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Self Publishing Books and EBooks: Is it Worth Considering?

Self publishing books is an often-considered option for writers who have not yet garnered agent or publisher interest in their publishable manuscripts. I'm often asked if online self publishing and print on demand publication are viable options, or whether it is better for a writer to wait for acceptance from a traditional publisher. Because I published with HarperCollins, I have been biased toward the traditional route, for reasons explained below. I've always thought that when traditional publishing is not an option, self publishing may provide an opportunity to build an audience, but with the rise of digital books, self-publishing may become more attractive even to those authors with a publisher. Much depends on how hard an author is willing to work.

Self Publishing for Fame and Prestige

If a writer wants to publish to gain respect or fame, it is useful to know that at this time, the author of self-published books of fiction will not generally garner the same respect in literary circles as the author of a book published by a traditional press. This is because the manuscript has not undergone the scrutiny of publishing professionals—the agents, editors, and marketing teams who evaluate the book for quality and marketability. They look at a book from a business perspective and make a business decision about its purchase, based on years of experience and expertise.

There is no such vetting process for those self publishing books. Anyone who can afford the cost of the printing package can write a book and have it published with a print on demand press (POD). The book may be as interesting and well written as any book found on bookstore shelves, or it may be dull and riddled with errors. Many self-published books are sold online, so purchasers may only learn whether they've bought a book worth the price once it is purchased and downloaded.

Still, I've read several self-published books that I found more interesting than their conventionally published counterparts. One I can recommend right now is Dan Green's novel Blue Saltwater. It was one of my favourite reads in 2010. I've also seen self-published books that read like first drafts, at best. It is also true that some self-published novels have gone on to outsell those vetted by traditional publishers. Notable examples are The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield , and more recently Still Alice by Lisa Genova, both of whom ended up on the New York Times bestseller list.

Grants and Awards

Self publishing books has in the past made them ineligible for most grants and awards, and the author ineligible for membership in many professional writing organizations. However, this is changing, and particularly in the US, several awards now consider self-published books.

Carole Buchanan won the 2009 Western Writers' of America Spur Award for her self-published novel God's Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana, for example, and Writer's Digest held a competition in 2009 that awarded a $3000 cash prize, promotion, and distribution specifically for those self publishing books. The DIY Convention in Los Angeles offers a $1500 prize for its best independent entry, with self-published and Print on Demand books eligible.

Smaller awards are sometimes offered, such as the one by the Cassel Network of Writers in Florida ($100).

All this aside, one of the most important considerations when self-publishing is the author's ability to distribute and market the book. Read about that aspect of self publishing books HERE.

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