To self-publish or not to self-publish? That is the question.
Photos not connected to the topic. They’re from out trip to Denver. If you’re like me, you’ve read about cottonwood trees, but I never knew where their name came from. Look at the ground.
I have some experience in receiving a range of rejections from traditional publishers and agents. I also have a little experience in self-publishing. There are some ways I have probably hurt myself by self-publishing. Actually, scratch out the word “probably.”
How did I hurt myself? is the next question—the one I wish I didn’t have to answer.
My book, THE PIG AND THE DRAGON, started as a picture book. Then, like a child, it just grew almost on its own. I played with different titles, but never came up with anything I liked as well so the title stayed.
A closer look at the cottonwood fluff surrounding the seeds.
After finishing the book (probably for the ninth or tenth time), I made my first quilted quilt. I was excited about the story so I appliqued a scene from the book and then decided to use it for the book’s cover. Viola!* I didn’t need to find and pay an artist or worry about how to deal with rights issues.
After the book came out, some middle school kids told me the title and the cover led them to believe younger children were the target audience. Then, after reading the book, they decided it is a book for their age.
Sticking with the theme of cotton, here’s the neighborhood cottontail.
A traditional publisher would not have let my title stand or let me pick the cover artist. Wiser minds would have made sure the title and cover would appeal to the target audience.
Mistake number one as a self-publisher was not realizing my first contacts with readers, the title and the cover, never grew up when the story did.
A second way I have hurt myself is that I now have a track record with a book that hasn’t sold the number of copies guaranteed to wow a publisher. So I may have more trouble selling a different manuscript to a publisher in the future.
It may sound like I’m sorry I’ve gone the self-publishing route and that I’d advise other writers not to do it. And the response is “not really.” I’ve even learned to enjoy some of the marketing part.
One of my favorite places is the Denver Botanic Garden. This is the conservatory.
Enjoy marketing? One of the reasons I decided to go the self-publishing route was hearing, even if a publisher does buy your manuscript, you still have to do the marketing these days. Like many writers, I am not a good sales person. I do take no, for an answer.**
Part of the tree house inside the conservatory.
A fellow author, who was published by a small press, once told me the publisher is also willing to publish her second book after she sells 2000 copies of the first one. She said she received help from the company with publicity releases, but has otherwise done the marketing herself.
A second reason for self-publishing was to make my story exactly what I wanted it to be with no interference from a pesky editor. And that worked. You would have to read the book to decide if that was a good idea or not.
The third reason for self-publishing is the interface of time and impatience. It usually takes a long time to hear anything when you send a manuscript out to agents and publishers. Many won’t accept manuscripts that are unsolicited or not yet represented by a recognized agent. Be thankful for the agents and publishers who will add those manuscripts to their “slush piles,” but be prepared to wait months before it’s read and then the answer may be a form letter rejection.***
“Fractal Echo” by Nancy Lovendahl from the current sculpture exhibit in the park.
Urban horror story designed to frighten authors out of a good night’s sleep or fact?: I heard about an author who sold a book, but before it was published, a change in personnel stranded the manuscript on the shelf. And the author was unable to buy the rights back! Legend or fact? I don’t know.
Overall, I’m happy I’ve self-published. I’ve learned a lot and met really wonderful, helpful people. My first experience taught me enough to realize that the second book, THE GRIZZLY’S CHRISTMAS, would need extra help to deal with the additional issues involved with a picture book so we are working with a wonderful book designer.
And, of course, being involved in the self-publishing of THE GRIZZLY’S CHRISTMAS has brought up lots more things I didn’t even know I needed to worry about. Every time I think we’ve gotten everything in and settled, we haven’t. So far all the money involved has been going out. This is before we even get to printing or shipping costs.
Refugium by Linda Fleming. The only thing I didn’t like was the sign saying you couldn’t play in it. It is such a great see-through cave.
If you self-publish, you get 100% of the decisions, 100% of any profits along with 100% of the costs of services, printing, marketing, and mistakes, 100% of the headaches and the work.
Should you DIY? Here’s my definitive answer—maybe.****
If you are a younger writer who wants to “make it big,” I think I would caution you to try to be patient and not rush into self-publishing. Learn everything you can about your craft. Send things out to publishers and agents and see what kind of response you get.
If, however, you are an older writer who has started asking the question, “Just how long do
Continus coggygria, if you want to be technical. Otherwise, the smoke tree—just as cool as a cottonwood.
publishers think we live anyway?” investigate—find out what you’re getting into, and you may decide to jump in.
BTW—THE PIG AND THE DRAGON will be coming out with a new title, SECRETS OF THE FLAME, and a beautiful cover by a real artist. We’ll see what happens with the numbers.
*Can you believe Viola! is pronouced Wal-la! I have so much trouble reading that word out loud.
** My goal isn’t to sell as many copies as I can push—it’s to sell my book to people who will be glad they read it.
*** Learning from rejection letters is a whole topic in itself.
**** To be read slowly with a questioning rise in pitch at the end of the word.