Anglo-Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw

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The term self-publishing carries with it a lot of negative connotations. As writers, we are led to believe that if you self-publish your book, you immediately brand yourself as “not- good- enough.”  Truth be told, most of the self-published books I have read have made me cringe, but some  traditional books also come in for my mental red ink.  With traditional publishers falling on hard times, editors are becoming more leery of taking on new names these days and are sticking with their tried and true authors. Occasionally, a new name makes it into the hallowed halls.

Knowing all this, I decided to take the plunge and self-publish my first non-fiction book Women For All Seasons which was released a few days ago. Why did I self-publish? Mainly, for reasons listed before. As a newbie without a platform, having a work of non-fiction accepted by a traditional publisher seemed as unlikely as snow falling in Florida. Also, I’ve heard that authors, indie or otherwise, must do their own promoting. You cannot rely on your publisher to promote your book for you.  Since my book is a niche book, I thought if I market wisely, I could see some good results. For those reasons I never approached an agent or editor.

Bigger Royalties

Traditionally- published books earn an average of 10% in royalties, which in most cases is just around $1.00. If you did get a big advance, that may help, otherwise $1.00 is not enough to make you give up your day job.  To my great amazement, I realized that my self-published book would earn just slightly more on Amazon after the publisher has taken out his share.  And it’s not likely to get into bookstores, nor is it likely to be reviewed, unless I choose to pay for a review. However, if I convert to an ebook or Kindle, which I plan to do, I can make much higher royalties.

The Advantages of Self Publishing

So what are the advantages of self publishing? First, it ensures that your masterpiece (if you can call it that) goes before the public instead of staying on your hard drive.  Second, it is quick. Your work gets out while it’s still fresh in your mind and you still feel some connection to it. Third, if your book is well written, you can get positive feedback from your readers and your book may eventually be picked up by a traditional house. Fourth, even though you may not make  a lot of sales, a good self-published book can lead to other things – speaking engagements, writing contracts and the like.

The Company You Keep

If you still think your self-published book puts you in the company of the less-than-noteworthy, think again. Ever heard of Virginia Wolf, Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, John Grishman? These famous scribes all self published at one time. So if you decide to go the self-published route, here are some things to consider. Do your homework. If you are tech savvy, you may opt for a service like Lulu where you can convert your work to a PDF file and upload it. Then you can design your cover or have someone do it for you. If not, you can research one of the many POD publishers, as I did, and choose the one that gives you the best value for your money.  Polish your work  as if you were pitching it to a reputable agent. Get someone to edit it, or enlist the help of your writers’ group (as I did).  Only when you are satisfied that your book meets and passes the sparkle test, then go ahead and publish. Once you have submitted it, begin your marketing efforts. Make use of social networking sites, blogs and other communities to create buzz about your book. You may find that once you have done all that you can do, and then some, you will enjoy the journey of bringing your baby into the world.

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