The Self-Publishing Debate

So it’s no secret that I’ve been thinking a lot about self-publishing No Tomorrow.  Now, with the first draft done, I’ve been wondering what the next step is.  I’ve said that I want to publish through Lulu, but I’m still a lot in the dark about it, so I asked around if anyone had any experience in the matter.

My friends Ashley and Wendy chimed in.  Ashley sent me a link about tradition publishing, and Wendy perhaps shopping around for an agent through Twitter or the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society.  My knee-jerk reaction to why I want to self-publish has been, “I have no agent, no publisher, and I’m tired of waiting.

So I’ve been thinking about it, thinking about it a lot, and here are the pros and cons I’ve got.  The pros are in favor of self-publishing.  The cons are in favor of traditional publishers.

Pro: A Faster Turnout Time

Self-publishing can happen pretty quickly.  In fact, I could self-publish No Tomorrow faster than it takes me to write this blog post.  Granted, it would look like a pile of shit because the book is in a rough and craptacular state, but my point is that I can run it through Lulu and have it out on Amazon in pretty short order.  I actually had it planned out that getting things ready to publish through Lulu shouldn’t take more than a year, and given that I think having a book with my name on it would be great for my credentials, the faster the better, right?

Con: Slow Is Smooth, and Smooth Is Fast

Army Rangers have a saying: “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”  The meaning here is that charging into a situation ups the odds of something going wrong, and when those mistakes happen, you have to slow down and fix them before moving forward.  People make mistakes, no matter how careful they try to be.  Working through a traditional publisher, you’ve got a lot of eyes on your book, each pair taking the time to go through it to make sure that what comes out at the end is something that readers will enjoy.  That’s more important than punching things out at warp speed.

Pro: Self-Publishing Yields a Higher Paycheck

The exact numbers vary, but I’ve heard that the royalty rates for authors is somewhere in the range of 8-10%.  Lulu, on the other hand, grants an author an 80% cut of the sales, and it’s free to publish a book.  Getting $12 per book rather than a buck-fifty?  Do I really have to explain the appeal of that?

Con: A Self-Publisher Has Limited Resources

The same reason you get a bigger share of the profits is also perhaps your single greatest liability.  Self-publishers get more money per book because they’re doing more of the work, and not just the text.  You have to edit it to the Nth degree.  You have to come up with the cover art.  You have to do all the promotion and publicity for it.  And you’ve got to do it out of your own pocket.  Because while publishing through Lulu is free, additional services come with costs.  These services range from cover designers to publicists to even people working with Hollywood.  I drew up a list of all the services Lulu has to offer, and you’re looking at around $125,000 for the whole thing.  Even cutting down a lot of the services that I know I don’t need, I’m still looking at a bottom line of $30,000.  I don’t have that kind of cash lying around.  A traditional publisher, on the other hand, wouldn’t ask you to pay for all that because they have a lot of services in-house.  The author, I think, wouldn’t be expected to pay the cover artist or the editor since they’re getting a portion of the sales.  So granted, you’re not getting as big a paycheck, but the weight and the burden of producing the book is spread out.

Pro: Self-Publishing Gives You a Higher Feeling of Independence

For me, there’s a great feeling of pride in looking at a book and saying to myself, “I did this.  It was all me, baby.  My accomplishment.”  That notion of being a self-made writer doesn’t get any clearer than that.

Con: People Will Likely Just Hear, “Me, Me, Me”

As much as I love reaching out through social media, I do know that there’s a line between promotion and making it all about myself.  Anyone who knows me knows that I hate the idea of crossing that line.  I’d go nuts if I had to promote the novel entirely on my own.  Forget about other people getting sick of me.  I would get sick of me.

The Verdict?

Traditional and self-publishing each have something going for them, and I don’t think that anyone cold stand and say it’s one or the other.  Self-publishing would be the way to go for smaller projects, while a traditional publisher has the muscle to realize a larger piece of work.  No Tomorrow is going to be a sizable book.  The first draft alone ran just under 300 pages.  Plus, I’ve got that other zombie project that I’ve mentioned, the collaborative effort, and that will be, in a sense, a self-publishing project.  So maybe it would be better to aim for a more traditional route with No Tomorrow in the end.

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