I’m preparing my first manuscript for publication. I’m self-publishing it, which means I wear all hats, unlike in traditional publishing, with a publishing company. I hear things in the self-publishing world like, ‘why go with a traditional publisher, you still have to market your work.’ And that is true, but what they don’t tell you about are all of the other things a publisher does.
I’m not even talking about the screening process, which sounds drawn-out and intense. I haven’t looked for an agent, that endless round of letter-writing and rejection that happens before one gets a representative (an agent), who then does an endless round of letter-writing to find a publisher for your book.
No, I’m talking about the actual publication process, from my initial drafts to a product someone can either download or hold in their hands. And then there’s the marketing. I don’t care what anyone says. I’ll bet that a publisher an agent would have at least helped me a teensie tiny bit with marketing.
I’ve gained a real appreciation for what a publisher does, but I am still glad I’m doing it all myself this time around, and I’ll talk about why at the bottom of this post. Here are some of the things I’ve realized a publisher provides:
- There’s that lovely advance, which means money in the author’s pocket while he or she gets the book ready;
- Then there are multiple editors who work with the author;
- Plus a cover artist;
- There’s an interior designer, who selects fonts and figures out things like how chapter headings look;
- and there’s a printer, who does the actual printing;
- there’s finally distribution of the book to stores, libraries, etc.
- marketing, such as it is.
All of this is done by a team, who specializes in their field.
I made the decision to self-publish a bit viscerally, without really thinking it through. The idea appeals to me. I’m almost sixty, and the thought of getting other people’s approval before doing this, and waiting for several years before the book appeared (yes, I’m impatient) just doesn’t.I decided to compile my short stories about a year ago, and the book is about to fly out into the world. I like that. It’ll be an early birthday present to myself.
When you self-publish, you either do all of the things the publisher provides, or you hire people to do them for you. Luckily, the last few steps I outlined have gotten quite a lot easier since distributors like Amazon and iBooks came on the scene. There’s no need for an agent to negotiate the contract, because it’s the same for everyone, and e-books don’t even need to be printed. Print-on-demand services also make it easier, because each copy gets made when its ordered, so the self-published author doesn’t need to have a garage full of books that she paid to have printed (like a friend of mine does). The most difficult thing for self-published authors? Distribution outside of online retailers. Getting into libraries and bookstores is difficult.
Except for editing and cover design, I’ve chosen to do everything on that list myself. If this sounds intimidating and a lot of extra work, it is. Also, there’s no advance, and I pay for everything up front (I’ll make more money off of each sale, but I have to have sales for that to happen). With a tiny budget, I can’t do everything a big publisher would do (and I need that day job!)
However, self-publishing has its own rewards. For one thing, I now understand the publishing process so much better than I probably every would have. I’m learning what it takes to do everything from the interior design, to getting my book into someone’s hands. I’ve learned about things like ISBN numbers and how to put a bar code on the back of my paperback. I’m also learning about marketing.
Another plus? My book won’t go away. Ten, twenty years from now, it will still be available. I can still make money off of it. I own all of the rights.
And, the biggie for me. Control. I get to choose whether or not to accept an editor’s changes. I get to choose the cover design, the blurb on the back, to choose how I want the interior to look, what’s in my bio, and – well you get the idea. No big firm is telling me that my story about poverty has got to go, or I can’t put something about robots in with something about a mother-daughter relationship.
There are other pluses. I’m building a fan base. It’s mine, not theirs, and I am connecting directly with those fans. If you want to know what’s going on, and connect with me, you can either do it at my new website, annstanleywrites.com, or at my facebook page (sorry, not a fan of twitter, pinterest, and so on): www.facebook.com/annstanleyauthor/