I have been writing my whole life. When I was six I wrote my first short story on an old Remington typewriter, which was sprinkled with dots of White-Out. I have lots of unpublished manuscripts either sitting in drawers somewhere, or archived on old 3.5 inch floppy disks. Some are even stored only on 5.25 inch disks, if you can believe that! I also have a lot of rejection letters and rejection slips from “traditional” publishers.
So here’s my startling announcement. I rarely suggest that authors start with a self-publishing company. That might be a surprising thing for the CEO of one to say, but it’s true. We all harbor dreams of being New York Times bestsellers and appearing on Oprah, and not only is that statistically unlikely if you self-publish, it’s statistically unlikely no matter HOW you publish.
Nevertheless, I often recommend that authors seek traditional publication first. Because if they do, one of three things will happen:
1. The traditional publisher will say no. You may try again elsewhere. They’ll probably say “no” also. After a while, instead of throwing that manuscript in a drawer, or giving up on writing or publishing entirely, that’s when I say give self-publishing a try.
2. Perhaps the traditional publisher will say yes, and then 2-3 years later you will wish they had said no. This happens more than you might think. Your book may never actually get published, or if it does, it might receive a fleeting print-run, and that will be that. Maybe you will reacquire the rights; maybe you won’t. But rather than giving up on writing or publishing entirely, that is the time to give self-publishing a try.
3. Perhaps the traditional publisher will say yes and you will never look back and we will all be hearing about you and 20th Century Fox will be releasing the movie soon. If that happens, good for you! You deserve your success.
Many authors try to get traditionally published and then, when that doesn’t pan out for whatever reason, they give up entirely. Now, self-publishing is a great alternative to throwing in the towel.
And, a lot of writers who have actually had success in one form or another with traditional publication now prefer self-publishing for its many benefits. These are usually knowledgeable, savvy professionals who are making a business decision. Self-publishing companies like Outskirts Press help them reach their goals in a convenient, efficient manner.
On the other hand, I think there a lot of writers who tirelessly seek traditional publication no matter what. They either massage their manuscript over and over without actually submitting it anywhere, or they submit it constantly, and then react to the rejection notice by polishing and rewriting the manuscript over again in an effort to improve it. Writers in this category fall into one of two camps. 1) They don’t know “self-publishing” exists, and if they knew, it would be a dream come true to them. Or, 2) They know “self publishing” exists, and choose to continue their traditional pursuits nonetheless.
Personally, by the time I self-published my first book, I just wanted to see something in print for my own well-being. I published it for myself. We help a lot of authors professionally publish books just for themselves, or their families. And we also help authors self-publish books in their on-going efforts to attract traditional publishers’ or agents’ attention. The more books they publish, the more of a “platform” they create, and the more attractive they become to traditional publishers.
That’s a theory, at any rate, and in the coming months, I’m going to test it. I think I’ve said in the past that I use myself and my books as “guinea pigs” for our authors, so here is another example: I have been working on a new book and I’m going to submit it to traditional publishers first, just to see what happens. This blog will detail the steps I take to prepare my proposal, and the results. Join me in the coming weeks and months as I share that process…