19 July 2009

Plot Your Writing Career: Traditional versus Self-Publishing

A writer who is "sick of agents" and wants to take back control over her own life considers going the self-publishing route. Following is my "take" on the subject.

Writing a book is vastly different than publishing a book. Of the strengths and skills that make for a terrific writer zero prove much help when it comes to self-publishing. Yes, both writing and self-publishing involve hard work. But, writing is creative, artistic, and demands solitude. Publishing is numbers, business, and demands interaction.
Score 1 for Traditional Publishing

To make the leap from writer to self-publisher, what once is your "baby", the project you spend more time with than your own family, what you dream about day and night becomes a "product" for the marketplace. 

Want to learn the publishing business from the ground up? Then, yes, give self-publishing a whirl. But, get ready to learn everything you can about publicity, distribution, marketing, promoting, oh, yes, and since you are only as good as your last book, make sure you schedule time to write your next book, too.
Score 1 for Self-Publishing

Just because you write a memoir, novel, screenplay, short story, non-fiction book does not mean that anyone will FIND your work. 

Nielsen Books reports that sales in the UK were up 4.4% with 120,000 books published in 2008 over 2007. Bowker reports that book sales in US were down 3.2% with 275,000 books released in 2008 over 2007, but that print on demand and short-run books were up 132% of 123,000 titles produced. 

My point? How is your book going to stand out from all those 500,000 books, more or less, that will come out the same year yours does?

Whether you self-publish or are published by a big New York house, you have to help the book grow "legs", find a readership. Yes, some authors are so big that they do not have to worry about such matters, but they are the exception. Yes, you, too, may be the exception, but self-publishing teaches you about sales. After all, whether self-published or traditional, you only get paid on the # of books sold.

On a personal note:
Five years ago, too impatient to go the traditional route of New York, I formed Illusion Press, and published Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple. Illusion Press seemed an appropriate name for the unreal quality of the entire process from inspiration to publication. Five months and the book was in my hands.

What started as a short print-run for my students morphed into BBP. Today, I continue to invite writers to experience the freedom of structure. For most writers, the most difficult part of the writing process is the inability to see the forest for the trees. Blockbuster Plots for Writers dedicates itself to the structure of plot and has helped thousands of novelists, memoirists, and creative non-fiction writers master this elusive craft.

Miracles happen.
Score 1 for Self-Publishing

The real difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing?
Traditional publishers pays you $$ up front. 
Self-publishing, you put the $$ up yourself.