Our own Sara Marks is a self-published author. She primarily writes chick lit and contemporary romance books. In 2017 she decided to focus her efforts on self-publishing over traditional publishing. This monthly series is about her experiences publishing and promoting her own books.
I decided to self-publish my books in 2017 when, just a month before the rerelease of my first book, my small publisher shut their doors. My romantic ideals of the traditional publishing industry were squashed when I learned they hadn’t finished the cover design, which they had been doing on their own; they hadn’t edited my manuscript in the year they had it; they hadn’t done any formatting; and they had done almost no marketing about the release. At the time I had a decision to make. Do I put the release on hold or do I try to do it myself in the month? You should know, I’m the worst at changing courses mid-stream, especially if we’re close to the end of something. I was more willing to learn everything I could about self-publishing in one month than to take a step back and reevaluate my options. Here’s how I made the decision.
Weighing My Options
It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I had to weigh options. On one hand, I could resend the manuscript to small publishers and agents. My publisher, the one who closed, had been the only one I had sent the manuscript to. It had been a huge ego boost to have it under contract so easily. To do it again did put my ego on the line, but that’s the risk with traditional publishing. What I learned when they closed was that I really would have no control over the final product. I hadn’t like the covers they were considering. I had expected editing, but it seemed like they would send out my flawed manuscript. I would have had the weight of marketing the book entirely on my shoulders and out of my pocket. But, they would manage the things I didn’t know how to do. They would also just give me a small percentage of the revenue. That is, after all their bills are paid (cover designer, formatter, etc.), they would still get most of the earnings from my book.
The flip side, self-publishing, allowed me total control and to take on all the costs. I can design my own cover or I can pay someone to do it. I can have friends edit the manuscript or I can hire an editor. The cost is all on my shoulders, but so are all the rewards. I have a say in the cover, interior, marketing, and who gets copies of the book. If I was going to be responsible for most of the marketing anyway, self-publishing lets me control it as well. I can put up ads, I can give copies away for free, I can write short stories as a newsletter hook without having to get approval from the publisher.
Yes, I would have to learn how to do some of these things, but I’m over-educated! I’m good at learning to do things and recognizing what isn’t worth my focus. For example, I stink at cover design. So, for now, I’m not focusing on it. I hire a designer to do the work for me.
Considering My Ego and My Romanticism
As I mentioned earlier, my ego and my romanticism were in consideration while I made this decision. There is a romanticism to traditional publishing. I knew it was a flawed system. I’m not going to argue that point. Seeking traditional publishing isn’t wrong and you are not bad for wanting it. Seeking it to feed your ego is good. A Writer’s ego is just as fragile as everyone else and it takes a beating to be rejected, but it also soars when accepted. I loved the feeling of knowing someone else believed in my work enough to put their time and money into getting it out to people. In my case, that was all I really needed from the traditional publishing process. I got it and it gave me the confidence to see the value in doing the work myself.
Here’s what I want you to remember about traditional publishing: it’s about what they can sell. It’s not about quality, it’s about marketability. Can they get a lot of bang for their buck? Think about how many books you read and wonder “who thought this was good?” Think about insanely popular books that are crap. When traditional publishers come knocking on a self-published door, it’s because that book is making money.
The Final Decision
My final decision was to self publish my book. Knowing the beating my ego could take by going back into the wheel of traditional publishing. Knowing my romantic ideas of the industry were shattered. Knowing I could learn to do this on my own and keep the revenue. All of that turned my decision to self-publishing. I haven’t looked back since. I love not having to wait a year before my book is released. I liked creating marketing material and not having deadlines (though I still suck at changing plans mid-stream).
This series of blog posts!
I want you all to know my reasons before I launch this series of blog posts. I want to help you see what goes into the self-publishing process. I want you to make an informed decision about which direction you take for your book. I want you to see the decisions I get to make, the way I get to engage my readers, and all of the other ways to increase the number of people who will read your book. There is no right answer. Traditional publishing is not better than self-publishing and vice versa. It might not even be one direction for you. It might mean self-publishing some of your books and traditional publishing for others.
In the comments, tell me topics you want me to cover in this series!