In this guest article, Southwest Florida author Jeff Whichello shares his thoughts on choosing between self-press and small-press, as well as what it takes to become a successful author.
You slave with unwavering blindness towards some unknown until you reach an end. You accomplish the thing that you set out to do, just like Kermit and the Muppets in The Rainbow Connection. You finished writing a book and can now claim the title of “real author!”
You did it.
Maybe you pace a little in a circle, look out of the window, or make some hot tea.
Maybe you proclaim to Twitter, Facebook, and your friends on American Online you’ve finally achieved this mighty accomplishment.
Whatever you do, the next thing that probably enters your mind is New York City. Anyone who seemed to know anything about publishing has always said, “You have to get a New York City publisher.”
If you don’t, well, everything will have been for zilch.
If you did not know then you will soon find out: NYC publishers do not want your book unless you have an NYC agent. NYC agents do not want your book unless you have published a book already.
You will yell in your mind, “Then why did I go through all of this trouble in the first place?!”
It is true, maybe you shouldn’t have gone to all of this trouble, but guess what? It’s too late.
The Pros and Cons of Self-Press and Small-Press
Believe it or not, there are two secret passageways out of this debacle: small-press or self-press (No, not the iron in the laundry room cabinet).
Self-Press has its pros and cons:
- You keep all of the profit
- You are totally in control of your destiny
- You have a vast potential for learning the business
- You do all of the work
Work? Yes, work—and lots of it! But let’s think about this for a moment.
Who wrote your book? You did. You created it yourself, so why can’t you just publish it yourself? Why stop now? You probably don’t have any money so you can’t pay anyone, but you work for free.
What a bargain!
Small-press is less hands-on, but it also gives you less control:
- You get paid a small portion of any sale
- How your book is sold and presented is out of your hands
- You learn very little about the publishing business
- Someone else does all of the work (Sometimes)
So what is this work?
What It Takes to Sell Your Book
Once you’re published, you have one single goal: to build a readership. Here is what it takes to get there:
- Never-ending calls and emails
- Making social connections with people
- Walking into bookstores and other businesses in an attempt to convince them to sell your book
- Seeking out media representatives and reporters, begging them for a bit of their time
- Booking festivals and author events, including paying for gas, lodging, food, and all of those drinks at the hotel bar where you end up, since you only sold four books but you bought six from the other authors
- Countless hours spent writing blogs, press releases, advertisements, articles, banners
Those who take it serious quickly find their writing time surpassing the time spent at your day job. Next thing you know, your pets and plants are dead from neglect and your health has deteriorated until you pass flat-out on the floor.
After a while, you wake up and stare at the ceiling fan. You lie there trying to stop the blade with your mind but it just keeps spinning.
What do you do next? Hey! This is NOT a choose-your-own adventure. There are no shortcuts here.
Whether you pursue self-press or small-press, publishing is going to be a lot of work. If you pursue small-press, your representative would have to make some calls and maybe write a few emails, but really the rest they would put on you.
So the difference between small-press and self-press really is just a few phone calls and emails (oh, and the money).
You still have to do the work. You still have to do most of the writing, you still have to attend all of those events, you still have to contact the media, and you still have to pay to have your book produced.
No One Can Sell Your Book Quite Like You
You are the best sales person for the story. Not the small-press who will usually only do something if they are paid.
You will do anything with no payment required. The more you work, the greater your results. Publishing requires patience, stubbornness, and sometimes taking risks without reward.
What is your book about? Whatever it is, match it to the reader.
Historical societies and museums love history and will, at times, book authors for speaking engagements. You already know that building up social networks has worked well for many businesses. If you doubt it, look no further than the TV show Shark Tank.
The same goes for a book. A book is a business, after all. Give some books away. If you are really serious, give most of them away.
To be successful, you have to be really serious. How can people buy a book from an author that they have never read or heard about?
It’s the same conundrum as the New York agent. How can the agent take on an author that no one has read?
Now you must feel like a hamster on a wheel thinking that you would eventually get somewhere but you never do. Take heart. Every book is like a new invention. Sometimes they become household names; sometimes they fizzle into the cracks of your back patio.
No one has all of the answers but faced with either small-press or self-press, neither will work without your fire and fury.
Final Tips from a Local Author
Start building your audience even before your book is released and be grateful for any help others offer, from Facebook reposts and comments to reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.
Take any opportunity to talk about the story, but not too much. Slide it into conversations at bars or convenience stores.
Be resourceful. Come up with crazy, imaginative events, like a hotdog giveaway book signing at a local campground.
Sometimes random gifts appear, like when the people who work at Barnes and Noble in Naples happen to drop by your booth at the Seafood festival and then they invite you to bring the book to the store.
Another gift might be when a seventy-two-year-old man blasts an alligator with a handgun in his backyard, then gets thrown in jail on felony charges just because your book pissed him off. Imagine, there he is waving your book to the television reporter’s camera which broadcasts it across the evening news.
Finishing your book may have been a rewarding journey, but self-publishing? Now that is an adventure.
Jeff Whichello spent his first years surrounded by the Everglades swamp spending time reading, writing, and enjoying the wild nature. After having gone on many adventures living and working in places like New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Alabama, he returned to Florida to finish the first book about Ochopee. He continues to work as a software developer but has plans on finishing the next Ochopee book titled A Lion in the Swamp.