I recently wrote a blog about when and how to publish your book. A gentleman who had self-published wrote a response in which he indicated that I wasn’t as thorough about how things work for independently published books as I was for those traditionally published. He brought up several points and I will try to address each one based on the experiences I have had so far.
1. If you are trying to get review coverage in print papers, it will be difficult and maybe impossible. However I have booked interviews for authors in their local papers and other similar venues. The key is to find an angle for “off-the-book-page” coverage. Also, I will tell you that traditionally published books have had a very, very hard time over the last several years getting reviewed in print unless the author is a known entity. If you look at the review sections of papers like USA Today, the New York Times, etc. you will notice the same books reviewed in many publications.
2. There are review outlets that charge for reviews for self-published books, like Kirkus. Publishers Weekly will also charge a fee to get listed in their “PW Select” feature, which includes all self-published books that have been submitted to them for the quarter. If they like your book, they may review it in the same issue of the magazine, but they only select a certain number for this opportunity. There is no additional fee.
3. It is true that you will not be distributed as a self-published author unless you hire your own service. An author of ours started his own imprint and signed up with a distributor which got books to stores, when they were requested. You do not have the benefit of a field sales force out there pushing your title and you would need to approach a store directly.
4. I have met independent authors who have come up with amazing and creative ways to market themselves, and it is another full-time job. Their success is usually reflected in Amazon Kindle numbers. Porter Anderson just wrote a piece about controversy in the Kindle world and a self-published author who has sold millions of books this way had some comments.
I’ve done some research and it is clear that self-published authors on average earn the least amount from book sales; traditionally published authors are next; and interestingly, hybrid-published titles, through publishers like Greenleaf, Balboa, and others that cooperatively publish books with their authors, sell the most.
5. If you can get a literary agent and become published by a traditional publisher it will make your life a lot easier in terms of all of the leg work that goes into self-publishing. However, these days more and more traditionally published authors are hiring their own pr/marketing professionals because they know that publishing houses are spread thin in this department.
I would like to add that if you decide to publish yourself, I recommend creating your own imprint and publishing under it. There are wonderful freelance editors, book designers, and other people out there who will be able to help you. You need to be careful when you sign up with a “self-publisher” because sometimes they will retain the rights to your work, and I’ve also met disappointed authors who didn’t like the discounting structures and other things that related to the sale of the book itself.
When working with a self-published title, we don’t tell people a book is self-published except when asked. “Independently published” is a good term that is kind of a catchall for anything not published by one of the major companies (so that term can include small press books as well). This doesn’t mean we send books to bloggers or reviewers who specifically say they don’t take self-published books. It just means that we try to let the material, content, or product speak for itself. Years ago they told me original trade paperbacks wouldn’t get traditional review coverage. I worked on a debut novel that was published as a trade paperback, and it was reviewed in the New York Times and the New York Times Book Review, among other places. Act as if you have what people want, and you might get what you are looking for as well.