Of Publishing Your Own Work
It’s said in football that when you throw a pass there are seven things that can happen and only one of them is good. Self-publishing offers four eventualities, and while some are more desirable than others, none is actually a bad thing.
This is a sort of baseline evaluation of the outcomes of self-publishing. Once you get by the false ideas that it costs a lot of money makes you a industry pariah, you start sizing up what it can do for you. Here are the four main possibilities I see:
1. You establish a readership that you grow and nurture, perhaps reaching the “1000 True Fans” or a level that can support you.
2. You achieve enough sales to impress an agent or publisher.
3. You achieve neither level, but are happy having your work read and with your however minor-league identity as an author. You’re known as an author in your milieu, perhaps speak or do book events. You get the satisfaction of the regard of people you actually know.
4. You absolutely fail. Nobody wants your crappy book at any price. You have therefore gotten the ultimate feedback and can use it to either improve your next book, or to seek self-expression in other areas. This ties into a current business theory called, “Fail better, quicker”. There is no point sustaining the illusion of success if it ain’t in the cards.
A fifth might be, you try it but only half-ass or stupidly (paying big bucks to vanity mills or promo jerks, not doing promo, etc.) In which case you wasted your time. Maybe you learned something. If nothing else, you can say you tried it and have been exposed to the business side of books.
Most self-publishers fall into category 3, just like most golfers and athletes and painters fall into some local form of “weekend painting” or club tournaments or company leagues.
Note that NONE of these is possible while sitting around for years waiting for the traditional publishing’s Godot.
If you have the stuff to be a major seller for a publisher, it can emerge at any time, and experience doing it yourself will not prevent that–can only help it. Your second book will be seen in the context of you already having readers and some savvy at promotion. Titles light up the altar called your “author brand”.
If you are NOT one of the elect, the sooner you deal with that and find your place on the multi-level pyramid of modern publishing possibilities, the happier and more successful you will be.