Sunday, September 23, 2007

Paying To Have Yourself Published

Or self-publishing, as it's often called in the industry.

That is... paying a printer, company, business to print a book you've written.

I know several people who have gone the self-publishing route. They have been successful. They have been hustlers. Some have sold more books than me. Some have sold less than me. (I know, only because they have shared or tried to pry a number out of me. Most of the time, if pried enough, I'll make one up. It's kind of like you don't ask someone how much money they make, how old they are, how much they weigh... at least that's how my parents taught me...)

Anyway, I came across this great entry on Tess Gerritsen's blog: On Self-Publishing Again. If you are a writer, and considering going the self-published route, I strongly encourage you to read and ponder the essay.

For the record, I always aspired and had faith I would be published by a publisher in the industry. I knew if it took six rejected books sitting in my dresser drawer, the seventh would be picked up by an agent and a publisher. I was lucky. My first novel was picked up, in less than two years from when I set a goal to write and publish a book.

And not that I had anything against self-publishing. It works for those who want it to work for them.

However, I knew several things.

One, I have some means, but I don't have means to pay for publishing my book. I knew that's what publishers do as part of their investment in you as an author.

Two, I know the publishing industry works on a number of fine-tuned business networks that get your book distributed. I'm resourceful, but not so much that I could get my book into every chain and independent store in the U.S. And let's not even think about overseas bookstore distribution. I'm a hustler, but only with the things I want to hustle. Bookstore distribution ain't one of them.

Three, I knew I would benefit by having a team of professionals there to edit, give feedback, market, and call on if I was picked up by a publisher. I am an independent soul. But I know I can have a blind eye to my challenges, which a professional editor can point out. I can market and publicize events I plan in L.A. But I didn't know all the details that go into deciding how to market a book -- from the font size inside the book, to the book spine decor, to the cover color and design. I didn't know book chains often have a say in a lot of this. I never would have know this had I self-published.

Finally, I like to have control over my life, but I'm not dogmatic. I wanted my editor and agent to suggest changes, to be brutal with my writing challenges, to tell me if something would work or not work. My take is if they're investing in my career by publishing me, I can be open to their suggestions. Because I love pleasing the people work I work with and for. A professional edit for story is priceless. Another professional edit for grammar is priceless. You get that for free when you're picked up by a label. Again, part of their investment in your career.

Some self-published authors have told me they didn't want to give up control of their work or make changes to it. When I tell them I've never had anything taken out, removed, debated, or censored, they're floored. And when I tell them that most of the feedback I get is positive, and asks for additional writing and backstory, they're floored. It isn't the territorial battle they perceive it to be. My editor is very nice. We have a great working relationship. I look forward to our talks.

Anyway, I know there are a myriad of reasons people choose to self-publish or seek out the traditional agent and publisher route. There are valid reasons for all choices. Sometimes the choice is made by the industry... fiction topic X isn't selling anymore, or the the market of X is saturated and can't take another book of this sort.

I just know for me, whether it was a large or small publisher, I wanted that contract and that chance to be on a label. And who knows... one day, if I fail to meet sales goals, I may be in a quandry where I decide who's going to publish my work. Lord willing that day won't be any time soon.

1 comment:

Johnny Diaz said...

Great tips Fred! I think most people are surprised by how easy-going it is to work with a book editor/publisher. They often give you some leeway but they also know when to rein you in.