After several revolutions of research and considering various publication pursuit options, I’ve decided definitively that my goal for publication is NOT to self-publish. Why is self-publishing not for me? Self-publishing companies, sometimes referred to as subsidy or co-op publishers, require the author to pay for all or part of the cost of producing the book. They accept all manuscripts and produce as-is. There is rarely a vetting process, editing process or negotiation process involved. This would be a sure-fire way to get my book published.
A couple years ago, I did my share of courting some self-publishing companies, and I wanted to share some of my experiences with that. I can say that for all the companies who returned my inquiries about publishing, they did so very quickly. And their dialogue began to feel a lot like a scripted sales campaign (because it WAS a scripted sales campaign). To me, it just seemed unnatural that any publisher should want to hunt me down with such enthusiasm before even reading my manuscript. But in reality, self-publishing means I pay to have my work published. And the publisher who signs me gets their biggest pay-out up front- from me the author, not from the sales of my book.
Some self-publishing firms are more “full-service” than others. If you publish with them, they might bundle a package together that contains pieces of marketing and promotional opportunities. For example, one such place I was looking into produces You-tube trailers of their authors’ books (which is just cool!). Printing is done on-demand for any orders the author places (or orders that come from customers through online marketplaces such as Amazon). And then the publishing firm would ship to the customer. This is all very costly of course. And that cost would take more chunks from my profit.
Other self-publishers I have looked into were less costly and had less services. They would simply produce the book and generate an ISBN number for the book. An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a 13-digit number that every published book receives. It uniquely identifies the book and is recognized internationally. So the ISBN is what I would use to sell my book anywhere. But after all the publishing is said and done and I get my number, I would be responsible for all the marketing, selling and distribution myself. Yikes!
I suppose if my goal were to become published in order to share my book with family, friends or with a niche market (such as a classroom or a special interest group), self-publishing could be a viable option. However, if my goal is to get my book onto shelves and into people’s homes on any kind of a large scale (which it is!), then I need to be with a publishing house who will invest in me. One that will absorb the risks of producing, drive the marketing, and manage the distribution. In addition to this, I want to work with a company who will pay me for my book, not the other way around. So it is for these reasons, that I am choosing to venture down the road of getting signed with a royalty-based publishing house.
Obviously, this is by far the hardest route to choose! The market is flooded with submissions. And the honest truth is that the chances of my book even making it through all the vetting channels, to the right person’s desk at a reputable publishing house, and then for that person to actually read it, are NOT stacked in my favor. In fact, many major publishing houses won’t even accept new submissions unless they come through a literary agent. Which, by the way, is why I have chosen to seek representation through a literary agent. The agent will invest in me before the publisher does, and if he/she is good, will get my book in front of the right publishers.
The process behind submitting my manuscript to agencies is similar to the process of submitting directly to publishers. And it’s actually just as competitive. There is research to do on my part to figure out which agencies are a good fit for me and my work, and also to learn what is required in order to submit to each one. But before I submit anything anywhere, I need to be sure my work is the absolute BEST it can be. So in the weeks to follow, I will be spending a lot of time revising, receiving critiques and revising some more. Good writing is rewriting. And I am absolutely familiar with the routine. “Rewrite. Revise. Repeat!”