"Self-publishing used to have a real stigma attached to it. To be self-published meant your work was SO BAD that not one publisher would take you seriously. But that’s just not true anymore. Readers just want a great book to read." — Kaia Van Zandt, from Alan Rinzler’s post, "Advice for Amanda Hocking from authors and agents"
It is true that I, too, fell victim to this stigma. When I spent some time in New York, I would always see street vendors alongside 34th Street hustling to sell books that I would never take one second to peruse, let alone purchase. The approach is a turn off and the quality of the books, i.e. the print and cover quality, are a no-no in my standards.
Two years ago I was on the 2 train to the Bronx and noticed a Caucasian girl reading an urban novel, which I decided must have been self-published based on the distasteful cover and book quality. I was not surprised when I got a glimpse of the content and how less than classy it was. That was my impression of self-publishing. So when my friends and family have the gall to suggest the idea, I literally cringe and regard them with utmost disdain. Me, self-publish? Oh heck no! The goal is to be seen and known as a respected author, not the other way around.
I always agreed with Van Zandt's description of how self-publishing used to be : that to self-publish meant my work was not good enough for a literary agent or publisher to give it the time of day. So, for a while I continued with my upturned nose, bent on having representation. It was not until I realized how the self-publishing industry had transformed and how beneficial it had proven to be for countless struggling and aggravated authors that I began seeing self-publishing for what it was.
Granted, there are those self-published authors who, out of anticipation, eagerly publish their work without serious editing and consulting. These authors partly contribute to the negative connotation that self-publishing carries. But it seems as if the tables have been drastically turning. Now, self-publishing appears to be the second best approach, if not the first, for getting your unpublished work out there.
So with two stories completed—one short story and one full length novel with its sequel on the way—would self-publishing be my best bet? Well, I would no longer have to hopelessly wait, after submitting my query letters for representation, for months to know if I’ve been given a "yes" or "no." I would no longer be limited to sharing my stories with my ten friends and family members and accept their praises as mission accomplished. And most importantly, no longer would I have to WAIT!
So many tools, websites, and literary agent blogs offer advice and tips, weighing the pros and cons of publishing on your own or taking the traditional route. It doesn’t hurt becoming your own agent, marketing and representing your own product, and reaping total benefits from book sales, as opposed to splitting it three ways if you were represented by an agent who found you a publisher. Most importantly, you are in full control of your content! Sounds like hard work and it most certainly is.
Is there respect for self-published authors today? Absolutely! Exhibit A: Amanda Hocking, after being told "no" numerous times, went on an ambitious whim and published on her own, only to find that her audience did exist and that her work is now worth a two million dollar contract with St. Martin’s Press. The publishers simply got on the bandwagon because they saw that there was money to be made; a foundation that was already set had been set through self-publishing. Even traditionally published authors like thriller and suspense writers Stephen King and Barry Eisler have self-published. Eisler  consciously opted out of a major contract simply because he wanted full control of his work and his money. Certainly these authors have an upper hand, as they have years of experience with the market—but the fact is, self-publishing is becoming more appealing than it was five or six years ago. Now, many services offer print-on-demand, which cuts out unnecessary printing costs.
We Jamaicans have a saying: "Puss and dog don’t have the same luck," which simply means that one man’s success story may not be the same for another. There are a lot of factors to consider if you desire the same success story as Hocking. The genre, writing style, content, target audience, cover images, and marketing and promotional strategies are all vital things to consider. But who’s to say how successful you will be unless you actually try it? In my book, not trying is failing.
Based on the numerous dialogues that I’ve come across, I’ve deduced one main thing: go off your gut instincts and your pocket. So should you venture beyond the traditional and daringly choose self-publishing? I’m certainly not against taking the bull by the horns, and there are many reputable authors, agents and editors who aren’t either. However, at the end of the day a decision has to be made.
Here’s what I advise: create your checklists of short term and long term goals for your books and your literary career; weigh your options, do your research, understand the benefits and pitfalls of choosing either publishing option; and be patient.
So, you tell me. Where do you stand?
Chevonese Fender is from Jamaica. She modeled for five years, the latter part spent working in New York. She was represented last by Boss Models in New York, and a little over a year and half ago she made a life-changing decision to actually put her God-given skill to use and write. She writes edgy, inspirational romance and has not yet been published, but her first novel is recently completed and she finds herself at the crossroads, so to speak: publishing traditionally or just say, the heck with it—publish the darn thing yourself!