Self-publishing revisited

7 March 2011 20:28

A while ago I wrote about my thoughts regarding self-publishing. In that post I expressed various reasons to consider self-publishing, and how I thought about them. The conclusion of the article was that I might consider self-publishing if my querying would not go well. I’ve had well over a month to give it some further thought, and the more I think about, the more I think that self-publishing would be ideal for me, and that the best choice I can make is to avoid the whole traditional publishing approach altogether.

There are plenty of things I can say about it though. So here’s a bunch of things that come to mind.

Literary Agents

Writing a query is quite different from writing a book. I’m convinced I can do both with success, even if it’s rather hard to write a pitch for a fantasy novel (fantasy authors are notoriously bad at them). I’m also quite confident that an agent would find me pleasant to work with. This is not arrogance, I simply have a track record for handling criticism really well.

But for some reason, the idea of getting a literary agent doesn’t appeal to me. First of all, there’s what, 15-20 literary agents in the United States that accept fantasy? That doesn’t give me that many people to send it to, and besides, why am I seeking the approval of a bunch of people halfway across the world whom I’ve never met? And even if they do like it, they still have to find a publisher willing to take a risk on it, and even if they do accept it, I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of marketing departments nixing a book because they didn’t think they could market it.

That’s a lot of people I need to please, with no guarantee of ever getting a single reader.

Joe Konrath

A rather notorious name in certain circles, but his blog (or more specifically, this post) is the reason I started considering self-publishing (so thanks to J.D. Robinson for pointing it out). Joe makes some very convincing arguments to choose self-publishing (with emphasis on e-publishing) rather than traditional publishing, and his blog features quite a few success stories about e-publishing authors. The more I read his blog, the more confident I become that this might work for me as well. There are simply too many success stories to deny that e-publishing has lots of potential.

You need to be lucky to have self-publishing work out for you. But that isn’t any different from traditional publishing.

Readers as gatekeepers

Without a whole army of middle men (agents, publishers, etc), your primary "gatekeepers" become the readers themselves. If they like your book, they’ll recommend it to others, and give it good reviews. With this in mind, I cannot imagine my books not doing well. A while ago I ordered a few proofreading copies so people could give me feedback. These copies have started living a life of their own. Each time someone finishes a copy, they hand it to friends or family to read. Where originally they were in the hands of coworkers and family, some of the copies are now being read by people I’ve never met, but who still give me praise. And this is a draft that is still rife with typos and grammatical oversights! There already is an improved third draft and there will also be a fourth before I consider the book anywhere near ready enough to publish. Imagine how a draft I consider finished will do? I may not have an actual editor, but to quote Eric S. Raymond: "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow". Of course, that quote refers to open source software, but I believe it works just as well for books.

Obstacles yet to overcome

There are still a number of things I haven’t quite figured out though.

  • Cover art. My plan A is to ask my cousin Marijn to help make a cover. But if he refuses, or does not have the time, then I need a plan B.
  • My book is currently written in LaTeX and PDF. This is excellent for creating PoD books with websites such as Lulu, but isn’t really compatible with e-readers or their publishing platforms. Converting to ePub might require converting the LaTeX code to HTML first, which is doable, but requires some experimentation
  • What e-book formats should I publish in? I’ve got the Kindle and Nook covered, and I’m sure I’ll figure out the iBookstore as well. Are there any others I need to consider?

Any further thoughts?