Thoughts about Self-Publishing
Once I had finished writing the first draft of "Here Be Monsters" last summer, it occurred to me that I would actually have a book ready to be published within the year; I started doing some serious thinking about the business and infrastructure and politics of publishing.
We've all read the nightmare stories about fantastic writers and books that were repeatedly rejected by publishers...Stephen King, Dr. Seuss, J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, Frank Herbert, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Louis L'Amour, Madeline L’Engle, and George Orwell (among lots of others).
Contrast that with books by and about Sarah Palin, Monica Lewinsky, sparkly vampires, and a thousand books that I've started and stopped because they were too bad to finish, and you can see a bit into my reasoning for avoiding the big houses.
I asked myself what a publisher does...what specifically would/could a publisher do for me?
Acquire clients/books - I could pick me and my book way easier than a publisher could, and with much less begging and and wasted time sending my book out to 30 different houses.
Planning/Editing - Again...my book was already mostly written, and I had a kickass editor lined up to help me fix it (the first draft is not easily recognizable when compared to the final product available today).
Design/Artwork - CreateSpace provides these services for free, or ala carte for those who want some help...I did not, and am comfortable with the look and feel of the book.
Copyediting - I was lucky in that I had a great editor to help with the fine polish work of the novel. We've found about a dozen errors in roughly 78K words (which translates to about 99.99% error-free) in the first edition, and are going to release a second edition in the next month or so to remedy those. It's worth noting here that I have not read a book in the last ten years,either indie and big-house published, that had less than a handful of errors.
Production/Distribution - CreateSpace produces the books based on my specifications, and sends it out to most any bookseller worldwide. Computer facilitated design and print-on-demand production is a big part of the change. CreateSpace can produce a one-copy run of a book for a few bucks, and that changes the game on a very fundamental level that cannot be ignored or glossed over.
Promotion/Marketing - This is where self-publishing fails to compare with big-house (big box?) publishing. I have been running my own marketing and promotional campaign, and it cannot compare to what the big houses are capable of doing.
It's funny, but a little bit true...
For me, self-publishing "Here Be Monsters" was ultimately an easy choice...
I didn't write my book to make a gazillion dollars. I wrote "Here Be Monsters" because I love writing, had a story that I wanted to tell, and loved the idea of sharing my story with friends and family and other.
I have been able to do this through self-publishing without wearing out my shoes or going broke paying postage to bring/send my book to major and minor publishing houses, begging them to take my work.
Neither did I have to spend a ton of money getting my work to market...I paid $25 for the broader distribution option with CreateSpace, and that's about it (not counting my time)...my book can be purchased in most countries on the planet (and I bet that it could be sent in ebook form to the ISS).
I am proud to have self-published my book, and can't see doing anything differently the next time around...I'm finishing up a novelette in the next week or so, have a couple of other short pieces on deck, and am already working on the next novel, which will be written this summer.
I think that the old ways of publishing are mostly dead, and the remaining dinosaurs are lumbering along based almost entirely on inertia and a proud past. The mystique and tweediness and snobbery have to go, and they have to start working for the readers and writers again if they want to remain relevant beyond the next few years. The holdout houses don't want the readers and writers of the world to pay any attention to the man behind the curtain, but more and more people are figuring out that old-school publishers are more carnie than wizard.