Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

First off, let me make it clear that when I say “self-publishing” I do NOT mean using a “vanity” publisher. When you use a “vanity” publisher, it basically means that you pay a company that looks like a traditional publisher to edit/proofread your work and bind it into book form. The price for this service is usually several thousand dollars and can run into the tens of thousands depending on what type of ‘package’ you purchase. These companies and their ‘service’ are basically a rip off. The proofreading/editing is shoddy at best. If you do not like the end result, chances are you are going to be stuck with several hundred to several thousand copies of a book that you cannot give away. And even if you buy some type of ‘promotion’ package (where they supposedly advertise your work to the masses), chances of you selling a single copy of your book based on THEIR work is little to none. I would NEVER suggest that anyone go the route of the vanity press.

When I say “self-publish” I mean using a POD or Print-on-Demand company. (POD means that the book is not printed out until someone orders a copy of it. By doing this, it keeps the author from having to spend thousands of dollars on copies of a book that they then have to turn around and attempt to sell) It is a lot more work on the author’s part, but you won’t be out thousands of dollars on a project that you do not whole-heartedly love.

With the technology of today, getting published has become relatively easy for anyone who wishes to get their written word out to the masses. But is it really such a ‘quick fix?’ Here is just a small take on my personal trials and tribulations about the ins and outs of do-it-yourself publishing.

I chose to self-publish my last novel for several reasons (i.e. the novel Temptation which is a collection of 8 short erotic stories). First, the genre I write. There is a huge market for erotica but unfortunately the traditional publishers do not like getting their hands dirty with it. In today’s world just about everyone has a website. Before I decided to go the self-publishing route I looked up a few dozen traditional publishers to see what type of genre they would accept. Not surprisingly, none of them would touch the erotic fantasy genre. So I started looking into other options, namely self-publishing. The second reason why I chose to self-publish is because traditional publishers do not take unsolicited manuscripts. That is to say, you can’t just send in a query letter and part of your manuscript and expect them to do anything besides toss them in the trash. They all want literary agents to represent the author. This means that there is just one more person who gets a cut of the profits. And of course agents, as well as publishers, will not even look at it until it goes to a professional editor. I personally think that editors should be nothing more than a spell check with fingers. Unfortunately, they want to rip it apart and impose their own styles into the manuscript so it soon ceases to be the author’s work. I do my own editing since I have been doing freelance editing jobs for more than twenty years now. Once I’ve finished finding every error I can on my own, I send out copies to family and friends and ask them to mark any typos they come across. I guess you can say I cheat when it comes to editing.

You might be wondering what all is involved in self-publishing. What, exactly, does an author have to do in order to self-publish.

Everything. And I do mean everything. Most POD publishers (Print-on-Demand) will editor your work for you, for a fee. But it can cost several thousand dollars, and that’s money I just don’t have. My editing process is pretty much on-going. I am never really satisfied with what I come up with. The last novel I wrote I spent eight hours a day seven days a week for over two months editing it on my computer. Once I could no longer find any errors I ordered a printed copy and edited the hard copy. Once I made those changes I ordered copies for my family and friends and had them go through it. Then I had to change those mistakes, and that in itself is a job and a half.

The POD company that I use does not accept MS Word documents. When I upload the word document, the company changes it to a read-only PDF document. Unfortunately, the way the PDF document prints out is not the same as it does when it’s in Word format. So I spent countless hours adding in pages and spaces and reformatting the entire manuscript trying to get the PDF document to print out the way I want it to. Before you can even upload your completed files you have to decide what size the book will be, what type of paper you want it printed on, what type of binding, if it’s hard cover or paperback or if you want it in black and white or full color. I also design my own cover for my books. The little synopsis that appears on the back is written by me. I have my own storefront through Lulu  but again, I have to design the whole thing and keep it up and running.

Keep in mind that anyone can slap any dribble on paper and have it self-published. But that doesn’t mean that people will find it. Once you get the book designed and printed and perfect, then you have to get the word out. All advertising, book signings, getting interviews….it all falls on the author to handle all of this. Unless, of course, you are willing to pay the POD company to handle all of this for you. Most self-published authors are living paycheck t o paycheck so most of us have to resort to advertising that is little to no cost. And trust me, free advertising doesn’t exactly get your name out there. As a self-published author you will soon find yourself in a sea of self-published authors. Trying to make a name for yourself can be even harder than if you go the traditional publishing route.

So, is it a “quick-fix?”

No, I just think it’s an option. Those of us who choose to go this route have our reasons. Yes, many of us choose to self-publish because we cannot get published with a traditional company. Others want to retain complete control over their work, others do it just because they want to. If you think that self-publishing is something that you can do real quick to get your work out there, then I am afraid that you are going to be very unpleasantly surprised. Going the self-publishing route takes months and months of hard work after you’ve written the manuscript. The more work that you choose to do yourself then the longer it will take and the more work there will be for you to do. You have to not only be creative in your writing, but also have to come up with some pretty creative ways to get your name out there and promote yourself. Is it worth it? Oh yes, to hold a copy of your book in your hand is always worth the time and effort put in to it. I don’t think self-publishing is for everyone, especially if you do not have the time and energy it takes to devote to marketing yourself. But for many, it has definitely helped to get them that much closer to becoming a household name.


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