Why Self-Publishing Should Be Part of Your Short- and Long-Term Publishing Strategy
One week from today Kamy Wicoff, founder of SheWrites.com, and I will be launching She Writes Press, an independent publishing company that will serve the members of SheWrites.com and offer an alternative to traditional publishing. So consider this a sneak peek!
All the legwork that’s gone into preparing to launch the press has given me an opportunity to research the competition and brush up on whatever I might not already have known about self-publishing options. Wow, are things changing quickly!
Any and all of you who aspire to publish should be thinking about self-publishing in some capacity—even if your ultimate goal is to publish on a traditional press. If you’re serious about building a readership for your work, publishing an e-book needs to be part of your short-term publishing plan.
The most valuable asset you have as a writer (or an entrepreneur, for that matter) is your content. So why wait until your book (or next book) comes out to start sharing your ideas, words, or stories with your readers? Because the way people consume content is changing so much, and because readers’ attention spans are significantly shorter today than in years past, it’s a good strategy to publish a segment of your book-in-progress as an e-book. Not only is there an incredibly low barrier to entry (you don’t need an ISBN; companies like BookBaby.com will upload your book to all platforms for the low cost of $99), but readers can start purchasing content from you while you finish your book. And if they like what they’re reading, they’ll come back for more!
Depending on the platform you publish on, it’s completely legitimate to publish pieces of your book (chapters, if you will) as an e-book. The only exception to this are Kindle Singles, as Amazon requires that they be original content. But whether you’re writing a prescriptive book, memoir, or fiction, you might want to consider creating a 5,000-word how-to, personal essay, or story as a Kindle Single to whet readers’ appetite for what’s to come. Countless established authors are making big bucks off of Kindle Singles. Barry Eisler, Stephen King, Andy Borowitz, and others are topping the Kindle Singles bestseller list this week. My favorite Kindle Single is Anne Patchett’s The Getaway Car. (Download it!!).
Earlier this month, Jessica Park wrote an excellent article called “How Amazon Saved My Life” about her journey into self-publishing, and how she’s surviving and thriving as an independently published author. Shedding light on what’s wrong with the publishing industry, she gives aspiring authors a much-needed pep talk about all the ways in which self-publishing is a viable model—truly the wave of the future.
Since I’m just two months out of my job in traditional publishing, I feel it’s worth noting that the publishing industry is not in dire straits. Things are actually going pretty well. Acquisitions editors are acquiring, BUT the ever-present push for bigger and bigger platforms is stronger than ever. If you don’t have a platform, you need to build one before you approach an agent or an editor. And self-publishing a segment of your book as an e-book, or even self-publishing your first book (meaning making it available not only as an e-book, but also as a print-on-demand and/or print book), is a good way to build that platform. Maybe, like Jessica Park, you’ll find that you like it so much you won’t even want to pursue traditional publishing.
At the end of her article, Park writes, “But you know what these silly NY publishers are doing? Running around trying to buy now-successful self-published books.” This is true. In my last months at Seal, I bought two previously self-published books. Authors who can prove strong sales of their self-published titles are getting book deals left and right. Most famously, of course, is Fifty Shades of Grey, originally self-published in Australia before being snatched up by Vintage (imprint of Random House) in a deal that was reportedly seven figures. Yes, authors, if you can sell your self-published book for a seven-figure advance, by all means, do it! But for other self-published authors going to smaller houses for advances in the zero to $10,000 range, it’s important to consider the rights you might be giving up—and at what cost. It might make more sense to sell your next book to a traditional publisher if you already have interested parties.
The bottom line here is this: If you’re writing, you should be publishing. There’s no reason to wait until 2014 to get content out to your readers. There’s nothing more important about being a writer than reaching readers. Anyone who’s ever put a manuscript in a drawer never to see the light of day knows how much that feels like abandonment and neglect, and that’s because it is! Not allowing something you’ve written (for an intended audience, of course) to be read is a rejection of its purpose, and an inadvertent shutting down of your own talent, ambitions, and desires. It’s easier than ever today to make your content available to an audience. It starts with a simple mindset shift, and from there you can grow your offerings and become not just an author, but a prolific author of many offerings!
Until next month,