Sunday, February 13, 2011

Taking the Plunge!

For some time I've been weighing the pros & cons of self-publishing.
On the pro side:
Authorial autonomy
Potentially higher return per book sold
Immediate release

On the con side:
"Vanity publishing" - for some this remains a stigma.
No newspaper book reviews (at a panel I attended, the reviewers said they never review self-published books).

But let's look at the industry:
As publishing houses buy one another and limit their risk-taking with unknown authors, opportunities for a book contract are diminishing.
The agent - publishing house - bookstore model is fast becoming obsolete.
Unless sales are strong immediately, a book is only in a bookstore a matter of weeks before that shelf space is given to other titles.
In this climate, if the agent or publisher doesn't like some aspect of the book, what can a little-known author do but capitulate? I omit mention of editors suggesting changes, because editors have become an endangered species.
The percentage paid to the author is small.
And authors (unless named Nora Roberts, J.K. Rowling or Tom Clancy) have to do the heavy lifting of publicizing their work. (I'd always thought the whole point of having a publisher was for introvert writers to be freed from the extrovert task of selling their work - silly me!)

My work is offbeat - not in a recognized genre, nor quite "literary fiction".
I've spent years writing and revising my work with rewrites small and major, then sent queries to every agent and small press who seemed even remotely likely to have an interest in my work.
The result is a rejection letter file.
I've pitched to agents at book conferences. Nada.

I am weary of the rejection cycle, and my work is too! Karmafornia wants to be read!

So I've decided to e-publish through, supplemented by a Print-On-Demand edition, and do a book tour in late summer for publicity purposes.

If you've had experience with Smashwords, I'd love to hear about it. Their website presents them as a very straightforward author-friendly business, and they charge nothing to receive a properly-formatted manuscript (they provide a free detailed formatting guide), assign it an ISBN, and distribute it in e-book catalogs, available at a price the author determines, in virtually every e-book format. They retain a modest percentage of sales income (15 - 18.5 %), with the author receiving most (up to 85%). The author retains copyright and all ancillary rights. Smashwords provides a book marketing manual but the PR burden lies with the author - which it does anyway, regardless of how the book is emerging into the world.
And at the worst, authors have the option to "unpublish" from their site.

I know authors who have self-published. Once they've had decent sales, publishers have (surprise!) shown an interest, and picked them up as clients.
What can I lose, besides my frustration?

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