Not All Who Publish Are Lost

Thus far, I only have one book on the market – with a second waiting in the wings, and another draft in dire need of editing. So I don’t have vast years of experience or publishing expertise to share with you. But what I have learned in the few short years that I’ve been foraying out into the marketplace is still worth sharing.

My journey started with a publishing contract from a small press publisher. I won’t lie – since they were a small operation and not a major publisher, it was expensive. But it was my first time, and hearing someone say “yes, we’ll publish your book!” was a dream come true. Especially since the books I write contain Christian themes – something I was afraid many major publishers would object to, as that’s not necessarily “popular.” Plus, I didn’t want to spend years trying to sell an agent on my story. Since I had that offer of a contract to publish, I went with it. It took most of that year to get my novel ready to print – not because so much was wrong with it, but because this small press operated like a traditional publisher. They were in control of all the formatting, the cover design, the editing, and every single change – no matter how small – had to go through their team. So there was a lot of back-and-forth as we figured out how to make my story into the book it deserved to be. The end result was wonderful and to this day I have no regrets about how it turned out.

However, the process was long and difficult. I had no say in the selling price, and at $18 per printed copy, my book wasn’t selling well. This particular small press didn’t offer any marketing options, and they were going to charge me a fee every couple of years just to keep my novel “on the press.” So when it came time to renew, I found a different option – a self-publishing service with no fees and much more author control. They offered all the same printing and distribution services, plus a few more in the marketing department, but it was a straightforward, pay-for-what-you-need with no contracts and a lower price tag. Therefore I made the switch. Transitioning the first novel over as a reprint was a bit of a pain, but I’m still excited to try out their services from scratch with my next book. I have a better idea of how I want my book to turn out now, so I’m more confident in using a self-publishing service versus just dumping my novel in the hands of a publisher and asking them to figure it out.

But I know that’s not the only option out there. I have friends at a local author’s group who are truly “self-published:” they edit, format, design the cover, and basically do it all themselves (or pay a small fee for individual services). And using a self-publishing service, while convenient, is still rather pricey. For now though, I feel it’s the best option for me. I have a part-time job, a toddler, and I’m hoping to have another child in the near future. I simply don’t have the time or the energy to learn all I need to know to successfully turn a draft into a book all on my own, or even promote it properly. The other reason self-publishing appeals to me is because my genre is complicated. I write what I call, “paranormal romance with a Christian twist.” Maybe that sounds a little odd, but it works (I’ll explain more about that in later posts). However, it’s not a big seller. Well, perhaps it could be – again, I currently don’t have the funds or the time to dedicate to the marketing it deserves. I can say that those who have read it, loved it. But without the “sex, drugs and violence” that is so popular in our culture today, my readership is likely to remain small. Self-publishing allows me to share my work without having to change it or prove to a third party that it is worth sharing.

That doesn’t mean I will always publish my books this way. In the future, when my children are not so dependent on me, I’m thinking of trying that true “self-publish” option: when I can finally take the time to learn how to design a cover, use programs for creating the proper book format, and then upload my novel directly to Amazon without needing a third party to do it for me. Heck, I’m toying with the idea of just getting all my books out on the market, and then worrying about the promoting part all at once! I’m even considering finding an agent or going with a major publisher with one of my future novels (again, much farther down the road, when I have the time to adhere to the schedule of a contract).

What I’m ultimately trying to say is that the route you take to publish your book should entirely up to you. I am blessed with a part-time job that helps my family pay the bills – it doesn’t matter if my books sell a million copies or just one copy, because we’re not depending on that income. So I write the books I want to write, and self-publishing allows me to share them as I have time. My advice? Take a look at what’s out there (which is a lot!) and then find what fits for your lifestyle. Maybe you write what’s popular and you have the patience and willingness to play with the big dogs by finding an agent and getting traditionally published. Maybe your work is so unique and you have plenty of time to do it all from scratch yourself. Maybe you’re like me and right now, the mix-and-match of self-publishing services is what you need. Just do what works for you 😉.

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