As the number of stories I publish increases, I’m beginning to think about ways to further market them. Traditionally, authors either sold them as reprints to other publications (e.g., anthologies) or collected into a single volume and sold them to a traditional book publisher. Both of these routes face considerable challenges, especially for an aspiring writer who lacks name recognition.
Recently, self-publishing has become a more viable option, especially e-publishing. While the “stigma” of the vanity press is still there, it certainly isn’t as strong as it once was. New do-it-yourself e-publishing has also allowed authors the ability to produce quality e-books with relatively low up-front costs (compared to “paper” book publishing), making it possible to produce single-story e-books or small collections that can then be sold for reasonable prices.
But is self-publishing something a writer should do, even as a last resort?
A few authors whose blogs I regularly read recently published some thoughts on “traditional” versus “self” publishing. Tracie McBride (a fellow Hopeful Monster) is ready to embrace e-publishing for her short fiction, whereas Marc Schuster wrote an interesting post about how he is glad he chose not to self-publish his forthcoming book, The Grievers, and instead trunk it for several years, revise it after improving his writing craft, and find a traditional publisher. Both authors make compelling arguments for the choice made.
Personally, I’m still undecided. I think the choice to self-publish depends upon many factors, the most important of which is the material under consideration. I’d think long and hard about self-publishing a novel, primarily for the reasons raised by Marc Schuster, e.g., finding your audience. Short fiction I view differently, however, because self-publishing, especially e-publishing, provides the opportunity to produce individual or small collections. If the stories are previously published, their marketability is considerably diminished, and self-publishing offers a chance to continue earning money off a story that would likely be sitting around doing nothing.
While I have no definitive plans, I think at some point I will try self-publishing some of my short fiction, either individually or in a small collection. At this time, I don’t think I would self-publish a novel. Now all of this might change if I can continue to find success in pro-rate publications (with large readerships) and build enough name recognition that people would begin to actively seek my fiction. At that point, a self-published novel might make more sense.