If you’ve written a novel
Misconceptions prevail among writers, preventing them from availing themselves of the opportunities afforded by the revolutions in e-books and print-on-demand. But there’s little potential downside and significant benefit to self-publishing.
One reason many resist publishing their own work is the fallacy that it’s an either/or proposition – either they pursue a contract with an agent or traditional publisher by sending in queries and manuscripts, or they give up that dream for a ‘last resort’ of self-publishing. It’s a false choice – one particularly put paid by the increasing number of authors who start off self-publishing their books and then sell those stories to traditional publishers (the so-called ‘hybrid’ authors.) There’s no reason you can’t publish your book independently at the same time you’re submitting your manuscript to agents and the big publishing houses.
Not that you have to do both. While the slush pile and queries and literary agents will likely remain ways for new writers to be ‘discovered’ – attracting attention to a good book by getting it straight to readers isn’t just another method to try, it may well become the main method new writers find publishing contracts with the big houses. Or become successful on their own.
Another reason many may not publish their own work is the intimidation factor – either the money or extra work required. There is extra work to do. But it would probably be a good idea for more writers to get some experience of the publishing process beyond just writing itself, and you can learn an awful lot (about a lot of things) when you self-publish.
What about the cost? With print-on-demand (through reputable companies) the financial outlay is minimal, negligible even. And you can publish and distribute e-books for free (though you may want to spend a bit.)
So there’s little reason not to self-publish, but why should you? There are plenty of benefits. The most important is probably encouragement – as long as that novel you wrote is stuck away in a drawer somewhere, who gets to read it? And if no one is reading it, what was the point? Most of the time when you send your book to agents and publishers it will barely get glanced at. Did you let your family or friends read it, or the members of a writing circle – and is that sufficient?
When you publish your own work, it can be read by strangers all over the world. Maybe not a lot of readers, but that’s still an improvement, isn’t it? And you have the chance to get feedback from real readers, and that can help you improve your writing. And if you publish a print version of your book, seeing it in proper book form will also give you a new perspective on your work.
Maybe you’ll even find that lots of people do enjoy your stories and will pay to read them. Perhaps a publisher will take notice and offer you a contract. Then you’ll be faced with a choice – whether to exchange the freedom and extra responsibility of publishing your own work for the benefits you can get from a traditional publisher (and there are plenty of benefits to that, too.)
Maybe not. But it’s still worth it – if you’ve written a novel and you believe it’s good enough for people to read, give it a try. (But do your research first – this is serious business and you should treat it that way.)