Why Self Publish?

The glib answer is because you have to! The true answer is somewhat different. The advantage of conventional publication is obvious; all the stress of marketing and promotion is taken off your shoulders, no design problems, no networking, no financial outlay. If you are lucky the publisher will give you an advance on royalties and then you sit back and count the pennies roll in…. except…. wait a minute! In the competitive market we now have an unknown author has to have so much persistence and drive to get published. Even Harry Potter had a trail of rejection slips! Why not turn all that letter writing, waiting, networking and anguish into a bigger royalty? You are doing it anyway promoting yourself to a publisher in a contracting market full of ghost-written books with celebrity front men!

Certainly in poetry you are wasting your time looking for a big publisher unless you are either already famous or a respected literature professor. My first publisher didn’t even read the manuscript I sent. There were two very silly mistakes I had missed in the original copy and he didn’t even spot them, they went through to proof! I am not talking little typos here, but glaring errors in the title! So, you have to do everything anyway….

Publishing your own books gives you huge editorial control. Your control is not just over fonts and font sizes, but also over illustrations, layout and cover. The books you do sell will give you a much improved royalty rate and an ISBN allows access to Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Many on-line services will be advertising your book within weeks.

The big disadvantage is the time you will spend trying to sell your wares. Give too much away and people don’t need to buy, give too little and you are asking them to invest in the unknown. There is also the disadvantage that the conventional writing fraternity get a bit sniffy about what they call “vanity publishing” and will put you down without bothering even to read; but who said they would accept you anyway? You are after all a rival! Some of the greatest writers of all time were self-published in the first instance, especially in the field of poetry.

If I were to write a potential best-seller – a Harry Potter of the future, say – I think I would be inclined to try the conventional route first, but for my poetry and music books the niche is a small one. For now, I will stick with Lulu.


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