The More I Think About Publishing

The more I think about publishing, the more I think that I want to self-publish again.

For years, I’ve said that the plan was to try to sell the book so that someone else had to deal with publishing costs and marketing and all that crap, and because self-published books so rarely hit it big enough for the writer to write full-time.

But the truth is, traditionally published books also rarely hit it big enough. And if you’re not a “household name” author like King or Rowling or Sparks, all too often the marketing is mostly your responsibility, too.

In addition, there are very few publishers out there willing to take a shot on a previously unpublished author’s 400+ page book. It’s understandable, from a business perspective — that sort of book costs a lot to publish, and if it doesn’t sell well then they’ve lost money.

I don’t like trying to sell my own books. I’m not a salesman, and I never will be. But I managed to (technically) make a little bit of money on the first one, and the second one is definitely even better. And I’d have control — not only of the rights and the way the book is presented, but of exactly how and when it came out. I’m a fan of having control of my own product.

The downside of self-publishing, as far as I can tell, is that I’d be admitting that I was more or less “giving up” on the idea of someone paying me enough that I could quit my job and just write. There are so many supportive people out there who tell me not to give up on the dream, because it could happen… but at some point, I feel like it’s kind of like playing the lottery. While it’s true that you can’t win if you don’t play, it’s also true that you don’t lose if you don’t play. With the actual lottery, of course, it’s money out of your pocket with every ticket you buy. With trying to find a publisher, it’s days and weeks and months of hope and patience being tested, bent by self-doubt and the hollowness that comes from rejection.

If I were to quantify the unquantifiable, it would be something like this:

In poker, you calculate the odds versus the rewards. If you have, statistically, a 1 out of 4 chance of winning a hand, and winning would earn you 5 times what you wager, it’s a good bet. (Ignore the intangibles of poker and just nod. Now don’t ignore the intangibles I’m about to bring up.)

In writing, if the odds against making a living at it are higher than the cost of the investment of time, energy, and emotional health… then it’s a bad bet, isn’t it?

Please feel free to tell me if you think I’m wrong. Otherwise, please stay tuned for a few months. I may have a novel going to press this year.

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6 Responses to The More I Think About Publishing

  1. TheOthers1 says:

    I’ve been debating self-publishing. Of course, I’m not to the point to publish, but it’s been on my mind. There are so many scary variables to publishing in either arena. It almost makes me not want to bother, but I know it will be worth it in end. Good luck in your publishing process.

  2. David I completely understand what you are saying.. One part of me wants you to keep trying for a publisher becasue I believe deep down in my heart you are going to be a “household” name. Why do you ask that I believe this 1.) I absolutely loved your first book and 2.) I am going to be able to say someday that is my cousin David the famous writer.. However the bad side of me wants you to give up and publish the next book I absolutely can’t wait to be able to read it. I can promise I will be the first one to order it on kindle so please have an ebook edition… No matter what you decide we will support you.

  3. Ross Wagman says:

    It’s simple (and free) to publish to Kindle, arguably it can get you a higher profile quite rapidly and if it goes well publishers/agents will be approaching you.
    If it’s ready to print you can go publish within a few minutes. There’s also an Apple equivalent and some others that you could go with.
    Good luck.

  4. sinwi says:

    You aren’t giving up on a publisher, you are just taking control of your product. If a publisher finds you and loves you, I am sure you would be happy to take the money, but having your book published and read by your fans is better than having a dream on a thumb drive.

    And, selfishly speaking, your fans would love to read the book! 😉 Do what makes YOU happy, especially if you don’t see it likely making you a butt load of money either way. Better to have the emotional “pay”.

    (The above is all from a non-writer, who has not had the joys of writing, the anguish of editing, the pain of rejections from agents and publishers, or the fear of jumping into taking the bull by the horns and doing it yourself. More than an armchair quarterback here, so take my comments w/ a jar of salt!)

    How does the growth of e-books change the self-publishing world?

  5. Sunni Wheeler says:

    I have a book to publish and I did a lot of research into regular publishing and I have come to the conclusion that self-publishing is the way to go. If you can get your book noticed by a publisher (and all the good publishers aren’t interested in unsolicited books so first you’d have to get an agent interested) you then have to wait until they decide to publish it, and that could be 6 months to 1.5 years. Then you get a teeny, tiny cut of the sales (after even your agent gets his/her cut). Like you said, much of the marketing is your job any way.

    I think if you self-publish and you make a big splash, publishers will be interested in you later on. Kind of like the music industry, it used to be that you had to get signed. Now you can cut your own record and gain a following. Then the record companies get interested.
    Nowadays it’s easier to self-publish. If you do LuLu you can get it for sale with no money up front. You can also get it on e-book for no upfront cost. Lulu can also get it on So you just have to do the marketing! Definitely the way to go, in my opinion!

  6. Lummox JR says:

    One of the writers on is self-publishing and he’s releasing his book in three parts. He’s already written the whole thing, but he’s basically offering it at $2 for each third of the book, on sort of a “try it for cheap” model. Sounds promising.

    I’ve frequently thought about self-publishing some of my stuff, but I don’t really have a big enough friend network to get good feedback. I can catch a bunch of my own mistakes through rereading, but sometimes what you really need is someone to tell you that such and such a part doesn’t make as much sense as you thought it did, or something needs more tweaking. I’m still hoping my sister will get around to reading my previous book, as well as the much shorter one (about 75K words) I did for NaNoWriMo that frankly I like a lot better. Heck, I’ve been trying to think who to run even the synopsis by. [Please don’t interpret any of the above as a guilt trip. I can’t even fathom how busy you must be right now!] If you know any people you trust who’d be interested in giving good feedback on some sci-fi, please let me know.

    I’m thinking if I do try to publish anything though–and at some point I’d really like to–then this is the model I’d like to follow. Cheap electronic publishing seems to be a good way to go for a lot of authors, and even established authors are finding they prefer it. For a print edition one can always set up a print-on-demand like through Lulu (I published a sudoku book this way), although sadly they no longer sell on Amazon–though as I recall Amazon was working on some kind of POD setup too.

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