Ever since I self-published my book back in September, I’ve had people ask me about both my experience and my take on self-publishing. Many are fascinated, while some are skeptical. I get the occasional few that look down at me, but so what? 🙂
I know many writers out there wonder if self-publishing is here to stay or will it hit a wall like many trends do. Most point out that self-publishing is not as easy as it may sound. It is true that publishing your book(s) on your own is a huge gamble, especially in the financial sense. You are putting your own money toward something that you may not profit from. It may take a few years, and a few books, to make a name for yourself and see your hard work pay off. Basically, self-publishing is like any other business venture. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
What comes to my mind about the future of self-publishing, and book publishing altogether, is the California Gold Rush. When gold was discovered near San Francisco in 1848, tens of thousands from all over the world flooded the Golden State in hopes of becoming filthy rich from gold. These people were known as the 49ers, and I would say many self-published authors could be called the same. After all, we are part of a huge rush during a major turning point in publishing history.
I’m sure there self-published authors who felt that they would strike it rich based on the success stories of Amanda Hocking and John Locke. Others, like me, were intrigued by the idea of being in control of their product. When gold was found in California, a whole new world opened up. California developed a reputation as the place where dreams can come true – and not just from gold. Even today, California is the place to go for dreams to become reality, particularly among dot-com entrepreneurs.
But the reason why I compare self-publishing to the California Gold Rush is because while so many followed their dreams of success, few have actually gotten rich. I’ve heard of authors who struggle to sell even 100 copies of their books. Their investments do not pay off and they probably regret their decision to release their work on their own (NOTE: I can’t say this is definite for all, but I’m sure somewhere out there, there is an author kicking his or herself for not doing well with self-publishing). Writers like Amanda Hocking and John Locke are rare, just like those who actually found gold in California. Many naysayers of this form of book publishing may smirk over the disillusioned writers who dared to risk it all.
But what could happen, much like the results of the California Gold Rush, is that the book industry can change into something far different than what was expected. As a result of the gold rush, California became a state in 1850 and it’s population boomed. San Francisco went from a tiny town to a bustling city, and several spots in the state saw similar changes, albeit smaller. New technologies came about to transport gold seekers across the U.S. and around the globe. The rush made America seem much larger and everything became possible.
I can’t say what exactly will be left behind once the self-publishing craze quiets down. It won’t go away altogether, that’s certain, but I do think self-publishing will lead to something else for authors who want to share their works with the world. I highly doubt things will go back to the way they were – just like the U.S. did not go back to life before the gold rush.
Self-publishing has brought income for graphic designers creating book covers, editors fixing up manuscripts, tech-savvy book lovers to start blog tours and other promotional methods, and even video editors have found work to make book trailers. These are all freelance workers, and they may be tied with the increasing number of freelancers due to the struggling job market. But would these people be seeing extra money if self-publishing didn’t become a popular choice for many authors?
Heck, one good outcome from self-publishing is the increasing popularity of the New Adult genre. Originally begun by St. Martin’s Press a few years ago, self-published books have truly brought this genre to the masses. While some are skeptical of New Adult (NA) too, it is gaining in popularity thanks to self-publishing. One more point for this venture!
But it is still early to say what will be the final result of self-publishing. Many are still interested in this route, and that is good if they have reasonable priorities and goals. As long as writers are aware of the risks of self-publishing – especially financially – I say they should give it a shot. It’s cool to be part of something historic!
As for me, I would say I have done well. I am not a huge success, and if I ever get there, I’m a long way off. My first and only book has either sold or been downloaded for free over 700 times. During a free day on Halloween over on Amazon, it was in the Top 50 for free books in paranormal books. That’s pretty awesome and yes, I am proud of that. But I am not hugely famous and my book is not selling like hotcakes nine months after its release. Granted, I need to get it’s sequel out to keep the momentum going, but working full time does not making novel writing easy.
Will I keep self-publishing all of my future books? I cannot say. In my wildest dreams, I will be successful enough to do so. But that is not very realistic. My plan is to publish my vampire trilogy on my own, and then have my next books published by a small publishing house. That works for me. Self-publishing is hard work and it is such a gamble. I don’t regret doing any of it at all, and I’m glad I can tell my grandchildren what I took part in during an historic time in literature and technology. I just wish it was a lot more easier for many reasons.