ONE AUTHOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  On Self-Publishing

You might have a novel that exists only in your head, a first draft manuscript that’s mostly fleshed out, or several finely polished, wonderfully illustrated masterpieces just looking for some way to reach an audience.  In short, you want to publish a book!  So, what do you do?

One Author's Perspective

by James Todd Lewis

Well, I can only give you “One Author’s Perspective,” but here was the first choice I had to make: traditional publishing or self-publishing.  As you can tell from the title of this piece, I did NOT go with traditional publishing.  Why?  Well, let me distill all of the research and work I did into four bullet points of stark reality.  Traditional publishing…

  • Is big business under intense competitive pressure – they don’t take risks on authors they don’t know.
  • Requires hiring the services of a Literary Agent because the big publishing firms won’t talk to you.
  • Could be called “Professional Publishing,” as in “Professional Basketball” or “Professional Golf.” No beginner is playing at their level, even if you are.
  • Requires intense networking and supergroup building and upfront expense and waiting with NO PROMISE that anything will ever happen!

Now, I don’t say all of that to discourage you.  Actually, we’re living in something of a golden age of self-publishing which bypasses all of that rather quaint falderal and allows you – yes you – access to an audience on platforms like Amazon and Audible! Huzzah!  Personally, my choice of self-publishing was easy…

  • Writing was NOT my day job.  I did not intend to replace my existing career with a writing career.
  • I knew I could do some of the prep-work.  I was willing to tolerate some up-front expense, but like a handyman doing his own contractor work in flipping houses, I have some skills that made this a bit easier for me.
  • I was willing to go low key.  I’m not aiming for a Hugo award or even an award fabricated by some niche focus group.  Nearly all awards and honors in the public eye are fixed (see “For your consideration” campaigns if you doubt), and so I would be content with some nice Amazon reviews from time-to-time. 

So, this is the first decision you have to make.  I feel that it is important to warn you that if you go down the self-publishing road, consider it likely that traditional publishers and literary agents will never talk to you in the future if you suddenly decide to go traditional.  You violated the rules of their game and shunned all of their amazing expertise and connections and process.  You are also, by self-publishing, part of a foundational threat to their established business model and livelihood. 

Now, I’m not looking to steal the bread off their tables; I just want to publish a book and have some people enjoy it.  I don’t care if it’s not that many people, either.  I’m doing this because this is my art, and I enjoy sharing it. 

So, if you want to research this on your own, check out “The Writer’s Market” (which is literally published every year).  Even if the publishing elite have modernized out of an 1800’s mentality and softened their hearts to all of us little self-publishers, you have to make a choice and drive in a direction to reach a result.  Making U-turns doesn’t make forward progress, in my view.  Also, the folks at Bowker (the ISBN kings) are pushing a book which takes the more intensive view – kind of a blended view – of self-publishing in an aggressive manner.  It’s called “The Seven Step Guide to Authorpreneurship.”  Catchy, huh?  Like I said, it’s the more “aggressive” traditional-ish publishing view of self-publishing.

And again, reality in your world might be different than in mine.  After all, this is only “One Author’s Perspective.”

JTL