Anyone reading my last post must be asking that question. Had I chosen to self-publish, my book might already be on Amazon, CreateSpace, XLibris, etc. You could be reading it on your Kindle or iPad right now. Print-on-demand companies could be taking my book to press, and shipping them later this week to eager readers. I could be marketing it online, setting up book tours, and answering questions from readers.
Self-publishing is an increasingly viable route to a successful writing career. There are a handful of authors who became millionaires by self-publishing, and the author currently dominating best-seller lists was discovered by way of her self-published work. I have several friends who have self-published their novels, and one of them has been fairly successful in his sales.
So why don’t I go that route?
Well, first of all, I don’t regard the immediacy as a good thing. As you may have noticed, I’m planning several months of editing before I even go to agents – and that’s after almost a year of rewrites and editing. At any point in that time, I could have called the book finished and made it available for sale and download. No one would have stopped me. I might have even made some money. But it wouldn’t have been the best work I could do. I wouldn’t be proud of it. The majority of my readers would have been baffled and angry, and I wouldn’t be building a base of fans and customers. The availability of self-publishing is, in my view, more of a danger than a benefit.
Ultimately, for me it comes down to business and quality.
Even a very successful self-published book typically only sells a few thousand copies. Those authors who have made millions on self-publishing have mostly done it by churning out dozens of books at a breakneck pace, and moving a relatively small volume of each book. The problem with that (aside from the fact that I’m not naturally prolific) is that the quality of the books suffers.
As much as the traditional publishing timeline is arduous, it is also something of a quality filter. If I have heard and responded to criticism from test readers, if I’ve been accepted by an agent, if I’ve sold my book to a publisher, I can trust that my book is the best it can be. I have to believe in my book if I am going to advocate for it to agents, publishers, and readers – and if I’m doing that for the course of a year or two, through multiple stages of editing, I will believe.
Aside from all that, of course, is the question of sales. Traditional publishing remains the only path to a presence in physical stores, which are still the way the vast majority of books are sold. It’s the only path to any significant marketing push, and the only path that has anyone except me working to advance my writing career. Mind you, I’m willing to do whatever I can, but there is a limit to my capabilities – particularly when I’m also working a day job.
Self publishing is looking more attractive every year, and I understand why may authors choose that route. My view is that traditional publishing remains the best approach for someone like me, who hopes to make writing a career.