What do publishers do for you these days? Why wait for someone else to do what you can do perfectly well by yourself? What is the difference, anyway?
There are pros and cons with every choice, and this one is no different.
First, let’s look at some of the pros.
1. You have full control over the schedule. You can publish it tomorrow, or for Christmas, or for National Poetry Month, or for Labor Day, or for Emily’s birthday. And sometimes, timing is everything. Often traditional publishing takes years to bring the books to life, and too often by the time the book is out, the author has moved on, has emotionally disconnected from the work, has already read these poems for years at open mic events and now feels compelled to read new work, rather than this same material, albeit in a brand-new book. In poetry at least, books are sold at readings, and a poet who reads from a book she is excited about has a lot better chance at making sales and signing copies for fans.
2. You have full control over the appearance. You want waterproof paper and bulletproof coverstock? You want at least 14-point font size? How about using cute clipart as a cover image? All these and more choices are available to you to produce the book of your dreams. And trust me, loving how your book looks is a really special bonus to having it published.
3. You have full control over the price. You want to give your book away? You may. You want to print everything in hard-cover, triple the price and make a killing? The sky is the limit. Joke and internal rhyme aside, price matters in sales, and a product needs to be priced appropriately for its market and its customers. And if you know those two well, you can make a good decision to support book sales and customer good will—because you want the generous people who buy your book to feel good about their purchase.
4. You have full control over the print run. Yes, you decide how many to print based on the estimate a printing company will provide. It turns out it costs only a $100.00 extra for the last fifty boxes. So why not, let’s fill the house with books! As they say in Bulgaria „От имане глава не боли,“ which means “Having doesn’t give you a headache.” I’ve seen authors becoming nervous that their publishers will not do a second printing after the first one is sold out, or not produce reprints in time. Sometimes their fears are well-founded and realized. Lack of availability hurts sales like nothing else.
5. You decide how many to give away, and to whom. The best thing you can do for your book is to make sure you put it in the hands of people who will love it and will tell others about it. The second best is to put it in the hands of people who will buy many copies of your book and give it as gifts to other people. My advice is—give away as many books as you can afford to give. Give to mentors, friends, people who have been good to you and your writing, people whom you respect and the mere thought of them holding your book makes you weak in the knees. This kind of generosity will come back to you in wonderful and surprising ways and ultimately your book will benefit from it.
So, if self-publishing is so good and so easy, why even bother with a traditional publisher? I will be happy to share my thoughts of the cons of self-publishing in a future installment of In My Own Accent.
For now, let me say that no matter how you get your book published, love it and take good care of it, for it needs you dearly. It is helpless without you. If you self-published it, especially, you are its mother and its father, primary care provider, lawyer, and legal guardian. You can do it! Seriously! I know you can!