Considerations Before Venturing into the Self-Publishing Jungle

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.

About D. Thomas Minton

Writer of speculative fiction
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5 Responses to Considerations Before Venturing into the Self-Publishing Jungle

  1. Marc Schuster says:

    I think the distinction you raise between self-publishing a short fiction collection and a novel is a good one. From what I’ve heard among writer friends — several of whom have agents and publish with big presses — the short story collection is an ideal vehicle for self-publishing. Part of the thinking, I think, is that if you can generate some good press and respectable sales from the publication of a story collection (which has traditionally been a difficult thing to do, even for major presses), then you’ll attract the attention of potential publishers.

    On a related note, there’s a brief article on e-publishing options in the latest issue of Poets & Writers. It outlines some of the better-known services on the market today. Based on the article, Smashwords seems to be a good choice for e-publishing, and Lulu is good if you want a combination of e-publishing and print on demand services.

    • It’s interesting to hear the perspective of some of your friends with “big” publisher experience. As an aspiring writer just thrashing around in the murk of the publishing industry, it’s reassuring to see that I’m not always lost in the dark (or at least I have friends with me). I know several people who use Smashwords, and it sounds superior to many of the other e-publishing services. I haven’t looked too closely at it all yet, but as I get more short stories in my published list, I’m thinking more about it.

  2. And of course the two aren’t mutually exclusive. You can always experiment with self-publishing while continuing to build up a reputation with traditional publishers.

    • That’s a good point. As Marc noted above, short story collections might be a better bet being self-published, and then could be used for exposure, while simultaneously using traditional publishers for a novel. That certainly makes sense to me.

  3. Pingback: Self-Publishers, It’s Hollywood Calling… | D. Thomas Minton

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