GUEST POST: Why I chose to Self-Publish by J.M. Miller
Hi everyone! Tonight I have a special treat for you!
One of the topics that has been buzzing around the writing community lately is the various paths to publication. There are so many different avenues a writer can take to publish their work, and it's super important to be informed of the various aspects of each. Whatever path you choose--agent/publisher, self-pub, indie publishing house, etc--it's so important to do your research and make sure you are choosing the best path for YOU and YOUR BOOK.
So, I asked my AMAZING critique partner, J.M. Miller, to do a guest post on why she chose the path of self-publication. But before we get to her post, let me tell you a little bit about her:
J.M. Miller currently consumes her coffee in Florida. When she isn't busy being distracted by social media sites, she writes Young Adult and New Adult romance novels that vary in genre from contemporary to paranormal, with a little mystery thrown in for fun. Aside from spending time with her family, she loves to travel and will jump at the chance to go anywhere, whenever life allows.
I could blabber on and on about how awesome J.M. is and how stellar her books are, but that's not why we're here! So I'm gonna shut up and let her do the talking! Take it away, J.M.!
Hi everyone! I'm J.M. Miller, self-published author, wife, mother, spacey friend, coffee and tea drinker, current Florida resident, lover of rock music, wannabe (insert unending list of badassery here), and a critique partner of Kim Chance, owner of this blog here. Phew. That's me in a cramped box.
Anyway, I'm here because Kim asked me if I'd write a little post about self-publishing. I said yes, of course, because she's amazing (even though she might be a little out of her mind for wanting me to invade her blog)! We've been writer friends since we met on a critique partner love connection blog post of a rather big-named author a couple of years ago, and it's been a friendship full of red track changes and crazy margin comments ever since. And I just have to congratulate her again for recently finishing draft two of her manuscript.
Now some info about my decision to self-publish. I finished writing my first manuscript early 2010 and soon began querying to find a literary agent. If you've ever walked this road, you probably know it can be daunting. Agents' tastes are subjective and the market is always changing. What's a great book idea to some may not be to others. I had some partial requests, but ultimately wound up with a pile of rejections. I went through the same process with my second finished manuscript with pretty much the same results. After some family and friends mentioned self-publishing, I decided to look further into the process then chose to take the leap.
Self-publishing has grown exponentially in the last few years due to platforms such as Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook Press, Kobo, iBooks, and others. There's a market for writers who want their stories read, despite rejections from agents and/or traditional publishing houses. As you can see, I am a proud Indie (Independent). I chose to self-publish because I wanted to start my writing career, to share my words and stories. Do I recommend it for you? Maybe. It really depends on what your personal goals are and how much work you're willing to juggle on top of writing.
Self-publishing still has a stigma where books are considered a lesser quality than those produced by publishing houses. Unfortunately, there are some people who perpetuate this stigma by not having their work properly edited, formatted, etc. before publishing. There are many others, however, who take pride in their work and create quality books, and it's often rewarded with a solid readership. There are also many traditionally published authors who are seeing the benefits of self-publishing and are choosing to become hybrids (mixing both routes) or deciding that they no longer want to be traditionally published at all. It all comes down to personal preference and pros vs. cons.
Traditional Route-- *Disclaimer-- I've never had a traditional deal, but I have been through mounds of info and also know several authors who do. Still, do your own research for more accurate info and stats.* If one makes it through the query process and lands an agent who then lands them a deal, most of the harder work is done, but it takes a long time for the actual book to come to fruition. Once an author has a deal, the publisher typically has editors who help them polish the manuscript. After that, the publisher takes on the rest. They design the cover. They promote the work (though they are relying on authors more heavily now for self-promotion to build their social media platform). They are also able to push the books into major retail brick-and-mortar stores, which helps gain visibility from everyday shoppers. Sometimes, the deal comes with an advance for the author. This is awesome, of course, but most get well under $10K. From there, the author doesn't get any royalties until the money for the advance is made back in sales. There's a ton more about it, but this covers some basics. Aspects of the traditional route are pros or cons, depending on what you're looking for in your career. It's more hands-off when the deal is done, with limited decisions depending on the contract.
Self-publishing Route-- You don't go through the process of querying agents and publishers first, which to most people is a huge relief as it can take anywhere from weeks to years (I'm not exaggerating) to even get responses let alone land a deal. So, you skip queries and head straight to GO. Only, you don't collect $200. You'll spend that much and probably more because you do everything yourself. EVERYTHING.
You start promoting way before the book's release date. You buy stock images from a site or a photographer for your book. You hire a designer to use those images for the cover. You hire an editor (a darn good editor with references) and probably a separate proofreader. You go over your manuscript tons of times (you should do this no matter what). You format your final draft for eBook (and for paperback if you want it available from a print on demand service) or hire someone to do it for you. You handle all the necessary sites yourself. You also build your social media platform to reach more readers. You query book bloggers and offer advanced review copies to help spread the word. You okay the final product and push the publish button on one or several sites. You promote your new release by having giveaways and hosting online parties to get your name out there.
Basically, you front all the money to make your own product and you do a ton of work after the actual writing parts. But, as most self-publishing sites offer bigger royalty percentages than traditional houses, you could make more money in sales (which is why some authors are dropping their deals and self-publishing). This route may be full of pros or cons too. It's hands-on all the way, with freedom for decisions in all aspects.
No matter what you choose, set realistic goals and plans for your career. One of the biggest misconceptions for a writer is thinking they will be a best-seller or hit a list with their first book. (Guilty. Okay well, I didn't consider hitting a list, but I did hope I'd sell enough to break even. That didn't happen for me.) It's good to dream big, but it's better to be realistic and think long-term.
Research the agent you're interested in. Find out who else they represent. Check out the deals they recently acquired.
Research the publishing houses (big or small). Find out what books they've acquired and what their major sellers are.
Hire a lawyer to go over any contracts.
Hire reputable freelance professionals who are exceptional at the things you aren't able to or shouldn't do yourself ( e.g. graphic designer, editor, etc.).
Nothing is ever perfect, but you should still strive to take your work as close as possible before offering it to the masses.
And you can learn a lot in the Indie community--fellow authors, review bloggers, and readers--so make some friends.
My self-publishing journey has been challenging and rewarding. It's difficult, but I enjoy having control over most aspects even though it means more work. I love that I can choose my own cover, that I can make any updates or changes to material, that I can make swag and gift copies of my book to readers without needing approval.
Will I ever be interested in getting an agent or a publisher in the future? There are circumstances that would lead me in that direction. I don't think I'll ever go traditional all the way, but I would consider finding and agent and a publisher for certain situations, like selling a specific series or regarding foreign rights.
Sorry for the long post. I hope it was somewhat informative and not super boring. To all the writers who are starting their publishing journey, cheers and good luck!
You can do it!
A huge thanks to J.M. for taking the time to share her experiences with us! No matter what path you take to publishing, the best thing you can do is be informed. Do your research, people!
Before we go, I want to encourage all of you to check out J.M. Miller's INCREDIBLE books!
*Click on the image to go to J.M. Miller's Amazon.com page.
I have read ALL of J.M.'s work and trust me, you will love every word! And to prove it, J.M. and I are giving two lucky readers a FREE e-book! The winners will get to choose which book they'd like! To enter, go HERE!
Thank you all for stopping by!
Until Next Time, Folks!