I have mentioned before on this site (here and, most recently, here) that aspiring writers often shoot their publishing futures in the foot, so to speak, by self-publishing a book (or books). I won’t repeat myself again (see what I did there?).
Instead, I will talk briefly about the good reasons to self-publish. There are many bad reasons to do so, of course (because no agents or editors seem to recognize your genius, you’re frustrated and impatient, etc.), but there are also some good reasons. These include:
- You have money and time on your hands
Okay, I’m being facetious. Just a little. But, seriously, self-publishing done well is an expensive and laborious process. It requires that you have not only writing skills but also extensive editing, design, and marketing skills—or that you hire the services of those who do.
- You want a family keepsake
Biographies, memoirs, and cookbooks are a tough sell. But coming (as I do) from Amish ancestors, I place a high value on family records and histories (shoot, I even coauthored—with a distant cousin—two historical novels based on our family’s history). So I can understand and encourage someone who self-publishes a book expressly for family—children, grandchildren, and others. Such information might otherwise be lost to future generations.
- Your book must be released soon
Suppose your topic is time-sensitive, and it really needs to be released soon (say, for the hundredth anniversary of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s abdication in November 1918). If you signed a traditional book contract today, it would normally take at least eighteen months for your book to be released. So if your book can’t wait, self-publishing might be the best option.
- You have an amazing platform
If you pastor a church of thousands, host a popular radio/television/YouTube show, or present seminars to thousands of people every year, you may do well to self-publish something for your audience to take home from an event or pass on to others. Of course, that is also a pretty fair indication that your platform might attract a traditional publisher, so you might want to pursue that possibility first.
- You have a marketing and distribution strategy that will sell thousands of copies—or more
In recent years, an average of 700,000 books a year were independently published. I was never great at math, but that seems like a lot. When you self-publish, the task of getting your book noticed and bought (and, often, shipped and/or stocked) is up to you. But if you have those skills and can move a lot of books, then your sales success as a self-published author could work for you in pursuing traditional publishing deals in the future.
- You plan for your self-published book(s) to create synergy for your traditionally published books, and vice versa
I have friends (don’t snicker, they’re real) who release a top-quality ebook as a prequel to a new release, as a premium for pre-orders, or a giveaway in exchange for signing up on a website or mailing list. In such cases, of course, the self-published book is every bit as good as their traditionally-published products, but is carefully designed and its release timed to interest specific kinds of readers for a strategic purpose.
- Your traditionally-published book has gone out of print
If you had a successful book that a traditional publisher has stopped producing, but you have good reasons to believe it still has legs, you may want to self-publish. In fact, you may be able to obtain the digital files from your former publisher. It’s worth it to ask, and can save you trouble and expense.
I’m sure there are other good reasons to self-publish (including: your Aunt Fiona has promised to buy 10,000 copies for her knitting circle), but these are what I could jot down with very little thought and effort. Maybe I should write a book.