This blog follows how a romance novel set in the Borders of medieval Scotland is researched, written and hopefully *hopefully* published.

Join me on the writing journey and get inspired to try writing a little romance into your own life!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Self-Publishing and the Aspiring Artist

So I'm on the phone this morning with a pal and we're chatting about publishing and she asks about ebooks.

I give the definition of them I understand, something to the effect that ebooks are still not as popular as print media due to readability issues and the tactile and possessive nature of humanity. I also mentioned that royalties tend to be greater for ebooks because sales numbers tend to be lower. I try to avoid generalizations, but that's what I've personally found. I also noted that ebooks tend to be an easier market to break into because there are so many ebook publishers.

My pal chuckled and said, "Yes, I always thought they were just one small step above self-publishing."

We talked a while longer, but her comment made me think about self-publishing or "vanity" presses. My background in social studies reared its head and I thought, "What's more American than self-publishing?"

I mean, think about it for a moment. Ben Franklin was self-published and he was certainly no slouch. Thomas Paine (I believe) and Paul Revere's prints...also self-published. Wait--I know what you'll argue: "Back in the day you had to publish that way. There weren't many other real options. But today..."

Actually, there were publishing houses "back in the day" (man, I hate that phrase). But, if you were a free-thinker, bucking the trends and with a real vision in mind, you still needed (or quite possibly wanted) to self-publish (or be a landowner powerful enough to get a house to publish for you because of your name--ah, celebrity). We stress "freedom of expression" in this country as well as freedom of choice. Therefore I think America should be proud of its self-publishing tradition. Sure, there's plenty of things that are awful and still get published (thanks to self-publishing) but there are also things that are awful and get published by "traditional publishing houses" (ah, celebrity).

So here's what I'm thinking: Publish with the traditional houses IF they meet your needs. Will they treat you fairly and respect you and your work or will they ask for so many changes you won't even recognize it as your own? Will they do more than the "traditional" $200 worth of "marketing" for your book (thank you Robert Gould for some numbers that publishers use as standard :-)?

If they can't meet your needs or understand your vision, do some soul searching. Publish when and how you want. Let the public choose who to read and support. Let's face it--freedom of choice still probably ensures OJ's book "If I Did It" will outsell most of us lumped together--but ah, celebrity! ;-)

Do what's right for YOU and your vision. You are your greatest advocate, traditional publishing house or not.

Take care and step out boldly!


writerwoman said...

I am still aiming for the traditional route but I am always happy for people who self publish or come out with a e-book.

If I ever published my poetry it would be through the self publishing route- just for me and my family, and maybe stick a link up to buy it on my poetry site.

Saoirse Redgrave said...

Those are good thoughts. I figure I'll be trying the traditional route for my current projects, but having listened to Robert Gould from Imaginosis speak recently I see much more clearly that self-publishing can be a much better choice for some people.

I don't know if I could "sell" my book at signings and by doing tours... My personality's not always the best for that sort of thing. But I do know I could throw more than $200 annually at advertising for my book... Maybe connecting that to what a traditional publisher would provide would still be best...

Hmm. Things to think about.

Anonymous said...

I actually did self publish a book - it was a huge hassle in the long run. I bought a bar code and ISBN ($50) from a reseller, then printed out and bound 2 copies of the book at a time (hassle!), and sold it on I tried to keep the price down, but found out that I could only break even at $20/ea because of the production cost, shipping, & Amazon's fees (40%). Also, I only sold 1 copy per month. I then tried to make it into an ebook & discovered that Amazon does not go for small time ebooks, and ebook distributors don't go for self-published ebooks. Then I considered selling it through (& I still might) - but for now, I just popped the whole thing onto my website for free, along with some pay-per-click advertisements from, and it's finally profitable, without me having to do anything more ... Also, I actually have worked in a publishing house - and I noticed that no matter how much money we put into marketing, only good books actually sold - it's just inevitable. Book signing are not profitable (unless you are extremely famous) but TV appearances & awards are. However, they are hard to come by even for the extremely famous.

Saoirse Redgrave said...

Sorry you had so many hassles with self-publishing, Anonymous. I've done stuff with self-publishing in the past (under my other name) and wound up very happy with the results.

Having listened to my pal (and seeing the results she'd had so far publishing with this very large company) I think it's as my mother would have said, "Six of one, a half-dozen of the other." I think both methods are very noteworthy, it just comes down to your product and your personality.

While I've never worked for a large publisher, I must say that I can't agree that only good books actually sell--I've seen too many people reading absolute crap (imho)and passing up really rich books because the aforementioned crap has a celeb's name on it.

Blech. And as Gould pointed out, the $200 that should probably go to marketing the promising new author's work instead goes into creating stuff to better market the bigger folks' works (because it's all about the Benjamins, baby ;-).

But, ah well, it all pretty much sucks while you're still not quite where you want to be, right?


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