13 May 2010

Guest Blog - Kait Nolan "Debunking Self-Publishing Myths"

There’s a lot of stuff being said about self-publishing these days—a lot of which simply is not true. Self-publishing has a major stigma attached to it, one which is gradually fading, but still persists, despite the fact that the publishing industry as a whole is changing. As someone who just recently self-published my debut novella, I feel like I’m in a good position to debunk some of these myths.

It’s an act of desperation: Sorry, no. There persists this myth that the people who choose to self-publish are so desperate to get their work out there, that they seek to circumvent the traditional vetting process of New York publishers. And okay, yeah, I’ll admit, there probably are a lot out there like this, but that’s not everyone. These days, many people choose to self-publish because they want to have full control over their product (i.e. final say on title, cover art, etc.). They may choose to self-publish something to build an audience (i.e. this is what I did). Or they may simply be unimpressed with the way that New York publishers are handling the changing publishing landscape (i.e. pretending that digital publishing isn’t the wave of the future and deliberately shooting themselves in the foot).

Only bad writers do it: Again, nope. I point you to J.A. Konrath, who has made a small fortune by self publishing his backlist, some manuscripts rejected by New York, and some other for e-pub only projects. Many authors are putting their backlists up on Kindle. And a lot of talented indie authors out there are building grassroots followings of their work. You’ll find many of them in the top 100 of the Kindle store because they’re the ones that are still reasonably priced at $4.99 or less rather than the agency priced e-books at $12.99+.

You can’t make a living self-publishing: I direct you again to J.A. Konrath. $100,000 in a year on Kindle sales alone. Enough said. And in case you think that’s just because he’s a traditionally published author who already had a following, how about Karen McQuestion, who’s entirely self-published and has made more than Joe. If you put out a good product at a reasonable price, people will buy it.

Self-publishing is expensive: Ok first off, self-publishing is NOT vanity press publishing. You are not paying somebody to print and bind your book. If you want a physical copy of your book there are what’s called Print On Demand options such as LightningSource and LuLu, where copies are not printed until someone orders them. I’m not the person to ask about this, as I am going with the e-pub only route. The only costs I had for self-publishing Forsaken By Shadow were the cost of the cover art (which I got done for $50 + $18 for the actual stock images), the cost of registering my copyright ($35), and a lot of my time to make sure that it was well edited and formatted.

Self-publishing is risky: Other than the risk of losing the $100 or so you put into the venture (less if you have some skill with Photoshop and can make your own covers), there’s no risk to self-publishing. There are no books to warehouse, nothing to try desperately to get into brick and mortar stores. You list your book on Amazon, Smashwords, Scribd, and all the other venues, do a modicum of marketing, and chances are, if you didn’t put out total unedited crap, you’ll make back your investment within a few months or a year. It’s a passive income stream, one that has the potential to grow over time the more stuff you have available under your name. The only thing you risk is falling on your face if you put out a crappy product. And if that’s the case, few people will read it, so you just take it down and allow it to disappear into obscurity. Then you pick a new pen name and do it all over again, making sure to do better next time.

Self-publishing is hard: Maybe it is if you can’t read, but then if you couldn’t read, you wouldn’t be self-publishing in the first place, would you? There are numerous FREE or cheap resources out there to help you learn how to do things right. From formatting to the ins and outs of the Kindle and Smashwords systems. Self-publishing is definitely NOT hard. All it takes is some effort on your part to actually learn something new.

Self-publishing is a bad idea if you plan to pursue traditional publication: There seems to be this notion out there that self-publishing is the kiss of death if you want to pursue traditional publication in New York. Okay first, if you self-publish something that doesn’t do well, chances are that nobody in New York will have ever seen it and you can, as I said earlier, take it down. There’s no permanent record that follows you around if you self-publish, no sales records that are out there for future agents, editors, etc. to see. Second, self-publishing is actually a great idea if you’re planning to pursue traditional publication and here’s why: a) You will learn more about the business side of things if you self-publish something from beginning to end, and b) It is an opportunity to build and audience and a platform, something New York wants you to have when you come to them. What better way to build an audience than to have some of your work available for free or cheap?

I hope you’ve found this educational and that you’re a little less scared of self-publishing. It’s an exciting time to pursue this venture as the face of publishing is changing. Don’t you want to get in on the ground floor before everybody’s doing it?

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For those who are interested, my debut paranormal romance novella, Forsaken By Shadow, is available at Scribd, Smashwords, Amazon, the iBookstore, and Barnes & Noble. It is the first in the Mirus series.

Banished from their world with his memory wiped, Cade Shepherd doesn’t remember his life as Gage Dempsey, nor the woman he nearly died for. But when Embry Hollister’s father is kidnapped by military scientists, the only one she can turn to is the love from her past. Will Gage remember the Shadow Walker skills he learned from her father? If they survive, will Embry be able to walk away again?

Kait’s writing blog Shadow and Fang

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Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Perfect read for me. Explains a lot. Thanks, Kait, and good luck with your book.

Pia Veleno said...

Great blog Kait! Thanks for the info.

For those of you who haven't checked out FORSAKEN, it was a great read that kept drawing me back every time I put it down for a break. But be warned, you'll want more and the second book isn't done yet.

Marisa Birns said...

Wow, learned so much from this post! Thank you both for the opportunity to read this.

Lots to think about.

Laura Eno said...

Good post. There are many who still equate self-publishing with vanity publishing. Hopefully, the stigma will die out as more people take this route.

As for print - CreateSpace is a wonderful way to go.

Anonymous said...

LOL @ Self-publishing is hard if you can't read.

On the last point about having a "record," you're right if you self-pub via e-pub only, but if you self-pub a print version and have an ISBN then your sales actually are trackable, forever under that number.

But, I still think the threat of the whole issue is way overinflated.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kait Nolan said...

Pia I have a feeling I'm going to have hell hounds at my heels after this tour to finish Revelation...I'm working, I'm working... If somebody wants to help me win the lottery, that would speed the process :D

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post and so very informative.
I am not a writer, but I am a control freak so if I ever did write something, I'd probably want to look at self-publishing as a first option.



Unknown said...

I would have given an intro or something except I didn't, which somehow fits me.

Thanks everyone for stopping by.

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

I'm a follower of J.A. Konrath as well and am on the fence still for myself, but I 100% agree that it's a great way to go. I just want to make sure what I'm writing is up to par before I self-pub. Some days I think it is and some days not! Great post!

Deniz Bevan said...

I think these are all great arguments! I might almost be tempted to go this route, but I'm writing YA, and doubt my abilities to market successfully to that age group on my own.