Friday, July 8, 2011

The Self Published Book

At some time, a reader will come across a self published book either through electronic media, or print. A self published book is one which the author pays for all of the production and advertising costs of the book. A traditional publisher usually pays those costs. The book is not advertised as self published. The publishing information is usually in the first few pages and one would have to research the name to find out if it is a self publishing company. With electronic media, it's a little trickier to find the publisher. If one is not listed, it is probably a self published ebook. The low costs associated with digital media has resulted in a boom of self published electronic books.

A few months ago I read a book that would be classified as middle grade. I had heard a lot of good things about the book from a friend. Before I even read the first page, I was a put off by the number of pages, over 700. Too long for a book meant for 9-13 year old boys. I knew my boys would never read it. I wanted to put it away after the first 200 pages, but I continued reading, hoping it would get better. It never did.

The story line was intriguing, but the writing needed work. When I finally finished, my first thought was, "Who would publish this book?" I looked up the the publisher and found it was a self publishing company. The author had chosen to forgo the traditional publishing route and self publish his novel. I don't know the reasons why he did this, but I do know his novel would have been better had he worked on edits. It was apparent the novel needed a good editor.

Not all self-published books have substandard writing. Eragon by Christopher Paolini and The Christmas Box House by Richard Paul Evans are two self-published books which have hit the New York Times best seller list. A self published book making the best seller list is the exception. Very few do. 

Simon Haynes wrote a great blog article. Click to read. He talks about his experience with self publishing. He points out that if an author's book is good, a traditional publisher will eventually pick it up. Does that mean all self published books are bad? I believe if an author is diligent about working on edits and is willing to hire an editor, then their self published book might work. However, at a traditional publishing house, a book must go through many levels and editors before it is published, resulting in a refined finished product.

I understand how frustrating it can be finding agent and publisher willing to take on a new writer. I too have a middle grade novel I am trying to get published. I want my novel to be good more than I want to see it in print. If that means I have to rewrite it a hundred times over ten years, I will do it. When it is good, it will get published. If not, it doesn't deserve to be in print. I believe success with childrens fiction through self publishing would be almost impossible. Others my feel different and some may have had success self publishing childrens literature.

I would love to hear from authors who have self published. Please post comments in answers to these questions.

Why did you self publish?
Has self publishing been effective for you?
If you had to do it over again, would you do it different?
What types of books do best with self publishing?


Simon Haynes said...

I came here after seeing your post on AbsoluteWrite re books for boys, then read a few of your blog posts and saw my name mentioned. Small world ;-)

I think the vital, oft-missed part of 'self-publishing' is the 'publishing' part. Publishing is a group effort. 95 times out of 100 you need an editor to get the best out of your work, and that rises to 100% of the time if you've never sold a novel to a publisher AND gone through the lengthy revision process with professionals before. There will always be exceptions, but hiring a decent editor before you self-publish is vital, in my opinion.

I'm about to add to my article on self-publishing, thanks to the sudden popularity of ebooks. I'm still not convinced there's a market for junior/MG ebooks, although it looks like JK Rowling is about to change all that with the Harry Potter series coming out in e-formats through her new website.

I'm facing a dilemma of my own at the moment. After four novels with my current publisher I've written the first book in a new series. I offered it to my current publisher but for various reasons (which I've blogged about) they decided not to pick it up. I'm currently on the submission merry-go-round but I'm sorely tempted to hire my existing editor as a freelancer and go the self-publishing route. I started submitting the manuscript six weeks ago, so I still have to wait another two months before I can set to work, and the interminable wait is killing me. I wish they'd just say NO so I could get on with it, to be honest! I want to hire an artist, get busy editing, plan for the release, organise the CIP page and ISBN, order proof copies ... all the fun stuff we're not supposed to bother with.

Either way, come mid-September I should know whether I've managed to land a publishing contract, or whether the book will appear as a self-pub in mid-late November. And if JK forces hundreds of thousands of parents to buy ebook readers for their offspring in the meantime, I won't be complaining...

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