands of self-published books. I’m being really honest when I say that many of those books shouldn’t have been published to begin with.

I’m all for having a creative, independent, entrepreneurial spirit. Yes, that may mean going it on your own if the traditional publishing route doesn’t work out. But know what you’re getting into.

Here are five crucial questions to ask yourself before striking out on your own:

Are you a good self-marketer? Do you have a solid elevator pitch? Books are a hard sell and no one is going to do it for you if you self-publish.

• Have you really developed your writing into a polished manuscript? Don’t rely on your friends and relatives to tell you the truth about your manuscript. Join a writer’s group to get some tough love before you even think about self-publishing it.

• Have you tried going the traditional route first by querying agents and small presses?At the very least, you’ll get a sense of whether or not the work is publishable, and maybe you’ll even get lucky and an agent or two will tell you why it’s not working.

• Do you have a blog? If not, why not? To sell a book, you have to develop a readership and you can start doing that right now absolutely free with a blog. In fact, why not start posting short excerpts on your blog just to see what kind of feedback you get?

• Very important: Do you know what you’re signing? Do your research, ask for recommendations and be careful about what rights you’re signing away!

Please post your experiences and opinions on self-publishing here in the comments.

-Maria Schneider


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