I’ve been thinking of self-publishing my novel Oasis once I get the edits done. One of the questions I have to ask myself is “If I self publish Oasis, am I ruining my chances of getting published by a ‘real’ publisher?” I suspect that a lot of writers have wondered similar things about their fiction babies.
I suppose the first question that needs to be asked is:
What are the dangers in self publishing?
- Public Embarrassment – Let’s face it. The mean kids might laugh at you (that is, if any of them read your work,) and write nasty comments and reviews about your literary baby. All over the internet. This used to be a problem for me. I was terrified of bad reviews. Eventually, I got over it and started posting Oasis online. This is a danger no matter how you showcase your works, though.
- “Death of writing carrier” – From what I understand, this is no longer a real issue. Apparently at one time real publishers would never ever touch an author once they’ve self published.
- Loss of “First Printing Rights” ability to sell to a “real” publisher – OK, so if you self publish first I guess you do lose those. But let’s face it, you’re not going to get that big of an advance for your first book, anyway.
- Hidden Costs – Besides charging hefty up-front fees, a lot of self publishing houses nickle and dime the heck out of you. If you learn some simple new technical skills, you can avoid most of these, though. I’ll cover those sometime in the future.
- Obscurity – For me, this is the most ‘real’ danger. It is hard for a self-published author to get noticed by anybody.
So, is it even possible to go from ‘self’ to ‘real’ publishing?
The simple answer is yes. I can find several examples of books that were first self published first (or only). The wikipedia lists a bunch, including The Joy Of Cooking, Chicken Soup for the Soul, In Search of Excellence, and Eragon. Other self published authors include Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, and Rudyard Kipling.
Can a novel take off from a small publisher? Sure. Speaking again of Permuted Press, they recently had a book called John Dies At The End get relicensed by a filmmaker (and I’m guessing larger publishing house.)
Why would a publisher pick up an already-self-published novel?
The only reason a publisher publishes a book is this: They think it can make them a buck.
If you can prove your novel has selling potential, I think they might just be interested. Just remember, the only proof you can ever have that a book has selling potential is actual sales. Like sales in the thousands. That’s a lot of books.
Christopher Paolini did it with Eragon. He wrote the book, his parents “self-published” it, and then they set things up for his to speak at high schools (he was still right around high school age), they sold a bunch of copies, and then BAM! The next thing you know they’ve made one of those epic movies.
But his overnight success was still a whole lot of work.
How likely is it that I’ll be picked up by a traditional publisher once I’ve self-published?
My guess here is: not likely. Of course, it wasn’t likely before you self published, either. If you sell a bunch by yourself, though, it becomes much more likely.
Does this even matter?
Why do you want to publish anyway?
Is your work a memoir of a grandparent that you want to give to your family for Christmas? Yes, you should self publish.
Do you just want to hold a physical copy of your heartbreaking work of staggering genius in your hand? Of course – self publish.
For me, I want to write. I want to make my writings available in printed form to anyone that wants a copy. I don’t want to spend a lot of time going to conferences to schmooze agents, keeping track of rejections and submissions, or any of that. I just want to keep writing my little blog and my little fictions. If through my efforts I build up somewhat of a following (which would admittedly be cool) then someday yes, I’ll decide my probabilities are good a publisher will want me, and I’ll expend the effort to really pimp myself to them.
To answer my own question from the title: No it doesn’t make it impossible to get a real publisher, but for me, it doesn’t even matter (yet.)
So what am I forgetting?
What else have I not considered?
What are your thoughts about self-publishing?