The other day, I indulged during my break time and did some reading on self-publishing. This is self-publishing in the literal sense, meaning that I would handle the interior and exterior layout design, select the printer for the book, obtain my own ISBN, set up a business account, find the printer, and handle distribution.
In other words, to self-publish, I would be a micro press, a.k.a. small business owner. I’m not sure people realize that, in order to be a true self-publisher, you are effectively going into business. This is very different from publishing through Aventine Press, for instance (their services are excellent, but have high retail prices).
Why Would You Self-Publish?
There are multiple reasons for self-publishing, the first usually being that the author doesn’t want to jump through hoops to find an agent, an editor, and then shop around the big name publishers. In the 1990s, this was seen as the extreme vanity of selfish authors, hence the name “Vanity Press.”
A vanity press, also known as a subsidy press, is where the author pays a fee for the publication of the book. The press owns the ISBN, provides a template cover and interior (some packages provide more customization), and prices for small print runs are large due to the print-on-demand technology.
So there is a stigma against self-publishing authors who do it simply because they want to see their name on a book. These authors are seen as “cheating the system,” as it were. And then there are the authors who believe in the very spirit of self-publishing, like Zoe Winters.
Authors like Zoe and myself take great pride in our work, and turn to self-publishing because of this very fact. We also have an entrepreneurial spirit, which we apply to our passion for writing.
These are the two extremes of self-publishing authors: those who self-publish because they’re tired of the rat race, and those who self-publish for the sincere pleasure and pride of having self-published. There are other reasons for the authors who fall between these extremes; all are stigmatized against by the big name publishers and chain bookstores.
Is Self-Publishing for Me?
It depends. Do you have money? Because you’ll need it, to set up your accounts with Lightening Source, a wholesaler, for instance. Do you have storage space to hold your copies? Because if you go through Lightening Source, you are your own distributor and marketer.
But here is the most important question: what is more important to you, seeing your name in print, or putting your name on a book that you guided from draft to publication, hiring professionals as needed? A self-publisher invests in their book the same way a company invests in a product. If the product (your book) fails, you’ve lost the money you invested. If it succeeds, you receive all profits.
Zoe knows a lot more than I do about self-publishing, so I suggest checking out her blog. My experience is with vanity publishers, but for my next book, I do plan on releasing self-published print and e-book versions.
Which, by the way, I’m up to chapter 22 in the second draft! Things are coming along pretty well, I think, considering I’m a full-time graduate student.