Why I chose to self publish

   When I told my friends and relatives I had finally embarked on my life long goal to write fiction and had actually published something, they said, “Great! Where can I get it?” When I told them, their responses were much different. You see, my books are self published and there is still a stigma about self published books. Many believe self publishing is what you do when your stuff isn’t good enough for a “real” agent or publisher. My books were also ebooks and everyone knows “real” books are made of paper. My friends didn’t even have ebook readers and had no plans of getting one. I myself didn’t have one until this year so I couldn’t really say much.

When I tried to explain that I chose to self publish rather than seek a traditional agent and publisher, I was met with skepticism. “Yeah, right.” (This is the only case I know of in which two positives make a negative.) “You chose to do this?”

But I did. When I decided to begin writing seriously rather than just as a hobby, I initially intended to shop my work to agents and try to get my books published in print. I had compiled a list of agents, what they said they were looking for, and their submission guidelines. I had draft query letters prepared using the best guidance I could find from established agents. I did my homework and I was ready to go. I wanted two books completed before I approached an agent so I could prove I could deliver but when the time came, I had changed my mind.

Maybe it’s a mistake but rather than send out queries for my first book, The Warden Threat, to traditional agents and publishers, I chose to self publish. Why would I make self publishing my first option rather than a last resort? I know many other writers are struggling with the same decision so I thought I’d share the five main reasons for mine (in no particular order).

1: I’m unknown as a fiction writer. My paying job had nothing to do with fiction, at least intentionally, although some of the reports I had done did contain things that were fairly speculative. But the point is, in the world of fiction writing I had no name recognition, no following, and no brand. I assumed it would be very difficult and frustrating trying to get an agent to even look at my work. Agents turn down 99% of the submissions they receive, and all the time the author is waiting to hear back from them is time their book is not available to readers.

2: Self publishing is easy. With the rise of ebooks, there are several places that will allow authors to turn their manuscript into an ebook and publish it. The process is fairly easy and free. I chose Smashwords and Amazon because they seemed to be the industry leaders. Smashwords is the simplest. All you need is a Word document, suitably formatted, and a cover image. Smashwords creates ebooks in multiple formats for you, assigns an ISBN and distributes your book to multiple ebook retailers. Amazon required conversion of the Word file to HTML and then to a PRC format using free Amazon software. Both processes were well within my capabilities. The hardest part for me was coming up with covers but I eventually created some that I thought were simple and eye-catching using no special or expensive software.

3: The popularity of ebooks is growing. Amazon now reportedly sells more ebooks than it does paper books and the popularity of ebooks is still growing. I don’t see paper books going away (I hope they don’t), and I would love to see my books eventually become available in paper because it means more people will be able to read them, but I feel that ebooks are the future and it is good to get in on the ground floor. I see this as analogous to what happened in the music world with the rise of MP3 players. At one time I bought vinyl albums, tapes, and CDs. Probably more than I should have. But I have since converted my CDs to MP3 files and now normally only buy new albums as MP3 digital downloads.

4: With self publishing, authors can choose what compromises to make and what ones not to. I think authors, good authors anyway, write because they have things to say. Traditional publishing is a business and publishers have books they want to sell. There can be an inherent conflict in these two goals and I have heard that authors are sometimes asked to make changes to increase sales at the cost of their intended message. With self publishing, no one will tell you, “You can’t say that.” As your own publisher, you can decide if your story the way you want to tell it is more important than additional sales.

5: Self published ebooks can be the best bargain available for readers. Let’s face it. Times are tough for a lot of us and we have to stretch our budgets. As far as my reading habit or obsession went, I stretched mine by increasing the number of books I borrowed from the public library. I still buy hard copy books from my favorite authors as soon as they are released. I just preordered the latest book by Terry Pratchett for example. But for authors I never heard of, well, I might buy a paperback if it sounds good and the library doesn’t have a copy. But now there is a third option. Ebooks are cheap, normally less than the paperback version, if there is one, and many, especially the works of self published authors, can cost less than a buck. I wouldn’t expect readers to be willing to pay eight dollars for a paperback version of one of my books if they never heard of me and I’d feel guilty asking them to. But $2.99, $1.99, or even just 99 cents is probably affordable and worth the risk. I’m comfortable asking prices like that for my works. I think they are worth much more although my opinion is hardly objective. But until or unless I obtain a following, I doubt I will ever ask for more. My personal goal with my writing is not to make a lot of money. I don’t expect to. Most authors don’t. I just want my books to be read. Making them cheap seems a good way to do that.

Disclaimer:

I am not advocating self publishing for anyone. I have no idea if it will gain readers for my books. This is my first try and I haven’t been at it long. The start of my self publishing effort began the end of May 2011 with the creation of this blog. I published a “beta version” of my first two novels as an anthology in July and got some good feedback from beta readers. After a little more editing and polishing, I updated the anthology and released the first two books separately this month (September 2011). I will provide updates from time to time on this blog and probably on Facebook and Twitter on how well (or poorly) my books are faring. You are more than welcome to check back to find out.

Please let me know if any of this has been useful to you. I’d love to hear back from readers and writers about how they see ebooks and self publishing. Have you bought self published ebooks? If you have, what did you think? Do they provide good value for the money?

Related Posts:

My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode One

Self Editing – Advice And Apology

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About Dave

A reader and writer of speculative fiction. See my website for more information on me and my writing. https://dlmorrese.wordpress.com/

Posted on September 19, 2011, in Fiction Reading, Self Publishing, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I like your positive attitude a lot, and I’m teetering on the precipice of self-publishing, only for someone else, not me. In the back of my head, I’ve often tossed around the idea of having a small press that publishes several authors. I’ve got a collection of short stories from a locally beloved educator who wants me to look into publishing them as a collection on Kindle and other formats if possible. I’ll probably be glued to your blog as a guide, since you’re really articulate about the journey! Cheers!

    • Thanks, Sadie. I figure as self-published authors, we’re like a bunch of folks on a ship without a crew. We may not know how to sail the thing, but we’ll do better by sharing what we learn with all the other passengers. I saw a post recently (can’t recall where) that cautioned that publishing the work of others is a fulltime job, as is being a self-published author. To do both is difficult. I also thought about starting a small press but, at least for now, I’m resisting. I’m still trying to figure out this social media thing.

  2. DL:

    This is acellis1 from Twitter. I RT you all the time, as you do me.

    Your story sounds very much like mine, except I was a traditionally published writer for many years. I mean, many. I got tired of that rat race and switched over to self publishing.in Nov. 2011. This is my first Christmas doing eBooks. So far, I’m impressed. I’ve sold more books in the past two months than I have in a lot of years.

    I will follow your blog and maybe sometime in the future we can do some sort of joint promotion effort. I’n going to do a lot of promotion after the first of the year.

    I’ll be back.

    Al

  3. Hey, just wanted to say thanks for commenting on my blog today. Your post reads a lot like mine, heh.

    I liked what you said about people’s responses when you tell them you self-published. Some people are genuinely excited, then others you can tell just smile because they know they should.

    Have a great week. 🙂

  4. Thanks. I have Word. The manuscript uses different fonts, so I was wondering if the pdf would work and I might be able to keep my fonts. I thought it might be easier.

  5. Thanks. I’ve seen it. I recently saw a video that said I could upload a pdf. I wondered if I had to follow all the .doc guidelines if I did that. I will have to spend a little time there figuring things out.

    • To get Smashword’s “preferred status” and have them distribute your book to Kobo, Diesel, and Barnes and Nobel, you have to meet the criteria in their style guide. It’s easiest to start with a Word document. If you don’t have Microsoft Word, you can create files in .doc format with Open Office, although I haven’t used that much myself. Open Office is a free download though.

  6. I have followed almost an identical path for the same reasons; I’m just a couple of steps behind you. I have a stack of books I ordered about trad publishing, getting an agent and ad nauseum.

    Frankly, I don’t want to jump through those hoops. I want people who want to be able to read my book to do so.

    I found you on a Goodreads conversation page, by the way. I’ll try to find you on Twitter. My name there is cmsmith57.

    I just received a proof copy of my memoir called Dancing in Heaven from Createspace. I haven’t dealt with the e-book formatting yet and may be back with questions.

    Good luck with your books.

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