To Self Publish Or Not To Self Publish; That Is The Question.

So, after talking to several literary agents, it looks like the type of books I am writing are not what the publishers are looking for right now. (Which are namely regency historical fiction/romance, supernatural or erotica, which mine are none of these things…)

Therefore, since I am done with two books and half way through my third, I have decided that I think I will try to self-publish my first on Amazon and see how it goes. (I know. That is about the most wishy-washy statement ever written. I have decided that I think I will try… But, it is not an easy decision for many reasons.)

Now comes the fun part: I have a friend who is an English teacher who is going to look over manuscript which I have read and edited already by myself 10 times.  (It is amazing how many mistakes you miss when you read what you wrote!)

Then, I need some cover art. I am debating asking my oldest daughter to design something for me. I thought she might like to be involved and have a stake in what I created. She loves art and has good vision. She has been supportive about my writing and even done some herself. She keeps bugging me to read my books, but I tell her not quite yet.

I will admit I am nervous to do this. I was hoping to find an agent who would help me find a publishing house who would then give me an editor and a cover artist. I was also hoping for the publicity behind a publishing house. Now, that all falls to me. Everyone who reads it says that they really enjoyed it and would recommend it to their friends. I am still wondering, though, if I can gather enough steam behind me to sell any more after those my family and friends have felt obligated to buy?

Some crazy number of books, I think I read recently that the number is in the thousands, are released daily as self-published on Amazon. There are over 4 million titles available in the Kindle store. So, what makes one stand out? That is the magic question. There has to be a hook; something that grabs people’s attention and makes them want to share the story with others. For 50 Shades of Grey, that “something” was sex that bordered on BSDM. Certainly, that is not my cup to tea to write and even read. But, I must be in the minority, because what started out as FanFiction ended up self published and then getting picked up by a publishing house which almost NEVER happens. But, what is my hook? I don’t know what to say, other than it is a well-rounded story. I am sure that there are tens of thousands on Amazon that can say the same thing. So, all I can say is that I wrote this one, so of course I think it is good!

We have all heard the story of J K Rowling: Down and out single mother who wrote Harry Potter by hand on what has mostly been described as scraps of paper who got rejected by many literary agents before finally finding one and getting picked up by Bloomsbury. But, this happened in the 1990s: Publishing has changed a great deal since then.

With self-publication has come the ideology that anyone can write. (Even I fell for it!). Add in the ease of writing on computer and it gets even more possible for people to think they are the next Hemmingway. So, literary agents are now inundated with submissions and then they have to find a publishing house, which are all quaking a little in their boots as they have seen their business tank after the advent of electronic books and self publishing, when they find something that might possibly attract enough attention to warrant the investment in it. In other words, self publishing, while a great idea, has turned the world of book publishing on its ear and the whole industry is still trying to find its

So, I am at the crossroads: Do I keep trying to find an agent when I have been told by several that no matter how great my book may be, there just isn’t a market at publishing houses for the kinds of stories I am writing?  Or, do I take the leap and hope and pray that my book becomes the little (well, not really little at over 300 pages) book that could? Do I trust that there will be some sort of gentle momentum as people who read it then recommend it to others with the hope that it will grow in popularity? The answer is I just don’t know…

I have been accepted by a hybrid publisher, which is publishing without the risk for the publishing house. They take care of the editing, cover art, press releases, etc.; but the author pays for these costs upfront and then the publishing house does not take any money out of royalties until the author’s investment has been recouped through sales. It sounds like a great set up and it would be, if I had the extra $3000 to invest. It is truly the best of both worlds for publishers, because they do what they do best: Sell books. But they don’t’ have to front their own money, so if the book is a flop, they haven’t lost anything.

So, I sit and ponder about which way I should go. I read today that only 40 authors have “made money” by self publishing on Amazon. However, that definition of “making money” is that someone has had over a million dollars in sales. I certainly think that “making money” for me would be a lot less than that and I am perfectly okay with that, because I ultimately did this for me: My own sanity, my own respite from the real world. I have shared it with a few people who have said that they would recommend it to their friends and to me this is the greatest compliment I can receive. To know that someone liked what I created enough to pass it on to others is high praise indeed. I just don’t know how far that net will spread past the recommendations of friends, however, and therein lays the rub.

I guess being a native Nevadan, life is about gambling. I should be more willing to take that risk based on my Wild West spirit that developed in the shadows of the looming casinos of my beloved home state. But, risks take courage. They take forethought and planning. I have seen how many who take risks lose everything. But, mostly, they take just take a leap of faith.

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