It’s an exciting time to be an author. The emergence of e-books, print-on-demand technology and the prevalence of self-publishing are radically changing the face of the publishing industry, and bringing new opportunities to writers. Though there’s no denying the success of J.K. Rowling types who have hit pay dirt going the traditional route, this is no longer the only way to roll. Given the new trends in the industry, we say it’s time to let go of the “old” way of thinking, and good-bye to some of self-publishing’s biggest misconceptions.
#1. Only writers without talent self-publish. First and foremost, traditional publishing is a business. If a given manuscript is considered risky, or the marketability of a given text is unclear—particularly by a first-time author—chances are a contract isn’t offered. It may sound jaded, but salability trumps content. Because contracts with traditional publishing houses are getting harder and harder to come by, many very talented authors aren’t waiting for a contract that may never come. The following authors have self-published at one point in their careers: Margaret Atwood, Deepak Chopra, Stephen King, James Joyce (Ulysses), Beatrix Potter (The Adventures of Peter Rabbit), Marcel Proust, Irma Rombauer (The Joy of Cooking), Mark Twain (Huckleberry Finn) and Walt Whitman. Darn good company, right?
#2. If I self-publish, I can kiss a contract from a traditional publishing house good-bye. Not true. Given the current climate, many literary agents are scouring self-publishing markets for bankable reads by authors who are generating book sales and making a name for themselves. Self-published authors can, in effect, test the waters and provide valuable market research for the New York firms, who can then swoop in and ink a deal.
#3. Booksellers won’t stock my book if a big-name publishing house doesn’t print it. Good reads can absolutely find a place on the shelves of booksellers and a presence on Internet storefronts, but, as with any worthwhile project, you have to be committed. If people are looking to buy a given book, stores will stock it. To do this, authors need to get the word out, create a buzz and then a demand for their book. They need to network, give readings and press interviews, contact retailers, and foster relationships with those who have contacts in the marketplace. If an author isn’t up for those challenges, they need to hire someone who is.
#4. Self-publishing is vain. We think self-publishing has gotten a bum rap. Writing and illustrating, like other art forms, are means of creative expression. Using a proper canvas or finding a complementary frame for a painting isn’t considered arrogant. Why is “framing” a story or packaging it in a way that it can best be enjoyed any different? We think sharing a good story is generous; it spreads joy. And what of the author who has a tale to tell that can help others? A current client of ours has a medical memoir meant to enlighten, if not inspire, others in a similar predicament. Conceited? More like honorable, we’d say.
#5. If I self-publish, I don’t have to be as concerned with quality. This is lunacy. If your book is meant for public consumption, it simply must be well edited and well designed. These days, you can slap a cover on anything, but PLEASE resist the urge to do so. Remember the company your book will keep. Shoddy looking, typo-riddled tomes don’t stand a chance next to impeccably honed narratives with deliberate designs. If you want your book to sell, it’s paramount to do this as well as the next guy, which is why at Three Bean Press all of our publishing packages include proofreading, editing, creative input and design.