Self-Publishing: A Combination of Restraint and Possibility
So, you have an idea for a book. This idea becomes a rough first draft. Now a manuscript. A monumental accomplishment in itself. What now? Do you try to find an agent? Send off the manuscript to a publisher, but then wait months for a response, or often, rejection?
Aspiring authors, rejoice! It is now possible to have your creative works available to the general public in as little time as it takes a barista to whip up your favorite latte. With a few easy steps you can now self-publish your book, decide the price at which it will sell, and keep the majority of the profits.
What’s the catch? Is self-publishing really so easy? Yes. And no.
Researching the new publishing options available, I found myself confused by the idea of self-publishing. It seemed too easy. But then, why isn’t everyone becoming self-published? It didn’t make any sense.
Then a conference – Self-Publishing in the Digital Age – came to my doorstep in Portland. There would be the answers to my questions, I thought. These are the people with years of experience in the industry looking to share their advice. I had to attend.
Hosted at Portland State University, the speakers included celebrated publisher and writer Dr. Alison Baverstock, freelance editor and author Dr. Jill Kelly, and Mark Coker, founder of the successful self-publishing e-book website Smashwords. By sharing their experiences, each speaker educated me on some of the recent shifts in the industry: how being self-published affects an author, and what I could expect if I went through with self-publishing my work.
“Self-publishing is not just for those who can’t find a publisher.” – Dr. Alison Baverstock
I always assumed that self-publishing a book, whether a success or failure, would somehow sort me into a less recognized and sub-par corner of the writers guild. Like a lost puppy I would wander, lapping up praise, only to be forgotten a few days later. There still exists a fear of losing credibility when a book lacks the support of a publishing house. But that fear is quickly losing ground in lieu of expanding success by indie authors.
“A good editor will make your voice shine.” – Dr. Jill Kelly
The rewards of self-publishing can be enormous. Authors retain as much control of their content as they wish. But the value of what they write depends upon the quality of what they choose to publish. If self-publishing sounds appealing, another advantage to it is that a freelance editor can be hired in order to help an author fully develop and proofread their work.
All of the speakers at the conference put great emphasis on the importance of high quality work. Anyone can publish a book. Therein lies a subtle danger. There is, perhaps, no greater threat to an author than their own words written too hastily.
“It’s not a yes or no. You can always do both kinds of publishing.” – Mark Coker
Authors who decide to self-publish can later become traditionally published. Or vice versa. There is no rule against doing both. The extensive marketing and editing services provided by a traditional publishing house are not to be dismissed without serious consideration.
I left the conference with a greater appreciation of both traditional and self-publishing. Now that I’ve learned more about self-publishing, I have to admit it’s a tempting choice. In the next five minutes I could even publish my first book. But for now, I think I’ll abstain from both, and settle for a red pen and another coffee.
Jordan Boschen is a freelance writer, anthropologist, and passionate musician. Her travels around the world to destinations like Morocco and outer Mongolia have enabled her to experience many cultures, which inspire her to keep an open mind, and an empty stomach. Jordan lives in Oregon with her husband and dog. She is currently working on her first fantasy novel.