Geek Speak – Self-Publishing a Novel, pt. 1: Should I Self-Publish?
I mentioned my experience with self-publishing a novel in a recent post about my finishing the draft of a new novel, and decided to write a few posts on the subject.
Self-Publishing a Novel, pt. 1: Should I Self-Publish?
In 2006 I decided to self-publish my fantasy-comedy novel, The Magic of Eyri (it was released in the summer of 2007). After making this choice, I embarked on quite the learning experience and it had a big impact on my life for the next few years (nearly every creative project I am attached to currently is tied, in some way, to this novel).
Now, the big question: Should you self-publish a novel?
This is a difficult question, in that it really depends what your goal is when self-publishing your book.
If you want to publish a memoir your grandpa wrote, so the family can have a copy, then yes. Using a Print on Demand service (more on that later) for such a project is just fine.
But, if your plan is to ‘get known/sell copies/make money’ (which was my answer five years ago), then there are many things to take into account.
For starters, self-publishing a book is very expensive, especially if you go the Print on Demand route, like I did. My plan in 2006-2007 was to self-publish Magic of Eyri, see if people enjoyed the book (which they did) and then shop it around to agents.
The feedback I received from the few agents who sent a reply beyond a form ‘Not for us, sorry,’ was they didn’t really want a book which was already published. Granted, there are exceptions, but as I learned more about the business (publishing is a business), I understood what they meant.
When I am asked if I regret self-publishing, I answer “No, but…”
Self-publishing opened a bunch of doors for me (freelance writing, meeting other Michigan writers, nearly being on convention panels with Wil Wheaton). When I decided to produce an audio version of Magic of Eyri, I was forced to teach myself podcasting—a skill set which led to the creation of Ginger and the Geek (via LansingNext).
I also learned a hell of a lot about the publishing industry, which was invaluable. When you self-publish a book, especially the way I did, you are the publisher (duh)—you call the shots, which I loved. I had to design the covers (with artwork supplied by some of my super-talented friends). I taught myself desktop publishing and learned (by trial and error) how to format a book for printing. Everything in my novel is there because of me, for better or worse (the worse being a few spelling errors).
However, the ‘but’ portion of the answer comes down to my wishing I had tried the traditional route first.
Then there is the cost. As I said earlier, Print on Demand self-publishing is expensive. Another cost is promotion. As the publisher, you are also responsible for any and all advertising and promotion (more on this later).
There is one perk about finishing a novel, self-published or not: It impresses folks, and if you self-publish, you will always be able to prop up an uneven table.
Next: Print on Demand or Small Press?
Daniel J. Hogan is the geek half of Ginger and the Geek. He is also a photoblogger and host of the Magic of Eyri Podcast. The book could have been about 200 pages shorter, too. Follow him on Twitter, @danieljhogan.