Very few people have the ability to be self critics. Most of us like our own creations, no matter how good or bad they are, whether it's the written word or a piece of art/ craft/ needlework, or something else. We tend to be a little biased towards our own work. And it's not possible for us to critique our own work. Not necessarily because we are bad at it, but because our opinion will be colored by our thoughts/ prejudices that have formed regarding that particular work.
We tend to entangle the emotional and practical viewpoints while judging our own work, making it impossible to judge it from a neutral standpoint. Hence, we need feedback and opinions from other people. The concept that we are talking about here, self publishing, is based on judging your work yourself, deciding its worth yourself, without taking any third party's opinion. Let's find out if this is a good idea.
Self Publishing: The Positives
When is Self Publishing Justified?
Self publishing is a recent phenomenon that has become quite a rage. Self-proclaimed 'authors' have waited in the wings because they didn't get the 'right opportunity' to share their ideas with the world. The literary fraternity doesn't particularly endorse the idea of self publishing a book, unless you have really solid reasons for doing it. 'What solid reasons?', you may ask.
Well, there are a few reasons that can justify you having to self publish books. For example:
- You really need to make some information available to a few people or a small group, in the shortest time possible. This is usually the case in educational institutions, where a professor may be requested to give printouts of a certain topic that he has expertise on.
- You have got your work edited, but are not really happy with the unnecessary changes that your editor has suggested, and you wish to exercise your right to keep your content as you originally wanted to.
- You just want a really small number in print for yourself, family and friends, specially if you have compiled a family related book, maybe a family tree, a compilation of various notes, essays, articles, poems, etc., written by various members of your family.
- If you are not really interested in selling your work commercially, but only in sharing your knowledge with humankind, for free. Or if the topic is really off-beat/ controversial, that no one wants to publish anything on it.
Advantages of Self Publishing
The advantages are fewer than the disadvantages, and hardly tip the scales in favor of it. The only advantages that I can come up with are:
- Since the act of pulling a book together and managing to get a good publishing house, or for that matter any publishing house, is difficult, it is almost a herculean task to break into the publishing world, in which case, self publishing helps.
- The sheer amount of time required for getting a book published the traditional way is too long, whereas if the book is self published, the work is done much faster.
- And lastly, you get to exercise your creative freedom, with no hassle of editors asking you to change your content, font, cover page, and so on.
Self Publishing: The Negatives
All in all, the average person's reaction to self publishing is not really positive. And with valid reason too, because the first few questions that come to mind if someone tells you that he has published his own book, is, "Why? Didn't anyone else want to publish it? Wasn't it good enough?" And sadly, that is exactly the case with most of these self published books. They are the ones that have been rejected by all the publishing companies that they were given to, and hence needed to be self published.
If you want to self publish, by all means, go ahead. I am not one to stop you. But before opting for self publishing, you may want to consider the following points:
The general attitude towards self published books is that of disdain. The public is prejudiced against the whole lot of self published books, thinking that they are written by self-proclaimed authors who are delusional about their writing abilities, or are obviously not good enough to be published since they were rejected by all the publishing houses. The belief is that, these authors are not as talented as other traditionally published authors, and so the books they write are also not good. Which means that people do not want to read self published books.
Marketing of a particular book is usually a task that is taken up by the publishing house. However, if you are planning to self publish your book, then you will have to take care of not only the marketing costs which are incurred, but also of the entire marketing process. If you fail to pay attention to the marketing, the sales are not going to take off, and you will get no returns on your investment.
If you are writing a book because you want to sell it, then it is best to go the traditional way instead of self publishing. As is clear from the above paragraphs, the prejudice against self published books is so vicious, no one wants to buy any self published book. Besides, in case it turns out that your book is really worth a read, then you need to make the fact known through marketing, failing which, the already poor prospects of selling a self published book will now dwindle further. Also, it is smart to get only a few copies printed in the first go. In case the sales don't take off as expected, you won't have to make coffee tables of the remaining copies, in your house.
The investment or fee required for self publishing is all up to you. The capital will be yours and only yours. If you do manage to sell the estimated number of copies, you're in luck. And if you manage to sell the initial copies, and require another batch, you will be one of the few. But on the other hand, if you run into losses, then you will be the only one to suffer, since no one is going to share your losses. You have no cushion, and no one else to blame.
So is self publishing a good idea? After reading through the above paragraphs carefully, you should know better whether it would be a good idea or not, in your case. It's not always bad though. Self publishing can produce a few exceptionally good books by really talented authors, who, for some reason, may have been given the cold shoulder by the publishing houses. But these cases are rare, and more often than not, the literary landscape is spoiled by some horrible books written by some smartypants, who think they are the next Paulo Coelho in the making!
These know-it-all types think they are too good for the editing and marketing processes, believing that the work itself is good enough to put them above such petty things, to ensure sales! And since there is no censorship on them, you have books being self published right and left. Sigh... just got to keep an eye out for such books, and avoid them like the plague, I guess.