1. You have something to say and don’t feel like keeping it to yourself.
Call it stubbornness or drive, but you don’t want someone else to determine whether or not you speak, let alone when and to whom. That someone, of course, is a publisher.
Publishers are not bad folks, however. Like all of us, they’re doing their job, and it’s a challenging one. Mergers, acquisitions, downsizing—all affect the industry. Add in soft sales, rising paper costs, e-publishing and self-publishing and you can understand why publishers are so discriminating. To break even, let alone thrive, they need big books by big names to draw in big bucks.
Where does that leave you? Unfortunately, sometimes, out in the cold. Your book might not have the requisite mass appeal, but that doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to a large audience. It may, in fact, appeal to a specific group of readers who, though unrepresentative of the country at large, number in the tens of thousands or more.
Experts and speakers know this all too well, which is why many of them are taking the self-publishing route. It allows them to communicate and market simultaneously, not to mention make a substantial profit.
2. You control the editorial product.
Books are more than a bunch of pages slapped together. Within their covers, you’ll find a writer’s heart and soul—the very message he or she wants to communicate.
Self-publishing gives you, the writer, the first and last word on what makes its way into print. There are no gatekeepers—agents, editors and publishers—telling you what you should or shouldn’t say if you are to reach your audience. You call the shots and craft your message in ways you believe best suit readers.
3. You don’t have to wait months, sometimes years, to get your book into print.
Most traditionally published books take about a year or so before making their way into readers’ hands. Add to that the time it takes to write your novel or nonfiction book proposal and then find an agent who then finds a publisher, and you’re up to about 18 months, the industry average.
Self-publishers don’t want to wait that long. Many are anxious to move on to their next projects. Many others would rather spend their time on book promotion.
Speaking of promotion, all writers today are expected to hit the road and airwaves and spread the word about their books, almost always at their expense (unless they happen to be J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, Stephen King, et al.). Self-publishers do the math and realize that if they’re going to put out the bucks and effort, they should at least recoup as much of the profit as possible. (BTW—some 80 percent of all traditionally published books fail to make back their advances. Even should you be among the 20 percent, you would only receive about 7.5 percent of the net profits, 15 percent of which would go to your agent. Too, because of the economy, some publishers are doing away with advances.)
4. You want to pass along something of great value.
The vast majority of books never make it onto the best-seller lists. For many self-publishers that’s just fine. They’re not seeking an audience of millions. Rather, they’re writing for just a handful of readers—friends, family and acquaintances.
Thanks to self-publishing they can pass along the best of themselves: family histories, favorite recipes, observations of everyday life … the list goes on. None of these subjects would make for mass market reading; their appeal is simply too limited. But that doesn’t mean any or all of them wouldn’t find an interested, even grateful audience.
5. You’re in distinguished company.
Technological advances have made it easier than ever to self-publish. Nonetheless, literary history is full of instances of writers, experts and plain ole interesting folks who self-published before being picked up by traditional publishers. Here are but some well-known contemporary writers and their books:
- Ken Blanchard—The One-Minute Manager
- William Strunk Jr.—The Elements of Style
- James Redfield—The Celestine Prophecy
- Richard Nelson Bolles—What Color Is Your Parachute?
- Molly Katzen—The Moosewood Cookbook
- John Javna—50 Simple Things Your Can Do to Save the Earth
- Wess Roberts—Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun
- Louise Hay—You Can Heal Your Life
- Arthur Naiman—The Macintosh Bible
- Tom Peters—In Search of Excellence
- Irma Rombauer—The Joy of Cooking
- H. Jackson Browne—Life’s Little Instruction Book
- Richard Paul Evans—The Christmas Box
- L. Ron Hubbard—Dianetics