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Self-publishing vs. Traditional

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I was recently interviewed by an editor who worked for a publisher. She is now working on her MA in publishing. It’s about self-publishing vs. traditional.

Questions:

1. What made you choose to go the self-publishing route over a more traditional route?

I chose self-publishing because that made the most sense to me. The times of sending out query letters to agents and publishers has changed over the last decade. Thanks to the internet, and the big surge in self-publishing, the gate keepers can now be by-passed and anyone can publish a book. It’s also kind of trendy and hip to be labeled as an indie author. But due to the fact that anyone can publish a book, there will be a lack of quality and oversight in the market. That’s why indie authors should work harder than a traditionally published author to produce quality work.

2. Did you do any research on the benefits of self-publishing? If so, where?

All the research that I did came from the indie pioneers. I found Hugh Howey by reading *Wool*, then began reading his blog about the benefits of self-publishing. A short time later, I found Joanna Penn. She really sold me on the idea of going indie.

3. Did you attempt to contact an agent or publisher before self-publishing?

No. I knew this was my first book and that I needed a backlist. Steven Pressfield says, “nobody wants to read your shit.” I agree with that. Who am I? Why would anyone want to read my book? In this fast paced world with a 3 second attention span, I know that I need to establish my platform before anyone will give me the time of day. If your book is good enough, agents and publishers will be contacting you.

4. Please give me a general overview of your steps in self-publishing your novel. For example, did you hire a cover designer, editor, or any other freelancers to work on it? Are you selling only through Amazon or through any other channels? What was the process of submitting it to Amazon (this is the only part of the process I know nothing about)?

After the grind of actually finishing the book, I knew I needed help. I searched for an editor and found one locally in Asheville, NC. Trust me, you need an editor, and you need to pay them for the work. The second most important thing is the cover. Again, it has to be professional. I searched online again for book illustrators and didn’t find what I was looking for. I then had the idea to seek out a tattoo artist. Again, I went local. He did an amazing job on the cover, world map, and city map for the book. My wife has an ETSY shop and is awesome at digital design, so it was a no-brainer for her to do the design on the cover. I hired Createspace to do the interior formatting for the book.
I am selling through Amazon and all extended channels such as bookstores, libraries, etc. Submitting the book was easier than expected. I went through Createspace, which is affiliated with Amazon, and they walked me through the whole process. The customer service was great and the turnaround was fast.

5. Were there any things about self-publishing that you wished were easier?

Marketing. I dislike pushing myself upon people, but I know it’s necessary. Everything is about social media today. In the future, I think I’ll hire someone to handle my marketing.

6. What do you think are the biggest benefits in self-publishing vs. traditional?

Freedom. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, and with no deadlines; other than the ones I put on myself. There is more money to be made by self-publishing because there is less overhead.

7. What do you think are the biggest drawbacks?

Exposure. And the credibility that publishers bring to their authors.

8. Would you suggest this route to other authors? And, as a first-time author, do you believe that this is the best route to go for other first-time authors?

I would suggest to go indie. Test the waters. Learn from it. You don’t need validation to publish a book. But you better make it the best that you possibly can because you don’t want to waste your time or anyone else’s.

9. Do you believe that all publishing should move towards digital, or that the digital format is better suited to some genres and types of books and the print format to others?

I like to hold a physical book in my hand. I know the trend is becoming more digital, but I think the experience of reading a physical book can’t be denied. Really, it just depends on the reader’s preference.

10. Why did you decide to make the ebook free for the first four weeks? Do you expect to make up this loss with later sales?

For the book launch, I decided to make the e-book free for the first four weeks. I did this because I want the most eyes possible to read my book. As a new author, I need to prove myself. It may be a loss in revenue right now, but if I was writing for money alone, I’m doing it for the wrong reason.

11. I would like to know a little about your motivations in self-publishing a book: is it purely a passion project that you felt was good enough to be printed and out there, but don’t care how many people read it, or are you hoping to find some success with writing and self-publishing ebooks? (many ebook authors who do really well go from doing it on the side to making it a full-time job)

At first I was in it to make money — some way to get out of my current job and live the dream. But as the story built, I fell in love with the craft. I knew that I didn’t care about the money anymore; it was pure passion. Sure, I would love to get paid to do what I love for a living and write full time. But I write for me. It’s like no other feeling on Earth. My hope is that the passion will bleed through the pages and the reader will feel it.

12. Do you, personally, read more books in a digital format or in a print format?

Print. I can count the digital on one hand.

13. Did you hire anyone to do any sort of marketing, or are you relying on marketing it yourself?

As an indie, you have to market yourself. For me, it is the hardest part because I feel that it is so hard to break through the noise. Again, I know that I need a backlist of books to make an impact. Also, I needed a platform. That’s why I began blogging a year ago. I had to establish myself as some form of writer before I put the book out there.

14. How did you get the author reviews for your book?

I asked. More times than not, you’ll get a yes. But you have to be humble and give them a reason to read your book. For my reviews, I promised that they would go on the back cover of my book. It’s a win-win. Always give more than you receive.

15. How did you get your book to be sold in other channels? Is it only in a digital format?

It’s an option that Amazon provides if you so choose. It allows extended channels like bookstores to purchase and sell the book.

16. Do you eventually want to move over into a physical market?

I am currently selling my novel in paperback through Createspace and my own personal website. The digital is through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) alone. One day, I would love to sell a hardback book but those are primarily reserved to big publishers.

17. Do you think traditional publishing takes advantage of authors?

I can’t speak for those who are traditionally published, but I would think that it depends on the author. Someone like G.R.R. Martin or Steven King can pretty much rule their own roost. They have achieved success that trumps the publisher. But I can see how traditional publishers can take advantage of small time authors and give them the run of the mill — low royalties, deadlines, etc.

18. How many people do you anticipate reaching/have you done anything to try to set yourself apart from other fantasy ebooks on the market (besides the blog)?

I haven’t really set a target goal on my reach. I created a launch party on Facebook, invited all my friends, and told them to do the same. It kind of depends on how much other people are willing to share on your behalf. That is, in part, why I’m giving away the book for the first four weeks. I’m trying to generate some buzz and get the word out. Other than my blog, I have shared 5 chapters (unedited) on my website, along with the cover and two maps that will be in the book.

19. What will the price be after the free period?

The price for the e-book will be 5.99 after the promotion. Paperback will be around 12.99.

20. If you become successful as an indie author, would you consider being picked up by a publisher?

Of course! I think that’s the goal of any author. But I will only accept on my terms. I won’t settle.

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