With all the changes going on in publishing these days, new writers are often left wondering if they should just publish their work themselves. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, the following five situations will help you know whether or not you should self publish.
When you have the rights to your backlist.
Ironically, probably the people who are in the best position to take advantage of self publishing–at least starting out–are established authors who have a backlist and the rights to that backlist. There was a time not so long ago when rights to books reverted back to their authors, and those writers could do as they pleased. This isn’t happening much anymore, so those established authors who have a large audience and full rights to their backlist are at a distinct advantage in this brave new world of publishing.
When your book caters to a small niche market.
Sometimes, a book or idea is good, but is only of interest to a small audience, too small to interest mainstream publishers.
When you feel like you can reach your target market better than a publisher.
You might have a better feel for a particular niche market that you just know how to reach. Maybe you’ve been connecting with this market over a period of months or years with social media, or you are a respected influencer in this group. In that case, you might be better served by publishing and marketing the book yourself, since you have an intimate understanding of how to reach this audience.
When agents or editors tell you, “Great book, but ______ just isn’t selling right now.”
If all of your rejections begin with this phrase, you should probably go the self-publishing route. If an editor tells you, “I love it, but steampunk vampire books aren’t selling right now,” and all you see on the shelves are steampunk vampire books, it’s time to get that book to market as quickly as possible, and the fastest way to do that is by publishing it yourself. Remember, the books you’re seeing on the shelves today were bought a year and a half to two years ago.
When a potential publisher hands you a bad deal.
It happens all the time. Some publishers will demand the rights to your characters, an option on film rights, and a dozen other things writers who really want to build a long and stable career will say no to. Make sure you have a reputable agent–or at least a good intellectual property attorney–look over your contract, and don’t be afraid to walk away from a bad deal. You have more than one option now. It’s no longer about either being published by the big 6 or languishing in obscurity. If you can’t get the deal you want, publish the book yourself, your way.
If any of the above situations fit you and your book, you should probably give self-publishing ago. And ideally, self publishing should be and will be a growing part of a strong writing career going forward.